Don’t Be Givin’ Me Those Bad Looks

Don’t Be Givin’ Me Those Bad Looks

Not if I’m in ’em. I can look horrible by myself – I don’t need professional pictures to prove it.

We all break a picture now and then. In our early photography days they can all be cracked and sad as we learn what to do – by learning what not to do. People can take a shortcut to this sort of knowledge by attending classes at Shoot Workshops or Perth Learn Photography or many other clubs and institutions. The rest of us just make errors and feel bad about them and have to figure out how to correct them

a. The film folks can make all sorts of errors loading the ISO of their films into their camera’s metering system…and then misinterpret what it says and exceed the specs of the film. They can shoot the wrong film for the light levels or the light’s colour temperature. They can make processing errors while developing – concentrations of solutions, temperature, time, light leakage, etc. Believe me, a darkroom has more etc’s than you want to find.

At the end of the process the film person may have a transparency or negative that has flaws. Whether they elect to take those flaws and try to correct them with further analog work – enlarging and processing – or the sidetrack of scanning the results and starting onto a digital workflow – is up to them. The options for the former are declining and for the latter increasing.

A lot of the processing errors can be avoided by picking a good professional lab and letting them break their fingernails on the film cassettes. They nearly always turn out a better slide or negative than you can in your bathroom, and you can elect to get the finished product already scanned. I’ve used Fitzgerald Photo Imaging on Fitzgerald Street and the relief of having them do the hard work and do it right is immense.

b. The digital workers can make their errors early on by asking their camera to do something that the prevailing lighting will not support. Auto White Balance can be overruled and mistakes made. The in-built metering system may be asked to make an awkward assessment of the scene – it will do so faithfully, but not give you what you thought you needed. Ditto the focusing system. If you insist on telling it what to do, you need to give the right orders.

Even before the buttons get pressed and the swearing starts, you can ask the camera to record the files in the wrong size, shape, or colour space. You may see one thing on an LCD screen and get something else altogether on your computer. Here is where the wise photo shooter takes advantage of the ability of a modern camera to record both RAW and jpeg files at the same time. The price they pay is more memory storage used, more time needed for the camera to tuck it all into the memory card, and more processing time downstream. The benefit they get is if they make squalling errors in the the shots they take these can be largely ironed out by processing the RAW files later. More trouble to do but if you’re in trouble anyway, it may be the way you get out of it.

c. There now appear to be 56,000* separate image editing programs for sale on the net for your computer, tablet, or phone. More pour out of the workshops each day and are then updated.  Many are simple, but do little. As they gain power to change images they pick up complexity and get harder to use. You have to find the limit to which you can operate the program without calling your teenage children into the room to rescue you. Once you have found this safety point, do not go beyond it…they will only be patient with you for so long.

Do not be ashamed to get in the post-processing lifeboat and sail away while the ship is sinking. If you have indeed made bad choices at the time of capture, the dynamic range available with many programs will allow you to recover gracefully. No-one would think you wise if you paid no attention to the shoot and left it all to Photoshop, but if you need to trim a sail while in the lifeboat, do so.

d. Errors in printing on inkjet and laser machines are easy to make . You just have to get up in the morning, breathing. You can reduce them by getting a calibrated screen to speak to the printer with the correct paper profiles and use fresh ink in a clean machine…but there will still be small troubles every now and then. It is not the time to throw away your set of Spotone colour retouching dyes quite yet.  You can certainly select the wrong surface or weight of paper for a particular image, and know it the instant that you’re holding the proof in your hands. Have a selection of papers on hand and try again. Thirteenth time lucky.

*   I may have exaggerated…

 

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