All posts by Greg Groess
How much time do you take working on an image? Three minutes? Five? Ten? More than that? I know it seems like a simple question but how many people out there are concerned about the time it takes to correct an image? If you read some of the postings and lists that I have read it seems like more and more people are concerned about the “amount of time wasted” in image processing.
At this point I find this concern misguided and here are some reasons why…
There have been a number of surveys of how visitors interact with paintings in museums. One found that an average viewer goes up to a painting, looks at it for less than two seconds, reads the wall text for another 10 seconds, glances at the painting to verify something in the text, and moves on. Another survey concluded people looked for a median time of 17 seconds. The Louvre found that people looked at the Mona Lisa an average of 15 seconds, which makes you wonder how long they spend on the other 35,000 works in the collection. (James Elkins; School of the Art Institute of Chicago.)
There is more…
On a vacation to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, I asked was asked by one of the park rangers if I was enjoying the view. I replied that I was awed and inspired and could not wait to spend the rest of the day just looking and experiencing the light hitting the canyon in different ways. I told him I was coming back for the sunset and wanted to just take it all in. It was then his turn to amaze me. His reply really stopped me for a minute; he said “I wish more people would take the time to see the canyon like that. Did you know that the average visitor spends 17 minutes actually looking at the canyon?” I was aghast… “Really?” I asked. He stated that time studies by the Park Service showed that on an average day a visitor only spends 17 minutes actually looking at the canyon. Wow.
So what should this be telling you?
I’m not 100 percent sure but what it tells me that it is quite easy to be above average in your observations. If the Mona Lisa only gets 17 seconds on average then my 3-5 minutes on an image would seem to be a lifetime. Interestingly, this poses a new question. If people can take in all the subtle nuances from the Mona Lisa in 17 seconds what the heck am I doing for the rest of the time I spend on an image prior to starting color corrections? I have 283 seconds to waste if I want to; so what am I doing?
Defined as a noun the word means: the sense or faculty of sight; vision. To me it is more of a verb; it is an active process that I use to examine the scene before me and analyze the elements within the frame both during the actual capture process and eventually in the post processing that I do to finish the image. I was fortunate that 25 years ago a very good instructor took the time and made the effort to teach me how to see. It took me quite a while to figure out what he actually meant when he said I was going to have to learn to see because well…I was sighted and in fact the “vision” I had was quite fine with me at the time. How little I knew back then.
Today my seeing is an automatic process that I do it is a part of me. It creeps into my conscious mind at the oddest times…Watching a baseball game I critique the stadium lighting because “If they just move the main light 20 degrees to the left…” or driving through the downtown area locally I see the cars reflection in the glass and start to compose an image in my head…not good since I should be concentrating on driving. It also jumps right to the front and center when I am working on post processing an image.
The thing of it is…I learned this all in the dark.
Most of my seeing came to me as a part of analog darkroom processing and printing. You had a few minutes back then to sip a glass of water, place the image in the proofing lights and look for problems in the image. You then made some decisions, went back in to the dark, and “re-did” the print to see if you could improve the areas you identified. 3 to 5 minutes later you had another print to look at and make some more assessments. Ugh..such a slow and outdated process. Was it really?? I’m not going to get all romantic about wet process here but it did force you to think. You need to know your tools, know your process and apply decisions in order to make a good final print. It forced you to slow down and see your image…really see it.
Does any of that sound familiar? It should, in fact it is the basis of all the digital work I do. It is a frequent refrain from others; “How did you see that?” or “How did you know that was the issue?” My answer has always been “I’ve practiced seeing items like that for years.” I started in the black and white darkroom when I was 12 years old. I learned from good people that you needed to look for things in your prints and you had to make changes to get what you wanted out of the process. If you were missing highlight details that required you do “burning in” during the print exposure or if you were really advanced; you would “flash” the print to add exposure to the base white areas of the paper. (This was usually reserved or negatives so thick we called them bullet proof.)
Today we can use multiple digital techniques to add density to an image. We can use a multiply function on a layer, use a mask and a curve, change the gamma of the image, heck we can even re-process the RAW file (Digital Negative) and develop it in a completely different way. Us analog guys really like that one! We used to have to expose separate sheets of film to get another shot at the processing for adjustments. Today, I can combine multiple copies of a single Raw file processed differently to achieve a HDR effect.
The question I have been asking myself now is this: Are we any better for all the digital tools we have? Then I ask, are we less able and more reliant on the technology? When I go out to various websites and look at the current images being posted to them, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google+ I am sometimes impressed by what I see but most often I am disappointed that while imaging has seen a huge resurgence in popularity there is little thought given to quality. I guess that’s because quality takes time…
I was asked recently what I thought of the current state of Photography. I responded with a question of my own…In what terms? “Oh you know…imaging and all the do it yourself stuff out there…”
I reminded my questioner that Photography has always been a “do it yourself process” from the very beginning the do it yourself guys usually brought out the best in the medium and challenged everyone else to catch up. I asked them what they thought was so wrong with that? The response set me back a bit but here it is…”Well with everyone able to adjust and manipulate the images and with the software getting so good…pretty soon guys like you are going to have very little to do.”
