Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp

The value of time in the creative process
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 - The value of time in the creative process - Tony Karp, design, art, photography, techno-impressionist, techno-impressionism, aerial photography , drone , drones , dji , mavic pro , video , 3D printing - Books - - The value of time in the creative process - Tony Karp, design, art, photography, techno-impressionist, techno-impressionism, aerial photography , drone , drones , dji , mavic pro , video , 3D printing - Books -
Post-apocalyptic butterfly.
This picture took numerous passes over several months. Is it finished? For now, perhaps.
--- Click on the Image to see where I started. ---

Of all of the tools I use in creating my images, time is one of the most important. Here's how I use it.

I start by taking lots of pictures, experimenting, different framing, different exposure, all sorts of variations. When I turn on my camera, the display says the current card can hold about 6200 pictures (I shoot JPEG) so there's no need to skimp. I have to keep myself from thinking like I'm shooting film. It's free.

And here is the first place you can use time. Don't rush. Take your time. Look around. Did you miss anything? Was there a different angle to try? How about playing with the exposure? Have you used your curiosity to explore your surroundings? Just a few extra seconds can make the difference at this point.

When I get back, I hook up my camera to the computer and move the files off the card and onto a hard drive. Then I turn off the camera and leave it connected to charge the battery.

The new files are in a temporary folder until they can be renumbered. This is necessary if you have more than one camera that uses the same file numbering system. In this way, I don't have to worry about file name collisions when I store all the pictures in the same folder. (How to do this renumbering is the subject of a future post.)

I keep all of my current pictures in a single folder to make it easy to navigate using a catalog program. Right now, this main folder holds about 12,000 images, going back to 2001 when I got my first digital camera. Other folders hold the discards at different levels that match my way of thinking about image organization. Note: never throw anything away. Storage is cheap enough to make this possible.

Let's look at the batch of pictures I just added. Wow! I really took a lot of pictures of that, and I can see some really bad ones straightaway, and those look promising, but there's so many, I don't know which to choose. And so forth. So I make one pass through them, looking at each one, full size on the screen. Just looking, nothing else.

Then I let them sleep overnight.

The next day, I can look at everything with fresh eyes. Now I begin the culling process. First, I'll make a pass through to try to cull out the obviously bad shots. Then I'll look for ones that are ripe and ready for post processing/ Sometimes, there will be a few that look so similar, I don't know which to pick. So I look for one that isn't quite as good as the others -- perhaps a little tilted -- and cull it out. Then I move one. I'll cull this group again after a day or two.

Here's another way to cull from groups of similar images. Look at an image full screen and the go to the next one. Hopefully, your catalog program supports this back and forth. Now compare the two images, back and forth until you choose the best one. Maybe it's a little sharper or the framing is a little better. Keep the better one and cull the other. If they both seem the same, then pick one at random, Time to move on. Come back later and cull out one more. Soon, there are the ones worth working with.

But I spread this culling of images over a span of time. The longer I wait, the less emotional attachment I have to each picture and the easier to thin the herd. With a large batch of pictures, this might go on for weeks or even months as I walk away from them and come back later. As the process goes on, and as finished pictures are added, the quality of the group improves. I think of it as distilling and aging, where time spent will add to the quality.

But all along, I've been choosing the images that will receive further processing. This also a long process. I work on an image, producing variations as I go. This gives me choices, but sometimes too many to choose from. So they sit for a while and then, one day, the choice becomes obvious, and that's the one I go with.

Now, as to why I keep all the current images in one folder. The folder currently holds about 12,000 pictures from 17 different digital cameras. Can you imagine the chaos if there were separate folders for each camera or for different dates or occasions? I rename the files from the newest camera with the highest prefix so it shows up at the end of the folder, which makes things easier when working with the latest pictures. Also, the cameras tend to show up in chronological order within this folder, giving a sense of history.

I think of this folder as a database. Each file in the folder is a record in the database, and its metadata, such as filename, file type, date are fields in the record. Along with these original images are all the variations as well. Because of this approach, I can sort the images by filename (camera), date, etc. I can also filter the files so that only the ones I want see show up. Most cataloging programs, including the freeware ones, will let you do this.

So I wander through this collection, seeing these older images through a fresh eye and it's amazing what a difference time makes. All of a sudden, I can easily see things I didn't see when they were new. It's a continuous process, always something to do. I look at an older image and now see possibilities I missed before. Or maybe I'll try a new technique on an older image.

I also use time when making prints. I start by making several letter-size test prints, using different settings in the printer driver -- brightness, contrast, etc. Then I carefully mark the back of each print with the settings I used. And then put them away until tomorrow. I think the prints change a little as the ink dries, and there seem to be other effects as well. I look at the prints and if I can't decide which is best, I let them sleep again. I'm in no hurry and I give time a chance. If I don't like any of the test prints, I will try more variations until I find one that deserves to be made bigger.

I originally write this post about a year ago and put aside because I didn't have time to finish it. But, again, time was involved and I finally tweaked it to its current state.

And now, a brief poem. It's about time.

Sometimes... You make a picture

And sometimes... The picture is right

And sometimes...The picture is wrong

But sometimes...You look at the picture again

And sometimes... The picture that was right is wrong

And sometimes... The picture that was wrong is right

Sometimes... But not always.


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