this is the second instalment, admittedly a year late, in a series i’ve titled “in frame” where i discuss my photography process in a little more detail. i get a lot of questions from people who are interested in the art of photography, and this is just a platform to share a little of what i do in hopes that it will inspire you, the reader, to take risks and dive a little deeper into the creative process.


from a development standpoint, there is not a lot that i did in lightroom to this picture. good pictures are created 90% in-camera, and i cannot stress the importance of good light and composition over spending time fiddling in lightroom. i’m not sure about you, but my instagram has recently been swamped with ads of preset sellers offering to take a “noob” image and make it “pro”, neglecting to point out that what makes the picture look amazing is the subject, the use of light and the composition.

this image is one of my favourites, and its strength comes from the warm sunlight being diffused through the murky glass (and probably the pollution in seoul – we don’t have a lot of days with blue skies here!). it retains a strong direction, which i like in my photos, while still being soft. furthermore, my subject carries this frame with her expression and posing, creating a moody frame overall.

i shot this with my nikon d750, my 58mm at f2.2 and 1/640th at base iso of 100. this is what the image looked like out of the camera:

i applied the base preset settings that i use on all my images (all this preset is, is my regular colour grading, tone curve and basic adjustments). But you’ll notice i underexposed the image a little further and used my regular tone curve to add to the moodier feeling of the image. typically i shoot at least one or two stops underexposed to preserve the highlights. my base settings and tone curve looked like this:

i still raise my shadows quite a lot, and really don’t like the highlights being too strong. it’s just a personal thing, as i find it allows me to lower the exposure overall, and create a more interesting image. i was originally about to crop the images to remove the leaves on the ladder, but i eventually left it, as i enjoyed the width of the frame and felt that the leaves weren’t overly distracting.

my point is that the presets, the actions, and all the software packages in the world can’t make a good picture. you need good light, an interesting subject and a decent composition. beyond that, you need to know what you want from your images, and work with people that will help you create that. my personal challenge to myself over the last two years was to create art that represented me. simply, i wanted to feel proud of my images because they were an extension of who i am.

if you have any questions, do feel free to email me, or message me over whatsapp or kakao. i’m always happy to share. until next time – T


tim van der merwe is based in seoul, south korea. the aesthetics of his photographs are drawn from years as a musician, an appreciation for a wabi-sabi outlook on life, and colouring that reflects the atlantic, who’s coast he grew up near.  his photographic style is inherently influenced by photo-journalism, with a love of untouched moments of humanity and connection