Sunday, 17 October 2010

Assignment 1: Workflow Review

I had several ideas about what subject I could choose for this first assignment, they included photographing Margate, which is a place I hold very dear from childhood memories and I also take my own children there, capturing Remembrance Day services, which is a project I undertook last year and thoroughly enjoyed and learnt alot from although I felt there were areas I could improve upon. Or finally update the documentary shots I have been taking of the change in my local High Street.

Then out of the blue my son was asked if he could help some friends with a media project they are doing as part of their coursework, making a 5 minute promotional video for a "film". Being teenage boys it was suitably titled "Zombie Apocalyse" and I thought it might have some interesting photographic opportunities. If it failed I could always try another topic! Not quite sure what I wanted to capture I had in mind a mixture of action shots, candid "before" shots and some zombie poses. I thought I could practice several things during this session, capturing shots within a limited time frame, my portraiture, using a longer lens than is my recent preference and using natural ambient lighting.

The workflow I followed was the one utilised in exercises 1 & 2.

[Choose model and arrange a mutually convenient time for the session

This was fairly straight forward as I was more or less taking advantage of something that had already been organised with the group of teenagers having agreed to meet at 11am at the local park, the majority arrived already in costume and wearing appropriate make-up (made for some interesting double-takes). I spoke to the person organising the shoot and he was more than happy for me to take photographs and all the people involved also had no objections.
[Choose a suitable location

A quiet corner of the local park where they wouldn't disturb the general public.

[Choose suitable equipment according to what you personally own or can be made available

I decided to use my 70-300mm lens as I wasn't sure what kind of shots I was after, the 70mm focal length would allow me to capture portraits while the 300mm focal length would enable me to capture any distant "action" shots whilst keeping out of the way of the actual filming. Still unable to find my flash I had decided not to take it in any event as it would interfere with their filming and I hoped to take advantage of the natural daylight.
[Prepare equipment. Ensure battery and spare are fully charged. Memory cards formatted and spare cards available. Lens and sensor are clean.

Both camera batteries were fully charged, any images on the cards were uploaded to my pc and formatted in camera. Lens was cleaned and I also took my 18-55mm kit lens incase I changed how I wanted to shoot my images.

[Set up session ensuring health and safety are taken into consideration

Some of the H&S was not down to me as I was not organising the whole event. However the organisers seemed to have it all under control and I followed all the rules associated with photographing outside; making sure there were no trip hazards, being aware of members of the public, trees and bushes, replacing any items moved, not causing obstructions and also being aware of the equipment being used by others.

[Ensure model is comfortable 

I knew some of the cast and those I didn't I soon got to know. All were comfortable with having their photographs taken and the poses and positions they adopted were either under my direction or the direction of the "film crew" They were all having a tremendous amount of fun and I hoped to catch that in some of my final images. If not a candid shot I spoke to the individuals throughout, asking them to turn their head or hold a pose until I was happy with the end result.

[Undertake photo session varying expressions and poses altering focal length and camera position throughout the session

Zombie expressions are fairly zombie-ish with blank stares or grimaces but with the candid shots I got smiles and laughter so am pleased with the variety of expressions in my final set, I also managed to vary positions and focal length while still managing to tie the shots together as a final set.

[Take photograph using  jpeg+RAW

I shot using Jpeg + RAW. Throughout the shoot I constantly checked my histogram and camera settings to ensure I was getting the correct exposure and the shots I wanted. I quickly reached the conclusion that the light was not good enough for the long distance action shots without the compromise of a larger aperture which would make me lose depth of field, or a higher ISO introducing noise which I also did not want to do. There were a lot of chase scenes, with our heroes being hounded by a mob of screaming zombies and I just could not get a fast enough shutter speed, I didn't mind some motion blur for the impression of movement and speed but everything was looking a mess. My panning skills leave a lot to be desired...another area to work on! I then decided to mainly concentrate on individual shots.

[Upload to PC using Adobe Bridge

[Use Template to embed metadata and apply custom name

metadata and file structure


Metadata was applied and the images were saved to My Pictures folder as well as my OCA folder. I have a set file structure; within the OCA folder I have a seperate folder for DPP Project 1 and DPP Project 2 (Eventually incorporating the other projects) and each exercise has it's own individual folder.

[view images, complete technical check deleting outright mistakes

I followed the editing process established in exercise.

1) Technical edit  - blurred and badly exposed/composed images were rejected straight away.

Technical Edit

2) The selects - using the star ratings I made my initial choices.

The Selects

3) First selects - these were chosen mainly due to the pleasing composition and lighting effects. I then took into consideration poses and expressions and did they sum up the atmosphere of the day? Did they tell a story and pull together as a body of work?
4)  Group and review. After making the first selects I placed them into a seperate folder and left them alone returning to the other images 24 hours later. I found this a useful exercise and I found I then did include some shots I had previously rejected and changed my mind on others I had included as I felt the lighting was either better or the photograph would prove more interesting to the intended audience.
Group and review

[Choose final images for processing

The final images I chose were then placed into a folder called edit. I calibrated my monitor using my Spyder3Express.

