What If You Couldn’t Chimp? What If You Couldn’t Edit?
It occurred to me today that the vast majority of modern photographers are completely dependent on the perks of technology to make their images. Of course even in the darkroom there is a certain level of “tweakability” but never before have we been able to do the things we can now. The phrase “fix it in post” is so commonplace today that everyone assumes that we can alter the very fabric of reality in Photoshop…and while that may be true, it’s the wrong mentality in my opinion. Thinking this way enables us to become lazy in the studio. Rather than making sure the shot is as perfect as it can possibly be in the camera, many photographers rely on post processing to make it work.
Now before you jump on the flame wagon let me clarify. Of course there are commercial jobs that require extensive retouching, and effects that digital can’t reproduce without post processing because guess what? We aren’t using film anymore. Light leaks, double exposures and expired film don’t play a role in digital photography. I get that. What I’m talking about here are poorly exposed images. A simple problem to fix that goes unresolved for no good reason. Rather than take half a second to adjust the exposure the tendency is to fire away and fix it later. Don’t deny it, we’re all guilty of this at some point. Not only that but today’s photographer can’t progress through a shoot without chimping every 5th shot. Now why would I harp on chimping? Shouldn’t we use the ability to check our shots now that we can? After all isn’t that basically the same as shooting a polaroid?
Yes we should, and yes it is. However, I think it’s used less as an exposure check and as more of a crutch. Checking your shots every once in a while is good, it can help you catch things like misfiring lights or focusing issues. Yet constantly checking the back of your camera can severely disrupt the flow of a shoot.
Which brings me to the two-part challenge I want to issue to you this week (and please do this outside of a job):
Step 1.) For one day I want you to cover up the LCD on your camera (gaffer’s tape, painter’s tape or masking tape all work great and won’t leave a residue). I want you to commit to taking at least 36 images without being able to check your work. Give yourself the experience of shooting with film again, or for the first time, by blinding yourself to the results.
Step 2.) After you’re done, let the images sit for at least day before you load them up on the computer…just like if you sent them off to the lab. Then no matter how good or bad they are, do NOT adjust them. No actions, no presets, nothing.
Yes, I know that step two is more strict than film. Here’s the point though: You can still shoot without the tech! You know your craft, you know your gear…so if you can walk fine on your own why rely on crutches? I guarantee that you’ll look at that covered LCD at least twice, but I’ll also guarantee that you will surprise yourself when you see the images you took this way.
In fact, let’s add a third step for those of you brave enough to do it honestly. After you’ve done this, tell us about what you learned in the comments section below. If you want, post a link to an image from that day and talk about the challenges and successes of it!