Adobe Lightroom® CC for Beginners

Lightroom for Beginners cover image of develop module

CreativeLIVE – Adobe Lightroom® CC for Beginners

For those of you joining my workshop on CreativeLIVE January 14-15, 2017, this is where I will be posting links for the workshop.  Keep coming back here for information and links to things and places I discuss on the air.

Links for you to click:

What HARD DRIVE should you buy?  Check out the failure rates on the Back Blaze online backup service.  Great info HERE.  These are spinning drives.

For Solid State Drives, I love the San Disk Drives, check them out HERE.

My traveling RAID1 drive is made by CRU, called the Tough Tech Duo, which is a firewire 800 connection which I have connected via a Thunderbolt converter on my laptop. (CRU has a new Tough Tech for USBc as well, but USB3 cannot power it, so it has to be plugged in).  Find the Tough Tech HERE along with other CRU items, like the small green case of the Tough Tech Mini I talked about earlier in the class.  For the new version of the Tough Tech Duo USBc you will have to go to CRU’s website.

Check out the images I am posting on these FACEBOOK LINKS:

Facebook Page

Facebook Profile

See what I made on Adobe Spark Page

Those who purchase the CreativeLIVE class can see how this was done in the bonus video.

Adobe Spark Page

 

CHECK OUT MY UPCOMING SCHEDULE AND DISCOUNTS ON LIGHTROOM PRESETS

Find out where I am and what I am up to right now!  HERE.

JOIN ME AT MYSTIC SEMINARS JAN 16, 2017
LIGHTROOM WORKFLOW

Bringing Joy to Kids with Serious Illness at Phoenix Children’s Hospital

He’s kind of a big deal!

High School Senior Portrait for Boy Scout Eagle Project

Teddy Scott is one person you will never forget. I have known him for the majority of his life, and lately, he has been assisting me on photography jobs, so I have gotten to know him even better, because you really learn a lot about someone when you see them on the job. However, there is something that will tell you much more about a person than how they treat their mother… that’s how they serve others without thought of reward. Teddy was the first to volunteer to shave his head when my little friend Trajen contracted cancer and was undergoing chemo therapy. I already had a bald head, so I don’t count, but many people shaved their heads to give Trajen the courage to shave his. Teddy lead the charge!
Young man Shaving his head in support for young boy with cancer
group of men with shaved heads supporting a young child in his battle against cancer
Leading another charge, this month Teddy finished his Eagle Project, which was to organize people throughout his church and community to make boxes and boxes full of Teddy Bears to deliver to Phoenix Children’s Hospital to be given to the children there who are fighting cancer and dealing with other serious illnesses. Trajen was one of those little kids. He touched us all (still does, thankfully – his was a successful battle) and he obviously had a lasting effect on Teddy. Now Teddy is working to bring a little joy to others just like Trajen, who have tough days ahead.

Young boy at Phoenix Children's Hospital fighting cancer.

When you have run out of things to pray about, or places to serve… say a prayer for the families who are fighting against the effects of cancer and other illnesses and look for some way in your community to bring a smile to their faces. Teddy’s Bears will go a long way to that end. So, yea… he’s kind of a big deal!

Tim and Brittany’s Wedding at the Boojum Tree in Phoenix, Arizona

I photographed Brittany and Tim’s wedding at The Boojum Tree in Phoenix, Arizona. The wedding was packed full of beautiful ideas, tender moments and wonderful people.

My favorite photographs from the wedding

This first photo was one of my favorite details in the wedding. Later, during the ceremony, the bride and groom will braid and tie the three cords, signifying their partnership with Christ in their union.  I thought it was beautifully done.

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The dress (Tara Keely by Lazaro from Destiny’s Bridal) was absolutely beautiful. The bride had the sleeves added by Destiny’s and as you will see later, it was the perfect thing to do, and so well done.

