I’ve recently made some significant changes to my workflow and thought I would share them. The best thing about being a part of Hutchinson Photography Club is receiving encouragement to change. Here are some things I have learned and ways I have changed my workflow in the last 48 hours.
I’ve known for some time now that there are things I needed to change about my workflow. I’ve listened to other club members tout the benefits of shooting in RAW for a long time and I have resisted up until recently. The reason? I was still using CS3 and unable to use the Camera Raw plugin with that version of Photoshop. Sure, I could learn Lightroom and use that to edit in raw, but change is hard, especially when you have invested money into software and the training of that software… it’s hard to jump right into something else. The only solution to my problem was to upgrade to Photoshop CC. Of course I resisted this too, the main reason being the monthly fee. I worried that the $10 per month might jump to $20 per month next year. My husband already has the Adobe CC big package on 2 computers for his home-based business and adding my subscription would have this household sending Adobe $60 per month. I needed to be convinced.
So what convinced me? Whenever I heard reasons such as, “You can fix an image several stops underexposed with no problem at all” I would think to myself, “Why not just shoot it right in the first place?” These were my excuses and I needed a wake up call. My wake up started on Sunday and then was solidified Tuesday night.
Sunday I met with Scott Bolster of Scott Bolster Photography for an interview of sorts. Scott is looking for a 2nd shooter to help him with weddings. Since I love photographing weddings, I was eager to impress him. When I met with him, he told me my work was good but he noticed that when he zoomed in close on some of my images, the focus was off. I was embarrassed and thought to myself, “What??!!” But when he showed me, I saw exactly what he was talking about. On some of my images, the focus was on the chin and not the eyes. For Scott, these images are tossed out and don’t make the cut. Part of Scott’s style includes capturing the catch lights in peoples’ eyes. I always kind of prided myself on that as well, but after looking at his work, I knew I could do much better than what I currently had to show in my portfolio. We talked about some ways I could do better and remembered when I second shot a wedding for Nick Kilgren of Kilgren Photography. Nick used to be in the photography club and is always eager to share his secrets. Nick has his cameras set to use the back focus button. I used his gear when we shot that wedding and that is how I shot. I liked it but never followed though back then to set my cameras to do the same.
Fast forward to Tuesday night. We had speakers come to photography club to present. Peter Wong has been before so he is more familiar with my work. Deb Lee Carson came along this time and presented her work as well. Before the presentations, a small group of us had dinner over at Zella’s. I brought up what Scott and I had talked about on Sunday and Peter commented that shooting in raw would also help me with those focus problems. I’m guessing that it has to do with clarity in the image and the fact that there is less noise in a raw file as opposed to a jpeg. After a little heckling from the other dinner guests I have to admit I felt pretty shamed and “cheap” not to cough up the extra $10 per month. I figure I owe it to my clients to be the best I can be (even if it means I now have to pay software on a monthly basis for the rest of my life!)
Later, while Peter and Deb presented their work, I was impressed to see how their images looked straight out of camera vs finished. Even more impressive was seeing Deb’s beautiful works of art printed on fine art paper and displayed behind low-glare plexiglass for optimal viewing and easier transport. “Yes!” I commented, “That’s all fine and dandy… but how much do those fancy prints cost? Many of my clients are on a budget, as am I!” When I learned that there is virtually no price increase between working with a custom printer and one of the big print shops, I figured I have no excuse to check around when printing large landscapes or wildlife photos for display.
So, when I got home last night, here is what I did. I whipped out my credit card and bought the Adobe CC photography package for $10 a month. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Camera Raw is built right in so I was ready to go and was editing in raw format in minutes. The learning curve isn’t as steep as I expected and everything is pretty much the same between my old version and this one. I edited the raw version of a portrait I did last month and posted them side by side to see which I liked the best. The raw definitely looks more color correct and clearer to me than the jpeg (as it should be). Side note- if you zoom in on this image, you will see that the focus is on her lips and not on her eyes…. arghh!
The next thing I did was set my camera to back button focusing. This is different for every camera so you will need to read your manual (or Google your specific camera like I did). Here is a great article on why back button focusing is a good idea. Next, I blocked out some time to research custom printing places nearest Hutchinson that specialize in fine art photography. I will still use WHCC for my portrait and wedding work since that is what they are geared for and Justin Strom for my canvases, but am keeping my options open for landscapes, wildlife, etc. I hear Justin does prints as well so I may ask him about what papers he uses, etc. since I really like his customer service.
I also sent Scott Bolster an update on my progress and sent Peter a thank you. Without his chiding, I may have stayed stubborn much longer. He replied that he was happy to hear that I have seen the light! I couldn’t be more grateful myself.