After blogging during the experience of my recent Macworld 2007 assignment, I think I can safely say that it was a really good way to think in detail about my workflow and my use of Aperture. As well, some really great questions and comments were raised by readers that focused right in on some great topics. To put a solid finish on this experience, here’s a look back at the posts and some follow on thoughts that came out of each.
The Day 0 post (apologies for the geek reference) focused on the process of preparing for the shoot and gathering the equipment necessary. Everything worked without a hitch during the shoot. In particular, I’m really happy with the way that the LaCie Rugged triple interface drive worked out. During the shoot, I found there’s another reason to use an external drive: it was very easy to slip into my pocket when I needed to leave the bulk of my equipment, including my laptop, somewhere. Whether I left my laptop in a staff office or in my hotel room, the little Rugged drive went into my jacket pocket and gave me a warm sense of security.
One item that wasn’t on my equipment checklist that I may add soon is a cable lock. This was suggested by Andrew Wooster in the comments, and even though I’ve not had a problem so far, a bit more peace of mind is always welcome.
The Day 1 post looked at using Aperture to help scout locations. This exercise was invaluable even though, as it turns out, I didn’t end up using a single one of these locations. It simply wasn’t viable to get my subjects off of the expo floor during the show. So I ended up shooting the portraits inside of Moscone. The process of thinking about what I wanted to do with the portraits, however, served me well and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. As well, I now have 6 or 7 killer locations for a portrait shot within a block of Moscone. I’m sure that I’ll be able to use that knowledge sometime in the future.
In Day 3’s post, I looked at the process of importing, key-wording, and making duplicate copies of the photographs. I can’t stress enough how important it is to add as much metadata as possible at this point in a shoot. As well, it really helps to review these shots—even if it’s a glancing review—to keep tabs on how the shoot is going and how much of your shot list you have completed.
Yes, there was no Day 2 blog post. Day 2 was the day of the Keynote. After the excitement of the iPhone and jumping with both feet into the assignment, I was too wrung out to write a decent blog post that night. There’s a lesson here. Sometimes, when you’re on a big multi-day shoot, you really have to respect your limits. When your body starts shouting at you, it’s time to stop and conserve energy so that you can be sharp through the rest of the assignment.
In Day 4’s post, I talked about the initial cut. This is an important step in the entire workflow of a shoot. The trick is to get rid of all the totally unusable crap without throwing away anything valuable. In a stroke of great timing, Dirck Halstead’s Monica Lesson has been making the rounds through the photoblogosphere and gives a great illustration about the fine line that needs to be walked during this initial cut. In my case, I deleted about 30% of my total take. The deleted images were shots that were blurry, suffered from obvious composition problems, or which were essentially duplicates of other, but better, shots. Everything else will remain in my archives, just in case somebody needs a picture of Leo Laporte walking the show floor.
One part of the Day 4 post that sparked a bit of discussion was my use of RAW+JPEG. As a working pro the last few years, and as a rabid amateur early adopter of digital SLRs before that, I’ve poo-poo’d shooting RAW+JPEG for a while. But, in the last year, I’ve run into several situations where RAW+JPEG is a perfect solution. If I need to give an AD or a news editor a quick full dump of my shoot, nothing beats drag and drop onto a DVD, FTP site, or even a scripted rsync over ssh to a client’s hard drive. Even the best RAW converters aren’t always fast enough for this. I’ve had an export of several hundred images from Aperture take well over an hour.
There’s a lot more to say about my use of RAW+JPEG, and I’ll touch on this subject in future posts. But, for now, before you rush out and set your camera to RAW+JPEG and follow my lead, I don’t recommend that anybody bother shooting RAW+JPEG unless they have a clear and present need to do so.
The Day 5 post touched on narrowing the images from the shoot to the ones that are delivered to the client. I was going to write all about how I do this, but fellow Insider Aperture blogger Ben Long described my thoughts here perfectly in his Comparing Images and Stack Mode posts. As far as the ranking system that I use to help narrow the shoot, my On-Location Workflow post from last November describes how I rank my images.
Looking back at it all, what would I change? Especially now that I’ve spent all this time, and all these words thinking about it? Quite honestly, there’s not a too much that I need to change or tweak at this point. I’m pretty happy with the way things are running. I do need to get better about not only making initial backup copies of my original files from CompactFlash, but also backing up my live Aperture projects. Right now, if I’d lost my primary data drive, the LaCie Rugged FW 800 drive, I would have lost the ranking and metadata work. My images would be safe and sound on my backup FW 400 drive, and I’d be able to recover and move on, but I’d still loose time. Of course, the library information is backed up once it is merged with my home system’s library, but until then, it’s a bit vulnerable while on location. This is definitely an area which I’ll fine tune during the next big shoot.
As well, I really should follow fellow Inside Aperture blogger Micah’s suggestions about keeping my Photoshop-edited files along with my Masters. I currently don’t do this. Instead, I treat those files as spin offs from my primary Aperture workspace which don’t find their way back. I can see, however, that I’d like to have a good record of how these images were used right here in my Aperture library in a few years.
And last, even though I was happy with the way my LaCie FW800 Rugged drive worked out, I will be looking closely at a suggestion from Bernt in the comments about the new LaCie Little Big Drives. It’s an intruiging package that deserves a bit more of a look for on the road shooting. I’d love to evaluate one of these sometime.
Thanks to everyone who has followed along on this experiment of blogging about a shoot. And a special thanks to those who commented along the way. Your questions and comments were excellent and really made me think about some of the things I do. Most of all, I hope that this peek behind the curtains has been useful. If you have more questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments here.