Wedding dress Tara Keely by Lazaro

The entire wedding party was wearing little homages to Star Wars and it all starts with the bride’s R2D2 heels.

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The grooms cufflinks quoted the interchange between Han Solo and Princess Leah just before the empire puts Han into carbon freezing.

“I love you.”

“I know.”

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I love photos through reflections in glass and of course the moment was a perfect one.

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Getting ready in Wedding dress Tara Keely by Lazaro

The bride and groom choose a “First Look”

The first look is always a tender moment. It is such a wonderful way for the bride and groom to see each other for the first time. The traditional “don’t see the bride before the ceremony” is a fine way to do things as well, but I think that there is far more tenderness in the first look.

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Tim and Brittany took a little walk into the green house at the Boojum Tree for a little one on one time.

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With me shooting from a distance.

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Brittany made her own flowers out of cloth and buttons. They were quite impressive and I am told, they took a very long time to make. But they will also last a lot longer!

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There are the Star Wars Storm Trooper socks.  And who can argue with the fashionable and COMFORTABLE shoes. That is a bride who truly cares about her bride’s maids.

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The groomsmen were all a bunch of nuts and very happy with their hosiery as well.

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It’s all about the flowers and the dress. Brittany couldn’t have found a better dress.

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The wedding portrait session

Our portrait session consisted the couple of myself and my assistant (with a Profoto B1 off camera light). We spent about twenty minutes making their official portraits, but the moments between them are the absolute best.

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The Boojum Tree is full of perfect backdrops and locations. Everywhere you turn is another opportunity for a great photograph. It is a full 360 degree visual feast, which is great because that means you will always be able to find the perfect lighting condition. Some great open shade and the addition of one light is all it took.

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Oh, and of course the beautiful couple.

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I absolutely love this portrait of Brittany. She shows off the dress perfectly.

The bride wearing a Tara Keely wedding dress by Lazaro with added lace sleeves.

Tim is great in front of the camera, it was such a great experience photographing him. Many times, the groom is not all that excited about portraits and photos, but Tim loves the camera and it loves him.

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While we were take the couple’s portraits, I spun around to find a number of the bride’s maids watching from the gazebo. I asked the rest to join them to get this shot.

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Seriously cute kids were all over this wedding, all of them dressed to the nines.

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I loved the flower girls’ dresses. Full of texture!

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A tender wedding full of powerful moments to photograph

This is one of my favorite shots from the day. During the ceremony, the bride and groom will be reading love notes to one another, so the bride holds hers in her hands. The “kiss me” detail on her nail is perfect.

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This was another great detail. All down the isle were these texture rich collages with scriptures. I thought it was meaningful and beautiful.

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Here comes the ring. Notice the ear piece in the protective detail.

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The bride’s father lead her to the beginning of the isle and turned to her to read a special note to her before taking her the rest of the way down the isle to her groom. I loved this idea, it was a very tender moment between a father and daughter.

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When the bride and groom read their love notes to each other, it was just to each other, no mics. They were not speaking for the benefit of the crowd. They were speaking only to one another.

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That is the kind of tenderness and intimacy that makes a wedding great.

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The braiding and tying of the three cords was a great idea, but I especially liked the images I was able to capture during the process.

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Both the bride and groom are so expressive. It just makes it fun to photograph them. I could wait patiently, knowing that at one point they would both give me beautiful expressions that were full of life.

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How often do you see the Groom pick up his bride and carry her down the isle after the ceremony? So perfect!

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The tables were set in the green house, but the Tim and Brittany were the first to see the room.

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During the cocktail hour, we shot all the family portraits and a few others, like this cute little shot of the flower girls and the bride.

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It wasn’t visible to the crowd at the wedding, but the little boy in the wagon was carrying the safe to transport the rings.

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Another one of my absolute favorites. That veil was made for her and not by a dress shop. Her mother-in-law made that veil. So delicate.

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The battle at the cake table was intense!

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Tim and Brittany are too fun!

