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Saturday, 08 November 2014


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Starting with 500 to 1000 photo's, that's a lot of film!

But as the very numbers involved are symptomatic of assumptions about digital photography perhaps that alone should be the lesson?

Here is another way to do it. Each make ten photographs, and write down a secret list of twenty key words that explain or describe the set. Exchange images and ask the other party to write a list of their key words that describe your pictures, and visa versa. The revelation will be if when compared any of the keywords match. It also encourages self editing in getting down to ten images, or even as many as ten images if you are working in 8x10.

Can't I just go on Amazon and buy some new gear instead?

Mike, I think you are being unrealistic. The thought of being given a card by someone else with 1000 of their unsorted and unselected pictures makes the heart sink. Just 500 would be almost as bad. However conscientious both parties try to be, eyes will be glazing over long before anything useful is achieved.

I always used to fall asleep back in the days when people used to show their holiday slides in a darkened room. I think everyone did, so polite cover-ups and well mannered appreciative comments became the norm.

Let's not go back there!

Sounds like an interesting exercise. I need more friends. I take it by edit you mean selecting, and the exercise involves no cropping or other PP?

I haven't done your previous exercise yet, i.e., walking around with just one prime lens (for a year, was it, can't remember).

500-1000 images in a single day or over two weekends? So no thinking, eh?

An interesting idea but as an old film photographer who has always had a limited budget I'd have to change the initial number of images downward substantially or extend the shooting time. Even though I have switched to digital the most photos I have ever shot in a day is a bit over 200. I simply don't work fast enough to shoot 500-1000/day. Trying to shoot that much that fast would represent a major shift in my way of working that would result in images that were not characteristic and thus defeat the purpose of the exercise. To be honest, I also don't know any photographers who shoot that profusely. Most of the photographers I know think I shoot a lot (relative to them) so I'd have trouble finding a partner in the process. I might give it a shot under modified parameters though, i.e. whatever we shoot in a day or two.

Even 500 sheets of 8x10 film would keep me in the darkroom for weeks. 5x7 wouldn't be any faster. I don't think I could shoot that many sheets of film in a month, much less a few days to a week.

Good exercise in trying to communicate with a lens. May I suggest that participants select non-objective subjects? Selecting "Red", for example, will be pretty...well. Selecting "Isolation" would be a much better challenge for an andragogical exercise.

Also, if participants are going to "trade cards" they should obviously shoot jpegs, eh?

I agree with the common sentiment that 500 is WAY to many.
I don't think I have EVER shot 500 images in a single day.
On a related note, one of my favourite stories from art school, a fellow student and I had borrowed a 4x5 and gone out to the woods. At one point we each stopped at one scene. We both saw the scene from the same point of view, but we found we only had one sheet of unexposed film left. We shot a wide shot and each cropped later in the darkroom. My shot was horizontal, his was vertical. Both were good shots, each was completely different.

I wouldn't mind sifting through 500+ finished photos, but who wants to look at someone's raw and unprocessed photos ... or even worse, show theirs in that form? Not me, that's for sure!

Re. 500 to 1000 exposures.

Can be done even with film, just now much more expensive. The most I ever shot in one day was 100 feet of Tri-X at Elkhart Lake racetrack. This was with two Pen F half frame cameras so about 1400 exposures. It took most of the next day to process the whole batch in a 4 reel Nikkor tank. But at that time 100 feet of TX was $8 and a box of 10 Kodak snap caps was $1, those were the days.

I'm with those who think 500+ images are too many for any thought out project. Back in the film days, the commercial photographer's mantra was "film is the cheapest thing in your budget". Especially for non-repeatable events. But then we didn't have immediate digital feedback as we do now. And I don't know of anyone who routinely shot that many negatives. I feel that high minimum results in shoot-shoot-shoot-don't think-shoot. Instead I would suggest a maximum of 100 images and a stated goal for the project-e.g. "show effects of different weather on how people interact on the street"-or whatever turns you on. Either way, the exercise should be instructive.

Another comment... Quickly making selects from a huge pile is not so hard when you have to do it. When I would teach small groups of middle school students, usually seven, I would narrow down a class total of often well over 500 shots to just a few per student for discussion in under 30 minutes. Two edits per student. These we quickly reviewed before the next shoot.

