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  1. #1
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Getting Photography Done

    I'm interested in hearing about how people plan and execute their photography projects. Specifically, I would love to hear from people who have completed multi-year projects, not just shooting them, but getting all of the tedious back end work completed as well: processing, proofing, editing hundreds of images down to thoughtful groups, and printing it all.

    We all love to shoot, I'm sure. And then most of us are probably pretty decent at getting our contact sheets made and knocking out a few finished prints. But how many of us have what it takes to just get in there and grind out the prints that need to get done? I can get going for a while, but invariably, I lose steam. Most photographers I've talked with have different ways of handling their work flow, so I'd love to hear yours, as specific as possible. And please let us all know WHY something works.

    For example, do you process films only on odd-numbered Tuesdays? Do you like to shoot all year and then print your best stuff during the winter months? Great! Buy WHY, in a very practical sense, does it work for you?

    Thanks for your time.
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  2. #2

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    Motivation takes a very subjective form in each individual (sorry for the rhetorical statement to start). I've done a few bodies of work that have taken 3-12 months to complete and for me, my motivation increases to a point and then I find I'm shooting "the same stuff" (either from the same angle, composition, critical standpoint, message to convey, techniques, etc.), which is tricky to get past. When I reach that point, I read some philosophy of photography, go through some old magazines and books by some of the greats to generate new ideas and perspectives in my approach without trying to copy them. This is usually after hundreds of shots. But this is the toughest part for me I find unless my subjects are different and the environment changes constantly. But 2 bodies of my work were done on one farm and in one shelter, so the setting never changed and the subjects were rather consistent as well, so exploring new ways to shoot the same thing was a challenge for me.

    I develop the film and make contact prints as I go along so I can see what is working for me and what is not. It also deals with that human need for "immediate satisfaction". I couldn't imagine shooting 30 rolls on something and then waiting to develop it all in one shot.

    I have no problem with the selection and printing part. For me, my excitement when I go through each contact sheet builds up my eagerness to print. Because I'm shooting film and am a little more selective in what I shoot than if I had a DSLR and shoot 10 FPS, it's easier for me to choose the 'selects'. I usually sit down with a bunch of beer and cigs and just go through each sheet again and again until I narrow it down to a reasonable number of selects based on my projected outcomes. This can take an entire day in itself and often requires revisiting from time to time. I'll scan the selects and edit them on the computer as my digital workprint so I can visualize and play around with burning and dodging certain areas. Then I spend at least 8 hours a week in the darkroom on the same day(s), same time(s) and stay there and print until my time is up at the very least. I think being consistant with that is important to maintain a routine between my photography and fulltime job. I keep notes of everything as well, so that when I revisit the print, I know what I did. With each print that comes out well, my satisfaction drives me.

  3. #3
    Maris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ParkerSmithPhoto View Post
    I'm interested in hearing about how people plan and execute their photography projects.
    Planning and executing a photography project makes the whole procedure irksome. When I quit professional photography I promised myself I'd never do it again. Now I do photography full time, just about everyday, as energy, vision, imagination, and creativity permits.

    Specifically, I would love to hear from people who have completed multi-year projects, not just shooting them, but getting all of the tedious back end work completed as well: processing, proofing, editing hundreds of images down to thoughtful groups, and printing it all.
    My multi-decade non-project entitled "what does a person produce when they do photography all the time?" has no tedious back end work. Processing is so routine I could almost do it in my sleep. I do all my proofing and editing mentally before actually exposing film so the chore and expense and time of sorting and discarding pictures of ill-formed thoughts is avoided. "Printing" or the making of the final positive photographs is not an impost. It's the reason and joyous culmination of all the effort that has gone before.

    We all love to shoot, I'm sure.
    I find chasing subject matter and doing camera-work the least pleasant part of the workflow. But it is a necessary evil.

    And then most of us are probably pretty decent at getting our contact sheets made and knocking out a few finished prints.
    All my contact sheets are done mentally before exposing film. Finished prints are the pay off and the emotion in making them is more akin to a sacrament than a knock-off.

    But how many of us have what it takes to just get in there and grind out the prints that need to get done? I can get going for a while, but invariably, I lose steam. Most photographers I've talked with have different ways of handling their work flow, so I'd love to hear yours, as specific as possible. And please let us all know WHY something works.
    Plenty of people give their lives over to their art. Musicians do it, painters do it, photograph makers do it, and if the committment is genuinely (search your soul) whole hearted there is no resentment over the time gone and the work done.

    For example, do you process films only on odd-numbered Tuesdays? Do you like to shoot all year and then print your best stuff during the winter months? Great! Buy WHY, in a very practical sense, does it work for you?

    Thanks for your time.
    [/QUOTE]
    I process when there is enough for a delightful day in the darkroom. And at other times plan themes, pursue subject matter, fuss with cameras, catch up with APUG, etc. The big change for me came when I not only stopped working like a professional but stopped thinking like a professional. What liberation!
    Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.

