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Processing procedure steps

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beejaylad

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I'm a very (I'll repeat that :meh: - a very ) long term film and chemical photographer making the change to digital and I've got a problem: How do you know when you've finished processing?

In film the developing is straight forward, you've done your experiments and arrived at a set of exposure and development values that work for your system. The controls in printing are limited, a certain amount of dodging and burning in and maybe a little bit of local agitation in the developer and that's it. You can go on to do a little airbrushing maybe but normally once it's been through the wash and dried or maybe glazed and that's it - hand it to the client.

I love Lightroom as it is the closest to what I'm familiar with but I keep on thinking, "I can improve that," or, "just a slight darken there," or maybe, "a smidgin more colour saturation here." A single shot can take ages!!

Do you have a regular routine that you follow? How do you know when to stop?
 
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Welcome to the forums!

And welcome to digital! ;)

You've found its Achilles heel: you can tweak forever if you want. Literally forever. Only you can tell when the Law of Diminishing Returns starts to take effect.

Hal
 

beejaylad

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That's what I'd begun to think. I wondered if anyone can suggest a route for the process so that I could, while I'm learning, go step 1, step 2, step 3, till I reach whatever, say step 20, and force myself NOT to go back but, accept what I'd got to until I'd got my hand in. I've conquered key wording, collections, folders and ratings etc., but, I can finish working on a shot and the next time I look and think I can 'do a little more' and I'm sucked back in again.
 
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The best trick I've come up with is to Develop in 2 or 3 passes, and set a time limit on each. Do a quick first pass taking no more than 30 seconds, leave it overnight. Next pass, no more than 30 seconds, leave it overnight. By the time you come back to it the third time, the picture already looks great and I'm less inclined to fuss with it! Your times and repeats might vary depending on the kind of photography, but setting limits like that helped me.
 

beejaylad

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Thanks for that, it sounds a good start to solving my problem.

How about some of the finer touches? What I'm looking forward to is the potential of the finesse I couldn't get with film and chemicals, but I'm slightly put off by some of the work I see that tends to go over the top.
 
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Yep, I share your concerns about 'over-processed' pics. I've found the break between passes helps with that too.
 

funkknight

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I'm still a beginner but...

I'm also struggling with the "when is it good enough to stop" dilemma. What I've been doing is getting an image to a state of "I could live with that if I have to", then creating Virtual Copies and playing with those. Having the good enough photo in the filmstrip and periodically comparing it to the new tweaks inevitable leads me to realizing that I'm not really improving on the image and it's safe to stop.

I also work out of a smart collection that includes photos in my working folders but haven't been published. So when I can force myself to, I publish the good enough photo (i.e. to Hard Drive ready for email) and it no longer appears in my working set in essence making it feel like it's unavailable for editing. Being lazy enough as to wanting to avoid republishing a photo after every tweak goes a long way to considering a photo done.
 

beejaylad

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I've been following your suggestion Victoria and it has made a world of difference. I have found there is another advantage in the extended breaks in processing, that is eye tiredness. Coming back with fresh eyes, and not tired ones, the corrections seem to be easier to make and so are quicker. Now I'm doing several shorter sessions rather than one prolonged one, making it less of a chore. I think the results are better than they might have been.
 
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Excellent, I'm really pleased to hear it. Let's just say it comes from plenty of experience, having processed around 1 million photos in the last 5 years (I was processing for wedding photographers).
 

beejaylad

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I know the feeling, I sold my first picture July 1950, now, after years of familiar darkrooms, learning a whole new method is not child's play. Never mind, HDR here I come...
 

kaymann

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I use a hybrid of the funkknight and Victoria's Time Limits + Virtual Copies. Just started the time limits (thank you Victoria) and virtual copies. If the copy looks no better trash it and your done.
 

kaymann

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I don't either but I typically shoot hundreds and try to whitle it down to a dozen or fewer keepers so the approach still works. Some things just jive with select folks and his approach fits me like a glove. I just recently added VIctoria's approach of a time limit which I like very much...
 

Brad Snyder

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Perhaps his/her workflow differs from yours.

So when I have approximately 100 equine competitors jumping 10 jumps each run, for as many as a dozen runs each, how would *you* describe the 'CRITICAL MOMENT'?

Remember, I'm not trying to sell a magazine cover here, I'm trying to sell prints to participants and friends and families.
 

beejaylad

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Quote: Perhaps his/her workflow differs from yours. End quote. That's why I asked, it wasn't a criticism.

At some photocalls I've attended you could hear the motor drives going and when the results were printed you would find the shots were either just before or just after that critical moment. The same was true when I was covering Point-to-Point and Show-Jumping. It was just curiosity because I'm trying to get to grips with the change from film to digital, so far, the only differences I'm finding are the processing and less subtle tone qualities hence my thinking in terms of HDR for architectural and garden work, that might lead me to shooting many more frames? So far I'm still thinking in film terms shooting-wise.
 

kaymann

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Could be a week, could be a weekend, or could be a day. That would depend on the settings, opportunities, the job, and how much fun I was having.

I have heard of the critical moment and for the record I barely touched chemical photography - I found it too constraining and expensive - I threw out too many photos. I was so worried about getting the perfect photo I passed it up waiting for a better one.

