Photography Workflow - Pre-Production For New Photographers

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Okay - you have decided to do some work as a stock photographer. We have talked about what you believe to be a good topic or specialization, compared Royalty-Free versus Rights-Managed licensing and discussed the proper releases that may be required. Now let's talk about your workflow. We will need to address both pre and post production, so let's get started.

Pre-Production - "Be prepared" is the Boy Scouts motto, so you should be prepared for whatever might throw you a curve while performing a photo shoot. In many cases, as a freelance stock photographer, you will be shooting on spec, so make sure that you have camera equipment in your vehicle at all times. You never know when a situation will arise that creates an opportunity for a unique image, it would be a shame to miss it. Once traveling in central Alabama, a F3 tornado hit 5 miles from my location. I was one of the first photojournalist to capture the aftermath. Many of those images, were used by area news agencies and three were licensed and published in textbooks.

Here is an idea of the equipment I carry on a normal road trip: Three digital bodies, four lenses of various sizes, flash, batteries, ten compact flash memory modules, rain suit, tripod, monopod, batteries, protective rain shields for gear, gps, light meter, cleaning kit, batteries, releases, portable hard drive and a laptop. By the way, did I mention batteries? You can never have enough batteries. I would also suggest that you get insurance, some homeowners policies may cover your equipment, however, there are companies that will provide policies that not only protect you against thief, they will also cover damage to gear.

Now you are ready to go, you've got camera in hand, selected the correct white balance and exposure and you are ready to make that first shot. Here is your first decision what format do you shoot? RAW, JPEG or TIFF - make this decision wisely, for this will determine how the post-production proceeds once you get back to the comfort of home or hotel. RAW is the natural format used by each camera manufacturer and will provide the most image information. You will not be able to store as many images per module, but the additional benefits it provides in post-production far out way any drawbacks. Everyone is familiar with JPEGs and in most cases this is the format of choice for amateurs, since nearly any image viewer allows you see what you shot without any conversion. You will be able to shoot and store many more images per module, but image quality will suffer as you save and re-save the image in post. The third most poplar format is TIFF. Like RAW, the TIFF format provides a much larger file, so once again, the image count per memory module will be reduced, however TIFF is a loss-less format, good benefits when you start working with the image, but as in JPEG you will lose some adjustment freedoms that you get in shooting RAW.

So when it really counts, shoot RAW, if you are just shooting for practice or experimenting, the JPEG format will work fine.

I'm going to make an assumption here. Most people starting out do not have more than one camera and that is the case, I would like to make a suggestion. Make sure you have numerous memory modules with you. They have gotten rather affordable, so the out of pocket expense will not be to great. Here's where I'm gong with this. When on a shoot, I always have two completely outfitted cameras and will take similar images of the same subject on both cameras. Why? As reliable as these modules are, they do fail. If you have everything on one module, then you have lost all the work you have put in for that project. If you have multiple modules, then you can split your work across multiple chips, thus protecting all that hard work. It only takes a moment to do a switch out and it could save you pain, agony and money should a failure occur. Just keep track of your, naming nomenclature when you transfer the files over to your system, so you won't overwrite an image.


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