Sunday, 03 January 2021 12:45

    The Photography Backlog, An Ongoing Saga

    Written by
    If you have a ton of memory cards full of photos, hard disks lurking in drawers, or NAS devices filled to the brim with unprocessed photos, it's time to address that "elephant in the room". If you have a ton of memory cards full of photos, hard disks lurking in drawers, or NAS devices filled to the brim with unprocessed photos, it's time to address that "elephant in the room".
    Intro field pic

    When you can't travel... you might decide to process photos...

    Ok, so Covid wrecked the travel plans of many people world wide. However, instead of dwelling on the negative, we might consider dwelling on the digital photography equivalent of negatives.... Raw files. Here is photo I took when in New Zealand... in 2016. As you might imagine.. I have quite a back log of unprocessed photos.

    Milford Sound, New Zealand.

    Milford Sound, New Zealand.

    This doesn't cast me in the best light.... but it's something I think all photographers face.

    Ok, so you do a big trip, or a big job, and you take hundreds of photos. They might be at the request of a bride, or your boss, or you just see and do a lot so you feel you need to capture at least a little of everything.

    So you finally get home, and all the stuff (work, life, family) that you haven't been attending to is ready to pounce. Those photos take a back seat to whatever drama-of-the-moment distracting you.

    Life gets in the way... it happens.

    Do that a few times (the above testimonial is just a sample).... and you have literally terabytes of photos that sit captured, yet unfinished. If they sit in memory, never to see the light of day, then what was the point?

    Perception is key....

    So once you're in the "quagmire" of overwhelming photos, what's a photographer to do? Is it all drudgery? Is there anything to help a photographer to get over their natural unwillingness to dedicate days, weeks, or even months to solving this issue? Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions is:

    "What can I get out of this that will make me a better photographer, and motivate me to push forward?"


    Use the Right Tools

    This image for Image Layouts addon

    Get the ball rolling with the right software and easier tasks

    The right software can help you speed up your digital workflow immensely. Adobe's Lightroom combines quick browsing, image viewing, and rapid batch processing to do as many photos in as little time as possible. Darktable (a free alternative) and DXO's Photolab (a cheaper commercial alternative) also have many of these features.
    Ham's photo editing software suggestions

    Start with the "low-hanging fruit" for quick results...

    If you have hundreds, thousands, or "squillions" of shots, the sad fact is that there will be many that simply aren't good or useful. That's not a reflection of you, that's just life. If I take a hundred photos, there's usually 2-3 really nice shots, 4-10 shots that could be good with a bit of post-processing work, another 5-20 shots that could be good if I put a lot of work into it, or for "filler" images between the main ones. The rest, are rubbish.

    That's right, the least amount of rubbish I have is 77%. On a bad day, I might throw out 89% of my shots. Am I just that bad?

    Have a look at my galleries pics and decide for yourself.

    You are only as good as your edit.... the not-so-secret approach to looking like a pro photographer.

    Most beginner photographers take tons of snaps on their phone.. and share them minutes later to the social media system of their choice. The sad fact is that this creates a truck load of really boring and/or poorly executed images. Take enough photos, and the law of averages dictate that at least a few shots will be "good".

    With no extra training, what if the same photographers only shared the best half of the photos. All of a sudden, they look like they might know what they're doing.

    Going further, what if they shared only the best tenth of their photos? Now there are far fewer mistakes. It doesn't matter that there isn't as many photos. In fact, people in the audience are rewarded with better photos, and less effort of going through them all. Now the dreaded "holiday snap" night is significantly less tedious to people.

    What if that same photographer only showed the best 1% of photos. Ok, now they'd need to take a lot of photos to make it look like they took more than a handful of photos, but they'll look shiny and most people will think they're a pro photographer.

    What if a hobbyist photographer took thousands of shots over decades... Then they showed you the best one shot. It might well be better than professional National Geographic photographers. However, what makes a pro, is the fact that their average is much better than a hobbyist.

    The take away from this... is your huge backlog of photos is smaller than you think.

    Quickly scan through your images. Mark the ones that need little or no work. If you're using the star rating system (like in Lightroom) 5 stars are done, 4 stars need a little work, 3 stars need a bit of work, 2 stars are filler photos, and one star might be good when artificially intelligent machines might become smart enough to overcome the horrors of that particular photo. Delete the unusuable ones, or ones that just look boring.

    You'll find that the nearly-ideal ones will be very quick. Go through those, export them somewhere safe as a finished image (both in print friendly and web friendly formats). Most of these images, I'll usually tweak for a few minutes, and then try a few alternatives, pick the best approach and move on. The point here is to NOT go down "the rabbit hole" of minor tweaks of negligible impact.

    If there are photos that need a bit of extra work, but seem more interesting than the ideal ones, I'll work on those next.

    So the general goal is to get as many images "finished" with the least amount of effort possible to get me started. Then polish up the interesting ones that need a bit of work, as I'm always intrigued by what I can achieve with some creativity, and time. Then I'll repurpose ones I can't bring up to standard as filler images. Then just for fun, I might take a horrid pic from "way back when" to see what new software and my newer "digital skills" can do to bring them to life.

    Don't process. Produce!

    Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over, makes your photos look suspiciously similar to your others, regardless of the scene and subject. Mess about with your pics. Got a blurry shot of of a seagull? Blur it more to produce an arty piece. Have a lot of poorly timed shots where someone gets in the way? Gather them up and make a theme. Call it the "Tourists that broke my shot" gallery. Process the shots so they are the focus, not the distraction. What is a flaw to someone is actually a fun celebration of the quirky things in life to another. So how do you choose to see your "failed" shots?

    Interest for the audience is important, but it's all pointless if your photos aren't interesting enough for you to finish them. Make it interesting to you first!

    I get that photography invokes ideas of making the perfect shot, but the photographer you are today is not the photographer you'll be tomorrow. Sometimes you learn new techniques to process old photos in new ways. Other times, you see new ways to use old photos that you simply didn't think of before, and have to process them again from scratch... but come up with something really interesting.

    Having a backlog is a part of many photography enthusiasts experience. However, like photography itself, perception is important. Seeing a photo backlog as an insurmountable task sucks the fun out, and hinders further progress. Choosing to see the backlog as an earned resource from which to track your photography skills development. Further still, it could be viewed as an opportunity to see, think, and utilise those images differently. Naturally, this will improve your photography skills in ways you probably didn't consider before.

    ... Well that's all I have. I better get back to the processing.... good luck with your backlog! Don't forget to reward yourself for the progress you make.

    Last modified on Friday, 22 October 2021 22:19
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