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Tim was a bartender at one time, so I thought this shot would be an appropriate image.

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With minutes to the end, the bride sneaks away to pack up her things for the get away!

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So much energy, expression and love.  It is always my pleasure to be a part of every wedding I photograph. Brittany and Tim, your wedding was an absolute joy as are you both.

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I wish you both the best of everything as you head off into the unknown!

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Photography by Jared Platt

Wedding location: The Boojum Tree, Phoenix, Arizona

Slideshow music by Hive Riot, courtesy of triple scoop music

The Prague Master Class – September 21-27, 2016

PragueMasterClass

Each year we travel to a new and exciting location for a world class travel experience and photographic workshop. You will learn everything from street photography, to portraiture, posing, lighting, and even post production. You will photograph fantastic models and locations, enjoy a new culture, eat amazing food, and increase your photographic skills exponentially.

This year, join Bob Davis and me for a week long travel adventure in Prague. Traveling to Prague should be on everyone’s bucket list. Make it happen this year. This is the ultimate photography educational experience. Explore the exotic and charming city of Prague, Czech Republic while taking your photography to new heights.
LINK: http://prague.mzed.com

WPPI Master Classes March 6-11, 2016, Las Vegas, NV

Jared Platt at WPPI

Every year, thousands of photographers gather in Las Vegas, Nevada for WPPI. This is a photographer’s dream. The show floor sports the very latest equipment and all of the books and albums, photo services and accessories that a pro and amateur needs to make their images, but there’s more than just an eye popping show of photo gear. WPPI is also a veritable university of photography education for a week in March. The very best photographers and instructors come to Vegas to inspire and to teach photographers how to hone their craft.

I will be at WPPI this year teaching two very special classes. In years past, you may have caught me with a thousand other photographers in a platform class where I was speaking about post-production in Lightroom. Well, this year, I have limited the size of my audience to 50 per class. I am teaching two Master Classes only! Each master class has only 50 people per class, which means you will get more personalized attention and I will be able to cater my instruction to everyone’s needs even better than I can in a platform class.

My WPPI Masterclasses are designed for two different levels, Beginners and Advanced. You are also welcome to take both, but you need to sign up and I suggest you do so now to ensure you get a seat.

Lightroom Workflow for Beginners

Monday, Mar 7, 2016 – 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM : MC12 (Limited to 50 Students)

Learn how to put Adobe Lightroom to use in your business and personal photography. Whether you just started using Lightroom or just don’t know how to use it effectively, this class with will change the way you work and think about photo post-production. Stop wasting time behind a computer screen and get out taking pictures. I am not often in front of a small classroom so take this opportunity to get more personalized instruction. You many not get this opportunity again.

This class is for Beginner and Intermediate Lightroom users.

Advanced Photography Workflow – Lightroom and Photoshop

Wed, Mar 9, 2016 – 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM : MC44 (Limited to 50 Students)

Your business depends on efficiency in post production. You also need to produce high quality photographic work. Come learn how to put the two together: efficiency and powerful photo editing techniques that will have you creating fantastic images in no time flat. If you’ve seen me before in one of my platform classes, you know how valuable a few hours with me can be. Now get instruction from me up close and personal. Take the things you know about Lightroom to a new level.

This class is for intermediate and advanced Lightroom users. Prepare to still have your mind blown!

Remember, only 50 people will be allowed in each masterclass, so you need to sign up now to insure you have a seat. And be ready for a ton of free giveaways from my incredible sponsors!

That’s a Wrap on The Best Workshop Ever!

We just wrapped

on an amazing four day workshop here in Arizona where we had 7 students who spent every waking hour learning, practicing and talking about photography. We had styled photo shoots on location here in Chandler and in the breathtaking Sedona red rocks. We maintained a small class size to ensure that each student was given all the attention they needed and deserved, and each one of our students have the very real possibility of having their images published in the national magazine, Pristeen, who provided a vast crew of models, hair and makeup professionals and stylists.

