Why you should let your images stew before processing and editing
This topic is something that I think a lot of people struggle with in the digital age. Even film shooters in the digital age have things just a little easier, and hence just a little quicker than our counterparts of the years gone by. Its not only photography as well, its everything. Its the mobile phone and everything that it gives you the instant you want it. Its the ease of online shopping and the fact that you can now buy things without even leaving your house! Its the speed of the world these days, and its something that people need to take care to control before it controls you.
One of the ways that you can take some of this control back is in the editing and processing of your work.
Digital cameras allow us to go out for a days shooting and then come home, dump a memory card into our computer and have the goodies from the day at our fingertips straight away. There are some issue with this as far as the work that you end up sharing, and we will go through some of these. There are also some issues with the methods that you are able to share the work, and I will discuss these a little further as well.
I will start with an example of something that I shot about 6 months ago. Its something that I sat on for a while. I let it stew and allowed all the flavours to develop before I finally decided that I liked the file, and would share it on this site.
The image is very simple. The colours are vibrant, and it leaves the viewer asking a few questions. One person asked, why is there a leg in a hedge. I like this about the shot. Its different and well composed. But when I first took the shot I was unsure. I thought I was clever for coming up with the idea, and so I had a bit of an attachment to the shot. I was tempted to share the file then, but I decided to park it. Let it sit, and enjoy it for myself for a while whilst processing.
The issue with the way the digital world works is when you get home from shooting and dump shots onto your computer then edit straight away, you have an emotional attachment to the images. You remember what you had to go through to get the shot. You remember looking at the tiny little screen on the back of your digital camera and thinking "got it". How things can change when you get home and look at the shots on a big screen. But, you struggle to remove yourself from that feeling of "got it" and remain objective about the images. This is where the argument about letting the images age a little comes from. Its like a good bottle of wine, the really good ones get better with age. The average ones will still be average, and crap is always crap.
I also mentioned at the start of the post that we would cover off on some things that digital does to alter your workflow when shooting. I touched on it very briefly above, looking at your shots on the screen when you are out shooting. People call it chimping. Why is it so bad? I actually have my OMD set up so that it doesnt display the image after its shot, and I dont look at the screen when I am out shooting. What it does is makes you go a little soft... I will paint the picture for you...
You have been out for a while, and you find this amazing scene. You sit, you wait, and you get the shot. You nail it and you look at the shot on the viewfinder... Well, what does this do? You see the image and you get all crazy about it. Your mind starts to wander... You stop thinking about getting more good shots, what do you need them? You already have a great image, lets not be greedy right? You then start thinking about the post work that you need to do on the shot. Worse still, you start thinking about all the 'Likes' youre going to get when you rush home, dump the file, and get that suck posted online... Bad right. All the while 12 other shots have passed and you missed every one of them cause your head was in the clouds gloating about that shot you got...
Then you get home, download the file onto a big screen and low and behold, its not quite sharp... Screw this, were sharing that thing anyway right, that was the best shot ever and I still love it... NO!
I think that I have talked before about the good things that you can get from social media. One of the best things is the ability to meet other people, get to know them, gain some respect for their work and opinions, and then share your work with them. Im not talking about publicly sharing your work and getting them to look at it. Im talking sending them private messages, or setting up a small private group with a few people and posting work to them before you send it live online and asking for honest and insightful feedback on work. Getting a fresh set of eyes is a great tool, they dont have the emotional attachment to the image that you have.
These are some of the reasons that I am shooting more film, and the digital camera stays at home. You cant chimp film cameras. You are forced to slow down on a number of levels. You have to process and scan images before you can see them, and I usually do this in batches so forces me to wait at least a little while before seeing images. Film also costs money. Dont get me wrong, a digital camera also costs money, but the actual physical movement of pushing the shutter on a digital camera doesnt cost you a cent... Each time I click the shutter on a film camera I just spent about 40c. Its not a lot, but it adds up yeah!
So this forces you to slow down. I am not saying slow down in the workflow, but I am just talking about thinking things through before taking an action. I even find that I shoot from the hip left right and centre with the digital, but every shot that I take with the film camera I carefully compose and check in the viewfinder before shooting. Most of my film cameras have manual film advance on them as well. I have to get my timing right. I cant put the thing on continuous and fire off 9 frames per second like I can with the digital camera. This slows you down as well. If you are on the street and you shoot too early with a digital then you can still quickly press the shutter again and get a second crack at the shot. Its the same with some modern film cameras as well, like the Nikon F100 I use as well. With a rangefinder, or a old SLR, with a manual film advance, there is no way you get a second crack at that shot. You just dont have time. The moment has been and gone. This makes you think about what you are doing as well.
I think that about covers off on what I had to say on this topic. Film photography is something that I am passionate about. Dont get me wrong, digital is the thing that get me back into this caper, and its likely the quick gratification, and quick ability to see results and correct errors that was able to get me through the initial teething issues with regaining some of the knowledge and ability that I used to possess. But.... Now that I am comfortable with a camera again, film is where its at. Film is the way things should be done. And film is what I will shoot for me main personal work. I am limited to black and white due to expense, but this is not a problem for me. Its my preference anyway.