Disintegration Layers – A Processing Experiment (II)

Generally I’ve moved ever closer towards finding cameras I can set up to create photographs I love without needing any extra post processing.

But last year I experimented with Snapseed to process the same image multiple times, and trace its disintegration.

After again finding myself listening to William Basinski more than anyone else lately (who inspired the first experiment), I thought it would be fun to try again with a new image as the starting point.


Snapseed has a huge range of features, and mostly I stick to simple settings like making a colour image b/w, and tweaking the contrast and perhaps brightness/exposure.

But here, as before, I tried something a little more caustic, that would erode the image further with each subsequent fly by.

Also in Snapseed, many of the settings have a random option, which I like bringing into to play for some unexpected outcomes.

This is the first layer.


You might notice the light leak effect on the left, and some (digital) fingerprints.

I do like some kind of consistency in these experiments though, so once I applied this “random” processing once, I saved it as a favourite (called a “Style” in Snapseed) and reapplied it over and over to the same image.

Layer three shows further disintegration.


Another few repetitions and the effect is starting to overwhelm the fidelity of the original image.


Some 20 layers of disintegration from the original photograph, we arrive with this.


Which is so abstracted from the original, you can’t tell what the object was.

But this final image isn’t really the point.

Examining the repeated layers of processing as a journey in the life of an image is what’s most important here, and how it evolves along the way.

These experiments are a fun detour when I get too serious about photography, and tie in strongly with the ideas of layering and decay I’ve explored in other artforms in the past, most strongly painting and music.

And that whole idea of the journey being more interesting and valuable than the ultimate destination, is a theme that runs strongly in my beliefs and outlook in life too.

What are your thoughts on experiments like this, where digital processing can radically alter the original image? Do you like seeing the stages along the way, or just the final image? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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5 thoughts on “Disintegration Layers – A Processing Experiment (II)”

  1. One of the biggest advantages of being a non-professional photographer is that we have the luxury and freedom to experiment limitlessly. And it’s always great to try out new techniques and styles. I know that photographers are always advised to strive for a consistent “look”, but personally I find that rather boring.

    For me, the use of layers in Snapseed is limited to double/multiple exposures. I do try to keep it as “pure” as possible, just like with film. Taking two photos in succession and then lay them over each other, without too much further manupilation. Often it doesn’t work (just like with film), but when it does work out, I’m happy with the results: https://vsco.co/robertkruyskamp/media/5c962e137d2a642ddf000002

    1. Thanks Robert.

      I do oscillate with this. Sometimes I want that consistent look, so that whatever camera I’m using, I get a similar look, especially with b/w photos.

      Other times I just feel like experimenting a little, either with a disintegrating image like this, or with different colour looks (I have yet to settle on a single colour look I like all the time, whereas again with b/w they all look much the same regardless of camera).

      Love that image of yours, and sometimes I absolutely love these bold saturated colours in my own photos, other times I prefer something far more subtle and natural, other times I go more muted still, draining the colour so it’s on the way to becoming b/w…

      1. I agree that a consistent look or style is preferable, but for a certain period of time. There are photographers who have had a signature look for decades – I admire that, but I couldn’t do it myself. Bored too quickly. My style is currently all over the place in terms of subjects and post-processing; that is the other extreme and not ideal, but I guess it’s a phase I have to go through to find the “right” track again, photographically.

        Last year I mainly photographed in black and white – especially with the phone. Now I am experimenting with all VSCO color presets, to eventually find a few favorites I want to limit myself to.

      2. Robert, I think we all need to evolve and progress in some way. Taking the same pictures over and over loses appeal over time.

        I wonder if the best approach for most of us is to have experimental bursts, and then from these we can find new directions we like most, and pursue those more deeply.

        I have a post in draft about shooting in colour, and how my tastes seem to change, whereas b/w has remained pretty conistent for some years (and I haven’t got bored with them!)

  2. Black and white seems (deceptively) easier, because one has less options. Color requires more choices. In the last few months I have found that I strongly prefer photos with one dominant color. I think this will be a key element for my new, more “abstract” photographic direction, almost thinking like a graphic designer while shooting.

    Looking forward to your post.

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