Why Photography is a Game of 2 Halves

Can we have all the RAW files, we don’t need anything editing…

I’ve been asked this from time to time, most recently on a job to capture the “essence of Sheffield’s shopping experience”.

It had to be on a certain day and time due to some portraits we had to take – so I couldn’t really choose a bright sunny day, so as you can expect – a lot of the images were pretty overcast and dull. Which is “to breif” in a way – they wanted the real Sheffield.

First Half – The Shoot

RAW versus a few “educated tweaks” in LIGHTROOM

So if we take the Sheffield job as an example – I was commissioned to capture people shopping and enjoying the city centre.

The morning and early afternoon were really grey – which results in muted colours and very “flat” looking RAW files. You can see this above, the before is what it was really like, and the after shows that you can transform RAWS with a little knowledge.

RAW files are like negatives by the way – they are the info you make your photos from, not the final result. 


If you ask for ALL RAWs you are going to get

  • Huge files – they are 20-30 megabytes each!
  • Lots of photos you can’t use – maybe 25-50% of what is shot is usable, do you want to sift through these?
  • Pretty dull and flat shoots which need work – do you have the skills?
  • A completely different style to the photographer you’ve hired – read on for more on this.

Does any client really want all that? 

Here’s the Winter Garden – again, really dull on the day, but with a bit of knowledge you can make it look warmer and more attractive.

Even Good Light Can Be Improved

So a little later on the sun came out, and the university area looked a lot better – the RAW files started looking more attractive, though there was still a lot you could do to enhance them.

Here we’ve just sorted the verticals, added colour and contrast.


Second Half – The Edit

The before and after examples above illustrate the importance of “editing” a RAW file –

  • the initial photograph (RAW FILE) defines the scene, lighting, expressions (on portraits), composition and subjects within – hugely important of course
  • the edit takes this information and transforms it into the finished product – colour, contrast, sharpening and blurring, removal of things, addition of things etc.

Music analogy…

Musicians create a song – they will record a demo, write the chords, words and melody. This is the RAW DATA needed to reproduce that song. The equivalent of a negative in old photography, or RAW FILE in digital.

Producers and Studios – these are where the RAW song information is moulded into a final recording, there is a process of recording many takes of each instrument, then the “mastering” to come up with the final mix.

Editing a photograph in LIGHTROOM and PHOTOSHOP is the equivalent in photography.


Experience and Style define the final look

Editing is hugely based on style and experience –

  • experience is the understanding of what can be done with an image. Which controls to use – what can and cannot be done. This is a mechanical knowledge we can all learn.
  • style defines the look you accomplish – this will be consistent and visible through your portfolio. Each photographer will have their process and settings they like – which gives the consistency of quality and feel. This is what clients buy into – the final look you achieve day in, day out.

If you give 10 photographers a RAW file and ask them to edit it, you will get 10 very different results. Each “Style” is as individual as a fingerprint – it defines the final image.

I wonder how many would, given this blue looking original RAW, would end up with this letter box yellow sunset shot?

You are buying both halves….

When you commission a photographer, they will do everything they can to get the images “right in camera” – so they have less to do on the computer. But inevitably, every image will need to be edited to some extent – even if it’s just applying a generic “contrast” to them.

The final shots need both halves. If you ask them to shoot your photos, but not edit them, they will not look like their photos. The composition may be the same, but the style and look will be very different.


Why “Day Rates” Don’t Work

Most people ask photographers to quote for work on “days” or “half a day”. It’s pretty standard for people to quote on time – though usually what they actually mean is “can you quote for 1/2 day shoot” and they’ve not factored in the editing time.

Editing time is 100% dependant on how many photos we edit, not how long we spent shooting 

For example – we may need 1/2 day on site to physically do the shoot. But if we need 50 final edited shots, its not just 1/2 day’s work – simply because we need to factor in the extra time create the right style over 50 photos. It’s more likely to be a full day’s effort to shoot and edit – even thought you’ve only been asked to do 1/2 day’s shoot.

Clarity – Making it EASY!

So all McFade packages are now moving to a “how many photos do you need” basis, rather than time around. It’s not always easy to explain to people – but we’re getting there!

Travel Photography – Literally!

Ever travel long distances as a passenger?

I do – as a member of a touring band, we sometimes cover hundreds of miles – and a few weeks ago, that involved going from Leeds to Inverness… and back!

Naturally I took the camera – for photos of the lovely Scottish city, but also to capture the band in action…

Then it occurred to me that the highlands were beautiful from the main roads, no need to actually go on country roads to see amazing vistas. But we had a schedule, so stopping was not an option.

So what about shooting whilst you’re moving?

What To Use

On the way up I used the canon 5D with the 70-200 lens – which gets you into the action, avoiding the road edges, hedges and fences. Try these settings:-

  • ISO 800 – 3200 – depending on the brightness of the day you may get away with 400
  • Aperture priority
  • F4-F11 – any smaller gave blurry shots due to long shutter speed and motion blur
  • Auto white balance
  • RAW mode

Take a few shots and check the sharpness – if you are getting motion blur, then up the ISO and open the aperture a little

OR try using Shutter Priority – Tv in canon speak

Set the shutter to at least 1/500th if you’re using a longer lens.

On the return journey I swapped to the 24-70mm, and a 2 stop ND grad filter. Mainly to get broody skies and a wider landscape view. The settings were the same.

200mm Shots

24-70mm Shots

Photos of Bristol

Bristol Photos… from day 3 of a Rock N Roll weekend….

This weekend, The Chicago Blues Brothers, for whom I play keyboards, gigged in Crawley, Wimbledon and finally hit the biggest theatre of the weekend in Bristol. The Hippodrome.

We arrived pretty early, got set up and had an hour to kill before sound check, so decided to head out for look at the city.

There was a festival going on – a Regatta which attracted tens of thousands of people to the area, not great for the architecture shoot I had in mind! I’d set off with just:-

  • Canon 5D
  • 16-35 F4 L
  • 1 Stop ND Grad filter

So all set up for buildings, but all I found were people!

Bristol Cathedral to the Rescue!

About 10 minutes into the walk, I spotted my favourite subject – a cathedral. I’m not religious, but love the buildings religious people build – from all faiths, I’ve got amazing Mosque, Gurdwara and Hindu temple photos from India too.

It’s not a big cathedral – but was peaceful, had lovely vaulted Gothic ceilings and was cool, 26 degrees outside!

A few gig photos….

Here are the photos from the walk, and a couple to show you the show inside the Hippodrome, and the crowd going for it. The crowd shots were taken at ISO 12800, so a little noisy:-


An Hour in Inverness

Its not often we get time to walk around the towns and cities we visit with the Blues Brothers band, but I got an hour in Inverness this Saturday.

It’s a lovely city, large fast flowing river, castle looming over the banks, highland architecture everywhere and a friendly vibe to the whole place.

I took just the camera, 16-35mm lens and a 2 stop ND grad filter with me – and wandered around looking for a spot of food.

Here are some of the shots – all processed in Lightroom, many of them with a slight duo-tone to colour the sky a little.