For the last few weeks I've been stuck in post production prison. I've shot a lot of assignments and most of them are portrait intensive. That means lots of after the fact work. I usually shoot too much but I'd rather have some selections I love than stop before the good stuff even happens. This all needs to be edited (when I say "edit" I use it as we used to understand the word. I choose the good frames from the bad frames). Once the stuff is edited and key worded in Lightroom I go through and make some global processing adjustments. These might include an overall sharpening if the camera warrants it (especially older cameras with chunky anti-aliasing filters), general exposure adjustments and a bit of "clarity" to pop the files a bit so they read well in our next step, which is the creation and uploading of galleries for our clients.
The real work comes when the clients come back with their selections. I'm never sure where to stop because we participate in a craft that can be endlessly perfected but we work with budgets that are just computed for excellent. This afternoon I edited exterior portraits of seven different executives. I masked the subject so I could blur the trees in the background a bit more. And I ended up adding a graded blurring with ever contracting selection parameters and some feathering thrown in for good measure. I fixed stray hairs. I switched one person's left eye out for a re-worked version of his right eye (remembering to switch the catchlight from one side of the iris to the other) so his eyes would appear to match. The subject had a tendency to always squint one eye.... I gave form to chins, banished stray hairs and even fixed lumpy collars. And all that takes time. But I like to do this kind of post production all in one go because the corporate client will almost always be using these portraits together. I wanted there to be continuity in everything from color temperature to the general feel of the out of focus backgrounds.
By the time I hit the button to upload 500 megabytes of files (various file types two different color profiles) I was ready to get out of the studio, get a camera in my hand and start shooting something. Kind of a knee jerk reaction to an afternoon chained to a chair by work. So I grabbed a couple of lingering cameras and headed out the door. I got in the car, clicked on an old Bob Dylan album (Blood on the Tracks) and pointed the car toward the ever present downtown.
But I didn't get very far because I just wasn't feeling it today. I walked the space yesterday. I turned the car around and parked it at the house. My friend, the Studio Dog, was waiting for me at the front door. I walked through the house and grabbed two tennis balls and Studio Dog lit up with bouncy enthusiasm. We played search and rescue with the balls until the last glow of the sun started fading and then we sat on the back porch and just watched the light change. She stuck her chin on my leg and sighed a contented sigh. At that point I realized I'd spent far too much time with my cameras and not nearly enough time with her.
And I also realized that I didn't have a current photograph of her that I really liked. I grabbed one camera off the dining room table and came back out. We spent the next ten minutes in the quickly fading light horsing around and taking dog portraits together. Studio Dog is a born collaborator. She'll stay still on command and stare up at me through the bushy overhang of her wiry fur with a whole menu of "looks." She is the Zoolander of dogs....
The camera I was using was the old, used Nikon D7000 I picked up recently. I seem to be pushing it into every shooting scenario. I guess I'm just not afraid of messing it up. I don't baby it like I do with other more serious cameras. And I really can see why people have been singing the praises of that sensor for so long. It's smooth and rich and sharp.
We took a break for one of Studio Dog's nightly rituals. The dogs who live behind us are a motley crew of chihuahuas and other lap creatures. Every once in a while (at least three times a day) they are let out of their house and they make a bee line for our shared fence, growling and barking in a menacing fashion. Studio Dog loves nothing more than to run at top speed to the fence and use her most gravelly, growly voice to warn them off. On each side of the fence they run back and forth and the two camps make a thunderous and primal noise. Then Studio Dog saunters back toward the house taking time to stop and pee. Which further incites the dogs on the other side of the fence.
While she was engaged I grabbed a different camera and when she was satisfied with the match we shot one more portrait. This time I used one of the many Olympus EM-5's that seem to be multiplying around the studio. It was fun to hang out with a too often neglected member of our little nuclear family. It was nice to stay home and watch the light shift and fade and go to black. At that point we headed inside to find water and wine. A nice end to a job heavy Sunday.
Seriously wondering if we haven't overshot on camera technology. I keep thinking that the EM5 and the D7000 look better than anything else I've shot or tested lately. Am I wrong or just contextually nostalgic?