Shooting Straight

IMG_6264-9I’ve always had a history with graphical arts but I only decided to pick up photography as an excuse to leave the house. I was down and out and figured out that the only way to crawl out of this rut was to go out and experience the city again. but sitting by yourself wasn’t enough, I needed something to do. And what better way to enjoy a place than to hunt for new angles, new perspectives and capture them?

Almost 10 year later now, I have collected gear that I barely knew existed back then, and regardless of objective skill, I feel like I have improved tenfold. I have come to the point where I can start charging for my work, which happens once in a little while.

Perhaps you remember my post on my work for Corpus Ca, a theater group that hired me a few years ago. Our co-operation turned out very successful and working for them was an amazing experience, start to finish. I never quite figured out why that is, but I think I’m starting to figure it out, after the director recently contacted me for a photo shoot for their upcoming project.IMG_2590-2

I’ve done photo shoots before: Fashion photography, a bachelorette party, and a few days at a recording studio to capture the bands there. All these jobs have one thing in common: They expect me to come up with pretty much everything. No one has a clue of what they really want to accomplish, and leave it up to me to direct models and crew.
This is not what I signed up for. while I understand that they’re expecting me to have a better idea of what is possible, I did not pick up my camera to boss people around. it’s just not my style.

IMG_6339-5This case was drastically different. The models’ parents were all involved in theater and had a very good idea of what they wanted and how it should look. They had a very professional attitude and expected the same from me: They didn’t wait for me to check my shots and maybe have a second try. By the time I had the camera to my eye again, the scene had changed and I was to keep up.

My stepsister is also into photography so I invited her to join me, and we made a pretty good team. Regardless, the shoot was challenging, as the pace was high and the light conditions less than optimal. I had to dig deep in my knowledge of exposure to keep my shutter speed high and ISO low, walking a fine line between blur and grain.

But not needing to worry about directing was a huge relief. Without the need to multitask, we could focus on our job. Everyone present was good at what they did, and together we made quite the team.

IMG_2632-6Of course, most people don’t know this but pressing the shutter button is only the beginning of the story. Post-processing is something that is surrounded by a lot of fact and fiction. The consensus is that editing pictures is bad because essentially, it is a lie presented to the viewer as a truth. I understand this viewpoint but if you think you have ever seen an unedited photo, you are very naïve.

The taking of a picture itself is an edit of reality: A photographer decides what goes into the frame but more importantly, what doesn’t. For every detail photographed, there are a million that were consciously left out.
Your little point-and-shoot camera then takes that picture, cracks its knuckles, and absolutely goes to town editing the crap out of it. Contrast, saturation, exposure, signal noise, lens distortions, they all get changed according to the parameters that you agreed on. The sensor inside those cameras is about the size of a screw head, and it sees vastly different things than what eventually show up on screen.

With high-end P&S and DSLR cameras, you can choose to bypass that process and save the actual information obtained from the sensor. Even with the best cameras, it is a flat, sad looking image with no color or contrast. Only when it is finally pulled through the processor, will it look appealing.
Any decent photographer will replace the processor inside his camera with the one on his computer, emulating different camera settings long after the photo is taken, to find the right one. They then start from there, continuing towards how they envisioned the photo to look, or improvising along the way.
IMG_6287-5I feel like, as long as you’re honest about the idea behind the photos, the photographer is absolutely free to edit all and every aspect of a photo. After all, it is his property.

Lightroom is the perfect program for this low-level editing that I do. It allows you to make virtual copies so that one photo produces different results, and makes it incredibly simple to make complicated changes to a whole batch of photos. It’s easy to automate what is standard, and intervene when it’s not. As trivial as shifting sliders and selecting areas on the image, every aspect of light and color can be adjusted down to the technical details of the file.

With a good idea of the final result, the director kept in touch and gave me a few guidelines to work with. This is another thing many amateurs deal with poorly: Because they don’t understand how much work goes into a photo after taking it, they don’t get involved. Perhaps this is why he and I get along so well: I get the freedom to work, while he knows what he wants.

All in all, it was an intensive job. It took all my skill to pull it off, but I think we did great, for no small part thanks to my stepsister. I could hug my Canon 7D, 50mm lens and Lightroom, but even more, the people present that day. Both children and adults did a great job, and I don’t say that lightly.

I hope the results get the recognition they deserve.

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