Rule 24: Don’t Take Lazy Photos Just ‘Cause You Have Photoshop

The Chain
The Chain

There’s an expression in the recording industry: “Fix it in the mix.” Whether the guitar’s a bit off-key, the vocalist can’t decide whether she should be singing on, behind, or in front of the beat, or the drummer’s keeping lousy time, the logic is that you can always fix it later. That’s what ProTools is for, right?

By the same logic, some photographers don’t pay very close attention to things that are just as basic to their craft. After all, who needs to worry if the exposure’s too light or dark, the composition’s careless, or even that the photo’s not about anything in particular? You’ve got Photoshop (Picasa/Picnik/fill-in-the-blank), after all.

Please, for the love of God, don’t take careless photos just ‘cause you can, or just because you’ve got a program on your computer that you think will cover up all manner of ills. To borrow yet another term: Garbage in, garbage out. Yes, you can polish a turd, but all the gleam isn’t going to hide the fact that it’s still a turd.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s take this from another angle for a minute. Let’s say that you’re a beginning photographer. Let’s also assume (and it’s a safe assumption) that if you’re a beginning photographer you’re likely also a beginner at postproduction. Doing any kind of editing on your photos, if you want them to look good, takes time even (or perhaps especially) if you’re experienced. A single photo can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to a few times that, depending on your level of experience and the level of intervention your photo needs. Now contrast that with the amount of time that it takes to actually make a good photo. While there are times (like when you’re waiting for the right light at sunup or sundown) that this can be a time-consuming process, sometimes it’s just a matter of adding another thirty seconds to the 1/125th of a second that it’d take you to get the shot in the first place.

That is to say, paying attention earlier in the process to what’s going on both within the frame and outside it, and then paying attention to your settings before you’re pressed the shutter button, can save you an awful lot of time later. You may decide to do a bit of sharpening, or crop something, or boost the saturation, but not every photo’s going to require the equivalent of major surgery. Taking time for the small stuff early on in your process is bound to save you time later, and also lead to a higher percentage of shots worth keeping straight out of the camera.

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