Occasionally we would try group edits, with people arguing for keepers as I zipped through. Fun chaos.

I don't see how this could possibly work with the drastically smaller sets some people are proposing. In particular, I think that loses the opportunity to find much that the original photographer didn't put there in the set. (Maybe, possibly, that means the exercise can't work for people too tightly tied shooting really lightly; so be it.)

Those of us who never go out with a theme in mind may also have problems, though different ones. I'm willing to accept this as part of the terms of the exercise.

Having the experience of looking through large numbers of other people's photos is good for you (says the former highschool yearbook photo editor, etc.)! And making selections from photos you didn't shoot is a remarkably different thing from selecting your own. Give it a try; it's interesting. Understanding it better will be good for you.

I'll have to skip this exercise (neither friends nor time, and for me shooting that many relevant images would be very challenging as well), but I think it's a great idea to let your inner teacher out. It would be a great addition to the website, especially if you can make it more interactive, discussing results (from selected readers). The results and feedback would be very interesting.

If you want to learn to see learn to draw. Put down the camera and pick up a pencil. Stop moaning. I can hear you. Guaranteed results.

Ooo! I hadn't thought that it would have to be JPGs. I never shoot JPGs, as in never ever since the Raw processing program that Adobe bought out to create Lightroom. To me shooting JPGs is equivalent to shooting film in a box camera. I suppose I could shoot RAW+JPG and transfer the JPGs to another card.

Hi Nick,
I'm sure you will have already received contacts by now, but if not, I'd be happy to partner up for a few weeks. I'm located in Switzerland not UK but I can make up for that by taking care of the technical side of things (FTP file share etc.) as required.
If you're interested please send me a mail [email protected]

Regards Chris

Very interesting team assignment. A big eye-opener on the editing process, I'm sure.
Just one question: at which point is each allowed to post-process his/her own work? The strength of an image can change dramatically after it's processed. Impossible to post-process in detail an entire shoot, but some basic processing becomes necessary after a first cut, IMHO, and a second round of processing vital after the second...
My own edit rates are typically 1/4 to 1/3 at each round, leaving 8-10% od material for in-depth work...

Nice exercise, but I'm one of the many people that with "heavy shooting" means 4000 photos in a YEAR - and that was the first time I discovered and experimented with mirrorless. Now I'm down to about a quarter of it.

Judging only by my own reaction to Nick Cutler's comment, I suspect you may be on to more here than you intended. Perhaps we could informally use the comments to arrange pairings between interested members of your community of "followers". We might not be able to meet in person, but there's no reason that some minimally sophisticated use of online file sharing and video conferencing couldn't enable some very productive and interesting editorial conversations...not to mention possibly cultivating some new friendships.

Suppose we do this with multiple people simultaneously, on the same theme, taking care that we don't see one another's 'raw' shoots before the shootings are complete, then this becomes an experiment in social media as well...with real statistical data! How groups as opposed to individuals view ideas...

Wow! Photographers are difficult people! Nothing is easy😜. Mike, I think this is a pitfall of not being the teacher and not having the authority to just tell the student to do it! sounds like a great lesson. Being the first pass editor of another's work certainly takes folks out of their comfort zone as does, apparently, letting someone else see your raw take. But that is where people learn!

For those having difficulty even deciding on a "theme", here ya go: http://www.magatsu.net/art/index.php

Well, I've approached someone but they are not up for it as they think the exercise too involved. I'd love to give it a go though so if anyone is lacking a partner, I'd be interested. I'd have a few suggestions as to rules though - for example, I'd shoot on a D700 rather than my D810 so as to ease the pain of using Dropbox for the swapping of what would otherwise by enormous files (unless any volunteers happen to be in mid-Wales or London, thereby allowing for physical card-swapping). Secondly, I'd prefer to use RAW files and incorporate post-processing at some point, probably from near the beginning - so much of one's vision comes via post and I'd both love to see what others made of my files as well as seeing what I could do with theirs).
I was going to suggest that I'd prefer to process Nikon NEFs but actually it would be good to try Canon or Sony or whatever other formats people use, and probably "good for me" too. Thanks for suggesting this Mike - it seems like a lot of work but I think that is part of the reason for undertaking it...

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