Reading time: 1:45 | Killing your darlings might be the last resort. Don’t be afraid of it.
The colour-grading of pictures is similar to the work of a magician or an illusionist. If we succeed, the viewer will never get the idea that we have touched and manipulated the colours of the image but will take the image for granted. If the colour manipulation is blatant, it must be so good that we speak enthusiastically of a strong look.
If it is less inspiring, it acts like a preset or filter, which is what we wanted to avoid in the first place. Ideally, the colour design matches the content of the picture and does not raise questions. If there are no questions, the goal is usually achieved. If no satisfactory result is achieved despite extensive trial and error, the problem will be found in the idea. Then the rule No.1 in art applies: Kill your darlings.
This doesn’t mean necessarily to bin the picture but to rethink your goal. We often have a fixed idea, are inspired by works of others, want to follow role models, take part in fashionable looks. This is the reason why there are uncountable filters on the market, why there’s a whole industry selling the dream of the perfect picture that fits so well into the zeitgeist. Truth is, using such filters will make us tail the trend or, even worse, ridicule our work. Better we evaluate the image we want to improve properly, lose the pressure of fashion and do our thing. Chances are high, in the end, the result will be at least authentic which is, in my opinion, the real goal anyway and never out of fashion.
This insight begs the question: do we have to follow the lead of the masses, the guiding love of the manufacturers of so many goods? Is that kick to be in sync with the zeitgeist, to be fashionable to your peers, even being an influencer worth the hassle, the friction, the energy loss and the depression that unavoidably follows the rush of consumption?
Kill your darlings is credited to Oscar Wild, William Faulkner and other writers. What it means is obvious. Many darlings that influence us, that we’ve created aren’t nice and helpful. To move on, killing them is often quite likely the right idea – the same thing as let go, really.