Workflow #3

Published by MJR on May 28th, 2008 in Technique | 3 Comments »


When I head out to shoot i grab one of two kits. If on assignment I make sure to wear a black tshirt (as to not stick out while working a crowd) and have a black jacket in case I need to “dissapear” completely for a minute. I am now using a Canon 1Ds Mark III, but was shooting a Canon 5D for the past three years. My lenses include the 16-35/2.8 L, 24-70/2.8 L, 50/1.2 L and 85/1.2 L. I prefer to shoot with my 24-70 2.8 and a 50/1.2 unless I know I’ll be working with no space, in which case I’ll flip to the 16-35/2.8 L for wide coverage and the 85 for my medium/long distance shots. I prefer Sandisk Ultra II and Ultra IV 4GB and 8GB cards, and also use Sandisk Ultra II 8gb SD cards in the backup card slot on the 1Ds3. To carry my cards I have Gepe waterproof and shockproof cases. I use the Domke F-803 to carry my gear. When I’m not shooting for work I use a 1986 Leica M6 with a 35/2 Summicron ASPH and always have my Zeiss Planar 50/2 on hand but rarely use it. I also rock the Leica M Motor which has made me a more confident street shooter by making it possible to shoot rapidly, as moments develop in my viewfinder. Its a bit louder than using the M without, but the benefits outweigh the costs for me. Im not saying it has made me a better shooter, but I was always irked by having to remove my eye from the viewfinder to crank the winder. My boss says HCB is rolling in his grave.


Right now I’m using a MacPro with a 750GB RAID, a 250GB drive with my operating system and applications (kept at 70% free, always). There is a fourth 500GB drive for music and assignments I’m editing. Everything goes to the RAID eventually, and beyond the internal stuff I have a Western Digital 1TB External Firewire drive with everything copied. One of these days I will get around to duplicating everything and sending it to my parents’ house in Los Angeles for permanent backup. All of my assignments are also backed up on the office server, but my personal work is all kept on the system mentioned above. The MacBook Pro is at the center of my workflow, and is usually where I initially upload my shoots and edit while planted on the couch, speakers blasting a mix of Roy Ayers, Death Cab for Cutie, Mobb Deep or Daft Punk. My two computers are shared, and after I edit files on the MacBook they are transfered to a Drop Box on my MacPro for further duplication and archiving. I currently do-not backup to DVD-R.. maybe when BlueRay backups become bigger, i’ll do it.. but I am far too lazy to burn 400+ DVDs.


All my film is processed by a lab in Cambridge, MA with a killer Harvard discount that I will really miss. They scan everything on a Noritsu, and my stock films are Neopan 400 in Xtol for black/white and Provia 400 and Kodachrome 64 for slides. I get them mounted and scanned. I rarely shoot color film. I much prefer the control I have over tonality with RAW files, so my Leica has only been shooting Neopan 400 lately.. with a dash of Kodachrome for the luxury of it. I have a Minolta DiMage 5400 Elite II that takes too long and has crap, obsolete software. (Thanks for killing Minolta/Konica, Sony)

If you arent shooting RAW, you arent getting what you paid for. All my images are ingested using Photomechanic where I tag my images with an “import default” profile that applies my copyright, contact info and a brief set of keywords. I always designate “published” “unpublished” or “personal” in the keywords, as well as “film” “digital” “bw” or “color.” My archive/folder structure starts on the work drive in a folder named “CR2,” and consists of the date and name such as “052308_Harvard.” For film i will designate “052308_Harvard_LEICA.” Inside that folder is “052308_Harvard_RAW” and “052308_Harvard_JPG.” The JPG folder is for my initial crop of selects after a quick tone edit in Adobe Lightroom. I only use Photomechanic for ingest and setting IPTC. Everything else is done in Lightroom. Files are named “052308_Harvard_001.CR2″

Files are imported into Adobe Lightroom Beta 2 and from there I use the star rating system to pick my selects. I admit this is the most careless part of my editing process, and photos get either a 1 or 0. I like it or I don’t. I pick photos that I think will keep people looking at them past the initial impact. If I’m not challenged to look at a photo for more than 2 seconds it doesn’t get a star.


I have been shooting “under” .. purposefully shooting for shadows .. since this past summer. Something about the way Joachim Ladefoged entertains the eye with shapes and shadows really stuck. I also really love Antonin Kratochvil for his shadow-play.. and I love Chris Morris for his ability to illuminate subjects with 1.2 lenses in complete darkness… and make it look creamy as a melted ice-cream sunday. Morris’ tones, and Antonin and Joachim’s shadows are what I’m going for. I wont b/s anyone here.. I am heavily influenced by other photographers.. my eye is learning what it likes.. (never stop reminding yourself that you JUST began making images in what will be a life-long pursuit) and I am not ashamed to say that I edit to obtain a look that has captivated me since the moment I saw the work of the VII Photographers.

That said, I mainly use the “Blacks” slider in Lightroom’s Develop panel and find myself manually underexposing even more. I have found “brightness” gives a really nice luminance while playing with curves leads to burned pixels. Same with the contrast slider.. why use the contrast slider when you can combine “blacks” and “brightness” and get much smoother contrasts. The first time I used the Clarity slider was a revolutionary moment. Not too much, but always a little. I enjoy crisp images.. I generally shoot pretty shallow.. I rarely find myself shooting above f8.. (probably a habit formed from shooting the D70 with horrible ISO problems.. and the fact that I shoot a boatload of lectures, readings, meetings, and conferences where I wage war against tungsten lighting in remote lecture halls deep within the labyrinth that is Harvard) so its important that when I nail my focus wide open at 1/80 @ 1.2 iso320 on my 85 that the image is sharp. Photo Editors don’t like eyeballs that aren’t sharp, and they can ALWAYS tell when you are off focus.

If deviantArt taught me one thing, it was that too much post makes you a photoshop stud, not a great photographer. If it aint there, no ammount of contrast brightness curve tweaking is going to make your photo last more than 2 seconds in front of my screen. If your pixels are toasted, it wont even last that long

And thats the end of my story.

ps, back-up your fucking files


3 Responses to “Workflow #3”

  1. Harrison Says:

    May 29th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    “If you arent shooting RAW, you arent getting what you paid for.”

    By the same token, I would argue that if you aren’t printing negatives shot on Leica glass in the darkroom, you aren’t getting what you pay for.

    I use the same setup as you – a 5D for digital, and an M6/35 summicron for film – and shoot JPEG 95% of the time. This is due to my slllllow computer, zero money to buy a better one and for quickness. I shot RAW properly for the first time last week and did indeed notice a difference, but not enough to make me switch to it for day-to-day shooting. Paid/important jobs yes, but not for street images/hanging out with friends etc.

    Anyway, just some chat from me, have a good one

    - Harrison

  2. mustafah Says:

    May 30th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    one of the reasons why there’s that noticeable color shift is because of in-camera modifications being done automatically in JPEG modes while next to none is included in RAW.

    so what you’ll see on the back of your 5d isn’t exactly colorifically true. but the reality is, RAW records more information than JPEG. so while it may be ridiculously larger than the smaller files, but what you have is a ton of more options.

    i get asked a lot about the the results i get from my black & whites. it’s not always about the conversion, it’s about what you start off with. i shoot for a certain tonal range within a certain exposure parameter, so i yield higher quality black + whites than if i did this solely in JPEG. advanced techniques require more amounts of information.

    sure, JPEG may look prettier in-camera and on the screen , but i’d much rather have the data and possibilities of my RAW files.

  3. hoodie Says:

    July 20th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.