The buzz level is very high at MacWorld. As the ever-insightful John Gruber noted over coffee, tomorrow will either bring what everyone thinks will come—namely the ever-rumored iPhone—or we’ll see something else that’s so good that we won’t care that the iPhone didn’t materialize. Of course, there’s always a chance that neither of these two things will happen and all the rumor mongers will be let down, but I’m going to be an optimist and expect great things from the keynote tomorrow. One thing is for sure, we’ll know shortly.
Since I’m working this week and not just attending the show, I could only spent just a bit of time chatting about the rumors. After that, it was time to focus in on the job at hand. Today’s Monday, which means that the conference has started, but the Exhibit Hall isn’t yet open. Since most of my assignment’s work centers around the images that will be taken in the Exhibit Hall, today was another day of preparation. This time, instead of prepping equipment, I was prepping for the shots that I want to try to take. And, as it turns out, Aperture can play a key role in this kind of prep work.
After working on-site today and taking lots of test shots, including trying out several angles through the Exhibit Hall and finding appropriate backgrounds outside to use for portraits, I loaded my day’s take into Aperture and proceeded to sort through everything. Instead of looking for publishable or printable images, however, I examined the photographs to see what kind of potential the various angles and locations had. I used the same tools that I’d use to sort though any other shoot, namely rankings and stacks, but I was using a different criteria as I used the tools. Instead of asking, “Is this a good photograph?”, I was asking myself, “Can I make a good photograph using the elements I see on the screen now in front of me? Can I visualize a good photograph as a result of this image?”
As I worked through the images, I chucked out the images that really didn’t work at all and made mental notes of things that I didn’t try today that I should try tomorrow. For the Exhibit Hall photographs, I checked to see that the everything looked as good in 2D on the screen as it did through my viewfinder. For the more abstract portrait background shots, I checked to see how the backgrounds rendered as well as checked them for unexpected traits, such as dirt and other stains, that would end up ranking down otherwise good portraits.
At the end of the day, I now know a lot more about the environment that I’ll be working in. I have a collection of reference images that I can use throughout the week. More importantly, I’ve now spent quite a bit of time thinking through the process of the shoot. Even if I don’t create an image that is based on anything I took today, I’ve been warming up my brain with these exercises. When it’s time to take a shot of somebody that I only have 5 minutes with, I’m that much better prepared to nail the shot quickly instead of bumbling about trying things that don’t quite work right.
The next time you have a big shoot that makes you nervous, give this technique a try. Get to where you are going to shoot the day before you need to and make test images. Then spend some time sorting through those test images to see what worked and what didn’t.