fashion | editorial | beauty | photography | retouching
Philosophy of No Philosophy (Part II)
August 29, 2016 11:24 AM PDT
The following is the formal exposé to the topic. It was written to Tabatha for her professors and her to read for her photography class. As such, there is much overlap between the podcast and the written version below, but not entirely:
This was supposed to be a review of my experience with my intern Tabatha, but it evolved into a commentary of theory vs. practice.
Let me first be clear that my time with Tabatha was short. 30-40 days spread out a couple times a week a couple hours at a time is hardly enough to truly assess someone. I think that Tabatha satisfied all the criteria of the internship. She followed me to nearly every single shoot during that time period. She assisted me with every aspect of every shoot and every task and even helped me assemble 3x 4’10’ aluminum sheet panels. Truth be told she was a better presence than I expected. I usually don’t allow assistants and interns to come to my shoots. Usually they are more of a distraction and obstacle to my workflow. Tabatha proved useful and did not get in the way of my process.
My goal during this time was to demonstrate to Tabatha how I work. What I am driven by and why I do what I do. The purpose of even the smallest tasks was simply to reveal the inner workings of my mind; how I approach things, how I react to them, and most important how I solve problems. To this end, I believe I succeeded in delivering a unique and intensive internship to Tabatha. As a result, there exists no other person on Earth that understands how I work as a photographer, more than Tabatha Gallais. We routinely had philosophical discussions about my approach to photography.
Admittedly Tabatha’s internship was an eye-opening experience for me. I don’t have any formal training in photography. While I am no stranger to higher education (BA in Economics, MA in Psychology and an MBA), the academic approach to photography is somewhat foreign to me. I have created several educational programs during my tenure as a photographer instructor. I created a “New Media" class at the New York Film Academy where I taught MA Photography students how to manage their websites, social media, SEO, etc. Under the LUCIMA brand, I created webinars for fashion photographers to systematically learn retouching and other aspects of fashion photography. Also under the LUCIMA brand, I created live weekend workshops that taught pre-production, production and post-production for both still photography and videography. Despite all the classes I have taught, there exists a fundamental difference between how I think-learn-teach photography and how formal education systems think-learn-teach photography. This discovery culminated at the end of Tabatha’s internship in a conversation with her assessment of my philosophy as a photographer. Her conclusion was that I had no philosophy towards photography.
In my feeble attempts to explain to her and concede that many aspects to my work are not driven philosophically, I failed to define and defend my true position as a photographer. Theoretically, I am driven by a love of beauty in the female form. Practically I am driven by everyday constraints and problem-solving.
It is at best a conjugal relationship between two warring factions.
At the time of our conversation, I tried to explain to Tabatha that my approach to photography was more “mechanical” and that I approached photography the way a robot or a computer would approach photography. To solve existing problems. To simplify and remove all extra variables and “moving parts”. Philosophically, I attempt to distill my process down to its very core. A basic and raw interaction between two human beings through the art of fashion photography; devoid of all the bells and whistles that you would find on a typical shoot. What Tabatha visually observed was a task-oriented photographer that wasted little words and got straight to the point of achieving his desired outcome. In other words she observed a very efficient photographer at work. But I think what Tabatha could not truly appreciate was the evolution of this process.
Throughout the past seven years I’ve learned much of the theoretical side of photography. I’ve spent countless hours on web forums pixel peeping and arguing with armchair quarterbacks about the ideal methodology to extract maximum dynamic range and resolution to achieve the sharpest and noiseless images. I’ve watched videos ad nauseum, about lighting, the use of lightmeters/grey cards/colorcheckers, profiling your camera/monitor/printer, and other technical and sometimes esoteric pursuits. I’ve read hundreds of pages in various forums about retouching at the highest levels, espoused by programmers that write the code for retouching software (Photoshop), scripts (like the spatial-frequency separation), and other editing techniques designed to back-solve certain styles of editing whether it be Dave Hill, Amy Dresser, or Guy Aroch.
But it’s all just theory.
I will borrow a reference from one of my favorite movies. Reading/Researching stuff on the Internet is like living in the limbo dream world of Inception. You can spend an entire lifetime there and still accomplish nothing.
As a result, I have taken all the knowledge that I acquired on the Internet and applied it in real-life. And in that process I have stripped away all the unnecessary parts of my workflow, including but not limited to strobes/Pocket Wizards, tethering/computers, reflectors, lightmeters, spatial frequency separation scripts, Colorchecker passports, makeup artists, stylists, hair stylists, focus tuning each unique lens, assistants/interns, excess conversation with models, modeling agents, most of social media, analog film/developing/scanning, and more. 99% of my Instagram feed was created with a model, a camera, a 55mm lens, and some “light” retouching.
Not only have I removed many of the moving parts from my own “machine” but I break many rules espoused by theory. I dodge and burn on the base layer in Photoshop. I retouch in 8-bit with the sRGB profile. I delete all images that I don’t intend to edit.
That’s the typical reaction I get from workshop photographers. But if you apply the espoused theories (that cause the reaction of horror to my practices), you’ll find that they are often unrealistic. Think about it. Every time you copy your base layer you are doubling your file size. In a perfect world, file size doesn’t matter. But we live in the real world. I have 207,000 images in my library and multiple backups of that library. I would need twice my existing capacity if I copied the base layer of each image just once. Yes, once. If I copied the base layer twice, I would need 3x the capacity of my existing library. And so on and so forth. So I learned to dodge and burn on the base layer and I seldom make copies of the base layer. Constantly managing the size of my library requires that I delete images I don’t intend to retouch. And ultimately through thousands of edits, I learned how to retouch more efficiently, effectively bypassing the need for non-destructive editing techniques. Which is to say, I basically don’t make mistakes in editing and/or need to revert back to some lesser version of my edits.