PJared PLatt Photography and Workflow Sedona

I may be tooting my own horn, but I am absolutely certain that there is no photographic workshop experience like the one my students just had. I was so impressed with the improvement of each and every photographer over the course of the four days of intense instruction. Our first styled photoshoot put each photographer into the fire. With a few hours of instruction on the equipment they would use, they all were put into very challenging and critical situations that required their utmost attention. Then, over the course of the next two days, amidst workflow lectures, we critiqued and edited their images. Then, we spent an afternoon working with their cameras and flashes again in preparation for the big Sedona shoot on the final day.

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Students that struggled on day one to get the shot, were creating beautiful images by the fourth day. I was so pleased to see each and every one of them creating images all on their own that were exponentially better than what they were attempting to make on our first day of class. Of course, I was not surprised.

My Arizona Photography and Workflow Workshop was designed to create success. I gave my students a year’s worth of university level photo education in four days, and I created a circumstance under which they could succeed. We limited our class size to make sure that I could spend a lot of time with each and every student, and each student spend the majority of the class at the controls. Unlike most photography workshop, my students were not stuck watching me shoot. Instead they were thrown into a real live, active magazine photoshoot with my expert instruction and direction at every step. I knew that they would succeed, because every hour of every day was designed to create lasting success. My students didn’t just see how to create great images, they created them, they were immersed in the process, and now they will return home knowing how to do that on their own!

Students Working Jared Platt Workshop Slide Rock State Park

That is the beauty of the socratic method of teaching. I teach my students how to think and let them experience how it is done, so they will always remember how to achieve success.

A small workshop like this cannot be done without a high price tag, and I can’t thank my students enough for their trust. They took a leap of faith and they found that it paid off. And even the high price tag would not have covered the price of this workshop without our sponsors, who so generously provided the incredible meals as well as providing the equipment and logistical support needed to pull off such a perfect workshop experience.

Finally, we must also thank the folks at Pristeen Magazine. They took a leap of faith that we would be able to take 7 workshop students of pro and enthusiast levels to a level that they would have two full magazine articles full of great images. They are now convinced! But we thank them for putting their trust in us to make this all happen. Not to mention, that Pristeen Magazine funded a full scholarship for our Pristeen Magazine Teen Photographer who joined us on the workshop and is now, at 18 years old, on her way to becoming an accomplished professional photographer. Wait until you see some of her photographs.

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Since all of our photoshoots were for publication, you will not see them now, but in April, after the magazine has published them. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Thank you to your Sponsors:

The Tone Curve Panel Controls Contrast Best

Contrast & Curves

It’s time to get your contrast under control with tone curves.

A large part of photography is judging the various tones that make up an image and deciding where they should be placed in the final presentation of the print. Both in the image display of our cameras and in Adobe Lightroom, we see this tonal distribution visually represented in the histogram.  The simple name for this tonal distribution is “contrast” and as photographers, we are constantly trying to control it.  Reading the histogram and controlling the placement of tones within the image is one of the most important skills a photographer can master.

aspen trees as a contrast example for lightroom curves

We  actively adjust image contrast both when we shoot and in post processing. When we shoot, we do this by judging and manipulating the quantity, quality and direction of light. A softer, more diffuse, less directional light creates less contrast.  Conversely, harder, more directional light creates brighter highlights and leaves darker shadows which equals more contrast.  This is then shown to use on the camera and in Lightroom by way of the histogram.  I constantly hear people say that a good exposure is described on the histogram when there is an even distribution of tones all the way across the graph (like in the image  below), and while this statement is true for the image above and the histogram below, the advice is actually very poor advice.  In reality, a good exposure on the histogram looks like the image it is describing.

