Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Technology Rising

Adobe CS-5 really is an amazing tool.

How amazing? Now you don't need to compose properly. Just fix it with content aware filter. Awkward movements can be corrected using the rubber monkey tool (or whatever it's called). Bad exposure cause bad noise, what noise, it's fixed with a couple of new sliders. No need for HDR software, have that too, and it looks better than the stand alone piece. Didn't do an HDR exposure set? No worries, we have a filter for that now!

I'm not sure I'm happy about all this new technology or saddened. Maybe a little of both. For good photographers there is no doubt this is a great tool. But at the same time, where is craftsmanship headed? Will getting it right at the moment of exposure count for anything? Does it now? Does the "fix it in Photoshop" ideology permeate our vocation so pervasively that a new legion of sloppy image makers will become the next generation of superstars?

But there's a backwash from all this technology - film sales are on the increase. Yes, film. Fuji film reported an increase in film sales last quarter.

Monday afternoon I had a lovely conversation with an old friend, Ken Hansen. Ken and I go way back, 30 some years back, to a time when he was a major photo equipment dealer in New York City and I was a young buck photojournalist set out to change the world. Then, like now, Ken was a well house of information. Ken still sells cameras, albeit at a much smaller scale today. He said he's recently noticed an uptick in film camera sales. "All those guys who went digital are buying back their old film cameras. They're getting fed up with digital."

I don't see a celluloid revolution starting any time soon. We're not going backwards. Hardly. That Jeanie left the bottle a long time ago. But knowing, just for yourself, that you nailed it at the moment of exposure - no need to fix it later - means something. It's satisfying on a very personal level that you got it right straight away. It feels pure. And the workflow is beautiful - unload camera, put film in box, mail to lab, sit down, enjoy life and wait for prints to come.

Several years ago, back in the Photoshop 5.0 days, I was working on an architectural shoot. View camera set, all lines corrected for proper perspective and I'm about to make the series of exposures I stopped. One more job to do first - clean the parking lot in front of the building of paper cups. As soon as I started to pick up the trash the art director stopped me and asked what the heck I was doing, that could all be fixed in Photoshop! I asked him very nicely how much digital retouching this parking lot would cost. "Only $200" he said. "I'll tell you what," I said, "I'll PRE-touch the photo for only $100, saving you half of your RE-touch budget." He looked at me puzzled and asked "what do you mean PRE-touch?" I smiled and said, "I'm going to pick up all these damn cups so I don't have them on film!" The moral of the story - why spend so much time doing post when you can get it right the first time.

Film or digital capture doesn't matter. It's how you shoot that does matter.

For those that want to learn more about Photoshop CS-5 check out the video with Terry White here:

I'll be getting my copy soon.

1 comment:

John Craig said...

Godbess brother, well said