A methodology to teach image evaluation and post-processing

May 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

PA062831-Edit-Edit-Edit-Edit Over the last several years, I have taught post-processing, given talks on both post-processing and evaluating images and neither of those activities were very satisfying because it always seemed that 90% of what I said didn't take root in any substantive way. It was like demonstrating how woodworking tools worked and then leaving the students off by themselves to understand how to create something.

A few months ago, one of my good friends asked me about an post-processing issue having to do with a specific image and, in the resulting discussion, I suggested that we get together and look over a couple of his images and talk about how I saw them and how I would 'manage' them.

So that happened; he sent me about 8 or 10 raw images using wetransfer.com and I prioritized them, putting first the ones that I thought I could show the most positive resulting post-processing. He came over to my home and we sat together at my computer; taking about 90 minutes, I went through each of the images,doing very quick edits on some, always trying to get to what I saw as a positive result, just commenting on others.

My goal for each session was not to produce a final image but to show what I thought about the image, why I thought it, how I might have shot it differently and how I would go about maximizing the impact of the image as it was. My ultimate goal was to get him to the point where he saw the individual elements that make up the totality of an image and could just how they worked separately and together. 

After each session, he was to take the original raw files, the sidecar files and the Photoshop files with him. 

For the second meeting, I imported his images into Lightroom and showed how I would do some of the basic keywording and editing in LR, then export to PS for more specific edits. I was honestly quite startled when he wanted to schedule yet a third meeting.

After the second meeting, to save drive time, I had suggested that we try doing these sessions over Skype, sharing my screen and that's what we did for the third meeting. He sent me images, I prioritized them, trying to find good examples of how to improve the image and also to include situations where I could use some of the less obvious techniques like channel masks, etc. 

Since Skype shares only one screen and I use monitors two in my normal set up, I was a little concerned how well this would work, but I was able to keep the non-active palettes on my second screen and only drag them onto the shared screen when I was doing something with them specifically. 

At each of the meetings, when there was a procedure that he wasn't familiar with, I went back and actually demonstrated how that tool worked in theory and in actuality. He is a very intelligent and quick-to-learn guy (Ph.D. in Economics, ex college prof) and, to be honest, I started to get a little uncomfortable at what seemed to me to be a teacher-student situation that was uncalled for. 

This discomfort all disappeared when he called me after the second Skype session suggesting that he was ok with most of the actual PS stuff but could we just continue with the evaluation part of it. He told me how incredibly useful that the sessions were,not so much for the editing part because he could find tutorials on the web, but for hearing how someone else with a good amount of experience at looking at pictures took an intense look at his images and, knowing the maker's ability, could speak to him directly about what the other viewer saw and thought.

During this seven week period, another friend heard about these meetings. He was preparing images for submission as a class project in photojournalism and so he came over and we did the same exercise with his images, re-cropping some,re-ordering the presentation and even some minor edits allowable by his instructor.

Interestingly enough, over the past year, I had been approached by four members of an Internet forum on photography to be a'mentor' and I had said that I really didn't couldn't do any more than respond to their images, sharing with them the way I saw their images and how I could see improvements. That must have been perceived as a non-helpful response because no one followed up with that. As it turned out, that seems to be a very effective way to teach. 

Pressing the shutter button is only a single step in the creative process but it does crystallize how the photographer was working and thinking at the time of the button press and thus provides a really good anchor around which to fasten a lesson.

Since being a mentor takes up a good amount of time and energy, much more than the actual face time as any teacher knows, and I guard both of these jealously, to make the time usage worthwhile, I have decided to be a mentor-for-hire, doing exactly what I described in this post. 

The economist and I went through an exercise to fix a methodology and a cost. I will work in 9-120 minute sessions only at a cost of $85 per session, payable to my PayPal account in advance. That seems to be a fair balance between the value of my time and the value to the client. The client must have a high speed connection and a Skype account (no cost). 

The client will sends 8-10 images in advance (or, more conveniently use a Dropbox) and I will return the images with edits in a form the client can use after any session. 

There will be no contracted number of sessions; the client can choose to take only one session or more. If the client has specific issues,specific troublesome images or specific questions, we'll work on those; otherwise we'll take the images as they come.
 

 


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