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Categorized | Articles, Roy Ramsay

Photographer’s Lifestyle – Camera to Computer — It’s a Process (full story)

©Roy Ramsay
50 Point Beach, Lake Ontario, Grimsby, ON
Gear/Settings: Canon 5D Mark II, 126mm focal length, ƒ22@25 sec., ISO 100

Story and photography by Roy Ramsay

With spring just around the corner many of us are processing our winter photos and getting ready for the next season. Processing time is not the most exciting for the majority of us as we’d rather be out shooting, but in today’s photographic world it has become just as necessary as shooting itself.

We, as photographers, spend a great deal of time honing our craft so that we can execute as perfect an image as possible in the field. So too should you aspire to the same standard while processing. What I mean is, you need to become your own critic, or curator of your work. Sometimes that “perfect” shot you captured isn’t as perfect as you first thought, and no amount of processing will save it. It’s just not up to par, and believe me it happens to all of us. It’s important to learn this skill of being honest with yourself and listening to your inner voice. If it’s not up to your level of excellence, then delete it. If you want to save it in a folder on your computer called “What was I thinking?” then feel free, but don’t post it on social media, your website or anywhere for that matter.

I see many submissions to Outdoor Photography Canada that are great up front and I’m excited to see more, and to possibly publish their material, only to arrive at their website, Facebook or Instagram page and be disappointed. It’s great that they submitted a wonderful portfolio of images, but that needs to extend to all facets of your public image as well. When we decide to publish a photographer’s work, we always check their social media footprint as well as their webpage. We do this because we’re showing that particular photographer’s work to our readership as an example of photographic excellence; we can’t have readers visiting their website and seeing subpar images that don’t reflect what we’ve published. That leaves a “disconnect” with our readers, and quite frankly will hurt the photographer’s reputation that they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

©Roy Ramsay
Tofino Sunset, Tofino, BC
Gear/Settings: Canon 5D Mark II, 85mm focal length, ƒ16@1/8 sec., ISO 400

Being your own curator or critic is not easy. As a matter of fact, it’s quite difficult to look at your images that you thought were good one day and realize later that perhaps they’re not, and by then it may be too late. But it’s a skill you must learn if you’re going to become a better photographer.

©Roy Ramsay
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, AB
Gear/Settings: Canon 5D Mark II, 32mm focal length, ƒ16@1/15 sec., ISO 100

Three techniques to help you curate better

Over the years I’ve found three techniques that work for me, and perhaps they may work for you too. They involve patience and looking within for the answers.

1. Connect with your subject

This step occurs while you’re still out in the field. I’ve witnessed many photographers arrive at a location and rush to set up, shoot and pack up to hit the next location. Even if these photographers spend more time at the location, but begin shooting as soon as they arrive, they still usually miss the “bigger picture.” I call this mistake number one. How many times have you arrived at a location, thought you had the perfect shot in mind, took the image and when you got back home were disappointed with your results? If this is you, then here’s what you can try. When you get to your location, put your backpack of gear down and walk away. Of course this can only work if you’ve arrived at your location with time to spare, and once you try this you just might incorporate that extra time at all your locations. The idea with this technique is to slow down; take some time to get to know your surroundings, the sounds, smells and temperature of the air. Is it cold, warm, wet or dry? Feel your surroundings and connect with your subject. This will allow you to experience your subject more deeply, and therefore photograph it with more emotion and purpose. Now you’re off to a great start, but you’re not out of the water just yet.

2. Shoot today, process later

After a successful day of shooting, many photographers are excited to get back and see what they have. I call this mistake number two. If you executed step one correctly then you already have a pretty good idea of what you have, so no need to rush to get them into your editing software. I personally remove the memory cards from my cameras I used that day, put them into a protective case and set them aside. Again, I walk away. This time it’s because I need to remove the emotion I’ve built up that day with all of my images. This is an important step. If you begin processing your images right away, the emotion of creating them and feeling your subject matter is still with you. This will definitely impact your ability to be impartial during your first phase of processing — deleting the subpar ones. Removing that emotion will allow you to be more critical of your images from a technical viewpoint rather than an emotional one. Now you’re starting to curate your work. How long should you leave them? For me, I wait at least a week, but more often a month or so. By that time my emotions are well removed from each of the images I will process.

During phase one of processing, the culling, I open each image to decide if the emotional impact of that moment returns upon seeing it again; if not, it gets deleted. If “yes,” then I’ve captured something special and I mark it for processing to a final finished photograph. I repeat this process with each image until I’ve gone through them all. Phase two then begins with processing my images, each to their finished state, but I’m not quite ready to post them to Instagram yet!

3. Let them breathe

After my images have been culled and fully processed to my liking, I wait another week or so to let them breathe. Like a good bottle of wine, you must let it breathe before you drink it, or in this case post them. This is one final opportunity to check to make sure the finished product provides the emotion you were looking for in the image. If it does and it’s technically strong, then you have the makings of an impactful image that speaks to your style. It will be as strong as all your other images online or on your wall.

Some may think this is way too long of a wait time or process, but when you remember that you only get one opportunity to make a good first impression, the wait might just be worth the effort.

To read more of this not-to-miss issue please pick up the Spring 2018 issue today online or at your local newsstand. To never miss an issue you can subscribe here

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