When Apple announced their new desktop Mac – the Mac Studio – I watched the keynote address and was very interested in what this new bit of kit had to offer. Starting at £2000.00 including VAT it looks like a veritable speed machine. I have read some reviews and looked at test bench scores which are supposed to give us real world performance data so that we can compare one machine against another. With all of that in mind, it looks really good. But… what do those score mean for me?
In the editor part of my working life I often end up editing 200, 300, 400 or more RAW files from different cameras a day. When I am shooting my own pictures it is rarely that many and, of course, the files will all be from my own cameras and therefore not varied set of RAW formats. The most power hungry work will all be inside Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and I want to know what time savings this new Mac will actually give me. Having watched several reviewers (mostly high-end video editors) talk about what has frustrated them in their workflow I started thinking about the relatively few times I find myself waiting for things to happen in ACR.
The truth is that there aren’t many things that take time and frustrate me with my ageing 15″ MacBook Pro but here are a few:
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.
Anyone who knows me and anyone who has read this blog would probably say that I am keen on technology. I would agree – I’m a geek. Despite my love of the whole digital process there’s one thing about the way that we work these days that I am not so keen on.
What’s that then? I hear one or two people asking. Put very simply, I don’t get to meet or even chat with editorial clients any more. I know that the whole COVID-19 pandemic has put a mighty spanner in the works but even accounting for that I was disappointed and a little bit shocked to realise that I have never actually met any of the folks who have commissioned me to shoot editorial work since well before we went into the first lockdown. Some of that can be explained away by my being based a hundred miles from London where a sizeable proportion of them live and work but even accounting for that I find it really sad that I haven’t got to have a coffee with any of them or even shake the odd hand here and there.
Lots of things have come together in the last month or so to make me think a lot about my life as a ‘one-man-band’ in the worlds of editorial and corporate photography. The trigger for writing this blog was a survey being conducted by the company that supplies my accounting software. Like most surveys it didn’t ask the questions that I wanted to answer. The attraction of a free-prize-draw for those who took part made me complete it anyway. However, it did make me think about how (very) small businesses and the self-employed are treated by those with whom we do business.
The corporate side of my work is definitely better paid than the editorial but it comes with lots more preparation, admin and general hassle.
I often refer to my photographs as “telling a story”. That’s how I look at what I do. Portraits help to tell that person’s story and the rest of my work is all about creating images that either tell the whole story of work with other elements to achieve that goal. Stories don’t necessarily have to have an ending. Many of the best stories ask a question of the reader/viewer and leave them thinking about what they have seen, read or experienced. That, in my opinion, is what photography is about; telling the right stories and asking the right questions and how you choose to compose your pictures is one of the vital elements of visual storytelling.
Please accept my apologies. This post starts with a short rant.
Every time I read an opinion about which of the many utterly superb cameras that are on the market produces the best colours, my heart sinks. When the writer gives their opinion on the colours or the contrast that this or that model produces I know that I can safely ignore them but I also know that others listen. They often sound convincing because what they say has some small foothold in reality. I find it unbelievable but some people actually base their selection of equipment on how they perceive a camera model to render colours using the factory settings and often under conditions over which they have little control. Even worse; others actually allow the opinions of these short-sighted and wildly ill-informed folks to influence their purchasing decisions.
Ten years ago I bought an 11″ MacBook Air. It went everywhere with me because it was so portable, so useful and did the job that I needed it to do. Four years ago I tried really hard to find a way to use an iPad to do the same sort of on-location quick edits that the small laptop had been so good for but I never really made it work. I kept the rapidly ageing laptop in service for longer than I should have and carried my 2017 15″ MacBook Pro on more jobs that I would have wanted to. When Apple released the M1 powered 13″ laptops earlier this year I thought that I might finally have found a solution and the reports coming from other photographers about how good they were helped me make my mind up to invest in one.