A glimpse at the magic of fine art photography

I am often asked how great images are produced. Well, usually I just smile and jokingly credit my greatness as a photographer.

But the fact is that being able to see images in your mind and being able to actually transfer that vision to the final print and turn the vision into fine art photography is a mix of skill and digital magic. While I was working on my latest set of images from St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Houma, La., it struck me just how different what we as photographers work with sometimes is from what you the potential client sees.

So without boring you with all the details of my work flow, I’ll just say the image at the top of this article would have been impossible without a tripod and computer programs such as Photoshop CS (well, now it’s Adobe Creative Cloud, but I digress) and Lightroom. Also, know that I shoot in RAW, which provides the largest and most information-packed files possible and, in turn, makes true fine art photography possible.

My first step toward the image was at the church, when I took about 50 images of the same scene, working my way from one side of the church to the other. I took multiple exposures before swiveling my camera a bit to grab the next image. I did this with my camera lens level with the floor’s plane to capture the lower portion of the scene. I then angled the lens to capture the upper portion of the scene, including the ceiling.

My original plan was to take all of these images, and process about 10 or 12 HDR images so that each rotation of the camera would have a beautiful exposure to work with. So I spent quite some time working up those individual frames.

The next step was to stitch the resulting images together in Photoshop, and that’s where the work flow went off the rails. Either Photoshop won’t stitch tiff files (which was the file type of the individual frames) or I was doing something wrong.

Fine Art Photography - Andy Crawford

This is the final image resulting from stitching 11 separate images together.

So I regrouped and chose the single image of each frame that was the best and sent them off to Photoshop to be stitched together. Ten minutes later, the process was completed, and I had a massive file (more than 2.3 GB) that was just wild. Unintended distortion was added in on the left, right and upper portions of the image.

I actually love that image (I did crop it to a rectangle because the original didn’t have defined edges), but the church obviously isn’t bent like that.

So I simply cropped down to the square format that harkens back to the old 4×5 days. There remains a bit of the curve in the ceiling and upper walls, but it’s not enough to ruin the image (at least in my opinion).

All that was left was color correction and sharpening, and I was ready to upload the image. Total time? About two hours to create a true piece of fine art photography .

About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.