well exposed histogram

On a grand scale, fog is the prefect light modifier for reducing contrast.  If only we could command the elements and bring it in whenever we needed it.  Fog has the effect of bouncing light everywhere and filling in all the shadows, thus everything becomes almost equal in value.  No real shadows and no real highlights.  We very rarely need this intense effect, but we do use soft boxes and fill reflectors all the time to help fill in the shadows and even out the difference between the shadows and the highlights.  Pay attention to the histogram describing this image.  When your photograph has no shadows, the histogram should display nothing on the left side of the graph.  A proper exposure will avoid allowing the data to clip on the left (shadows) or the right (highlights) of the histogram, but the graph in between the either edge should be an accurate description of the tones you are seeing in the scene.

swedish soldiers in fog

In photography, the further apart the shadows and the highlights are on the histogram, the higher the contrast will be in the image.  In life, we create contrast by making friends with strange people, or having peculiar pets.  The more peculiar and different the greater the contrast.  I had two dogs growing up, one was a tiny little Cockapoo, the other was a big Golden Lab, who was also the fattest dog in Norther Arizona (he has an award to prove it)!  Just watching them run down the road together was entertaining.  As with Shroder and Uggums (my dogs), the further apart we are in looks or temperament from our companions, the more drastic the contrast will be in our lives, which results in more drama.  This is not to say contrast and drama make the best images.  Low contrast images, like the image above, create a sense of quiet which has equal value.

In the end, our choices in image contrast change the feeling our images produce.  Because of this, post-production really matters and contrast is a critical portion of that.  We use the contrast slider and the tone curve to make these final contrast adjustments. The contrast slider is the simple way to change the contrast in an image, but it is also the least subtle.  It is like using an axe to cut your sandwich.  You will definitely cut the sandwich in two, but you will also cut the plate and most likely the table as well.  If you want to maximize your control over the contrast in your image you need to master the use of the Tone Curve panel.  Take a look at the image below and notice that the contrast slider is left at zero.  The major contrast work is achieved in the tone curves area of Lightroom, both in the Parametric and the Point Curve areas of the Tone Curves Panel.  You can see that there are five different curves at work in this one image.  The lower contrast in the image helps to soften the model’s already soft look.  When you are creating a tone curve for the first time, keep in mind that you should only really need to do this once.  If you like the effect you have created, make a preset for that tone curve to make it simple and efficient to apply your complicated curve in the future.

lightroom curve panels

I have created a short video on Using the Tone Curve Panel in Lightroom to get you started into exploring this powerful tool in Lightroom.  After watching the video, I encourage you to spend some time playing with your images in Lightroom using the Tone Curve pane in the Develop Module, and to get you started, make sure you download the free Tone Curve based presets I have created for you.

Using Tone Curves in Adobe Lightroom

Which tones you emphasize or de-emphasize can vary widely depending on the mood you want to create and where we want the viewer to focus.  I may use dramatic lighting or soft lighting depending on the story I am telling — bright and happy, or dark and moody. However I light my subject, or set my exposure at the camera, I have only told half the story. The other half of the story is told when I open the image in Adobe Lightroom and make adjustments to the image.  That is, as Ansel Adams said, the performance of the score (the capture being the musical score).  We captured the sequence of the notes in our camera, but the way we play them out in post-processing provides infinite possibilities for performance.  Mastering all of your tools (or instruments) is the first step to gaining complete control over your photographic voice.

Post Script:  The contrast control in the tone curves panel is not only the superior place to tweak your contrast, but it is also a better place to create split tones and even cross processing effects.  The power in the tone curve is quite intense.  For this reason I use the tone curve in a lot of my Lightroom Presets.  Let me get you started by giving you a small set of three great Classic Black and White Lightroom Presets that use the tone curve as the basis for their effect.

Cover image for free classic black and white lightroom presets

Are you a high contrast or low contrast shooter? Do you like big drama, or subtle dreamy tones? How do you achieve your signature look with contrast? I’d love to hear from you.

