Do you use and would you suggest any Photoshop/lightroom add-ins like Nik Color Efex, Alien skin or VSCO. Seen opinions both for an and against these with regards to individuality.
You just answered your own question!
There are opinions both for and against. It’s up to the individual. Personally, I don’t use any.
Here’s why I don’t use presets.
I want my work to be consistent. Consistent color and consistent B&W. I want people to be able to look at my work and know what they can expect from me. IF I was to use something like VSCO or the like then I would settle on one or two presets and stick with them exclusively. I’d still be looking for consistency in my work.
I’ve seen a lot of photographer’s sites where one image is sepia. One is over saturated color. One is under saturated. One is B&W. One is VSCO something. One is totally rad something. One has texture. One has A LOT of texture. One has a photo border. Their portfolio starts to look like a swatch book instead of a consistent voice.
I’ve stuck with straight color and straight B&W for years and will continue to do so. If I moved to a different look in my post production then how do I start to mix that with my current portfolio of work? I’d either have to go back and re-work all of my images or I’d have to ditch them all and build a new book from the ground up.
There are a few photographers who can mix and match some different styles together and pull it off. The way they can pull this off is the underlying style and subject matter that they shoot. Not many folks pull it off and pull it off well. Jeremy Cowart is a good example of a photographer who can pull this off. He has a style that threads through the various types of post production he uses. He can take that train and keep it on the tracks. Most folks who try to mix it run that train off the tracks and their portfolio looks like… a train wreck.
There’s tons of room in this industry for folks who shoot straight. There’s room for folks who do a ton of post production. There may be times when you are asked by a client to do something a little different than what you normally do in post production. You can deliver that look to your client but then work the same image differently when it goes into your portfolio.
Clients will often take your work and re-work it for their needs. This is more in the editorial and commercial world where folks have retouchers and designers doing work for them after the shoot is over. I prefer to deliver consistent images that are on the baseline of color, contrast, etc. It’s a clean starting point for the client to start their manipulations. If you deliver something under saturated and they need more saturation then they’ll have a hard time doing so because you threw a lot of color away.
Then you have to think about printing. One thing you do to an image might look great on a screen but will be horrible in print. Your client might need to print the image on glossy cover stock and in news print. You have to tweak each image for each type of paper stock. A preset might work for one but not the other.
Lastly, some presets and post production techniques become a fad. There’s always the new hot action pack that everyone is using today. You get caught up in it and in a few years that look becomes dated and you need to transition to the next hot new look in post production. What do you do with the work from the last hot action pack? Re-work it all? Ditch it? You don’t wanted a dated looking portfolio do you? Of course not.
So that’s me. Slow and steady. Watch them come and watch them go. I do stay on top of what is trendy. I keep an eye on what is popular. I do this in case I’m asked for something outside of the realm of what I typically do. I’m here to serve my clients. I am not so proud that I won’t tweak some things to their liking. I might not take it that way but I’m happy to have the work. There are certain things I fight against… like selective color. Gads. I’ll fight for my images to not go in that realm…. but…. if Lance Armstrong walked through the door and wanted everything B&W except the yellow bracelet on his arm and this was for an International Ad campaign… I’d do it. Local singer songwriter with a red guitar and wants the guitar in color and the rest in B&W…. Ummmm. Let’s talk about that for a minute.