In the past you could pick a linear gradient or radial gradient straight from the tool box and apply those relatively simple options to an image really quickly. You could also use a brush to painstakingly paint a mask onto an image in order to carry out local colour, tone or contrast corrections to the masked area. The two most common functions were quick and simple whilst the more complex functions were, well, complex. I grumbled about why you couldn’t have the best of both worlds because the method for selecting the simpler ones had changed from a single mouse-click to three mouse-clicks.
I sat down to edit a set of pictures this morning and went through my normal routine before actually touching the RAW files:
Check for application updates
Restart the computer
All went well, I had a cup of coffee and then opened the set of pictures as a contact sheet in Photo Mechanic. I went through, added the relevant IPTC captions and then imported the selected images into Adobe Camera RAW and then I noticed that a new icon had appeared in the tools on the right hand side of the screen. A small ‘film strip’ had appeared in Camera RAW 10.3 and below that a new ‘treatment’ option was sitting there offering me the choice between Color (surely they mean Colour?) and Black & White with the choice of profile sitting there in a much more convenient place than it ever has been before.
I had a phone call call this morning from a potential client who had found me via a web search. That doesn’t happen very often and when it does the calls are normally from people trying to sell me something rather than commission me to do some work for them. The very pleasant lady who had called asked me if I did ‘corporate head shots’ and when I replied that I do and that I have done lots of them over the years she asked why there were none on my website. Wow… she’s correct. There are no easy to find samples of one of the most basic and important parts of my professional work on any of my folio sites.
During the call I promised to stick fifty varied images into a gallery and send her the link. I also explained that head shots weren’t the sole preserve of the corporate world and that some other sectors used them well and that the gallery that I’d prepare would have teachers and actors and other professionals too. (more…)
I’ve read a lot about the ‘instagramisation’ of photography. I think that means taking slightly dull images, applying filters and presets to them and presenting them as bits of creativity. At the right time and in the right place those kinds of pictures have value and can make significant additions to creative campaigns and can go a long way towards making some elements of social media and social marketing more visually interesting. I’m not talking about that here – this blog post is all about choosing between making decisions about individual pictures or letting technology take over and ‘improve’ your work for you.
If you are on Facebook or any other social media that has targeted advertising you will probably get as many ‘suggestions’ as I do for people selling magical presets or add-ons to make my pictures instantly better. That’s great – or at least it would be if I wanted all of my images to exhibit a sameness with each other and with those of so many others. Trying to reduce professional post-production down to a series of mouse-clicks using algorithms and actions developed for others isn’t, in my opinion, a very good idea. (more…)
Back in the day we used to occasionally try out new chemicals and different printing papers. We used to experiment with new film stock when it hit the market and, on the whole, it was a welcome distraction from the day-to-day work. In the digital era we have to get new cameras a bit more often and we need to keep our IT current but the biggest battle and the largest dilemma is software. Because I teach a bit and because I am a complete anorak** I always have a look at new software packages as they become available.
Keeping up to date is not cheap. Upgrades are often necessary – especially when none of the software companies make their RAW converters backwards compatible when new cameras and new lenses hit the market. The move by Adobe towards the monthly or annual subscription model is very interesting and brings into very sharp focus the real cost of having the latest software. I have written before about making the business case for buying new gear and the same formula should apply to upgrading software. Every time I talk or write about these kinds of financial decisions, the same piece of music pops into my head… Bruce Springsteen’s song “Cautious Man” where there is a line that says:
“When something caught his eye he’d measure his need
And then very carefully he’d proceed”
This week, to misquote the wonderful Fast Show, “I are mostly been playing with Lightroom”. To be more precise I have been looking at the new Lightroom 5 beta that Adobe have made available. This comes against a background of having experimented with pretty much every version of Lightroom since it hit the shops back in 2007 and found that I wasn’t entirely sold on the application despite seeing why others love it so much. And that is a huge part of the software conundrum – there are lots of options that achieve pretty much the same end result but get there via very different routes. If, like me, you shoot RAW pictures you need to have a way of editing, captioning, renaming, converting, saving, delivering and archiving your work. This can be achieved using a single application or you can use three , four or five different ones – it really doesn’t matter as long as your workflow is repeatable, flexible, efficient and accurate.
I will write a lot more about Lightroom 5 when I have really used it properly but I have to say that it seems a lot quicker than the previous version and the interface for Adobe RAW Converter is even closer to to the version that I use in Photoshop CS6 than ever – making using Lightroom a lot easier for me. I have also realised that Adobe’s efforts to create a programme for photographers to edit their work in are bearing fruit. The time has definitely arrived when I could easily do without Photoshop altogether and run pretty much everything from Lightroom. Of course that doesn’t mean that I want to… yet.
The Curve section of the EPUK website has always been a great source of information for photographers already working in editorial markets and for those who would like to do so in the future. I have written a few pieces for them over the years and my latest piece is about five different levels of image manipulation and how they should be used in newspapers and magazines.
As we celebrate the twentieth birthday of Photoshop we should take a few minutes to think about how the subject of image manipulation is regarded both inside and outside of our profession. In truth there is a sizeable majority of the population who think that every image that they see has been heavily retouched or altered.
Documentary, news and reportage photographers have a real battle to convince a sceptical world that their images tell the truth.
You might find it helps you to form your own thoughts on image manipulation by looking at these five categories of altering pictures and deciding for yourself which are appropriate for the kind of work that you do, and then using them to educate clients, friends and colleagues about how we as an industry view this very important subject.
Normal darkroom practices – correction of colour, tone, contrast and saturation to reflect the way the image should look. Light dodging and burning.
Darkroom interpretation – changes limited to colour, heavier dodging and burning, unnatural saturation and contrast that make the image an interpretation of reality.
Minor alterations – adding or removing elements to or from the image, other than by cropping, that do not change the essential message of the image.
Major alterations – adding or removing elements to or from the image that heighten or change the essential message of the image.
Image montage – using elements of more than one image to make a photograph that is no longer a genuine representation of the scene.
For the purposes of news I would say that 1 is OK, and that 2 might be.
By the time you get to 3 then I would say that was unacceptable for news – unless there is a label attached or there are good public interest reasons for the manipulation (such as preserving the anonymity of vulnerable people).
The real danger here is that much of the public assume everything we do is altered. It does us no favours for this assumption to go unchallenged. The real sadness is that so many photographers supplying news images ignore the ethical implications – largely because they know no better.
Image manipulation is a serious subject and one that should be addressed by every photographer every time they sit at their screen and every time they see their work in print