Master Photo Culling with Positive Selection

Most of you know that I select and process images in Adobe Lightroom. Although I have been using Lightroom from the day it came out as a Beta, I didn’t always have that luxury. For many years it was a hodge-podge of solutions. Each piece of software had its own unique skill set, and early on, Photoshop and Bridge did not even recognize a RAW photo file. So, it was one program to cull (select) my images, one to adjust, one to retouch and one to organize and yet another to deliver.  As digital photography evolved, Adobe began to make all of these processes available in one piece of software, and then… Lightroom was born. But as I traveled and taught seminars, I observed one common flaw in most photographers’ workflow; so in spite of technological advancements, photographer’s remained in the stone ages.  The flaw was an ignorance of a principle I call Positive Selection.

Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection

Positive Selection is simply the act of recognizing the good images and ignoring the mediocre and poor images, to follow the same principles that are used in the act of “selecting” at the camera.  That is, we never reject images, we only select. This is the method we use in the camera, and we are generally good at it, so you are already able to own this method of selection, you just need to embrace it. In fact, if you are not already following this method and you try my five steps to Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection,  I guarantee you will immediately cut your selection time by half.

The book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell is about how well trained intuition is a powerful tool. Gladwell illustrates that many “choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye… actually aren’t as simple as they seem.”  In fact, he argues that to the trained mind, these choices are made up of the instant recognition of many minute indicators which add up to intuitive knowledge. Your intuitive mind processes these factors in the background and uses them to make snap decisions that are, nonetheless, correct. In my studio, I use a principle that I call Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection to harness this intuitive power to make selecting images quick, easy and pleasant. You too, can train yourself to use your intuitive artistic nature and take the dread out of image selection.

The noted author Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the phrase “Murder your Darlings.” He meant that as a writer (artist, poet, photographer) we have to often reject parts of our work that we love because we recognize that they don’t help tell the story. This is an essential process that results in much better work, but it shouldn’t be the whole focus of editing. For many, the editing process is a painful experience. It involves hitting the Reject button one by one and killing our darlings till only the very best images remain. I will show you why this approach is not only slow and ineffectual, but also degrading and discouraging as an artist. Also I’ll illustrate how you can achieve the same results much more quickly and effectively, while training your photographic eye to make better intuitive decisions even while shooting.

Five Steps to Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection

  1. DON’T GET REJECTED: Avoid using the Reject Button (X). Use the Pick button (P) instead. Imagine, an editing session involving 5000 images where you want to deliver 10%. In this example, if you use the Pick button to choose the best 500 images instead of the Reject button to reject 4500, that’s 4000 fewer button clicks, saving you 60 minutes of click time alone, to say nothing of the agonizing decision making time it takes to bring yourself to pull the trigger and off each one of those 4000 little darlings!
  2. SEE IN YOUR PERIPHERY: Use Survey Mode to compare a number of images at one time instead of just one at a time. I find that viewing 6 at a time is what I can effectively compare on a 27” monitor. Would you rather look at 5000 individual images or 1000 groups of 5 images? You will find another instant speed increase by surveying a group of images at one time.
  3. FASTER AND BETTER: Comparing 6 similar images at once in the survey mode will allow the best images to jump out at your already trained intuition and because your mind is making these intuitive decisions based on comparison, surprise, suprise… you will also make better decisions.  And with practice, it will become easier to do and you will get even faster.  As a bonus, this becomes a training exercise for better framing and decision making at the camera.  Faster and better, is definitely better!
  4. YOU DESERVE ONLY THE BEST: In every group of six (or however many you choose to view simultaneously), choose only the best. Force yourself to limit your selection to 1 or 2.  Don’t fall into the trap of selecting more.  More is definitely less, when it comes to similar images! (Watch for my upcoming blog post on The Economics of  Images). Let yourself feel the images, they will almost choose themselves, like they do while you are shooting. You need to learn to trust that instinct, and you will, if you practice and don’t give up on this idea. Only check focus or scrutinize images that deserve your attention, the rest don’t matter and will only cost you time.  There you are, saving time again and murdering your darlings without really even knowing it.  Don’t feel bad… I never do.
  5. CLOSURE IS FOR BAD RELATIONSHIPS: Give up the idea that you need to have closure on every image. You do not need to build a coffin for every dead image and you are certainly not obligated to deliver every half-tolerable image you shoot to your client. It’s your job to deliver the best images. The ones that tell the story best. The ones that stand out. The other images are automatically rejects because they were never selected. Don’t try to relate this to your high school senior prom, or your grammar school crush, otherwise your get all depressed about the rejection in your past.  This may sound harsh, but you are not only being hired as a photographer, but you are an editor as well.

