One of the memes that’s been going around the circle of photographers that I chat with is that the better your original RAW files, the better your final files. The whole idea of “Fixing it in Post” is somewhat flawed from the the word go. Sure, you can rescue a bad shot to some degree, but if you start out with great data, you’ll end up with a better final result. There’s a corollary meme that I’ve started hearing a bit about, and one that I’m really going to start preaching: If you shoot less pictures in the field, you’ll have less work to do in post. After all, you might like working in Aperture, but you’d probably like to spend more time behind the camera, wouldn’t you?
The problem is that we regard the act of taking a picture with a digital SLR as being “free”. The problem is that it’s not. Every RAW file consumes disk space, but more importantly it consumes time. For a while as I’ve been shooting various conferences, I’ve been trying to shoot fewer—and better—frames. The reason for this is that when I get to the end of a day and I’ve still got hundreds of photos to chug through, I usually get really grumpy. The prospect of working for hours on end after everyone else goes home just isn’t appealing.
This was driven home to me today while shooting at the 2007 O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference in San Diego. For the first time in my event photography career, I have an assistant on site. It’s a wonderful experience to have a capable assistant to help out with things. Things are moving nicely and I might just be able to be asleep before midnight tonight. As nice as it is to have somebody else to help with the mass of images moving through the pipeline, watching and guiding somebody through the process of winnowing down my photo collection is making it even more apparent that I should concentrate on getting the right shot while behind the camera rather than snapping off a few of a bad shoot hoping that one might just come out anyway. It’s the kind of thing that you can ignore when it’s just you dealing with things, but when you watch somebody else deal with the mass of images, it becomes even more apparent how even just immediately deleting a bad shot on screen can add up when multipled by tens or hundreds of bad images. It’s like torture by water drips.
Shoot less. Produce better images quicker. That’s my mantra for the next few days.
By the way, if you’re interested in seeing photos from ETech, you can check out the Etech Flickr set as it builds up over the week.