With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility – Part 1

I’ve been kicking this one around for a bit.  It’s going to be a 2-parter and I really feel it has some important stuff to consider.

I’d like to talk about retouching or “Photoshopping,” as some people refer to it.  What I’m specifically talking about is the difference between intention and an afterthought.  Often these days, with a basic knowledge of the software and a library of filters and actions, a common mindset is “I’ll fix it in post,” or “I’ll just ‘shop’ that out later.”

NO SIR!

The issue with that mindset is that it does nothing to enhance photographic skill.  Think about the 3 basic parts of an exposure – aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  With proper control, you have to sacrifice less for a fantastic image.  Instead of having an over-exposed image, it could be sharper, less noisy, or have a deeper depth of field.  Of course your specific taste factors in, but the point is not to assume you can “fix” the picture later.

Millions of people around the world use the same software.  The odds are that someone, somewhere has processed their picture the same way.  But, every single person has had different experiences.  That why we’re different.  If more of the final picture comes from the initial capture and less from post-processing, then that much more of the picture will be unique – coming from a moment in time that you and only you experienced in just that way.

This doesn’t stop at camera settings – not even close.

If you’re composing a scene and taking your time – then take your time.  Move that empty pop can, brush that hair out of the model’s face, take a step to the side so that tree isn’t sticking out of someone’s head.  Take advantage of time and get into the picture.  As cheesy as it sounds: “BE the Photoshop before the image even exists.”

But…that being said.  I’ll get to the point of all this.

There is most certainly room for creative adjustments.  The trick is to think about the final image before the initial picture has even been shot.  That way everything lines up.  If a person is going to be isolated and put into an existing background – think about where the light is coming from.  If they’re going into a picture of a sunset, don’t use on-camera flash.  If the foreground is way lighter than the background, use a tripod and take a bunch of exposures.  It’ll look a lot better.

Of course there are exceptions – If your kid takes his first step… take the picture.  The moment is the most important and you’re working in a pretty short window.  If a fly lands on your lens as you take the shot, well, you probably didn’t notice.

Before you take a picture, pause for a second and ask yourself – “Is there anything I could fix now, that I won’t need to later?”

So, here I have a selection of a few images that have gone through some post-production.  You can see the initial (out of camera) file along with the final image.  In each instance a handful of last-minute changes were made on location that greatly improved the workflow, the look of the retouching, and that of the final image.

Stay tuned!  Part 2 coming in a few days.

– Jon

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100 Tips from a Professional Photographer

This was forwarded to me a couple weeks ago.  I’m not sure who sent it to me, it’s just been an open tab in my Firefox for a while.

It’s fairly self-explanatory: a list of 100 things that should regularly be rolling around in every photographer’s head.  Now, I’m not one to repost lists of opinionated stuff that I see on-line, but this is a bit different.  It’s not preachy, it’s not all opinion-based (black and white is better than color, digital sucks… so on), and it’s not specific over-stated tech talk.  Most importantly, it’s just good advice.

Eric Kim is a street photographer who teaches workshops all over the world.  This is his brain child:

1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.
2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
4. Photo editing is an art in itself
5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody.
7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
8. Go outside & shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
10. Film isn’t better than digital.
11. Digital isn’t better than film.
12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.
13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos.
14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
16. Girls dig photographers.
17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy”
18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”.
19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything.
20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.