When I asked my wife to marry me, she rejected every other potential suitor by saying yes to me. She didn’t open the phone dirrectory and call every other man in town and tell them they were rejected. They knew they were rejected by the fact that she married me. She didn’t need to rub it in. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. Giving your attention to images that aren’t standing out is just a waste of clicks and screen time.

This approach might be uncomfortably foreign to you. If so, I am even more excited for you to try it. I want you to experience the life-changing power of these principles. They will take the pain out of editing and strengthened your powers of perception.

Furthermore, if you stop focusing on your fails and focus on your wins and you will be much more connected to your inner voice. When you are shooting, you will begin to see this same positive selection mentality control what you point your camera at and when you click the shutter button. Because what is photography at its very core?  It is the act of selection!

Positive Selection will speed your image editing process and train you to be a better more intuitive photographer.

Do you have any editing tips that have made your image selection faster or more pleasant?  Do you have a favorite kind of music that gets you moving?  If you are about to mention your favorite TV show you like to watch while editing, please think about that… yep, you see the problem with that?  Good.  Now post away, I’d love to hear your responses.

Also, be sure to click the “Also Post on Facebook” checkbox when you comment. And if you have a friend who needs an intervention, make sure to tag them in your facebook post, we will all help them through their issues.

Look out for my coming PDF download on the Ultimate Data Security System, coming soon.

Avoid Data Loss and Corruption with Good Card Hygiene

As a professional photographer, doing everything in your power to avoid data loss or corruption is part of your job. Many years ago, I sent my film to the lab and waited a day or two on pins and needles while it was being processed, hoping nothing bad would happen to that film. In many local photo labs, complex chemical processes were often overseen by pimply faced kids with little to no experience and shipping film to a extreme pro lab was just as scary because of the transit. Occasionally, the ball got dropped and film got destroyed.  I once had a lab rip a roll of film from end to end, leaving one usable frame out of 36 (I have no idea how). More frequently though, photographers would set their cameras incorrectly, with no way to tell for sure what they had done, until the film came back with  nothing on it. Solution? Reshoot.

If you shoot weddings like I do, you know that is just not an option.

Avoid Data Loss with Good Card Hygiene

Of course, some photographers still shoot film, or have gone back to it (don’t get me started). While more reputable labs, have a professional overseeing the chemistry with very few mistakes, photographers are still waiting on pins and needles for FedEx or UPS to safely deliver their film to those reputable professional labs (and no, there isn’t a reputable lab in every large city, despite their claims). It is hard to argue that we haven’t taken a major step forward with digital technology. Today you can fire the shutter once, get two duplicate images on two separate cards, look at the image on the back of your camera to make sure it’s right, download it to a RAID 1 hard drive (I use the CRU Tough Tech Duo) which makes a fourth duplicate instantaneously, then upload a backup to a cloud service which makes a series of backups across its servers throughout the world.  And all of this can be done before your assistant can drive to the nearest FedEx, or local Film Lab.

Even with these advances, things can go horribly wrong. Only now, instead of losing a roll of film with 36 exposures, there’s the potential to lose hundreds and hundreds on one card. And when you capture tens of thousands of images in a month, it’s only a matter of time before fate catches up with you!  Fortunately there are a few simple steps you can follow to protect yourself from digital catastrophe.

