Photography Goings On Of The Week

Over the last few days I have some interesting conversations with fellow photographers. Some on the meaning of it all. Some on the technique and technology. Some actual business type stuff, etc. As usual a lot of those chats sparked some thoughts and ideas. Most of which I will loose track of if history is a good indicator. I thought I would summarize a few of those thoughts quickly as a few might prove useful to someone somewhere and also to remind myself of a couple I may want to pursue with more vigor.

First off - a conversation I had with a few eBuddies on twitter regarding post-processing, shooting, etc. I am not at all unaware that there are some photographers that actually like to do all of their own finishing work. I am absolutely not one of them. I especially don't even bother if I know it's futile to get what I want based on the shooting conditions - which is a lot.

Here's a short paraphrased summary somewhere around the middle that should give you a flavor…

When I shoot, I think about what I am going to do in post and shoot with a particular post-processing treatment in mind…Them

That's hilarious. I do exactly the opposite. I shoot thinking about how I can make it so I don't have to f around with the images ever again…Me

I am sure I am not the only one that much prefers the shooting end to the back end to this process. If you have enough business just hiring someone to deal with it is a great idea. Especially if that's what they live for. Lot's of pros that have the market do this. What about the rest of us - I don't do nearly enough work to justify a full-time or even part-time hire any more. It's no secret that my love of shooting film has a lot to do with shoot it/done workflow as long as you have the right black-box (lab) jammed in between you and your output.

This gave me an idea. For folks like me that don't have a full time guy/girl to deal with this and doesn't already outsource it, how about a little bake-off of options to remove the post-burden from digital? A quick review, comparison, and cost analysis of outsourcing your post in a few closely related ways from a couple of service providers? Here's what I was thinking…

  • Shoot some film and some digital under the same conditions. Semi-real world conditions. Not some scientific brick wall conditions. Stuff you would normally shoot with how you would normally shoot it. Maybe a mix of semi-controlled circumstances as well as candid grabs with not a whole lot of controlled light. A mix of different lighting conditions and sources. Some outdoor, indoor, flash, mixed temps, etc. Using similar gear at the same time - like half/half switching back and forth. I can do that.
  • Send half of the film to Richard Photo Lab and half to Indie Film Lab assuming the test roll I just sent isn't a disaster on their part.
  • Send the digital files (after culling) to a couple of different outsourcing services like Vital Edit, ShootDotEdit, and also use RPL's digital color correction service.

When it's all said and done produce an objective look at costs, turn around times, etc. Obviously it's all worthless if the results aren't to your liking so also provide some comparisons for people to evaluate the "look" on their own understanding that any particular look can be tweaked or moved one way or another. More on the overall quality and consistency of the job as a baseline strait-forward image to be shown as proofs. Obviously the film is going to be somewhat at a disadvantage as you cannot pick and choose which frames you want processed but it will be interesting to see what the cost comparison is when you stick a human in the black box and not automation and a preset.

Anyone else interested in this either as a curiosity or seriously??

That conversation lead to another semi-related topic I drone on and on about - specifically cool hard light and warm soft light which I just cannot stand to the look of. I have probably mentioned this abut 7000 times. A few posts lately have attempted to demonstrate why I have a distaste for it. I have not offered any solution in post because for me the only solution is not to shoot it that way. It's not the overall color balance that kills it for me. That I can choose. It just looks all wrong to me and I won't even bother attempting to "fix it". Maybe it's because I have been a human and a photographer for way too long but it looks all wrong to me for a couple simple reasons…

  • In nature it doesn't happen and if it does there's a context of why it's happening that adds some degree of authenticity to it. The sun (hard) is almost always warmer than anything that is "soft" like the sky or clouds or a north facing window. When combined the sun is always brighter and always warmer than the soft fill. When they get reversed (like when using speed lights w/o gels) and the fill happens to be warmer it just looks wrong to me. I hate it.
  • I always always always always color balance soft light a hair on the cool side. It makes skin look better. As a rule I almost never go anything warmer than dead neutral and usually a tiny tiny bit cooler. To me it looks right. It looks natural. It looks like the way we perceive color in softer light conditions like cloudy days, open shade, north light, window light, etc. Even camera presets like cloudy and shade are usually really really warm for my tastes. Everything looks "dirty" when it's soft and warm.
  • Conversely low angled sun is hard and warm. It looks good that way to me. As it gets lower and lower angled it gets warmer and the look is softer because the natural ratios are lower. The sun part is still really hard and really warm but the shadows are cool. I like this. If you make pictures under these circumstances they look friggin great. That's why every body likes this light. To me it looks like absolute dog shit when that gets inverted. Neutralize the shadows and the hard light goes blue - horrible. Want cool shadows? The hard light goes even cooler and more horrible/unnatural. Want the hard light warm in inverted conditions? Ha - the shadows go nuclear orange and makes skin look really bad. It can be fixed in post if and only if the lighting ratio is really really high - in other words really dark shadows compared to the main light. Too bad that is not a go-to proposition. At lower lighting ratios where the fill is much closer to the key hard light (flash) when it looks great all of that is centered around the mids and your screwed.

Bottom line - shooting most ungeled speedlights will produce this in more than a few conditions. If I shoot this way for illustration purposes - which I have this year - I don't even bother making it look "right" because in my mind it will never look right. Just degrees of less or more bad. Mostly bad. Reverse this and it looks great - to me. The included random images were shot with what could be a seriously color challenged camera relative to the Nikon D600.

These happen to be dead neutral - by the numbers. You can go anyway you like in terms of color rendition If you don't have 1000 points of spread. This is just stupid crap I was fooling with at the time but I used to go through rolls of CC gels for things like windows etc. If the conditions called for it to make sure my shadows didn't go warm compared to my key light. Yea I am kind of a nut for this stuff sometimes but at the end of it all even keeping my modeling lights on at high ISO/large aperture/slower shutters cause shadow pollution with warmth that basically trashed a few shoots because I wasn't on my game…

On another note - that workshop in Spain keeps coming up so I guess LaRoque and I need to actually talk about some sort of plan when he gets back from Cuba - bet some great images come out of that. I am starting to think his role will be to look at everything with some sort of positive light - pardon the pun. My role will be to search out conditions that "suck less". Also I will have to be the voice of the unreasonable - I have already convinced him we need to rent a classic Ferrari for a couple of days as an absolute must have prop as it will definitely make things "suck less". Also think I have him talked into partnering with a local agency for talent and hiring a hair/makeup as well as wardrobe person for the month. I guess my role is to make sure we spend any proceeds on making really great pictures and classify as a non-profit endeavor. Don't worry - I will get my way with most of this… I am the king of rationalization.

On a final note for today - let's clear up any confusion on my feelings re: The Fujifilm X-Series. I love my Fuji. I vote with my hard won dollars. Look how similar the renderings are in that somewhat negative anti-magic post between a much bigger much more expensive and arguably state of the art mature image making device and the little Fuji. Definitely in the right direction. Awesome - especially since it's in the direction of things I care about. Hence I will complain bitterly with even the slightest deviation (Like the X-M1) from the path of true righteousness…


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