Thursday, July 26, 2012

Photo Storage

As any good photographer knows, taking photos takes up a lot of space. On an average day, I can easily take a gig or two of pictures, and on an important day (weddings and the like) you can imagine that it would be closer to five or eight gigs. The trouble is that I only have a 500gb harddrive on my laptop and, as you might imagine, that is not going to last very long. In fact, I am surprised that it has lasted me this long considering that I have been at this for a good two years now. So what do you do when your photographs start taking over?

The most obvious answer would be to get an external. This would be the simplest solution, but certainly not the cheapest. I don't know about elsewhere, but in SA a good, big hard drive would cost somewhere in the range of a grand and a half. And then  you have the trouble of what if the thing gets stolen. Certainly not ideal, and a very real  possibility! In addition, hardware breaks and you do not want it breaking with your lifes work on it.

The next idea (in some minds) would be online storage. This works well because it negates the need for spending money on hardware and circumvents the whole theft issue. Of course, this can also cost a pretty penny and, if you are in SA, will take up a lot of time and a lot of bandwidth, which is a rare and valuable commodity - I work in the IT industry, I know. ;) I could spend days, weeks and months uploading all of my gigs worth of photos onto websites, but then I would be left with slow browsing or a big bill.

My answer to this solution was a lot simpler, but also a bit more hazardous (or so I found out today anyway). I rifled through my photos, picking out ones that I have edited and ones that I want to re-edit and, once I had gone through all of my photos from 2011 and 2012, extracting the precious gems as I went, I resized everything else. I found a decent resizer (Faststone works VERY well and very quickly) and I went through the folders in their entirety minimising them all to a decent but not great 1280 x 800 size. In so-doing, I managed to save 80gb so far, allowing for a whole lot of sessions that I wouldn't have managed otherwise. AND there is still more for me to do and more space to save.

But of course, this answer comes at a price as well. The price, in this case, being what happened this afternoon. I got a call from a friend. They wanted my photos for a publication. He had specifically recommended me, since I had taken photos for him before and had provided them with low res images to show examples of my work. They wanted high res images. So I came home at 5pm and started rifling through the edited pictures. Nothing. I found a good pile of high res watermarked versions, but those just wouldn't do. And, it turned out, the originals were too small to be of any use. There could be no re-editing and there could be no salvaging the situation. I ended up managing to crop out and clone out the watermarks in some of the images, but some are going to be lost.

So, it turns out that every plan comes with its advantages and disadvantages. If you have money and time to spend, there are ways to get it done, but for me... I at least have some space for more photos, and I  won't be making my mistake again any time soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thailand Again

I am still going through and re-editing photos from my trip to Thailand, and today's one comes from our trip to Big Buddha on Koh Samui. It was our first day on the island and it had been an exhausting 14 hour trip to get there, but we were not about to give in and go to sleep! Instead we decided to see one of the sights and do a little shopping while we were at it.

This was the original photograph. The sky was overly cloudy and did not make for a particularly appealing backdrop, drowning out the colour and leaving the image rather bland. The Big Buddha himself was dull and lifeless and not at all the Buddha that I remember him to be.

This is the first edit using Picasa. You can see that the colour was rendered rather well with the backdrop becoming white, which (to be fair) isn't necessarily a bad thing in my  opinion. It was a bad day for photo taking, but the blown out aspect does not extend to the statue itself and works to bring the Statue to the  main point of focus. I do find the two objects on the bottom right of the picture to be distracting as is the pole coming up behind Buddha's head.

