Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Shoot More, Process Less
Try these simple rules, and you’ll be able to spend less time in front of your computer screen and more time in the field making photographs
1 Keep The Sensor Clean
A key but often overlooked way to help reduce editing time is to keep your equipment clean. There are few things more tedious and time-consuming in digital photography than cleaning sensor dust off of an image in post. Use an air blower to quickly clean your sensor after each shoot and do more extensive cleanings every few shoots or so. Also, be sure the front and rear lens elements are free of dust before clicking the shutter. Investing in a camera that has automatic sensor cleaning by way of ultrasonic vibrations of the digital sensor is a great time-saver and a handy feature. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Take good care of your equipment, and it will take good care of your shots.
2 Use Split NDs Instead Of HDR
When shooting landscapes, utilize split-neutral-density filters as opposed to combining multiple exposures or using high dynamic range (HDR) techniques. HDR is a great tool that can make some superior images that would have otherwise been difficult to achieve, but keep in mind that Galen Rowell (and countless other greats) have made some of the most iconic and memorable photographs with nothing more than what they could put on the front of their lens. Master split NDs, and you’ll get the added benefit of having special pride and satisfaction in your technique, in addition to creating some of your most stunning images straight out of the camera. Nothing feels better than being able to snub the guy who loftily remarks, “Wow, you must be great with Photoshop.” Approach an image as if you’re shooting slide film again (remember film?) with the attitude that what you shoot is what you get.
Streamlining your postproduction workflow is an extremely effective way of reducing editing time. By weeding out unnecessary steps and efficiently organizing your editing procedure, you can drastically cut down your time at the computer. Lay out your workflow, just as the name implies, as a flow of definite and precise steps going from one to the next with each one creating a specific product. For example, my workflow is laid out in three main steps: In, Pending and Out. Each one has more specific substeps that accomplish a certain goal.
For the In step, my images are stacked (or grouped) and the immediate rejects are sorted out. For instance, I’ll stack variations in exposure, minor shifts in composition or slight changes in filter placement. I scrap any image that’s a definite throwaway due to poor exposure, camera shake or lens flare.
In the Pending step, I first adjust IPTC data for each image, adding notes, captions and keywords for later reference and for my stock agencies’ use. I then move on to comparing and adjusting the images. This is where I make all my Levels, saturation, white balance and color adjustments to the photos. I also compare and rate them in this step, further sorting out any rejects and selecting the best ones of the batch. I then clean any dust off the images.
From here, I sort all of my images into the Out step, where they go into one of several categories: Fine-Art Pieces, Stock Photography and Neither. As part of this Out step, I export my images into the correct format for each category and do with them whatever is necessary (upload to the stock agency, add to my personal website, etc.). After they have gone through this whole process, the images can be sorted into my archived images hierarchy, now fully keyworded, captioned and adjusted for easy retrieval later on.
I use Apple Aperture to handle all of this, and I have individual projects (albums) for each step in which I move the images from one to the next as they advance in the workflow. This keeps me organized and always lets me know how far along an image is in the process.
This is just one example of a workflow that works for me, but try drawing yours out on paper, as I did, so you can see the exact steps your images need to go through to be ready for production. This allows you to lay it out in the most logical manner possible and also helps you spot unneeded steps. Seeing your workflow drawn out in graphical form gives you a solid concept of what needs to happen to each image before it can be put to use. This also helps keep you from accidentally overlooking any steps in your workflow (ever forget to clean the dust off an image?).
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