This is what I love about digital photography there are so many styles, possible exposures, compositions the possibilities are endless. Just like there are many composures and exposures there are many photographers and their individual styles. Just like there is “the” critical moment. There are photographers who make their own critical moments. I can remember watching a youtube where a guy went to a rundown storefront and found critical moments in rusted cans laying on a sidewalk. Which I translate into - there are critical moments all around us, we just have to find and make them. To me that means this is more than just a lake and mountain. It is hundreds of critical moments waiting to be discovered.

Just my humble opinion. I could be very wrong.
Welcome to the forum. I am a newbie here as well.
 

beejaylad

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My two 'gods' are Ansell Adams & Cartier Bresson so most of my photography has been as discreet and as precise as I can make it. I used from 35mm to 20x24 film sizes depending on the job. You tended to be careful as those larger sizes cost an arm & a leg even then. Although I know it's possible to do marvels with PS and LR I'm very uncomfortable if I don't get it right at the the time of shooting. Most of all I'm really struggling to come to terms with the five stop tone range. When using AA's Zone System I could use up to ten zones, and nothing replaces the feel of burning in or shading using your hands and maybe a bit of cardboard cut to shape under the enlarger lens.

I agree whole-heartedly about the freedom to make interesting, 'fresh' viewpoints and treatments, and those 'discovery' moments but, so often, I'm conscious of people taking a 'lazy' attitude, thinking that if you take a lot of shots you can sort them out when you're in front of the monitor and you'll get a masterpiece, you won't, unless you're extraordinarily lucky. Nothing replaces using the mind while you're shooting. It is the whirr of motor drives when you're looking at a landscape or a magnificent house without considering the viewpoints that gets up my nose. If you haven't had your thinking mind engaged when you take the pictures then you'll be lucky if you end up with original, interesting finished pictures, no matter how clever you are with PS or LR.

Thanks for the welcome note, I hope there will be more stimulating discussions to follow.

As I write this I've suddenly realised that what I miss most is the smell of the chemicals in a fuggy darkroom after a five hour session though not the brown stains on the fingers.
 
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If you combine your careful approach to shooting (film) and then the current abilities of image editors (Adobe products et al) amazing results are possible.
However digital shooting offers advantages such as expose-to-the-right, focus using live view, rapid checking of compostion (and hence the ability to reshoot).

The GIGO adage holds excellently in digital photography though.
Rubbish is still rubbish and class is still class.
I know: I shoot a lot of the former in pursuit of the latter!

Regards

Tony Jay
 

beejaylad

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Perhaps his/her workflow differs from yours.

So when I have approximately 100 equine competitors jumping 10 jumps each run, for as many as a dozen runs each, how would *you* describe the 'CRITICAL MOMENT'?

Remember, I'm not trying to sell a magazine cover here, I'm trying to sell prints to participants and friends and families.

Sorry, I meant to reply to this earlier.

In those circumstances you would have many critical moment opportunities, every horse at every fence as well as at the presentations or at least as many as you could cover plus impromptu horse and rider/owner portraits, perhaps with trophies. Each one would have their own critical moment: it might be when the horse and rider are clearing a hedge or rails, the lines of the horse and rider in harmony, muscles stretched, riders' head close to the ears of the horse, or the cup presentation the peak of the smile of the winner, who knows, there are hundreds of possibilities. But if you've missed it by a fraction either too early or too late you should know.

I used to cover those kinds of events (amongst others) gymkhanas, show jumping as well as point-to-point, fox hunting, long distance cross-country for a couple of the magazines covering those subjects. At a point-to-point, usually on a Saturday afternoon, eight races, two circuits of the course, as well as the finish as often as possible, then back to the saddling enclosure for the winner and cup, about 75-100ish pictures taken, about 50-60% on the nail and publishable. Reckon I used to run about eight miles in the afternoon. Then back to the darkroom to process and then get the prints to the railway station in time to catch the five to midnight train as the magazine was on the news-stand Monday morning. Tiring, but if you get it right very emotionally and financially satisfying.

Do you have a portable computer set up on a display stand showing the shots you've taken? A mate, I used to meet at those events listed above, had a mobile darkroom in a closed van. His wife used to be sat in there all afternoon processing and then displaying the prints on a board on the side of the van. Her criticism was occasionally on the warm side if he was having a bad day!!
 

Brad Snyder

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Anywhere from 500-2000 shots/day. 97% good enough to print (thanks to raw and Lightroom).
No computer/display on site. These are all low-rent hobbyist shows mostly, not enough margin for assistants and the like.
Turn them around in a day, post to fulfillment print site.

Generally English, flat-work, hunter, straight jumper, 3-day. Some western speed. And since I live in Maryland, US, where the state sport is jousting, some of that as well.
This is all event shooting strictly for the participants. Very rare editorial/journalistic usage.

On occasion, I'll assist a larger outfit at higher priced shows, who do have onsite printing capability.

I can't imagine doing any of this with wet chemicals.

Really, my sole redeeming quality, is the ability to hit the 'critical moment' with one shot, rather than running a burst like those around me.

The thing is, you and I (among others) know what a good shot is. The potential clients, just know what they like.
 

mulligan

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I think much of the problems stem from great software and plugins. Looking at images one always wonders how would it look with this plugin or that. I started with photoshop 2 and in those days it was easy .... just make a good looking image.
 
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