I’m going to share something. It’s probably going to ruffle a few feathers, but I feel it’s important to say. I’d invite you to leave a comment at the end, because I want to see how many other people have a similar approach (or not). Here goes…
My Lightroom catalog is a mess! My hard drives have photos all over the place (we can call it organized chaos because I do know where things are). I have zero idea how bright my screen is or it’s color profile. My hard drives do this RAID thing but I don’t even know how to spell it, let alone use it. When I save a photo, I have no idea what color space I save it in. I have no idea if I cropped it first or last. I never calibrate my computer screen. When I upsize a photo, I simply open it in Photoshop and go to Image > Image Size.
The metadata panel in Lightroom has never been opened by me except for when I do a tutorial on it. I don’t use import presets. I (often) don’t even import my photos into Lightroom! I only use one (maybe two-ish) plug-ins. I teach about star ratings and flags, but I rarely use them on my photos. On some photos I use the contrast slider, on others I use Whites and Blacks for contrast – and the only reason I have is because it’s the mood I was in at the time.
I could go on… but I’m wondering if you see a theme here. The above paragraph says a lot of things that I don’t spend my time on. Why I wrote that will make sense in a moment, but let’s approach it from a different angle.
A while back when I was noticing a lot of noise in my wildlife photos I wanted to use Noise reduction software, so I asked a friend what they used and immediately went out to get Topaz Denoise – without spending another ounce of brain power (or time) on choosing software. I got a new monitor a while back and all I did was open it, place it on the desk, attached my laptop and immediately started editing. When I edit a photo, I spend A LOT of time on the sky. How bright, how dark, transition, color, etc…
Want more… When I edit a wildlife photo, I open it, almost always press auto, some times crop first, run Topaz Denoise (sometimes first or sometimes last), and save it as a JPG with zero thought to color space, PPI, output sharpening, workflow order, etc… I spend A LOT of time on the subject in my photos… how bright, dark, color, etc… I spend A LOT of time on distracting areas in my photos. Are they too bright, dark, out of place. When I edit many of my photos, I open them in Bridge or Photo Mechanic, find one really good one… edit it in Camera Raw and save it as a JPG, and I’m done (having never touched LR – gasp!!!!).
Where Is This Leading?
Okay, so where is this going you ask? It’s the idea that I think many of you are spending time on the things that don’t make a difference to your photography, and won’t help your photos resonate more with you or anyone else. I only say this because I see the questions you ask. And questions are a great indicator of where people spend their time, or at least where they think they should be spending it.
I can 100% guarantee you that the photographers you follow out there (and appreciate their work) have the absolute worst, pieced-together workflows. They could care less what hard drive they’re using, or color space, or upsizing program, or the order in which they do things. I promise you because I know… we talk at various events, online, personally, etc… And the really good photographers I speak to all care very little about the things I just mentioned, because they know that there’s only one thing that matters – how good the photo looks. And they’ll spend their time making the photo look good – be it in camera or through editing. And you know what they rely on to get it there? Their eyes. Not a color space, or some specific perfectly ordered workflow.
So my hope for you is two things…
THING #1 Start asking the right questions of yourself or whoever you follow online. If you’re stuck on a technical detail, go with your eyes first. As Nike says… just do it. Just freakin’ edit the photo! And spend your time on the creative aspect of how things look. If you don’t trust your eyes, then post to an online group, or send a message to some one you follow or trust. But instead of asking them a technical question, that is pretty easily google-able, or doesn’t really have a right answer, make that post or email count.
How? Don’t just say “What do you think of this photo?”. Instead, look at what you’re unsure about in the photo or an area you spent some time on. Post a question that goes something like “I really worked a lot on the sky in this photo since it was very blah, and I’m wondering if it looks too dark?”. Critiquing a photo is a skill that 99% of people don’t have, so DON’T ASK them to do something they’re not good at (but may think they are). You could end up hurting your workflow more than helping it.
Ask a pointed question. Sure you’ll get various answers but you’ll get much more focussed feedback, which in turn will help keep you focussed.
WHAT’S THE SECOND THING I HOPE YOU DO?
I’m glad you asked. The second thing I hope you do is check out my No Light, No Problem Volume 3 course. Of any course I do, this series shows you exactly how I spend my time. If you like my photos or my editing, this is they key. It’s everything I know and do to a photo all wrapped up in a 90 minute course. It’s not an encyclopedia course like my Lightroom System where I have to show you the “what” of everything – even if I don’t use it.
It’s my “Why” course. It shows you where I spend my time, what I’m thinking as I look at a photo and why I make the changes I do. It’s the important stuff about photo editing that WILL make a difference. Not the stuff you get caught up in that has zero impact on your photography.
How’s that for some shameless self promotion! 😉
Thanks for reading. And even if you don’t buy my course (or already have), I hope you start asking the questions that really count. Enjoy!