JH: Some photographers like to do as little post work on their photos as possible but I know this is a very important aspect for you. How would you describe your “signature colour style” (I took phrase that from your site) and what are you usually adjusting to get it there?
EW: Yes, it is of HUGE importance to me. The picture is not enough. The slightest change in tone can change the feeling of the image. I have done some workshops where I take a picture and make it very warm and sunny color-wise and then put it side by side next to another one that’s very blue and cool. I ask the class: how does one make you feel vs. the other? It is so, so important to take those elements into account. It isn’t just about what the picture is of or how you compose it. There is a world of opportunity to impart a specific feeling via post production.
For me personally, I think of the setting, how it felt when we were there shooting. How do I want the viewer to feel when they see the picture? Was it hot that day? Was it raining? Were we amped up about something or was the mood calm? I think I subconciously adjust based on those elements but also don’t seek it out, if that makes any sense.
To give a concrete example: I photographed Jordan Peele for The New York Times on a super rainy LA day. In fact, you can see raindrops on the window that he is looking out from. The images in their final adjustments are so blue, so cyan, you almost want to pull on a sweater looking at them. I looked at the images in the greater body of work in my Instagram from that time and noticed a pattern of blues and cool tones throughout that time of year—and that was when we had a crazy rainy winter. I didn’t realize it, but I had adjusted everything on what was happening around me.
To bring things to the other end of the spectrum, I photographed the band Mountain Man in Durham, NC on the day before the summer solstice this year. It was so hot you could almost see the air. The pictures from that shoot are warm, as warm as can be. Almost more yellow and orange than I ever pull things. But it suits how things were that day. We were sweaty and happy and I look at that picture and feel the wide open expanse of a fresh, new summer before me.