In the days of film photography, I was always more circumspect when it came to deciding when to press the shutter and capture an image. With the film and developing costing money, I was always strived to try and get value for my money. I didn’t always succeed.
With the advent of digital photography, once a memory card has been bought, whether you shoot 10 frames or 1,000, the operating cost is the same. I am not factoring in the cost of a camera, computer and the software needed to process the images. On a day-to-day basis of shooting photographs, digital photography is essentially free.
The downside to that situation is the tendency to shoot a lot more images, followed by a much longer process of deciding which are keepers and which can be deleted.
Nikon guru and photography sage Thom Hogan, what Thom doesn’t know about Nikon cameras isn’t worth knowing, advocates limiting the number of images shot in an attempt to reduce the processing workflow.
In article about dealing with lots of digital images, Thom even harks back to the days of film and advises photographers to wrap each memory card in a 20-dollar bill to remind themselves that images cost money. He recommends “chimping”, looking at the images just after they have been shot and deleting the failures.
On the computer, Thom advises classifying the images into three categories — winners; keepers; and delete. He then further classifies the first two categories into winners, stock and keepers. Thom rates the winners with five stars; stock images with three stars; and keepers with one star. The three rankings correspond to Galen Rowell’s ABC system of classification: A for winners; B for stock; C for keepers.
Winners — five-stars or A — are few and far between. Thom writes:
You don’t have very many. Ansel Adams once said that if you shoot a dozen great images a year, you’re doing well. If your A category gets much higher than a 100 images over a few years of shooting, you’re probably not being critical enough.
Three-star or B images are those sold for stock. Thom defines images in this category as “a very publishable and it’s an image that I’m proud to have my name associated with”.
One-star or C images are basically reference photographs. Thom defines them as “images that someone would find publishable, but you wouldn’t care if your name was or wasn’t associated with them.”
Renowned Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard, a man whose photographs regularly grace some of the most presitigious publications in the world, takes a somewhat different approach. Thorsten advises never to delete anything and certainly not on the basis of reviewing the image on the camera’s LCD screen. For Thorsten time is more costly than hard drive space.
At the computer, Thorsten recommends reviewing a shoot backwards when trying to determine the merits of the various images shot. By the end of a shoot the creative process is likely in full flow and better images will result than at the beginning. In Thorsten’s words you are “warmed up”. He adopts a binary system of classification. Either an image is one worthy of saving or it is not and even the latter are not deleted, they just become images that he does not spend time on.
Hence you only have yes and no images. You don’t rate images with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars. You either select it as an image or disregard it. You harvest images.
He marks his yes images with three stars. Those are the images he works on and eventually exports as high resolution JPEGs. His “harvest” will consist of “two, five, 10 or 14 images that are in fact professional”.
You may show your two, five, ten or fourteen images to people. And they will recognize that you have talent, because they have never met anyone who could make ten pictures that were all that perfect!
The emphasis must always be on quality when it comes to selecting images. I know at times that my quality control regarding what I post on various blog sites is not all that it should be. I kind of made a rod for my own back by starting a blog site called Tägliches Foto, which requires me to post a photograph every single day.
My method of sorting and selecting images consists of several stages. When shooting with the Canon 40D and the manual focus Zeiss lens, my initial selection is based on the image with the sharpest focus. This step involves using the loupe in Adobe Bridge and comparing several images of the same subject. The image with the sharpest focus is marked with one star.
I then review all the one-star images and more in keeping with Thorsten’s approach make a selection on yes and no. The former are marked with two stars and these are the images I will spend time working on. During the course of processing the RAW images in Photoshop CS5 and Silver Efex Pro 2, I usually come to the conclusion that some of the two-star images are not really worth spending time on. They remain as two-star images while the processed ones become three-star JPEGs.
With the Ricoh GRD III, I mark all the RAW files with one star. I do wish Ricoh would facilitate the ability to just shoot in RAW rather than providing RAW plus a JPEG image. I then choose those that are worth working on and mark them with two-stars. As with the Canon, the two-star list is not definitive at this stage and some two-star images fail to make it as three-star JPEGs.
When it comes to deleting. When I have processed all the images from a shoot with the Canon, I delete those RAW files that were not quite in focus but i retain all the rest. With the Ricoh GRD III, I eventually delete the in-camera JPEG images.
When it comes to deciding which photographs will eventually appear on Calvin Palmer Photography, the choice is made from the three-star JPEGs and those selected are designated with four-stars.
The important thing to remember is succintly put by Thorsten: “No photographer has a hit rate of 100 per cent.”
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