PRO TALK: Deborah Sandidge – Fine Art and Travel Photographer
Written by Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch an instant image develop right before your eyes, you can understand how photography was enchanting to a little girl using her parent’s camera to make her first images. For photographer Deborah Sandidge, the beauty of watching those prints develop inspired her imagination. “You’d shake the actual film and watch it develop. There’s a sort of a magical alchemy to this whole process. So I ended up looking into making my own prints,” she says.
Sandidge created images for herself, pushing new and old technologies to express her creative vision. When the digital revolution hit, Sandidge embraced Photoshop and digital photography as a new form of hands-on expression. “I loved the control and the flexibility and the artistry of working with Photoshop,” says Sandidge. Yet she never let a specific process or image making method define her own style. “When I had to do prints, I took them and made them into film prints so that I could work with the Polaroid emulsion transfer process, which is kind of going back in time, or going backwards from digital to analog,” she laughs. “But it was a lot of fun.”
What she was doing for fun started to get some attention. First she was contacted about having some of her images published in a magazine, and she began to wonder if she could do more with her photography than make images for herself. “When I was working with film, I wanted to work with infrared and I didn’t have that opportunity. And then I ended up working with it digitally. I had this excitement of working with the R72 filter and working with infrared and kind of took it to the next level. I ended up being asked to write a book about it,” she explains, “It got noticed, then people wanted to find out about infrared so it became a course about infrared. So it was kind of a passion that segued into a career.”
Sandidge formed that career out of writing, teaching, exploring, and, of course, photographing. The more she experiments with new ideas and techniques, the more fodder she has for additional courses and bodies of work. For Sandidge, working creatively keeps her engaged and producing. So when she discovered a set of tools that could make her life easier, she was inspired to explore and create even more. “I was very interested in working creatively through Photoshop. The first filter set I bought was Nik Software Color Efex. I thought, ‘Oh my, this is exactly what I need.’ I can do all of these creative effects rather than trying to replicated it the long way in Photoshop. Everything was all set out for you and you have all these cool presets and you can modify the presets. So that was a really easy fit. I became fascinated by the concept of image enhancement.”
Using Nik Software tools became a simple choice, whether she was using the products to refine client images or clicking through presets and filters to inspire her own creativity, the suite of tools Nik Software offered made her photography easier. “I like what Nik does for my pictures. For client work I need to keep it real, I just need to make little corrections, bring out certain areas, enhance certain areas, or create black and white images. So that fits right in. Artistically, I like to go over the top and create some interesting surreal work, I absolutely love using HDR Efex Pro, so I’m using that for my HDR images. What I like about that software is that you can make it very photorealistic or you can make very artistic, so as the photographer you really get to be the artist.”
Sandidge uses the whole suite of Nik Software products for a variety of reasons. Being the first filter set she ever used, Color Efex Pro has a place in her heart, but she also embraces the precision of control point modifications in Viveza, artistically applies HDR Efex Pro, and uses presets and her own modifications to control her final vision with all of her images.
A more recent focus of Sandidge’s work has been working with longer exposure images in the twilight hours and at night. The results have the same crisp, lovely appeal as Sandidge’s other work, despite the varied shooting conditions. But with Nik Software, Sandidge has found a tool that enhances her low light photography experience. “When I’m doing long exposure photography, it often lends itself towards black and white conversion. I’m thinking right away there are four or five favorite presets in Nik Silver Efex Pro, so I’ll reach for those. If I’m converting to black and white, I’m going Nik Silver Efex Pro and I’m working in that direction of image optimization,” she explains. “And again, you have control points, so if I need to open up shadows or tone down brightness, if I want to increase the definition and the structure in a city scape I can do that with all the lights and the architecture of the buildings. I love that it’s very target based. It makes my job easier and it makes my job more fun.”
To hear her speak of how fun her job is, there is no doubt she’s telling the truth. Her enthusiasm for photography and image enhancement is tangible as she excitedly explains how she works with certain types of images, or how she is creating a class on mobile device photography. She loves her profession, and she shares that love with her students. “I love seeing that connection when you’re showing somebody how to set their camera, and set it this way, and change the white balance and look what happens! And they get this really cool picture and they’re super excited about it. I just love that energy and that connection that happens with people. It’s very fulfilling that way.” It isn’t hard to imagine Sandidge as an excited little girl with her parent’s camera. It seems that same whimsical imagination has stayed with her and helped establish a solid career. And if you’re lucky, you just may get the chance to take a class with her, and find a little magic for yourself.
See more of Deb’s work at www.deborahsandidge.com