Monday, April 11, 2011
You'll only ever be as good a photograher as you want to be.
CMYK 2.0: A Cooperative Workflow for Photographers, Designers, and Printers and on how to optimally sharpen my pictures via the late, great Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe's book Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom (2nd Edition)
Not exactly as boring as watching paint dry, but pretty dry stuff nonetheless. Certainly not one to take to book club on a Friday night. But I find it really interesting. I find myself getting quite excited as I realise why this or that thing happens to me every so often.
Take this picture here. I once had it printed in a magazine a couple of years ago and the bright reds turned out yellow! Now this picture has been published a lot and I had never seen it yellow before and I got to thinking that it must have had something to do with the conversion to CMYK for printing. Now, after doing a bit of reading, I know that it was most likely caused by the reds being out of colour gamut and they used Relative Colorimetric conversion instead of perceptual which would have been better.
Now that I'm feeling really geeky my point is this. How good a photographer do you want to be? How much effort are you prepared to put in to being the best you can possibly be? Because this decision will greatly affect how good you're ultimately going to be. The best position to be is in one where you're constantly trying to be better than you are - never satisfied. Competent, confident but always hungry for more.
I met a photographer once who said to me that she was amazed at how good I was at using apertures and shutter speeds to control the look of a photograph because she had no idea how those two variables worked. And, yes, she was working professionally and selling her services. Now that's an extreme case, and perhaps boning up on CMYK conversions and sharpening is another extreme case but if you give up learning you'll never be as good as you can be.
I remember chatting with a good friend of mine about his work - a travel writer and photographer just like I was for nearly a decade. And he mentioned that he was busy working on being a better writer. And at that very moment it clicked. I didn't want to be a better writer. I was quite happy at the level I was. I was getting published widely, making a living and pretty much cruising. But I suddenly thought I had no right to. If I wasn't striving to be better then I was letting not only myself down, but my clients as well. Didn't they deserve the best possible collaborator they could get?
In the digital era being a better photographer doesn't just mean learning new flash techniques, getting a better camera, or even developing your vision and finding your voice. Sure it may be all of those things, but also so much more. It means understanding all about colour spaces, image file formats, monitor profiling and a whole bunch of other stuff we never needed to know about. And yes, even sharpening and CMYK conversion maybe. Do your eyes gloss over at the very thought of having to learn that boring stuff? Rather be out taking pictures all day and leave that stuff for the geeks? Or are you chomping at the bit to glean any bit of extra knowledge that will help you improve your craft?
Search your heart and the answer might surprise you. How far do you want to take this? How dedicated are you? Your answer might make or break your photographic career. At the very least it will determine how good you'll ultimately be.