by Tony Corbell Published 01/04/2007
by Tony Corbell San Diego, California
"...it's always about the basics. Don't ever forget the basics."
A lot of people in our local and regional associations call me, e-mail me and write letters to ask me questions. They run ideas past me and tend to value my opinion on a variety of photographic topics and techniques. They call a lot. And here is what I have discovered from all of these many conversations. People either get it or they don't. If they don't it's almost always because they aren't listening. They complain quite a lot about the additional hours spent in front of the computer as the result of digital photography and no matter what they do, they can't seem to shave off any time. And of course they would fight to the death for digital before they would ever venture backwards to film. They also will take forty-five minutes to do something on an image that really only takes three clicks.
As I have said over and over, everything is about time. So, I promise not to say it anymore. I won't talk about time anymore. I will not mention anymore how important it is to save time, thereby saving money (and frustration). However, I will simply give you some of my thoughts and hopefully they will save you some..."you know what."
Let's do something really unusual in today's world and talk in terms of specifics.
Colour Balance. Very simply put, either use your camera's pre-sets based on light colour temperature (ie. tungsten, flash, daylight, etc.) or do a custom white balance with a white card (yes, white not gray) or use the Expo Disc to set the white balance based on the colour of the light present. Either way will work perfectly, but try to avoid AUTO white balance at all costs. It is not reliable for accuracy. I know, I know, but I have tested this in depth. It will work occasionally, but not to the degree of saving you post production time...TIME, remember.
Exposure. Use a light meter. I'm asking you. No, I'm begging you. Stop using your LCD on the back of your camera as your meter. Use it to look at composition and to make sure all of your lights are firing. They are not as accurate as a modern, digital light meter (provided that the meter is calibrated properly). Stop guessing. Stop shooting everything on Auto and use your meter. One last time...I'm begging you. I know what I am talking about. I promise. I have tested it over and over and over. Did I mention that I'm begging you? The control over the exposure of your images is critical in order to save TIME.
Here's the payoff. As I have stated numerous times in lectures and seminars literally all over the world, these simple disciplines work. The excitement of opening a digital file after a shoot, discovering that the resulting images are perfectly exposed and colour balanced allows the photographer the opportunity to do several things. First, opening the file in Photoshop is an option, not a necessity. Sending the file directly to a lab is a true possibility, and being home in time for dinner can become a reality.
Yep, it's a soapbox I'm on. I am tired of answering questions, spending time over and over with those who will not try the take pictures better. Folks try to be better photographers and the rest will take care if itself. Take great care with your exposures, your colour balance, your monitor calibration and everything you can, even if it means spending three more minutes at the time of capture. It will save you thirty minutes of post-production.
A wise old man once told me that above all else, "it's always about the basics. Don't ever forget the basics." And it's true. Go back to the basics and forget moving so fast into the future that you forget the past. And if you get stuck, give me a call or drop me an e-mail. I'll be glad to repeat this all over again.
At Tony's request, both of the images above are directly out of the camera except we changed their size for e-mailing to the UK and re-cropped the 'night shot.' We are, however a little worried about the little chap, his colour balance is a little green and there seems to be some distortion about the ears! Ed. Tony Corbell has a UK tour planned - see the details opposite.
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