I’ve become a little put off lately by some recent comments made on the web show The Grid. This is a weekly online photography show put on by the folks over at NAPP. I’m a NAPP member and I’m normally on the same page with most of the opinions they present. However recently they’ve done a few different shows where they’ve talked about the 85mm f1.4 lens (be it for Canon or Nikon). The comment that they continue to make is why spend the money for an 85mm lens with 1.4 when you could spend similar for a 70-200mm 2.8 – the reason being that the 1.4 is such a narrow depth of field that it limit’s it’s usefulness (saying that this is a one trick pony of a lens). They’ve been suggesting that if you’ve got a 1.4 lens, that the only way to use it is wide open at 1.4. This is where I’d like to disagree. I know that there will always be debate over the pros/cons of a zoom vs a prime lens, but suggesting that a lens only be used on one f-stop is like saying you’re only allowed to drive your car in first gear.
I believe that we use a lens for the aesthetic options it provides to us – and there are many looks that we can get from our lenses, be it the angle of view, the visual compression it affords, the bokeh, and the sharpness that lens provides. I’ve been exceptionally happy with my 85mm lens (so much that you could practically weld it to my camera body). I enjoy having a field of view just slightly tighter that what the eye normally sees. Yes I do use it wide open at f1.4 for the beautiful bokeh this lens is capable of, but I also will stop it down, using it at 5.6 or 8 to really capitalize on the sharpness and contrast that I can get from a prime lens. I’ve come to enjoy the challenges presented with shooting with prime lenses. I quite enjoy having to move myself around to find the framing that I’m looking for in my images. I also enjoy that my 85 when on my camera body is rather compact compared to my zooms and quite light. It makes for carrying the camera on the streets much more comfortable.
I’d hate to think that we as photographers are only willing to use our lenses wide open – if that’s what we’re doing then we’re really restricting ourselves, and our lenses. Let’s challenge ourselves and use our lenses for all the different advantages that that lens provides, not just for a single aesthetic.
I’ve just recently decided to try out using photoshop plug-ins. Specifically NIK Software’s Colour Efex Pro. I’m still in the experimentation stage with these plug-ins and have yet to find favorite settings, so I’m sure my opinions will change with more use.
I have to say I’ve been resistant to walk down the plug in road. I’ve been of the belief that if a plug-in can create an effect then we can find a way in photoshop to do the same thing. I’m still sure that many of these effects can still be done in photoshop if we take the time to figure out wha the plug-in is doing. So why shell out $200 for a single plug-in set?
There are a few reasons for deciding to spend the money on plug-ins. The first is the time savings. The main reason I wanted to get this particular plug in set wasfrom the Tonal Contrast plug-in. I’m sure with experimentation with multiple sharpening and high pass layers of varying radius settings and layer opacities and tonal blending settings (and maybe a few saturation and vibrance layers in there for good measure) you could approximate the effect of the plug-in. You could even write an action for this. But when all is said and done you’d need to be adjusting multiple radius’s and amounts, and know how each value will affect the overall look, while your action is running. In three months time I’ll likely have no idea what settings and opacities will do what. With the plug-in it’s three sliders and a visual representation of the changes in real time. And we still don’t know exactly what they engineerscover at NIK put under the hood of their plug-ins – so we may be able to get close, but never quite replicate the results. I’m also now envisioning a photoshop layer stack with 17 merged layers of my image all with smart filters applies and layer effects. It doesn’t take long for my normal retouching to give me file sizes between 300-500mb. This does two things to me. It slows down my computer – and thus costs me more time in my photoshop work. It also fills my hard drives faster. I still consider a gigabyte to be a large amount of hard drive usage and actually get excited when I delete 4 Lightroom catalogue backups freeing 2.4 gb of hard drive space. I’m frankly not willing to add another 300mb filesize to a single image just to create an effect on the image. The plug-ins will do their magic on one layer (and if I choose, I can apply every CEP filter in a single pass – though I’m sure that’s going to introduce some artifacting).
The new nikon commercials are advertising “amazing low light shooting” and saying you won’t need to use a flash anymore!!
Flash is not a four letter word. I quite enjoy shooting with a flash. I prefer to get my flash off the camera, but even a well used on camera flash has more purpose than just lighting a photograph. There are always times where a quick pop of fill flash is all you need to open up your subject, or add some sparkle to a person’s eyes. Also a great tool to separate your subject and background…when you have the ability to control your background and foreground lighting you’ve just added a dimension to your work that a high ISO can’t produce.
Lets not start a war on flash by replacing it with low noise, high ISO. Lets learn what each of these tools can do for us and use them all to push creative photographs forward.
