The Digital Workflow

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The digital workflow is a constant and growing problem in today’s digital photography world.

I love photography, I love computers, and I have a mix of artistic and high tech skills that make digital shooting a natural for me. I will read MacWorld or Photoshop User, even Rangefinder, well into the night, long after I have put down the newspaper and turned off the television.

While the rest of the world sleeps I machinate about Photoshop techniques. Well-llll, not all of the time…

On the floor of my bedroom right now you will find Photoshop CS4 Killer Tips, Scott Kelby’s Photoshop for Digital Photographers, and more. They all have worn pages, turned down corners, paragraphs highlighted with colored markers – and post-it notes even hide among the pages.

Yes, I confess, I am an adobeholic.

The ‘tinkering’ aspects of digital photography are truly hot – you know, all those cool plug-ins and actions that make my LCD literally explode with liquid metal and flaming thingees at the click of a key. I will play with these things until the absolute last minute and even then I will be late if I have to, if only I can try just one more permutation.

I am also a perfectionist, so I will work with a problem image until hell freezes over just to get it ‘right.’ And, no, I do not do that with my taxes.

Who would have thought that pixels would so preoccupy me in this era of my life! I am 63 years old now with one foot in the grave, at least according to all the women’s magazines out there. What they don’t know about me is the sheer muscle power that I have achieved by carrying manly tripods, 300mm and 500mm f/2.8-F/4 lenses, cables, batteries and chargers, and more batteries, and more chargers; not to mention my personal archive of ARCA plates, lens raincoats, white balance cards, shutter releases, LCD cleaning kits, Allen wrenches for every occasion, multiple wireless strobes, compact flash cards and readers…

Oh, and my B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L Apple Powerbook and its own cadre of cables and card readers.

I have thought long and hard about all things pixel and I have come to several important conclusions that I would like to share with you:

First, not everyone is meant to be a digital photographer.

You have to have the right tools. I have the right tools, thousands of them. My motto is, “If you are going to do something, then do it right.” My bank thinks so, too (not). Digital photography is an expensive habit.

Second, you have to have the muscle power to carry those precious tools, and I have that – even if I occasionally slip guides greenbacks to lighten my burden in the higher altitudes. But no-oooooo one gets to carry me or my Nikon bodies. No muscles, no pixels, end of story.

Third, you have to be a bona fide ‘junkie’ to love digital photography as much as I do. My favorite place in all the world is an ACE hardware store with narrow aisles and bulging shelves. I get great delight from jerry-rigging things, something I learned from my father who prided himself in being able to fix anything except his first marriage.

Fourth, you must (gasp) be willing to read manuals. If you can’t do that run, don’t walk, to your nearest camera store and get yourself a film camera. They are really, really cheap now. Put it in program mode and GO.

Here in digital heaven we rival the gods with our RAW processing prowess. But with that prowess comes knowledge, which comes from reading, reading, and more reading; not to mention experimenting with all that new-found knowledge.

Fifth, you have to have a well-researched desktop; one with extreme organization like mine. I have two 30-inch, networked APPLE Cinema Displays; a MacPRO quad-core with two 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon 5100 series processors and over 3 terabytes of internal hard drive space; six large external LaCie firewire hard drives; Nikon film scanners; an Epson flatbed photo scanner; dye-sub and laser printers and a very cool audio system with sub-woofer that makes the iTunes experience almost other-worldly.

There are rules, you see. Not just anyone can be a digital photographer. You cannot care about clothes and nice furniture and fancy cars and dinners out if you want to be a digital photographer. It used to be that you could tell a real photographer by their smelly photo vest. Now the measure is the number of cables in their pockets and whether they shoot in (the) raw or not.

You have to want it badly and feel OK with being poor while you are at it.

As I see it, then, the workflow problem is not a solvable problem. I, you (we) are stuck with it until someone makes everything wireless. And then folks like me will still be doing our incessant tinkering with the delicious toys that Adobe affords us.

NOTE: You should not have to tinker endlessly with every image. If you must, you are either a very bad shooter to start with and are absolutely clueless about exposure and composition; or you are a sloppy shooter who knows that an image can ‘always be fixed later in PS.’

Don’t fool yourself. Every pixel counts. The more you tinker with those pixels, the worse the outcome.

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