Wow, just like that…25 plus years of Photography, Darkroom, Digital and Teaching reduced to “very little to do…” I guess I was annoyed at first but then I took it as a challenge that I wanted to assure myself that someone who understood “taking a picture” really did not understand all the other parts that made up getting that image polished enough for someone to put down hard earned money for it.
Now I’m not an expert on all of the things that are possible…no one is and I would venture to guess that being in the middle of the United States gives me a very narrow view of the whole argument. That being said the challenge was put down so here it is…
I think that the “State of Photography” is at its heart the same as it was when I first started. There was a hardware war…Nikon vs. Minolta vs Hasselblad vs. Canon vs Bronica etc., there was a chemistry war…CibaChrome vs. Kodak vs. Ilford, there was even a lighting war…Sinar vs Norman etc. Through all of that it always came down to the person using the tools. You could take the best equipment, the best lighting, and the best chemistry (in your opinion) and using a mediocre process and technique you could still make really bad images.
So, what’s so different today? Well nothing really, you have a whole bunch more people being able to take images with better quality equipment and processing them on faster and faster computers, but really how many monkeys does it take to reproduce the entire works of Ansel Adams? I think quite a few thousand might not even get the first image off the drawing board.
If we listen to the “camera people” everyone is already way past that level of skill and you need only point your lens at something and Poof! Instant processed masterpiece. Or should we listen to the computer people? No matter the exposure, no matter the focus we can help you process your way out of the problem and with a few more mouse clicks…Poof! You have created an instantly reprocessed masterpiece.
Personally, I have a different viewpoint. I choose education. It is the hardest thing in my opinion, to admit that you do not know what the heck you are doing when you pick up a camera or grab the mouse and start clicking. It is nearly impossible to face the truth of the matter, that I need more information in order to make better choices and create better images. That asking questions makes me stronger and more agile, more able to compete for the dollars that are getting harder and harder to pull out of the photography business. So where do I find my education? There are schools, there are websites and groups, there are even YouTube videos…but it is more than just looking, reading and listening. I have to put these ideas to the test. I have to go out and shoot photographs and take them somewhere that I can see but might not always be able to achieve. It is in these successes and failings that I learn something new and interesting.
So there it is…My answer to the “State of Photography” question is that education and a personal quest for knowledge is where photographers need to go for more income. It is a course we all need to be on to get better at our art and our craft, one we will need to survive this race to the bottom that has been created by the big companies that want to make quality imaging automatic and accessible. It’s never automatic and for most it might be accessible but only after learning how.
An interesting thing has happened to me this week and I think it is the start of a new adventure.
On Thursday evening I received a phone call from an old friend with an offer I could just not turn down. He was going to Give me a Epson Stylus 3800 Pro Printer and a bunch of Photo paper ranging form 8X10 up to 17X22 inches.
A little back story here…
Bruce is an old friend who is functionally color blind and I taught him how to use Curvemeister to do color correction for the rest of the world not just himself. In his long and satisfying career as a semi Pro photographer he took thousands of images and I guess I was pretty influential in his color correction. Bruce would print at home and this was his printer. Over the last 2 years he has used it less and less to the point where he decided to get rid of it. Rather than send it to Craig’s list hell he called me and asked if I was interested. I said yes.
I have moved this very large printer into my computer room and I have begun working on getting it back into printing shape. It has a few minor issues and needs some TLC and a few new ink cartridges. So, I invite you along on this new journey and I will be cross posting to the Curvemeister Forum as I figure out how to make this printer work and use it to create prints…I hope…
We have updated the Curvemeister site to freshen the look, inject some new ideas, and generally just “get more modern”. Also, most importantly, we are considering ways to get our blogs out there on the main web page, and to allow you, our customers and others who are interested in curves and color correction, a way to comment on the items that we post.
The main forum is still there, and is the preferred place to get your questions answered, find out about new releases, beta versions, and so forth. We are working on a way to integrate the forum with this web page, but at the moment you need to create a new account, or use facebook or google to login to the new site.
The new site will be hosting more than just the sales and information for Curvemeister. We are going to try to resurrect the Curvemeister Challenge by using some of the tools available to us on the new site, we will be moving the classes here in the very near future, and we are linking all of the teaching and conference call videos to the site as well.
Look for Curvemeister in other social media. We have a Pinterest site, a Facebook presence, as well as Twitter, and our forum.
We want to hear from you and welcome any feedback both positive and negative about the site, the plugin and the classes.
Mike Russell and Greg Groess