[Open in Camera Raw

[Use Workspace ProPhoto 16bit 300dpi

[Adjust if necessary. Exposure reading first, temperature, tint and anything else as required

I explored Camera Raw a little more with this exercise, experimenting with the Tone Curve, Sharpening, HSL/Greyscale and the Split Toning. Only minor adjustments were made in RAW as I like the control you can achieve in photoshop using layer adjustments.

[Open in Photoshop
[Crop if required

Most of the images were cropped, some more than others to make for better compositions and cut out distracting backgrounds and dead space.
[Create curves layer rename C&D (Colour and Density)

Again with most images I used a curves layer to bring out certain features or emphasise/reduce shadows and light.

[Create other adjustment layers/ layer masks as required. Fine tune adjustment layers using black and white paintbrushes to remove/reapply layer mask. Adjust opacity, size hardness of brush to obtain required effect.

With some of the images I created adjustment layers to clone out distracting elements or darken backgrounds.

[Save Master file with layers intact. Save As Tiff file, LZW, ZIP compression then flatten Image, Save As TiffV2 for conversion to other file/image sizes.
[Sharpen at last stage.

As I am not printing the images at this stage I resized for uploading to flickr, (as this is the method I have decided to use to enable my tutor to view my final set having emailed him) saved as jpeg to a folder called Zombie jpegs and sharpened appropriately. On this occasion I did not create an action to save my final Tiffs as jpegs but if dealing with a large number of shots I usually do. All files will be backed up on my external hard drive and also burnt to disk.

An excess of 80 shots was eventually reduced to 12. These are my final choices :-

1) I started off with the make up being applied to those who arrived without. I liked this shot as it includes the makeup artist and you can sense her concentration and the trust of the model as she lightly applies shadows under her eyes. The light was falling in the right direction to light the subject whilst creating interesting but not intrusive shadows.

2) I liked the paradox of an attractive young girl being transformed into a zombie complete with bleeding scar. I was pleased with the composition, the inclusion of the make-up artists hands, hair and make up tray help tell the story. I liked the subtle light, I did have an alternative shot where the sun had come out from behind the clouds but found the contrast between the light and the shadows too much.

3) Boys will be boys and revel in loads of fake blood....

4) Though having said that young ladies seem to enjoy a gory scar here and there. Again I liked the subtle light, the detail in the scar, the candid pose; catching her smiling up at whoever had engaged her in conversation.

5) Taken during the wait before filming started I loved this intimate pose, proving zombies need love too. Or it could be body warmth as it was a very cold day and during breaks people were huddling together.

6) Into character at last with vacant stares. I chose this shot as it showed the beginning of  filming and the effort the students made with their costumes, make-up and hair.

7) More blank expressions. This was interesting to me because of the texture of the tree and the colour  closely matching her green eyes.

8) Zombies rule ok....another brilliant vacant stare complete with leaves tucked into back-combed hair.

9) Mean glares and a growl, and I loved his contact lenses although this shot doesn't really do them justice. I took a series of shots and this was the best.

10) On set...waiting for action, the students really got into it, they didnt mind the cold, the damp or the mud. I chose this shot because I think it shows the willingness to take part no matter what. I love the depth of field, the composition and the colours.

11) Full length version of a  zombie, lurking in the background during a chase scene.

12) Great pose, great expression and the lighting was super to shoot in. I loved the depth of field and the fact that the background resembled the fake backdrops you can buy for studio shots.

In reviewing the exercise as a whole I think it was successful. My approach was flexible enough that when I realised what wasn't working  I adapted the images I was taking accordingly. Learning to read light much better with regards to location portraiture, I still think it is something to work on but I am much happier with the results achieved. With some of the failed shots I would have been better off using flash but limitations were in place due to filming. Prefering to travel light I can however, see the benefits of employing reflectors and diffusers. I feel these 12 shots encapsulate the day as I originally intended.

Reflecting on my workflow it works well, it has the main points that should be carried out no matter what or where you are shooting, decide the subject, organise the time, sort out the equipment and review the process throughout from walking out the door though to capture and print/uploading. I suspect that most photographers who employ a workflow follow one along similar lines. There maybe slight variations with software, ie using lightroom, not capturing in RAW, sports journalists or papparazi may not have the time to process images and need to make decisions quickly and upload images on location. Some photographers will review images and delete in camera but I have always been taught that this can shorten a card's life expectancy and also runs the risk of corrupting the files.

There will also be a variation on how people name their files and the file structure in which they store them.
I store my files on disk and external harddrive also printing off proofsheets. Some people back up on location on a laptop and have duplicate and even triplicate disks at seperate locations. The final images are also saved according to what the final intention is, ie print or web use, for a book or a large print for exhibition it even varies depending on if you are printing them yourself or sending to a printhouse as you will need to find out what colourspace/profiles they use.
I have learnt new things over this part of the course through looking at fellow students blogs and researching on the many web sites which I have linked in the relevant posts. Learning to read the light, how to reduce the intensity of my fill in flash was handy, even though I didn't employ it this time round maybe I should have. Trying to capture the spirit of the people involved as well as the occasion itself was fun, talking to your models, getting to know then is a recognised technique for relaxing all parties concerned and obtaining better results. Although this assignment was primarily to do with workflow so much else has been absorbed in the process :o)

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