And this is the final edit done in Photoshop. The colour is not quite as bright as it was in Picasa, but this is intentional. This is more the colour that the actual statue was rather than the overstated gold that came out from the Picasa image. I was also able to use Photoshop to edit out the parts of the image that I found to be distracting. This was done very simply with a clone tool to clone the white area towards the top of the screen and to the right of the pole by Buddah's head and carefully place the white over the areas that I found to be distracting, leaving a clean image of Buddha over the white background. Had I not been there myself, I  would not have known that this was the skyline. This may make the image seem overly fake or generic, but I feel that considering the circumstances of the weather, it was the best that could be done in this instance.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Post Processing

There is an advert that comes onto South African radio (or at least Algoa FM) fairly often. It is an advert for Kodak, and it is one that strikes a chord every time I hear it. It is an elderly woman talking about her wedding day, the day her daughter was born and (today) the day her granddaughter is born. And she says in this wistful voice that when they come out of the delivery room, she will be there with her camera. Which is all wonderful and beautiful. Only the ad ends off saying "It's only a photo when it's printed". It is such a beautiful advert, but that line gets me every time. It strikes a chord, of course, because I don't print many of my photos. I have collections of them stashed on  my computer. I want to print a portfolio, but that takes time and money that I just do not have.

And it brings up the topic of what exactly constitutes a photograph. It sounds easy, but everyone has a different say. Some people would say that only a printed picture is a photograph and that, until it is printed, it is still nothing but an image. Which is true to some extent, but I think that having it printed does not suddenly make it photography worthy. Some would say that once it has been captured it is a photograph and anything done to the picture thereafter is changing it so that it no longer constitutes a photograph but art instead. But isn't photography an art in any case? Where does the line get drawn between creating art with your camera and creating art through post-processing. Some people would say that HDR photography stops being a photograph and becomes something else, a compilation of photographs, a merging of artworks. I was watching a most interesting video about how an image of Imogen Heap was created using the merging of various photographs and the layering of them, one over another, until the original picture was almost unrecognisable.

So where do I sit on the topic? I think that a photograph is a fluid concept. I believe strongly in post-processing, since I like to make my images pop, stand out. While I could spend forever trying to get details in camera perfect, I would far rather touch up minor imperfections later than waste time trying to get it perfect on the spot and missing an opportunity to capture a moment. I think that some people can take the post-processing a bit far, but I don't think that stops the image from being a photograph. Any image that comes  out of a camera is a photograph, and every  photograph is a work of art, an expression of self. You just have to find the right way to express what you want that image to show.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be doing a lot of re-editing of photos. I am trying to structure the photographs that I have taken over the last two years, and there are thousands of them to go through. I have grown in my editing, from making simple changes in Picasa to starting serious editing in Photoshop, and I am hoping that the changes in vision will come across. You can expect to see some comparisons over the next few weeks, starting with this image from my vacation in Thailand:

This is a temple within Wat Phrat Kao in Bangkok, Thailand. To get to this golden statue, you need to wait  patiently in the long queues and even then, you are only able to walk through the room without stopping. No flash photography is permitted, which meant that the photograph needed to be taken within a split second without stopping to position myself for the best angle and with throngs of people around me. This is the photograph out of camera, the only editing being the resizing of the image.

This was my first attempt at editing the image in Picasa. The aspect that I wanted to bring out was the golden statue and the platform surrounding it. I certainly managed to draw attention to the colour, but the background behind it is very much in shadow and there is still a lot of distraction at the front of the image. At the time of editing the picture, I was very against cropping images, feeling that their size should always remain relative. This is something that I have grown out of. I now realise that there is no reason for the size to be stagnant. What is more important is symmetry and removal of obstacles that draw the eye away from the subject  of your image. And so, I tried to bring this across more in my final edit.

This is my final attempt at editing to image. You will notice that a lot more detail has been brought out from the background, but there are less distractions due to the way that the image is cropped. The people in the front have been removed as has the statue to the right, to allow for symmetry as a rule of thirds would not have worked in this instance, the left hand side of the image has been cropped as well. The statue itself is placed towards the centre of the image with the head almost precisely one third of the way through. though the colour isn't as vibrant as in the initial edit, it is also not as harsh in places (like the bottom of the platform) and I feel that it makes for a much more rounded image which brings out the fascinating nature of the temple rather than just focusing on one aspect on  its own.

Watch this space for more editing advice to come while I sort through the photos from the last two years and make some adjustments as I go.