Ten Tips to Avoid Data Loss

  1. MORE CARDS: Always carry more than enough cards for the entire shoot. Downloading and reusing cards at a shoot is just begging for trouble. This is so basic that it is hardly worth mentioning, but if you are guilty of it, you need to stop and seriously re-evaluate your professional practices.
  2. FORMAT UP FRONT: Another simple way to avoid data loss is to format all your cards before you start shooting. I format all of the cards I am using before I leave the studio. That way, if I find a card with no capacity, I know I shot it that day.
  3. INSTITUTE A SHOT SYSTEM: Create and adhere to a system for designating full cards. I use a plastic, hard sided weather resistant card case. When I load it, I put the blank cards in face up and after they are shot, I put them in face down.  And it goes without saying that everyone on your team must follow the same practices, so there are no accidents.
  4. KEEP YOUR CARDS CLOSE: To avoid lost or stolen cards, I keep my case for the day in my front pocket or in a sling bag.  Under no circumstances is it professional to set your cards down, place them loosely in a coat pocket, or leave them in a “safe place” off your your immediate person. Think of that case of cards as being worth – like – your whole professional career.
  5. DO NOT DELETE IN CAMERA: Never delete images in the camera. This is just begging for data corruption. A freshly formatted card makes all of it’s capacity available to the camera for storage. Once you delete a file, the camera starts breaking images up and writing them to the disk in unpredictable ways — a little here, a little there. This can have a negative effect on disk indexes and data trees.
  6. USE QUALITY CARDS: Use quality CF and SD cards. I use Sandisk Extreme Pro 120MBS UDMAZ 16 or 32 GB cards, depending on which camera I am shooting. I like to limit the number of files a card can store to around 250. Sandisk cards have never failed me yet, but if you have a trusted brand, stick with it! Cheep is not worth it.  Don’t go looking for random deals on cheep cards.
  7. SHOOT MULTIPLE COPIES: If you shoot with a camera body that allows for simultaneous SD and CF capture, take advantage and shoot full-size RAW files to both cards. This is probably the best overall system to avoid data loss (I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark III). It takes only an extra few seconds to switch cards, but the first time you lose a card, you will bless the extra time you took for added security.
  8. SEPARATE THE COPIES: Once the shoot is over separate your primary and backup cards and store your backup cards in a different location. When I am traveling, I keep one copy in the card case on my person and the duplicate cards in the hotel safe. When working from my studio, I take my backups home until the shoot is in the can. In the can means, I have copied the files to my workstation, backed them up and confirmed they are free from corruption by reviewing them in Lightroom.
  9. WAIT TO REUSE THE CARDS: Don’t ever reuse cards until you know your data is secure.
  10. NO SECOND CHANCES: My final step to avoid data loss is to immediately dispose of any card that you suspect as unreliable. The minute I suspect a card is having any issues whatsoever, I download backup and confirm the data and put the card out of commission.  This is done by drawing a large black X with a sharpie marker and once the job is completely confirmed, the card is broken in half and thrown away.  If I become suspicious of a card while I am shooting, I pull it out or commission on the shoot, mark it and start fresh with a new card.  Do not continue shooting on or working with a card that even hints at having an problem.

By maintaining complete control over my cards and by following these steps to Good Card Hygiene, I am able to say that I have never lost or misplaced a single client image in my entire career.  This is because I am fanatical about my adherence to these basic rules and my card hygene.  Those who do not follow them are doomed to suffer the consequences of loosing their data and the disappointment that is sure to follow.

If you have additional techniques to avoid data loss to add to this list, or card brand recommendations, post them below for everyone’s benefit. Please post your comments to Facebook as well.

Look out for my next post on how to reduce your image selection time by more than half through the simple technique I call Positive Selection. Additionally, look out for my coming info graphic on The Ultimate Image File Security Workflow — never lose data again!

-Jared