Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Digital Photographic Practice: Exercise 2: Your Own Workflow (ii)

Exercise 1 developed a formal workflow from the bones of my existing practice. To recap it consists of the following steps:
  • Receive ‘commission’;
  • Identify location and model;
  • If possible visit location to identify detailed shot locations (this step added on basis of experience in Ex1)
  • Select lens/lenses and other equipment for shoot;
  • Ensure I have a spare battery and memory card with me, and that camera is functioning and set as expected;
  • Arrive at location and discuss shoot with model;
  • Shoot test shots for exposure and to confirm set-up of camera;
  • Shoot – with occasional checking of technical features – but with key aim of achieving suitable artistic result;
  • Swap memory card during shoot to provide back-up against card fault;
  • Upload images to computer using batch naming and key-wording facilities of software (and recharge used batteries in parallel);
  • Back-up all photos to separate hard drive;
  • Structured edit to remove technical failures and identify top 5 (or so) shots;
  • Develop and PP;
  • Upload final shots to web gallery;
  • Clear/format memory cards.
This workflow can be used for virtually any shoot – if sufficient memory card space is available. Exercise 1 resulted in more than 2Gigs of images in a 45 minute period – easily manageable on a relatively modest 4 GB CF card. For a more prolonged period carrying sufficient memory cards would become an issue if this shot rate were maintained.
Another issue on a prolonged shoot is the greater opportunity to lose or damage a card – which increases as the number of cards increases. Both these issues can be overcome by some form of back-up in the field. Possibilities include:
  • Use of a laptop or portable hard-drive/image viewer. This allows a combination of back-up and coarse editing using a screen that is a significant improvement over that available on the camera. The downside is that it requires the transport of an additional piece of electronics with its associated chargers/batteries.
  • Using a camera store or internet cafe to back-up to CD/DVD. Of course this requires that a store/cafe is available at a convenient location, and the optical media can itself be lost or damaged. Personal experience suggests that it is not always safe to trust back-up to an unknown party – I had a photo CD written while on holiday in Australia in which all the files were reduced to 1200 x 900 pixels. I only discovered this by accident while viewing the CD later. Fortunately I had not yet deleted the originals.
  • Use of online file storage options such as Picasa, or Windows Skydrive. This also requires access to a computer and an internet connection. Again there are risks associated with entrusting valuable data to a third party, and ensuring that it is not corrupted during storage. The advantage is that there are no physical media to lose or damage. Some degree of coarse editing would be helpful here in limiting upload times.
The shoot
My chosen shoot for this exercise is a family weekend trip to London.
Particular factors to be considered in the appropriate workflow are:
  • The aim of the trip is to celebrate someones birthday, not photography – so a minimum of intrusion is needed. This suggests a simple single lens set-up, with no tripod or other ancillary equipment. This includes using the on-board flash for fill if needed.
  • Unlike the portrait shoot there will be a need for spare batteries and/or a charger.
  • The itinerary is variable so the likely number of shots is an unknown. With the easy availability of memory cards, capacity is not likely to be an issue in a single weekend, but the photos will be an important family memory – so rapid back-up would be helpful. As it is unlikely that my family will be sympathetic to a long stay in an internet cafe and internet connections from hotels are generally expensive I will take my Netbook with me.
  • A back-up P&S will be useful for areas where a large D-SLR might be intrusive.
  • Time spent at the computer will be minimised by on-the-fly editing
  • The aim will be two-fold - to produce a selection of prints for the family album, and a separate collection of photographs of London that reflect my own interests.

Review after the weekend 'shoot'.
Editing on the fly kept the final number of photos to a manageable number – around 275 in total – I estimate that I probably edited out around half this total – mainly on technical grounds or because my family thought the shots were unflattering. After an edit I will have a reasonable selection of family photos and a small gallery for my website so this has worked quite well. Back-up was also unobtrusive and easily fitted in around the family arrangements. Overnight charging ensured I always had at least 2 fully charged batteries – more than sufficient for a days shooting.
I didn't use the P&S but it still seems sensible to have had a back-up for an important family occasion.
A good work flow can be flexed to suit the demands of the shoot, a process that encourages a planned approach to shooting. In addition, it is clear that having a structured basis for your photography that suits your own method of shooting provides security for your images and potentially increases your freedom to shoot creatively because the fundamentals will have become a habit.

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