The Final Image
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Old 07-23-2010   #1
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Default The Final Image

This gets alluded to, but seems to seldom get stated outright, so I thought I would start a thread about it.

When we are shooting our images we should do so with knowledge of what the final image is going to be, because how we shoot the image will have a large effect on the outcome.

We do not want to shoot an image that is going to wind up as a small image on newsprint the same way we would an image that is going to wind up as a 30x40 framed fine print. Nor should we shoot and image that is intended for the web or email, the same way we would shoot for an 8x10 glossy print.

Newsprint needs flat lighting, a glossy print needs a lot more contrast. It is silly to shoot a 18mp image when it is going to wind up as a 600x400 web shot.

Ansel Adams came up with the zone system so that his salon prints would print up the way he visualized them. Most folks who preach the zone system do not seem to realize that was what it was for, even fewer seem to realize that that is exactly what we should be doing now, only we have a lot more kinds of output to worry about than he did.

Knowing what your final image is going to be and how to shoot and process for that final image is the difference between the expert photographer and the tyro.

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Old 07-23-2010   #2
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Default Re: The Final Image

Ideally, of course, the photographer would know a priori to what purpose his images would be put throughout their useful life; but in practice, photos get repurposed or with multiple purposes in mind or the photographer doesn't have complete control over how the images will be used. This is especially true of news photographers. For example, an image may be shot to appear in a daily newspaper, printed on cheap unbleached uncoated paper where "white" isn't really white and "black" isn't really black. Indeed, most of the images intended for such use that get published at all get published in such a form. Most will be printed small, but a few will be printed larger, such as for the front page. The photographer doesn't decide which are printed large; that decision lies with the editor and the graphic arts department. Very occasionally, a superior photo will be chosen for wider publication, including publication on coated paper and with different ink and a process capable of greater dynamic range and possibly larger than it originally appeared. Does the photographer shoot for the everyday reproduction, for the eventual final reprint, or both?

Photographers of stock images have it even worse. They must shoot with only a vague idea how the image will be used: whether, where, and how much print will be overlaid onto the image, what color it will be, whether the background will be knocked out, and so on.

Portrait photographers sometimes run into the same sort of problem, such as when taking individual and group portraits for an organization. Here, the photographer must shoot with at least two purposes in mind: one for publication in the yearbook or picture directory, the other for sales of portrait packages to the individual members.

Even the fine photographic artist isn't immune from considering the possibility of multiple purposes for the resulting images, especially today. The ultimate purpose for the images is of course for fine art; nevertheless, the photographer must also make available smaller, less elaborate reproductions as proofs to sell these images. These may be posted on a web site or published in a printed catalog of some kind, small enough to keep the proof images from being unduly costly but still giving some of the flavor of the originals.

For this dual purposing, a wise photographer would keep as many options open as possible. Even in the old days, smaller camera formats would have given good enough results for the smaller reproductions and the equipment would have been faster and easier to operate. Nevertheless, partly because of this dual purposing, the old news photographers often shot in large format despite the slow operation and high per-exposure cost of those cameras.

Similarly, the strictly online photographer would be ill-advised to shoot strictly for the web even though he would get by with such an approach most of the time. Although it doesn't happen often, it might happen that one of those images is also needed for printing, which even for small reproductions usually demands more resolution than a small web image would. I have been burned a few times myself in this way, having shot at reduced resolution to save space, only to need - but have unavailable - a higher-resolution version for another purpose a couple of years later. I was aware of the theoretical possibility that this might happen even from the beginning, but the frequency with which it happened in practice took me by surprise. I have since taken to shoot my digital photos at maximum resolution and minimum compression (for JPEG) regardless of their ultimate purpose. Once I got a dSLR, I now shoot almost everything in full resolution RAW format outside of certain photocopying applications.
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Old 07-24-2010   #3
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Default Re: The Final Image

You mean that in these days of 200+ images to get one usable, we can not take multiple shots for different usages?

I can not turn up the fill on a couple of shots so my portrait subject can have a couple of more flatly lit images to use for newspaper publicity shots? Oh, wait, I know, you shoot everything overly flat just in case it is needed for newsprint some day?

If you shoot raw as you say, you can always change the processing for different usages. I do. That is one of the reasons why I shoot in raw mode. You can do a lot in post, but a good photographer plans for that even before taking the photo. He is not using post to save something that should have been shot correctly in the first place.

As to the old days, and I still use that 4x5 press camera, sure a Leica would have been lighter and easier to use for the press photographer. However, lets jump into the the Wayback Machine and look over that guy's shoulder. Breaking news story, three competing news papers in town. There he is along with the guys from the other papers and an AP stringer. He shoots a half-dozen shots and jumps into his car (or hands the film holders to a waiting messenger), and races back to the paper. The holders go to the darkroom, the film is processed in straight Dekol, lightly fixed and rinsed and popped into the enlarger wet, prints are made and rushed to the Photo Editors desk for selection. Oh, wait, he shot that on 35mm, they had to take the film from the cassette and feed it onto the reel and develop it in fine grain developer for 20 minutes... The other two papers had the the story on the street before the film came out of the hypo. There is a lot more to the story than what the photographer preferred to use.
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Old 07-24-2010   #4
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Default Re: The Final Image

As a hobbyist it is all pretty simple for me. I shoot an image for the purpose of printing. Depending on the film I have a paper that I will want to use. Since film is expensive I give some thought to what I am trying to accomplish before shooting.
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Old 07-24-2010   #5
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Default Re: The Final Image

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomrit View Post
You mean that in these days of 200+ images to get one usable, we can not take multiple shots for different usages?

I can not turn up the fill on a couple of shots so my portrait subject can have a couple of more flatly lit images to use for newspaper publicity shots? Oh, wait, I know, you shoot everything overly flat just in case it is needed for newsprint some day?

[etc.]
And your point is...?
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Old 07-24-2010   #6
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Default Re: The Final Image

Well I always shoot for best result or to be more precise what I see. Which happens to work for every usage the image I plan on.


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