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Post Production

I feel like I must explain before I go into my guidelines for Post Production that I rarely have an immediate deadline.  Again, these are my guidelines for my own work flow and should be treated as such.  Obviously, these guidelines can and should be tweaked to suit a deadline.  But here’s a general synopsis of what I do after a show.

1 ~  Take a step back.  After a concert, when I finally get home from a night of shooting, I won’t look at my work.  During the shoot, I’ll briefly check images for clarity, settings, etc, but after a concert I just want to get to bed.  At the very least, I’ll download the images.

2 ~  Downloading and organizing images.  I use Adobe to import and download my images from my camera’s SD card.  Each event gets its own folder and I’ll download them into Lightroom.  I don’t go through the images on my camera beforehand to delete poor images, everything gets saved and everything gets downloaded.

3 ~  Selecting images.  This is the hardest part of Post Production for me because I hate everything I shoot.  In fact, I’m going to make a Tshirt that says ‘I hate everything I shoot so you don’t have to’.  All kidding aside, selecting images gives me anxiety. Seriously, I’m incredibly hard on myself and very selective with what I approve.  The initial selecting process is simply looking through thumbprints of the concert in quick succession in the ‘Library’ tab in Lightroom.  If it grabs my attention, I’ll flag it.

Once an image passes my initial ‘Doesn’t Suck’ designation, I’ll look at the image in the ‘Develop’ tab in Lightroom.  If I’m still pleased with it, I’ll move on to . . . .

4 ~  Post-Production.  This step makes or breaks an image.   My take on post-production is ‘Less Is More’.  I’ll level photos, I’ll transfer to black and white, I’ll add contrast or adjust exposure.  I’ll even remove random spots, microphones, or even sax players (sorry Alex)!  But I’ll try to preserve the integrity of the image. 

My biggest complaint about concert photography is with over-produced images.  I believe the more an image is manipulated, the flatter it looks.  Sure, sharp images as ideal but occasionally, grain and movement adds to the moment.  To me, it looks more organic, more real. 

5 ~  Consider your audience.  Most of my jobs are for print and online magazines and I rarely know beforehand how my images are going to be used.  Sure, a cover is always great but sometimes my images are used as banners, sometimes cropped into perfect squares, sometimes used as is.  When selecting images, I try to be mindful of how the image may be used.  I always give photos that have ‘empty space’ in it which could be used for headlines.  If an image is cropped too tightly, it might not be usable for a cover or an article.

6 ~  Circle back for another look.  After a day or even a week has past, I’ll take another look at what I captured initially.  Sometimes, I’ll find a few shots that I overlooked that are actually pretty good.

7 ~  Sharing your work.  Finalized photos are imported to Dropbox for the publication.  From there, the photo editor takes over and my work is mostly done.

8 ~  Sharing your work on Social Media.  I believe that any of my photos that were taken on behalf of a publication, should be shared initially by the publication in question.  If I have access to their Social Media platforms, I’ll post them but if I don’t, I’ll wait until the images are published to post them on my social media platforms.  I think it shows respect to the publication that you, the photographer, are giving them ‘first dibs’ to share the image.  It shows professionalism that you are working with them and not using them to get into shows to advance your own career.  However, because hypocrisy is a great source of entertainment, if I have a fantastic photo that I want the world to see, I’ll post it on social media but will make sure to tag the publication.

It’s also important to be mindful of contracts.  If a photo contract specifically says, ‘photos are for publication only’, or something to that effect, then make sure you don’t breach the contract, by posting photos online.  If you don’t like something in a contract, don’t sign it. 

If I’m shooting an event for a band and not a publication, the Social Media guidelines change a little.  I’ll post as much as I can, making sure to tag the band members, the organization for the event and the venue.  Everything I post on Social Media is watermarked and low resolution.

9 ~  Final thoughts:  finding a balance.  Even though I suck at Social Media, it’s important to find a balance.  You want your work seen, but most people aren’t going to go through 30 or more photos of a concert you covered.  They just don’t have the attention span.  Also, don’t repost the same photos over and over.  I’ll do a #TBT photo or even a #MusicMonday photo, but it’s absurd to keep promoting the same shot over and over. 

Remember, Less is More.  Aim for a few high quality shots versus many average shots.  Don’t overcorrect or abuse post-production techniques.  Don’t tag everyone from the Record Label exec to the venue’s janitor in hopes of getting attention.  You want attention from your work, not from being an over-confident narcissist.

10 ~  Be grateful and gracious.  Lots of people have cameras.  Lots of people think because they have a camera they are a concert photographer.  Only a few people succeed in concert photography.  Be grateful for the opportunities you have a gracious under pressure or when situations don’t go according to plan.  People notice how you act both on the job and how you treat your images.  Being nice to people, whether you carry a camera or not.

There you have it.  I hope you enjoyed reading my work routine!  Feel free to share your thoughts with me.

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