Save 50% on inPixio Photo Studio Pro

Technique, trick or hard work?


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
...Read More

Technique, trick or hard work?

23 Feb 2021 6:50AM   Views : 225 Unique : 138


There are different ways to solve most problems. I remember a chief petty officer (who was married to a colleague) recounting the way he faced an exam with a stinking hangover, and had the option of doing a lot of detailed calculation, or going for a flashy trick to get to the result. Hangover notwithstanding, the trick worked and he passed. And maybe passed outÖ

When I was at school, we used the JMB syllabus Ė it stood for Joint Matriculation Board, and it was gritty and Northern. You needed your log tables, and an ability to use them. I really envied students doing exams set by the Cambridge Board, which set questions where you had to understand what the question was about, and then it was easy. They set the bar higher, but once you cleared it, the sailing was plain, and the arithmetic easy.

There are a proportion of photographers who think that they should always sweat it. If there arenít fifteen layers and five plugins, itís just not a picture. They can create light for a dull day, and they live to process, rather than to shoot. For me, itís hard slog in Photoshop, and if I can modify my shooting a little so that thereís minimal editing to do, I will.

Take these pictures of Freya and her aerial hoop, which I shot at Silverwell Studio last year. For those who love selection tools, itís an easy edit: I have a provisional booking to shoot again, and Iíll be up the ladder with half a dozen market stall clamps and my black cloth background so that I have a simple edit to doÖ As you can see from the pictures, thereís plenty of room, and convenient places to attach backdrops to the ironwork holding the roof up. In this context, thatís the Ďtrickí solution. Fabricate reality.


I could have made the edit much easier, I realise, if Iíd abandoned the lovely natural light for the monobloc flash units in the studio. Then, if I put the flashes so that they lit Freya and not the background, Iíd have a vastly reduced editing problem. Wind up the power settings on the flash heads to give correct exposure at a smallish aperture, set the camera shutter to the highest flash synch speed, and off we go. Technique wins, and I regret not trying that!

Because the natural light was so lovely, and because I really donít like using flash when I canít see the result beforehand I never even thought of trying an obvious solution.
And that leaves the work after the event. Layers. Lasso tool. Finessing the outline. And if I never see another log table, Iíll only be ever-so-slightly sad. I know people who do that sort of thing for a fiver a frame, and when I really need it, I will happily redistribute a little wealth to them.

Which brings me, as things so often do, to stuff I write in the Critique Gallery: stuff about the camerawork. Thatís where most of my expertise and solutions are. How to avoid needing more than a two-minute editÖ Itís like assembling all the things you need for a job before you start, rather than dashing out to B&Q three times during the job. But you pays your money, and you takes your choice.



dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
23 Feb 2021 6:58AM
If anyone fancies a go with one of these tricky (I think) images, I'm happy to send a RAW file. In return for an edit (which I will upload with the edit credited), I'll write a blog on any topic you nominate. (Obviously, all operating within site rules!)

Just send me a private message if you're interested.
kaybee Plus
16 7.6k 26 Scotland
23 Feb 2021 8:22AM
Technique on your part -- Hard work on hers...
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
23 Feb 2021 10:07AM
Though it was me had to drive a couple of hours each way to photograph her...

But yes!
jacomes Plus
6 27 34 Portugal
23 Feb 2021 10:15AM
Super natural light in the studio. I wonder, could they afford to install some semi-permanent backdrops, as in theatres?
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
23 Feb 2021 10:59AM
I recon the answer, for most studios, is no, if it's not on the owner's personal list of desirables. Hiring out a space like this for ten or fifteen quid an hour is not a way to get rich...
dark_lord Plus
16 2.8k 750 England
23 Feb 2021 12:51PM
I took exams from both JMB and Cambridge boards if I remember correctly. I remember log tables in lessons but it was calculators in exams.

I don't like to spend hours processing an image, the less the better but will put in a little extra time if there's a result I'd like to achieve.
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
23 Feb 2021 1:55PM
There's always going to be the one image, Keith...

Calculators at consumer level didn't exist when I was at school: in my gap year, the firm I worked for acquired a mains-powered Anita machine for the drawing office: I think it cost around £100, and only managed the four basic calculations... By the time I finished at Durham, I owned a calculator, but wasn't allowed to use it in my finals... I had, speculatively, put it in front of me on the desk, and was reproved for taking it into the examination room.
24 Feb 2021 8:29AM
I use Photoshop Elements, it does what I want and I've never felt the need for Photoshop itself. I know that when you could buy PS outright it cost over £600, and I find it slightly puzzling that someone should spend that amount of cash on such a powerful and complex piece of software... and then spend as little time using it as possible, perhaps doing nothing more than a bit of tidying upĖ crop / Levels / sharpen, that kind of thing. Seems like overkill, like buying a Porsche 911 Turbo to do the weekly shop. But that's just me.

Many of my images are quite heavily processed ( I'll happily spend an hour or more on a single image... but then maybe two minutes on the next one. In other words, as long as it takes to get the result that I want ) though I usually try to disguise the fact, agreeing with the dictum that if the processing is the first and biggest thing that grabs the viewer, you've not done such a good job.

dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
24 Feb 2021 10:29AM
Hmmm... Food for thought.

I succumbed to the annual subscription for PS because I got tired of updating Elements every time I updated my camera and needed the latest Adobe RAW conversion bits and pieces. And I had been told how wonderful Lightroom is (I still don't get it for the sort of thing I do). Affinity actually works pretty well, and maybe I need to get used to its quirks. (I'm naturally averse to change...) It updates in a far less commercial way!

I suppose the big point about using PS is that occasionally, it lets you do stuff that Elements doesn't (or so I was told). I think Elements has got more capable, and PS sprawls more than it did. I can see the point of having a Porsche if you have a driving holiday once or twice a year: but I truly don't understand the people who have one but never want to drive fast and hard... Like the ones who insist on an f/1.2 lens, and then use it at f/8 all the time.
24 Feb 2021 11:14AM
So really it all depends on how you approach your photography, on what you need the software to do. PSE includes most of the photographic stuff in PS... it omits Curves, so you have to make do with Levels, but there's not really much else missing that the majority of photographers would want to use. You don't get all the colour channel sliders when converting to b&w, but if you do need them you can find them in Silver Efex. I've no interest in Lightroom, or Affinity beyond some initial curiosity.
I do appreciate what you say about updating to keep pace with ever-changing RAW formats, but that's not relevant for me personally... I stick with the one camera and anyway never shoot RAW. Presumably a PS subscription includes free updates to ACR ?

And performance cars that are never allowed to perform? Well, that's really just about 'willy-waving' I suppose. Some things never change...
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
24 Feb 2021 1:33PM
Alan, I'm laughing!

I suspect the same Porsches contain a Canon EOS 1Dx, and at least a couple of L-series zooms for doing portraits.

Yes - the big thing with the PS subscription, for me, is a perpetually up-to-date RAW converter. Curves scare me, but by the end of the year I may be on closer terms with them.
24 Feb 2021 2:17PM
I find Curves ( also to be found in NIK, as I mentioned ) rather awkward, but I expect it's just a matter of familiarity and practice– Levels serves my needs well enough. Layers are very useful though, and intuitive to use, once the penny drops.

If I could afford a Porsche I wouldn't hesitate to wave it around.Wink
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1811 England
24 Feb 2021 4:35PM
I'm sure there's scope for a blog involving cars...

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.