Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Regognizing A Lost Cause

Doonster wrote in response to my Reel image: 'I spent quite a lot of time looking at this one. I might have personally chosen a slightly different crop but one thing came to mind when i read your comments: a question I often ask myself is "is this picture worth pursuing?". The point being, when does one press on as you did here, and when does one abandon as a lost cause? I suppose, in principle, that any shot in focus with all the elements present could be pursued to a satisfactory conclusion' and I thought this required more than just a comment.

I don't think that one should always push on simply because the image has no technical flaws - solving the technical issues is so much easier than dealing with the aesthetic ones and as I spend considerable time working on an individual image - usually an hour, sometimes several hours, I can't seeing wasting my time on images with no artistic merit.

That leaves us wondering how to recognize which images have something that makes working on them worth it.

Of course some images need very little maniuplation so as is one can see that they do or don't have merit, but we're talking here about images which in proof or raw don't look good and you wonder if there is 'gold in them thar hills'


Here's a list of clues either including or excluding an image into the 'worth spending some time' cagegory:

1) any image which really excited you when you shot it is worth pursuing in the absence of obvious fatal flaws. You may well be able to recapture that excitement once the image is cropped, adjusted, manipulated or whatever.

2) If despite not looking good in general, an image seems to have all the right parts, perhaps manipulation will make them work.

3) If an images is good except for X, and you have an idea of how to fix X...

4) If you can't tell why an image doesn't seem to work, then it could still be worth working on - after all, you thought enough of the image to record it in the first place.

That leaves rejecting images that

a) have fatal compositional flaws not amenable to correction

b) have nothing going for them and you remember at the time thinking that you saw nothing, but just maybe a miracle would happen between lens and screen.

c) images that once you correct the major weakness, still don't show any redeeming features. Better to try for a few minutes and abandon the effort part way through than to go the whole route, wasting time, paper and storage.

This doesn't mean you throw out the raw file, you never know what might happen six months down the road as you realize how you could treat the image to get a really strong result - that does happen to me.

4 comments:

chuck kimmerle said...

That last line broaches the question of when it is appropriate to toss away the RAW files. Can't keep 'em all, can we?

Kjell H A said...

Oh yes, we can keep all the RAW files. As your RAW archive grows, the storage cost will decrease. A 300Gb drive may hold more than 23000 of the 5D raw files. Buy one more drive, and you have a day to day backup as well.
Copy the files to DVD each month and store them at work, or at your mothers home or something, and you have decent of site backup. Simple and inexpensive. Certainly not perfect, but sufficient for most non-pros.

Jack said...

Good column. I've "saved" a number of pictures because I said, "Oh, what the hell, let's see what I can do with this." I had a floral shot yesterday, from my wife's garden, pretty delicate flowers that were out of focus. But the pastel colours of them were so gentle I thought I'd work with it. The digital darkroom, Photoshop, with all its filters and added-on ones, offers almost unlimited possibility. And I achieved a result that delighted me: it will go up on my photoblog shortly.

As to keeping originals, for the most part I keep them along with the final version. Other versions of the same shot get thrown away.

doonster said...

Thanks for that, nicely consolidates my thinking. I tend to keep all the RAW stuff anyway, except for grossly out of focus (the blur in a sea of blur shots).