There has been a lot of publicity lately about the new HD-DSLR. Very quickly the video capable still camera has been making waves. It started when Vincent Laforet showed us Reverie shot on the Canon 5D Mk II. Since this short film the usage of HD-DSLR’s has exploded to even having a full episode of House filmed exclusively with them. This is not a bad thing for the film maker. These are a new tool that adds to the film maker’s choices and allows aspiring film makers to get in the door for less than a RED camera system would come close to costing. However, this new technology built into these cameras is causing expectations to spill over to photographers.
When you pick up any photography magazine, 1/2 of the ads and articles are now devoted to the video aspect of our DSLR’s. The recent Henry’s Imaging Show in Toronto, the majority of the booths were directed towards shooting video. The new iPad editions of Wired Magazine has made a video edition of the magazine’s cover. A large portion of today’s top working photographers shooting for both publication and ads are learning how to shoot short films and are transitioning their business into a film business. Many are predicting the end of the still image!
I can’t dispute that the industry is embracing video and that clients are starting to expect it. I don’t dispute that publications don’t yet have the budget for video (the publishing industry has been in it’s own transition). I do suggest that the still image is as important today as it has ever been.
New media/digital media is now presenting new ways for photographers to share our work and venues for it to share the stage with film and video. Photography has been the mainstay of publishing, flowing over every page of a magazine. As the publishing industry transitions to the digital platforms they’re playing with the inclusion of video in their layouts. But this is an amazing opportunity for the photographer community as well. Where once we were limited in the images that were chosen and published in print publications, there is now the opportunity for larger photo stories and essays to be put into the digital editions (where added pages add megabytes to the finished product, not extra $ that a print page costs).
Not only do we have new ways to share our work, but a still photograph resonates differently with people than a video does. A still captures an instant in time. Life and the world become frozen for just an instant and we have the chance to slow down. It’s like holding your breath. A video relies on time’s passage, it constantly moves forward. It reminds us that time continues to march forward and there’s no stopping it. There is no quiet slow reflection for people to absorb what they see at the pace they choose.
I visited Edward Burtynsky’s photography exhibit Oil at the museum the other day, and it was as enjoyable watching people interact with the photography as it was looking at the photography. People stood back and took in the scene, they moved forward and examined the fine details, they sat in chairs and looked over the entire exhibit. Some people took seconds looking at each print, while others stood for minutes taking it in. These are all activities and ways of experiencing a photograph that a video doesn’t afford.
So is photography a dying art form? I think photography really is as important as ever. I think there is place for both art forms, both creating their stories and impacts on people in different ways. The industry is in a time of change and growth and new opportunities are springing up everywhere. It’s an exiting time. If you have wanted to embrace film making, it has become more accessible. I don’t think it’s time for every photographer to sell off all of their still equipment and become directors and film makers. I think there is still plenty of room in new media for the photograph.
I’m just sitting in the digital darkroom today and while I’m slowly reworking an image there is time for the mind to wander. I’ve been thinking when is the time to do the long form retouches vs the quick ones?
A lot of my photoshop learning has been because of Scott Kelby and his training systems. This is a great place to start out learning photoshop and finding ways to produce professional quality images, and I commend Scott for the work he’s done in bringing this training to the masses of new photographers entering the digital world. However I’ve found that the techniques I’ve learned here are meant for photographers specifically, with the intent of spending 5-30 min per image and move onto the next. Scott quite often suggests that many of the techniques he used in portrait retouching would cause a professional magazine retoucher to cringe and to shun you in the hallways. This is again because the techniques are aimed at the busy portrait photographer with fast turn around times.
This is where the mind started to wander though, as a photographer I am interested in shooting for the magazine and ad worlds. I feel that in order to advertise my services to these clients I need to bring forward a polished product in my portfolio; one they could envision publishing. So with this in mind, where do you strike a balance in your retouching? To get the magazine quality retouches (primarily skin softening), you will spend hours with a brush no larger than 10px working your way through your image.
I am trying to make the decision as to where the quality slider for my post production work should be set. When I’m working on something I want to put into my portfolio I will sit for hours on a single image. If I’ve got to get 30 images out in the next hour, gaussian blur is my best friend. Why I find trouble finding the best balance though is because when I advertise magazine quality retouches in my portfolio, I don’t want to turn around and provide sub-par results to a model who’s looking to have their portfolio updated or to someone who’s looking to have new creative portraits added to their home. I see these images that are out in the world as marketing materials in and of themselves.
Right now most of my client deliverables that are going out use a combination of quick but quality techniques as taught by Scott Kelby, but also have some of the slow pore by pore dodging and burning techniques used for commercial print work…the amount one way or the other right now is depending on the turn around time I’ve been afforded by my client and the price tag attached to the job. (I can’t afford 4 hours of time per image when the budget isn’t there)
I’d love to know other’s thoughts on where and how they set their retouching “quality slider”…
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