Thursday, March 14, 2013

Work as if You Were Shooting Film

Well looks like I haven't been doing too good on my New Years Resolution to keep up with the blog, I am kinda trying. I haven't been shooting as much as I should be lately, so last weekend there was a Civil War Reenactment near my house, it was The Battle of Thompson Station. I decided it was time to load up some film and go out and shoot. While I was out there I noticed several other photographers with their DSLR snapping away. I sat there and watched several of them for a while (people watching is a hobby of mine) and noticed how they would shoot almost 20 images of the same person or scene. Now there is nothing wrong with taking a bunch of pictures, however editing all of those images down is time consuming. Furthermore it seemed that they were relying more on sheer volume of images to get the good ones rather than slowing down and paying attention to lighting, posing, and composition.
One of the blessings of digital photography is memory is cheap, and you can store hundreds of images on a single CF or SD Card so we are able to shoot a massive amount of images. Working with film on the other hand you are limited to the amount of film you have on hand, and it cost more to work with between purchasing the film, and processing it, so it forces you to slow down when you are shooting. When I went out last weekend I only took one roll of film with me, with the 6x7 negatives I had a grand total of 10 images I could take. If I wanted any good images to turn out from my outing I would have to take my time and pay attention to my framing, exposure, lighting, composition, and the subjects I chose to photograph. When I would find an interesting character to photograph I would talk to them for a little while waiting for the sun to go behind a cloud for softer lighting, then take my time with focusing and composition. I will say having the waist level view finder made this easier because I was still able to engage them without having my face hidden by a big camera.
Well before I get to much rambling I will just end this post with these few nuggets of wisdom: When you are out shooting just because you can take 1,000 images doesn't mean you should. If you take your time and pay attention you can take fewer images to get the one you want. This will mean less time in post editing your images down and more time you can be out shooting! Here are a few images from The Battle of Thompson Station reenactment.

Taken with a Mamiya RB 67,  180 mm ƒ4.5, Kodak T Max ISO 400, Scanned with Nikon 9000 Coolscan.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Get it Right in Camera Syndrom

It has been too long since I have made a blog. I am going to try and keep up with it better this year it is my New Year resolution, at least one of them.  So without further ado...

 "I want my images to look real" or "I don't think it is right to mess with pictures in " or the best "I get it right in camera so I don't need post" just a few of the statements I have heard about post-production.

I have been talking with different photographers for a while about post production. Many realize that post is an important part to the process, while others tend to think more minimalist about it or don't use post at all. I am not saying one way is right or wrong (well maybe I am), I just believe they are thinking of post-production in the wrong way, or they just do not want to learn the program, and are happy having the camera do all the thinking for them.  Most people I have talked to that are against post think of Photoshop as deceiving viewers, or twisting what the camera captured.

Ansel Adams wrote a series of books dealing with each aspect of photography, the are The Exposure, The Negative, and The Print. Now these books were for traditional silver gelatin photography, however we can take the same philosophy and apply it to the digital workflow.

First is the exposure, this is where you get it right in camera. Make sure you have good lighting, proper exposure, and a good composition. If this isn't done none of the other steps will make your image any better.

Next is the negative, unlike Ansel Adams we are not developing sheets of large format film during this step, rather we are developing the RAW image. This is where we go into Camera RAW, or Lightroom and make our first tweaks. Checking the color temperature, adjusting contrast, taking care of sensor dust etc.

Finally comes the print, this can either be an actual print or getting ready for web. This is the finishing steps and this is where Photoshop comes in, here is where you have the most control to make the final image your vision. Selectively adjusting colors in the image because the camera didn't capture what you saw, dodging and burning, taking out troublesome spots that ACR or Lightroom just could not handle. Making sure your darks and lights are falling into the dynamic range of your paper, and sharpening for output.

This is how I look at post production.

Photoshop can be taken to the extremes and a lot of people do that especially when they are first learning the program, or a new technique (I have been guilty of it more times than I would like to mention) and usually after they step away for a while and go back and look at the image they will feel they went over with a particular effect then make further adjustments. Then there is also the people who like the more extreme effects there is nothing wrong with that, they just have a more limited audience.

I am going to leave you with a few images I found online, for those who still say "I get it right in camera" so did Richard Avedon and Dennis Stock, but getting it right in camera is only the first step.
Richard Avedon's notes to his printer.