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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Getting The Most Out Of Fall Color

Autumn Color • Bracket, Bracket, Bracket • Edit, Edit, Edit • Finding The Problem

First, you have to separate yourself emotionally from your images. Yes, you loved watching those bear cubs and you were so excited to take their pictures as they ripped up the neighbor’s trash can. But if most of the images are out-of-focus bear butt shots, they’re not worth much. It has momentary value because it documented an event that you wanted to share, but by next week it needs to be removed from your hard drive.

Another problem is just the time factor. We come back from a shoot, download our images, pull out the two or three we need at that moment, and save the rest for some future point when there’s time to review them carefully. That time may never come, unless you’re as determined about culling your images as you were about capturing them.

Some photographers simply are unable to make the hard choices needed to separate the good stuff from the bad. There might be a use for that image sometime, even if we don’t yet know what it is! Some magical software might appear that will fix the image’s major flaws and render it usable, even valuable, in the future!! (And here I have to confess that I took many, many multiple-image panoramas on film and stored them away in anticipation of the flawless scanning and merging software that finally came into being years later. But the images themselves were technically sound from the outset.)

Here are editing criteria you could use to decide what stays and what goes.

Technical Quality. Consider sharpness, exposure, contrast, color and whether the file format and size are appropriate. If any of these qualities is beyond your redemptive skills in image-processing software, throw it out now.

Content. Evaluate the composition, placement and size of the subject in the frame, and the impact and uniqueness of the image. Here’s where you get rid of duplicates and similars. Choose the best one of the four shots of the chipmunk and toss the others. Consider also whether you already have 100 chipmunk shots that are better than the ones you’re looking at. If you have no other chipmunks, this shot might qualify in your collection as “unique.”

Potential Use. Determine your need for the image and its marketability. If you’re shooting for your own enjoyment, then any image you value has potential use. If you’re entering contests or marketing your images, you need to decide if the image is useful and/or saleable now or in the future. If you accomplish your editing in a program designed for that purpose, such as Lightroom, you easily can set up a filing and keyword system, even applying identifiers globally to groups of similar images.

Does anyone know where all the deleted pixels go?

Finding The Problem
A friend called me with an imaging problem: He could see his images on the LCD screen on the back of the camera immediately after capture, but when he brought them up on his home computer, the bottom third of every image was a solid-green block. We considered all the possible sources of this problem.

He put the card in another camera and took a few images. Same problem. That ruled out the camera as the source. He downloaded the media card to a different computer. Same problem! That ruled out the computer or image-processing software. He used a different card reader, so that was eliminated as a potential source, too. That narrowed down the problem to the media card. He put a new card in the camera and used the same computer. Problem solved, other than having to throw away a media card (and its contents) and buy a new one. In hindsight, this problem could have been solved more efficiently by exploring the simplest and least expensive variable first: the media card.

When you’re trying to figure out what’s causing a glitch in your photography, you can apply this strategy to narrow down the possible causes until there’s only one solution. Before you assume that you have a potentially expensive breakdown of your camera, lens or computer, carefully test each element in isolation from the others until you’re able to definitively diagnose the problem. Plan the troubleshooting
procedure and sequence before you start, and you’ll save a lot of trial and error.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.geolepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.geolepp.com.

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