Killer Details

Sometimes it seems impossible to reach my lifelong dream of being a lazy, disorganized, impatient photographer.

Whether I’m producing images for paying clients or pro bono, I want to deliver photographs that meet or exceed the end user’s needs. I try to foresee potential challenges and develop plans to address them.  Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in solving an expected problem, I don’t see other issues as they arise.

Knowing I would be photographing a singing group against a dark background, and that one of the women has dark hair, I spent a great deal of time testing lighting scenarios that would separate her from the background without lighting the background. That problem was fairly easy to solve with rim lights or a carefully positioned hair light.  But I did not anticipate the lighting problems that come with sparkly, sequined dresses.

A couple of young friends visited my home studio the day before my scheduled shoot, and I was able to test several of my lighting ideas. It all went so well in rehearsal!

When The New Chordettes arrived for their session, I confidently lit them in various poses and costumes. On the camera LCD, I could see that I was getting adequate separation between hair and background. Once I uploaded the images to my computer, I saw that the sequins were casting hideous reflections far beyond my post-processing skills. (Look at the right arm of the woman in the green dress). I'm thinking of buying a portable DVD player to use as a larger camera screen, so I can look for such details while shooting. As it stands, there is no opportunity for a reshoot, so many of our favorite images will either be omitted or turned over to a more skillful Photoshopper for editing.

When Mike Fasth was President of Kinko’s Northwest and I was Marketing Director, we traveled to stores all the time,  and Mike observed, “the cleaner the store is, the dirtier it looks.” He meant that in a messy and cluttered store, you wouldn’t really notice a piece of paper on the floor, but in a pristine environment, a single paper clip out of place could command one’s attention. As my photography improves, I find that details I would have ignored three years ago now cause me to toss and turn all night. I don’t mind, really, because learning a craft with endless possibilities requires the acceptance of endless challenges. My advice to you, dear readers, is to take advantage of your digital camera’s built-in monitor and study your images carefully before moving on to the next adventure. I’ve been using Photoshop since the early 1990s, and I can assure you that most of the time, it’s much easier to get it right in camera than to fix it in post.

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Filed under Lighting, Post Processing

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