It doesn’t seem that long ago when I wrote my 100th article for Photography Life, and here we are today with article number 150. I must confess that I mulled over what topic that this ‘mini-milestone’ article should cover. My ‘little voice’ told me that it needed to have a philosophical orientation. So, this article shares some of my philosophic approach to photography, and answers the question why I prefer being a lazy post-processor than a lazy photographer. And, make no mistake, I am a lazy post-processor.
I suppose ‘lazy’ is commonly interpreted as a derogatory term, most often meaning that someone is not willing to work or use any effort at all. That’s not the interpretation that I’m using in this article. Another common use of the word ‘lazy’ is to describe an activity during which you are very relaxed, and in which you take part without much effort. Like ‘taking a lazy stroll in the afternoon’. That’s the interpretation used in this posting.
This article in no way places any kind of value judgement on folks who spend hours working on individual images to produce the results they desire. That’s a personal decision they make, and as such should not be subject to any criticism from anyone.
My passion has been, and will always be, spending time with a camera in my hands creating images. I love being fully engrossed in the act of creating, allowing my instincts to lead wherever they may. Sometimes folks like my work, and at other times not. How people choose to react to my images is not something I can control, so I don’t let that get in the way of my creative journey.
What does being a ‘lazy’ photographer mean to me? It means not pushing myself to try to get the shot right the first time. It means not experimenting. It means consciously settling for less, when there could be more available. It means taking the easy way out. It means letting myself down.
For me, there has always been a very clear and simple alarm bell that sounds when I’m at risk of being a ‘lazy’ photographer. That alarm bell is the thought in my head that “I can fix that in post.” It could be caused by me relying too much on cropping my images to get them composed correctly. It could be caused by me not working with my composition long enough to get an intrusive branch or detail out of the frame. It could be caused by me not moving around enough, or not looking for enough different composition approaches, to help minimize the effects of some difficult lighting. It could be caused by me not using a filter when I know I should.
Before I press the shutter my goal is always to capture an image that I can use 100% without any cropping. Does that happen with every image? Of course not. Sometimes I just can’t find an answer for the issue at hand and I do the best I can with what’s in-front of me. Some subjects, such as birds-in-flight, can be very difficult to capture without having do some cropping in post, and personal expectations need to be adjusted. On the other hand, I believe that some subjects like landscape photographs, should be held to a much higher, personal standard.
I don’t enjoy post-processing. To me it has always been a necessary evil that is part of the photographic process. My goal when I work in post is to get my images to the vision I have in my mind for them with as little muss and fuss as possible. Typically an image takes no more than 5 minutes in post, including computer processing time. Usually if I can’t get what I want in 5 minutes I move on to a different image. If, for some reason, I get fixated on a photograph I may spend double that amount of time working with it in post to see if I can get it to where it should be to match the vision I have for it. If I can’t get it there in that extended amount of time, I stop and then move on to a different image.
Whether I move on at 5 minutes or at 10 minutes, at that point there is much learning to be had, but it is never about what I can do in post to ‘fix’ the image. The fact that I still need to ‘fix’ it after working on it for 5 or 10 minutes tells me the issue isn’t with my software or with my RAW file. The issue is with me, and what I could have done differently and better upfront, when I was creating that image. That’s why I prefer to be a ‘lazy’ post processor than a ‘lazy’ photographer. Spending less time in post reveals my shortcomings as a photographer to me much faster.
Doing executive coaching for over 20 years has taught me some valuable lessons. One of the most important ones is that encouraging a client to pour a tremendous amount of effort towards mitigating a weakness is a waste of time, and will not help them reach more of their potential. That only happens when they develop and leverage more of their core strengths. I could never help a duck become a better eagle, only a better duck.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11/PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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