As much as I love film and darkroom work and feel that it is the one and only true original photographic art form, I absolutely adore my digital camera. It was a God send when I got my first digital SLR. No more "wasted" shots = more money in my pocket...so I thought. Through thousands and thousands of digital files over the years I have begun to think differently where that is concerned. Over the past few months I've been seriously evaluating the time I am spending shooting out in the field compared to the time I am spending in front of the computer screen, batch editing hundreds of images at a time. It just doesn't balance out. Photographer's tend to forget that their time is very valuable. And not just from a financial point of view. It is very important to have time to spend with family & friends and not to mention a little time for yourself! If we don't have this balance, there is the threat of getting burned out on what you once absolutely loved to do. Believe me, I've been there!
(Fine art image above shot with Canon Mark III 1Ds.)
As a professional photographer I believe I should be spending at least equal, if not more time, actually shooting and creating the image through the lens of my camera than I am editing images on the computer. Now, some people may argue with me on this, but I am very passionate about originality and keeping the image true to form. I am very aware of the new digital-age market of "Photoshopping" an image to death until the original file is unrecognizable. That is certainly an art form in itself which is truly amazing and beautiful and (not to mention fun!), which I really enjoy doing myself from time to time. But, there is something to be said for an untouched image that began as a negative (whether that's digital or film) and made it's way to photo paper without the help of the clone tool, or filters or lots of saturation in Photoshop. (That's actually a whole other topic that we'll keep close by for a future post!)
What I have found myself doing is shooting as many images as I can, even though I've already
captured good ones. It's a feeling of "what's it going to hurt? I've got 300 more shots on this rd!" It doesn't hurt anything at the moment, but when I sit down to roll through edits and I find myself coming out with 350 images from one baby session, that can be a huge problem where my work flow is concerned...not to mention day to day life! Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting slacking off and limiting yourself, I'm trying to focus on slowing down and paying more attention to what's being shot at the moment. Every commercial photographer knows that when you are working on an image, especially in the advertising world working with art directors, changes will most definitely have to be made and you will shoot more than you really think you need to in order to capture that perfect image for the client. That's a whole other ball game. What I'm referring to is my own personal creative work, whether that be fine art or children's portraits.
(Image top left shot using Mamiya 645 Pro TL, TMax film)
As a photographer, I think it's extremely important for us to slow down and capture the images we're envisioning in the viewfinder and not rely so much on the computer to do the work for us. If we become a little more aware of our digital shooting habits and treat those RAW files more like film frames, I think we'll be very pleased to see what the final result is. If you are one of the many folks that have only known digital and you've never shot film, try it! Step out on that old-school branch of manual labor and shoot a roll or two of film. I promise, you will come out with a certain appreciation for the art of photography itself. There is something to be said for shooting a roll of film and having to patiently wait for that awesome final image you will be rewarded with...before it even comes close to your computer screen.
(Image on right, shot using Canon Mark III 1Ds.)
Don't get me wrong, as all busy photographers know, this isn't going to be a quick fix for your overall time management, but it might be something to think about. Something to help you to start taking control of your valuable time. In fact, this post probably won't apply to those awesome photographers that have their own digital design team to handle all of the editing process for them. But if you're just a passionate photographer like me who really wants to stay original and save time, it doesn't hurt to give it a try! I believe you will come to realize that lots of extra hours spent in front of the computer will be forfeited for a lot more time spent relaxing and enjoying life in general...like enjoying the images you just shot and having time to go out and shoot new ones! So, fellow photographers, I continue to challenge each of you to join me in this personal quest to slow down, take your time with each frame you shoot and try to achieve your goal inside the viewfinder of the camera first. Think Film for a change!