Thursday, June 20, 2013

Photo management from the shoe box to the digital shoe box --- edit out the good ones!

I was annoyed with how I didn't have the right lens with me when I went out shooting, so I designed a camera bag to get me carry what I needed and get to it.

With the computer and digital imaging we are making it hard to find the good shots. Slide shows show all the photos at the same size, mix up the order and often show similar shots showing the same thing.

I always saw taking photos was like a reporter taking notes. Back in the office you review your notes, listen to the tape recording, research and they write the story. Same for the photographer, take lots of photos and then come back and pick the best. The beauty and challenge is to get the one picture that tells the story.

This all ties around how today we are taking photos with a DSLR that saves the image on data card that gets transferred to a laptop and then uploaded to Facebook, or Picasa, or various other websites, or a client.

Gigaom recently published a survey on the need for apps to manage photos, seeing this a calling for software to browse cell phones, tablets, laptops and the cloud for "dispersed" photos.

What they are trying to figure out is how to organize. Adobe solved the problem simply by tracking by date taken. This works okay, except I like to change the filename and have separate folders for month and assignment during the month. If you open and SAVE AS it is another photo at a different time and you are challenged to group them all together.

Gigaom studied picassa, picturelife, myshoebox, thislife, etc and saw variations with organizing "dispersed photos." Many sorted by unloaded date, but they wondered about browsing and see an "unmet need" of syncing, browsing and backing-up the hi-res images. Many online services simply have thumbnail shots. 

I remember the old days at the newspaper where photos were sent up to the morgue, the library. It varied at the various newspapers. The negatives were all saved, we made a few prints and only the photos that ran in the paper were saved in subject folders.

For example, there was a folder for baseball, then another for the local team and a few others for individual players. Organized to meet the needs of editors looking for a photo to go with future stories. They couldn't save everything.

They saved all the photos for a week, by day, then sifted through files some by subject and threw the others away. A lot of photos that showed life during the time, feature photos, special events, have been lost.

What's interesting to me is how I took photos like the reporter takes notes. I'd go back to the photo lab and develop several rolls of film. The photo editor would look over the film and pick just 2 or three shots that stood out and told the story. My goal was to try to get the one shot, you don't know until your done, but you keep shooting. It was always nice to agree with the editor and get your favorite shot run on the front page.

It was the bad editor who was insecure and nervous about running anything different. Many of the old-times always took the over-all shot because they knew that's what the paper expected.

But I want to address archiving photos and the need to better organize the images. Newspapers didn't save everything, I liked seeing the one photo that captured the moment. Like the returning POW photo by Sal Veder that covers the end of the war.

Or, Joe Rosenthal's flag raising on Okinawa, is one photo that gets the message out.

I see taking the photos and then having the filenames changed to include a "slug" word that tells what they are about and the date. During the year, or on the computer's hard-drive I find it useful to keep the photos in a folder under the year, with a folder that starts with the month then the "slug."

But as time goes by, the photos need to be edited down. Just save the favorites. I usually have an "edit" sub-folder where I have cropped and toned my favorite shots. Like I use to do at the newspaper.

These are hi-res shots, 300 dpi, too big for the web. If it is going to be uploaded I reduce the size and save in another folder, labeled "web." Inside this folder the photos are saved by subject.

What I want to so is after a year, save the photos by subject not by date. Get all my landscapes in one folder, all the shots of Fort Worth in another, shots take around home of the family in another.

Changing names and changing folders goes against the save everything Lightroom program, it won't find the new files and keeps telling you that it has lost images.

For this reason I like using Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits. I can move things and find it. Simply because of the name and folder.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Photojournalism is not newsphotography

I always have been proud to say I was a newsphotographer. Newsphotography was capturing the moment to share with readers and preserve what had happened. Captured in time so you could look back the next day or 40 years later. News photographers were recording history.

Grabbing Andre Kertesz's catalog from his 1985 exhibit, I started reading Sandra Phillip's biography of Kertesz and it surprised me to read how in the 1930's Kertesz (who had come to America to work for the news agency Keystone) describe the newsphotographer has "an assembly line worker charged with making the same photograph over and over again."

Remember back then, there was a lot of competition and with the Depression, you wanted to keep your staff job. Even though it didn't pay much, it was a job.

Back then the photographers looked after each other. If your 4x5 film holder messed up the sheet of film, a competitor would give you one of his shots. They stood together so everyone got the same picture, so the editor wouldn't get upset about the competition beating them. They had families to take care of and decided to play it safe.

This was before television and the Internet, the latest technology was the magazine, with better reproduction they focused on subjects, food, fashion and the news.

Kertesz saw the freelance photographer as a "different breed." Where he and Henri Cartier-Bresson had worked for weekly newspapers in Paris, he saw taking photos for the American magazine as "producing interpretive picture essays that in the highest form expressed what they felt about the subjects they were asked to observe. Photographers recognized that they were of two social classes, one slightly blue-collar, the other philosophical and intellectual."

Okay, I don't see newspaper photography ever getting intellectual. We did move away from copying each other, with less competition we were creative and refused to pose the subject, but tell the story and show what was happening. It was my goal to get the newspaper with 80 dot screen to crop tight and run it big.

With the Internet we can see slide shows of small 3-col photos, and newspapers are now running the photos smaller than ever before. We aren't using our minds, like the intellectual Kertesz.

Looking back I see the photographers in the 30's as the Internet today, trying to take advantage of the new presses, offset, and national circulation. Buy the time the 50's rolled around, many magazines had folded, but there were a dozen fighting it out for exclusive stories. But at this time the pioneers like Andre Kertesz and Walker Evans had been pushed aside, Kertesz was productive as staff photographer for Conde Nast's House and Garden while Walker Evans was an editor for Fortune.

It wasn't till they retired that they truly became artists. Exhibiting photos they took in the 1920s and 30s. Both played with the Polaroid, like the Instagram today!

I find it interesting seeing the black and white photo get replaced by color photos. Does it get the message across better? And now, just like the switch to color we are going video. Sound and motion helps tell the story, but what do you see as images come and go, what do you remember?

I like the still photo. It stops the action and gives you time to look at the background, look at what they are wearing, look into their eyes. I still like B&W! Without having to worry about making sure the sky was blue, using flash, etc., with black and white you simply focused on the facts.

Newsphotographers became photojournalists thanks to the magazines in the 1930's.

But are we artists?