QUAL­ITY CON­TROL YOUR IM­AGE LI­BRARY

Self-as­sess­ment of our own work is one of the hard­est things a pho­tog­ra­pher has to learn to do

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

Your port­fo­lio needs to show­case the best of your pho­to­graphic abil­ity, so fol­low our ad­vice on how to pe­ri­od­i­cally re­assess your im­age data­base and qual­ity con­trol your work for com­mer­cial suc­cess

En­sur­ing that the im­ages you sup­ply to your cus­tomers are of the high­est pos­si­ble qual­ity is a de­cep­tively chal­leng­ing task. While in­vest­ing in pro­fes­sional equip­ment and per­fect­ing your tech­nique will pro­vide more con­sis­tent re­sults, shoot­ing files is only one stage of the out­put process. Sort­ing an im­age data­base and iso­lat­ing the best pho­tos from a par­tic­u­lar shoot is a skill in its own right. The work­ing pho­tog­ra­pher has to es­tab­lish that their im­ages are fit for pur­pose and are aligned with the re­quired func­tions ex­pected by the client.

The first stage is to de­ter­mine what the term ‘qual­ity’ means in any given cir­cum­stance. What is de­sired by one con­sumer is not nec­es­sar­ily con­sid­ered of ut­most im­por­tance by an­other. While stock agen­cies aim­ing for sales to poster and mag­a­zine pub­lish­ers are likely con­cerned with ab­so­lute sharp­ness and even light­ing, a news­pa­per pic­ture editor may place more em­pha­sis on sub­ject, con­text and tim­ing. For a break­ing news story, suc­cess­fully cap­tur­ing an il­lus­tra­tive im­age in the right place at the right time is more im­por­tant than technical per­fec­tion. Be sure that you of­fer your client what they need for their cur­rent pro­ject by defin­ing the pa­ram­e­ters of what makes a suc­cess­ful im­age, while sort­ing files for dele­tion or ar­chiv­ing.

An ef­fec­tive strat­egy is to pass im­ages through mul­ti­ple stages of as­sess­ment – which al­lows com­par­i­son to sim­i­lar frames – to make an in­formed de­ci­sion about which is the most ap­pro­pri­ate. At the ini­tial stage, run through the im­ages in a time­line view in Light­room or Adobe Bridge, as­sign­ing a quick star rat­ing as you go. There is of­ten lim­ited use in ap­ply­ing a scaled rat­ing at this point; a two or three-star la­bel won’t in­di­cate a us­able im­age any­way, so a better strat­egy is to elim­i­nate these files from your li­brary now and avoid a con­vo­luted rat­ing sys­tem. Sim­ply star any stand-out im­ages and delete failed

“Of­fer your client what they need for their cur­rent pro­ject by defin­ing the pa­ram­e­ters

of what makes a suc­cess­ful im­age”

shots – all other im­ages are worth fur­ther scru­tiny, or may be use­ful in the fu­ture.

Al­ways make im­age as­sess­ments in a

‘clean room’ – a space with neu­tral-coloured walls (mid-tone grey is the best am­bi­ent colour) and no di­rect, un­dif­fused sun­light.

This will work around is­sues re­lat­ing to colour mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and ex­po­sure dis­crep­an­cies in­duced by the vi­sion of the ex­am­iner. Al­ways cal­i­brate your mon­i­tor in the same room as you in­tend to an­a­lyse and edit your work, to cir­cum­vent unexpected colour and bright­ness shifts. It is also a sen­si­ble idea to save mul­ti­ple edited copies of your im­ages, to give you sev­eral file choices later and to in­crease the chance of you hav­ing an im­age that matches client re­quests. This may re­late to vari­ances in im­age res­o­lu­tion, sharp­ness and com­po­si­tion.

When­ever start­ing out with a new cam­era, lens or com­puter mon­i­tor, try mak­ing test prints on dif­fer­ent me­dia to cre­ate a ref­er­ence for fu­ture im­age work­flows. When gaug­ing im­age qual­ity on-screen, use the printed sam­ples to form an idea of how the im­age will ap­pear to the client. This may help you make a choice be­tween two shortlisted files. For ar­chiv­ing purposes, choose a loss­less for­mat such as TIFF to be cer­tain that your qual­ityassessed files are not al­tered by com­pres­sion at the fi­nal step. Fi­nally, use a side-by-side view to com­pare the out­putted TIFF to the orig­i­nal RAW, to as­cer­tain if pro­cess­ing has re­sulted in soft­ware-in­duced noise and band­ing arte­facts.

“Al­ways cal­i­brate your mon­i­tor in the same room as you in­tend to an­a­lyse and edit your work”

Left above CON­SIDER CON­TEXT Be­fore as­sess­ing the files from a shoot, de­fine the char­ac­ter­is­tics you feel will and won’t be de­sir­able to your clients, and use these as a tem­plate

Left mid­dle REMEMBER COM­PO­SI­TION The term ‘qual­ity’ also refers to com­po­si­tion, as well as ex­po­sure and sharp­ness. When pre­sented with mul­ti­ple im­age ver­sions, pick the file with the most us­able and ver­sa­tile fram­ing

Left bot­tom RES­O­LU­TION MAT­TERS Al­ways pro­vide cus­tomers with the largest files you have avail­able, to in­crease their us­abil­ity. Matthew Joseph uses the long­est pixel di­men­sions of his files as a ref­er­ence

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