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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Keeping It Simple

Sticking With Film • Simpler Digital • Accessories • Simpler Image Handling • Beyond Simple

Beyond your camera choice, what else do you need, really? Most photographic situations can be covered with two lenses: one in the wide-angle to normal range, such as 24-100mm, and one in the basic telephoto range, such as 100-300mm. There’s such a thing as a "do-all" lens, but they’re heavy and don’t always provide consistent quality throughout the range. Finally, you know I’m going to say that a tripod is necessary to improve your chances of good results in just about any outdoor photography situation. A tripod coupled with consumer-level lenses can yield results better than higher-level optics used casually without a tripod. Faithful use of a quality tripod can greatly increase the kinds of photography you can successfully undertake with a basic set of equipment. And the tripod itself can be simple; the two requirements are rigid legs and an adequate ballhead.

Simpler Image Handling
With all the inexpensive storage options available, and as each method becomes less expensive, you need to choose one consistent way to store your images. The simplest way is to use an external hard drive so all of your images are in one place and you never have to sort through CDs or DVDs to find them. How difficult is an external hard drive? It’s easy. It connects to your computer through the USB port, and you use it the same way as the internal hard drive that’s probably now completely full of images. Moving your photography off your computer and onto a separate drive will simplify your photographic organization and also may improve your computer’s efficiency for other uses. Buy two external hard drives and use the second to back up the first.

The next big hassle is the tendency to keep everything you shoot, either because you’re not sure how to choose what to save or you’re afraid to throw away anything. Take my word for it—get rid of the junk, and you’ll have plenty of good images to experiment with later, and you won’t have to sort through the garbage to get to them. It’s still simple, but true: The main difference between a pro and an amateur photographer is that the pro has a bigger trash can—or recycle bin.

Develop a basic workflow to optimize your images before filing them. The power of image-processing software can be intimidating, especially when you realize there are people out there who dedicate their entire lives to learning everything about the world of Photoshop. But you don’t need to know it all! Using Photoshop, Adobe Elements or another program, such as Adobe Lightroom, do some basic sharpening, exposure correction and/or color correction. Most programs have automatic features that often will make these decisions for you, but be aware that "Otto" doesn’t always make the right decisions. Next, clean up obvious spots and flaws, and you’re done. When you evaluate the result, remember, nothing says "digital" in a negative sense like oversharpened edges and oversaturated, unnatural colors. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

As for filing systems, there are as many of those as there are photographers. The simple keys? Take a little time to develop an uncomplicated structure that works for you, be consistent and stick with it, and don’t overwrite your original file after sizing it for printing. Instead, save the images you’ve worked on with a different name or file extension, preferably as PSDs from Photoshop or Adobe Elements.

Beyond Simple
So you’ve mastered the basics of digital, and you’re hooked. You know the possibilities are endless. New equipment, techniques and software are everywhere. Are you undaunted? Do you want to reach higher? Do you have a passion for photography that drives you to master everything there is to know in your quest to achieve your vision? In that case, it will be a never-ending education. I’ll meet you back here next month.

Visit www.geolepp.com.


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