Photoshop, LightRoom, Topaz, Photomatix - those are just a few of the image enhancement and manipulation programs that enable today's photographers to unleash their creative vision, and realize images that would have been nigh-to-impossible to create only a few short years ago. As amazing and easy to use as today's technology may be, each of these programs shares one significant drawback. Each of them takes time.
How important is that time? It all depends on your objectives and your market. If you are established in the fine art or creative market, then spending an hour, or a day, processing an image to ensure it perfectly represents your creative message is all a part of the game. But if you're shooting for stock, editorial, or client-specific work such as a wedding, the passage of time is your greatest enemy.
I try to do a little of both, but there's no doubt that for now my work is predominantly editorial.
And last weekend was a prime example of the key role that time plays.
At 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning I was at Folsom's Nimbus Flat State Park, shooting a triathlon. My real purpose was to get some experience shooting action with my new D800. By 10:30, I had shot more than 1,000 images, and I was almost as whipped as the triathletes themselves. I headed home to see how the images looked on the big screen.
My first step was the ruthless editing I try to employ in these situations, especially since I had done a lot of shooting in continuous mode. Using LightRoom, I trashed anything that was out-of-focus, had irretrievably bad lighting, where the athlete had run out of the image, or that I just felt was not going to work, with or without adjustment. I also quickly reviewed the continuous sequences, quicked picked the one or two best, and trashed those that were totally duplicative.
Then I went back and flagged the images I thought had possibiities. I wound up with fewer than 100 images. From those I easily whittled it down to 50 that I felt might be suitable for my website gallery. I eliminated several that seemed too similar. With 20-plus images remaining, I felt I had a good selection. These shots each required only minimal cropping and light adjustments, and voila. I posted a Triathlon Gallery.
Looking at it with a fresh eye the next morning, I decided the gallery was short on swimming images. And so I added one more.
Examining that image more closely, I realized it just might meet the criteria for Sacramento Magazine's monthly featured photo called "The Big Picture." So I sent it off - and within an hour had the response every photographer likes to see . . . "You nailed it."
Given the subject matter and the magazine's monthly schedule, that timing was right on the edge. Another week, and I would likely have been too late.
All that said, it is still fun to go back and see what kind of manipulation might make the photos more fun. And so, pleased as I am with the editorial quality of the images I shot, I still couldn't resist a bit of play with the image below.