The ‘Oohs’ And ‘Aahhs’ Of Filters
There has always seemed to me to be a stigma attached to the use of filters in Adobe Photoshop. This is undoubtedly a result of the ease of use of the medium — some artists will merely run a photo through a generic Photoshop filter, get a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ from their friends and family, and call it a work of art. On the other hand, Photoshop digital masterpieces seem to be either exquisitely painted images or beautiful compositions of different photographic elements.
The Art Of Unexpected Results
While in college, I took an etching; in which we printed pictures onto paper from prepared etched plates, using many different techniques with which to make marks on the plates. By definition, etching is the process of using acid to make marks on a plate, which carries with it an element of unpredictability. Often, the acid can bite the plate where you did not want it to, leaving marks or darker regions on your final image.
Contrary to what it might seem, this is not necessarily a negative thing. You cannot always control the actions of the acid, and so you cannot always control your final image; however, most of the time this adds a unique element to the design. Giving up precise control over your images allows them to grow and develop in new directions that you did not originally intend.
In our first project in the etching class, we were told to choose an object from which to draw inspiration, and make marks on the plate based on this. We were not supposed to have a final image or destination in mind, just develop the imagery as it happened.
Being free to allow the image to develop as I saw fit with no particular goal in mind and just work with the medium, was a breath of fresh air. The end results were beyond anything I could have expected. I produced works that I was incredibly proud of, but were nothing that I could have thought of from the start. Had I not allowed the image to take its natural course I might have ended up trying to work towards a goal that ultimately I might not have been satisfied with, and the image would most likely not have been as fresh and original as the ones I produced.
Where Do Filters Fit Into All This?
While working towards a goal and having your images planned out is most certainly a good thing, I also think, for the most part, that the process is undervalued in comparison to the final product. It is often in this process that the best images can be unveiled.
So how does this relate to filters in Photoshop? Filters are often unpredictable. It is possible to take a picture, for example, a simple snapshot of the family pet, and run it through so many filters that it becomes completely unrecognizable and turns into another image altogether.
Is this art? If the image is interesting and stands on its own then I would most certainly contend yes. It doesn’t matter that the image started with no particular end in mind; it is the process that is important in this situation, and recognizing when you have created a viable and interesting image. So use filters, develop an image as it happens, and see what kinds of images you produce!
Jenna Hoffstein [bluevenus],
Front Page News Staff Columnist
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October 31, 2005