My workflow evolved through real-world constraints.
What about the 8-bit files with sRGB profiles? I prefer the look of 8-bit files because they appear a little more “broken up” (256 vs. 65,536 shades of grey). Considering that many photographers add digital grain to their images, retouching in 8-bit shouldn’t require a stretch of their imagination. We are after the same thing. A less digital image with a little more texture and grit. Try it and let me know what you think.
Let me reiterate. Theoretically, I am driven by a love of beauty in the female form. Practically I am driven by everyday constraints and problem-solving.
Which brings me full circle back to Tabatha.
The great thing about Tabatha is that she demonstrated a high-level of curiosity about everything. What I want her to learn is how to create her own questions and then answer her own questions. This is the greatest skill any photographer (or other) could ever develop. The photographer’s journey is often an independent one. Without developing the ability to wonder, try, fail (and fail willingly), you wind up sitting at your desk reading about what others have done and never arriving at any real answers one way or another to support or refute your wonder. In other words, do. As the Nike slogan says, “Just Do It”. Doing is the only answer. Doing is the only way to get from A to B. And don’t be afraid to do. Don’t put so much pressure and importance on the act of doing. Look at doing as another data point in the infinite set of data points. Never as an end point. Most of us fail not because we try, but because we fail to try. Never assume you and your principles are more important than the act of discovery and you’ll never be too afraid to push the boundaries. To do the things other people say, are wrong, not worth doing, impossible. Never cease to wonder. But most importantly never cease to try. Always try.
And when you do, you’ll find that all the philosophy in the world fades away like noise in the background. And all you’re left with is what you’ve created. And all they’ll be is just what they are. No more and no less.
As I often say, “They’re just pretty pictures”.What I Wanted Out of Capture One
August 24, 2016 02:45 PM PDT
Rather than be a critical about Capture One shortcomings, I look at this question from the other direction. What the hell did I want out of Capture One?
The podcast I referenced Capture One (Part III) http://lucima.podomatic.com/entry/2016-08-11T23_38_43-07_00
edit: I really wish C1 had a gradient tool!Response to an Email
August 22, 2016 11:41 PM PDT
Philadelphia is not part of New England.
Listen past the point when I prematurely end the podcast. There's a "post script" portion to the podcast.
I'm going to stop saying "you know", you know?
Wow, there's a really rough learning lesson at the end of the podcast. Brutal. Charles you dream killer, you.
Okay, I'm happier with this podcast.Philosophy of No Philosophy (Part I)
August 22, 2016 03:21 PM PDT
Please forgive me for sounding tired and drowsy. It's a little early for podcasting (apparently). I'll try not to fire up the recorder at 8AM anymore.
In this podcast I talk about philosophy of shooting. And Tabatha's critique of my philosophy of shooting. Her conclusion was that I had no philosophy. If you can get through the groggy retelling of the premise, hopefully you'll be handsomely rewarded with some insight to my style of shooting.
And handsomely.Capture One (Part III)
August 11, 2016 11:38 PM PDT
My 30-day trial is over. Now I have to make a decision. Do I buy it or not? My sentiments have shifted over the full 30 days and the answer might surprise you.
The word of the day is CONVERGE.Driving to Digital Transitions | Phase One Los Angeles
August 09, 2016 11:39 AM PDT
Ken Scott from Digital Transitions invited me to come check their Phase One cameras. Here are my thoughts on my drive over. Then some thoughts on the DJI Phantom 4.Video and Drones
August 03, 2016 11:34 AM PDT
5 years ago I went into the local hobby shop to inquire about an RC helicopter capable of handling a DSLR payload. Sans camera and 2nd operator the estimate topped $8k. I failed to mention this in the podcast but this is probably the starting point of it all.
Some more background information for you to consider. All the cool "flying shots" in all the videos I've ever done were shot with either long depth of field or failing continuously while racking focus and increasing/decreasing shooting distance. Which is to say, you either got a non-cinematic look, or we had to shoot the same shot over and over again because we couldn't rack focus while moving.
I failed to mention this in the podcast as well.
The rest of the stories in the podcast hold up, but keep these things in mind when I talk about technologies and drones etc.
Looking at my profile pic for this podcast, I could have shot something even better with a drone.Morning Stock
August 01, 2016 11:32 PM PDT
This podcast was supposed to come out before Bait and Switch (Part I) but I released them out of order.
Talking about Vegas, a clients, ArsenicTV, treats!, social media, monetizing your audience.
"Are we having fun yet?"Bait and Switch (Part I)
July 27, 2016 04:39 PM PDT
Nearly a year ago, I told you guys a story about a model who pulled a fast one on me. She agreed to shoot nudity in our texts and then when I arrived to our shoot she reneged on our agreement. (Rules of Engagement and True Intentions http://lucima.podomatic.com/entry/2015-07-29T11_47_11-07_00)
So it happened again. Except the outcome was totally different. What changed? How do I feel this time? What is the effective difference between the last time this happened and this time?Capture One Impressions (Part II.5)
July 25, 2016 07:27 PM PDT
Talking about gripes! Philosophical ones at least.
What accounts for the different look of the new images created with Capture One as part of the workflow?
Improving my understanding of lighting:
Tune in as we chat with fashion photographers about all things fashion, editorial, beauty, photography and retouching!
Subscribe to this Podcast