  4. #4

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    hi parker

    i have a few multi year projects i have been working on off and on
    i don't have a set way i do things but i still keep things going.
    one started back in 1986 and i am still working on it when i can ..
    its photographing people i randomly make a portrait of in their workplace.
    it started off as a project in college, but i kept doing it. the project started off
    35mm and 6x6 and then went to 4x5 and 5x7. and now i photograph their workplace too.

    when i find the time i drive around with a camera in my car, and walk into a store, or i call in advance
    and arrange to drop in ... i ask if i can take a portrait and run back and get the camera + set it up ...
    i usually process the film soon after i make the exposure and make the prints soon after, i hate having thing hanging over my head...

    no rhyme or reason its just random ... this reminds me, i have someone to photograph in the next few weeks ..
    silver magnets, trickle tanks sold
    artwork often times sold for charity
    PM me for details

  5. #5
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnanian View Post
    i usually process the film soon after i make the exposure and make the prints soon after, i hate having thing hanging over my head
    I think this is really the problem for me. I can get it all shot proofed and edited but I never seem to have time to print. Maybe its three kids and a small business. Or maybe that's an excuse. I have so much great work waiting to be printed that at this point it's almost overwhelming.

    About a year ago I scheduled one full day of time to make prints and - having that uninterrupted time to work - I got more final prints done in a day than I had in the previous six months. ( Bad news was they were all prints from scans.) :~(

    Since then lots of shooting but not nearly enough printing. Now I'm of for three days in Florida to shoot more film that might never get printed. Maybe I need an intern....
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  6. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Parker,

    A few years ago I became interested in trying to have my work recognized. So I pursued having portfolios printed up, made plans for a web site and even a whole community surrounding it.
    After a while it took the joy out of the art I loved, so I stopped all that and decided my art was all for me. Screw accomplishing, and to hell with recognition.
    So now my work flow is a lot less deliberate, and I float in and out of various 'groups' of photographs, slowly getting negatives printed. It takes years of 'sitting on it' for me to truly start to appreciate what I shot, so it takes years for me to finish work, and I'm perfectly happy with that. In fact, it's exactly how I want it.
    Some days I have spurts where I make four or five prints for a portfolio, and then I goof off printing something entirely different, just so that it doesn't feel like a chore, or a burden, but something rewarding and enjoyable. I work hard at my day job to have this enjoyment, so to me it simply must never become a chore or the whole thing completely loses its meaning.

    In essence it's one picture at a time, when I feel inspired, for however long it may take.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  7. #7
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    I think this is really the problem for me. I can get it all shot proofed and edited but I never seem to have time to print. Maybe its three kids and a small business. Or maybe that's an excuse. I have so much great work waiting to be printed that at this point it's almost overwhelming.
    I can't offer as much help as I can commiserations. I noticed that when I had less time to do it, I had more ideas and things I wanted to do. This has led to a fair amount of frustration on my part as I haven't had anyone who could pick up the slack and give me the space/time to do some of the projects and get it out of my head a little. There's also the part where I procrastinate worse than most and use the toddler as an excuse to not shoot.
    The time I did do a project and semi finish it, I shot when the light and weather were good, developed as soon as I had a chance, and printed fast prints on RC of anything that looked like I might like it. This let me see them at 8x10 instead of on the contact sheet (even with 645 a little bigger is better) and decide if I thought they were worth more effort. I ended up with about 9 shots of a local state park that I really like (out of about 5 rolls of 16 shots each). I still go back to that park, but haven't tried continuing the project because it seems like I'm copying myself when I try. On to different things...

  8. #8

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    Most of my projects are lengthy, few shorter than a year, most two to three years, one going on thirty five years. Logistically I know in advance what dates I need to cover, typically ten to fifteen days per project, per annum. That requires regular processing, scanning, contact prints and logging, I try not to leave films more than two weeks between shooting and processing. We all have our inner Winogrand (logistically if not creatively) with unedited films piling up in the background, plus my memory is like a sieve if shots aren't tagged and dated.

    Fine prints are much less frequent but I figure if I stepped under a bus tomorrow, the negatives are well enough ordered for someone to pick up the pieces. Or throw them all in a skip.

  9. #9

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    Interesting thread and enjoyed reading people's processes. A few questions...

    Working on my first 'serious' project, I find that I'm commited but hasty about 'getting it done'. I seem to have a lot of ideas, which can change at a whim and perhaps I'm conscious of this when starting a project - hence blazing through before another idea gets in the way. I'm always surprised to read about photographers working on multi-year projects, but I suppose this length of time is determined by other responsibilities more than anything? Ideally, would you get it done in a few months without the other 'distractions'?

    Someone else mentioned going back to books and other photographers when ideas are running dry on a particular project, but isn't there a risk of this completely changing the trajectory of your work? With my current project I'd spent a few weeks making notes and poring over books. Loaded with inspiration I then started shooting. If however I was to discover the work of somebody else doing something similar, rather than take from it and re-develop my own work, my tendency would be to think "it's already been done" and move on to something else. Is this creative ADHD or do other photographers constantly experience this uncertainty?

    How do you really know when your project is worth the time and commitment when, potentially, you could have spent that time doing something else much better and more original?
    It makes me wonder if those notable photographers really are blessed or perhaps just lucky in stumbling on an original idea.

  10. #10
    cliveh's Avatar
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    I do engage in specific projects, but in general I enjoy just enjoy walking around with my camera and photographing anything I think makes up an interesting composition within the aspect ratio of the viewfinder.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

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