To SOOC Or Not To SOOC

Written by:

By Steve Russell

Before I get in to the “meat” of this submission, I wanted to make sure that everyone understands the relationship between the other writer for this blog, Tiffany Joyce, and me. We both write, independently, for Beyond Megapixels. We each decide, on our own, what to write about. However, we do communicate a lot, mostly by email. It may be just to ask about the past weekend, to get the other’s opinion about a possible subject, or I sometimes ask her to read an article before it’s posted to make sure I’m not going overboard on something. It’s a great working relationship.

One of our strengths is that we each have a different perspective on many of the same subjects. We are different ages, have vastly different backgrounds/experiences that we bring to our writing. We don’t always agree but before one of us writes about something where we want to present a different perspective, we’ve discussed it with each other so that we’re both comfortable with the article and it’s subject and approach. As you may have guessed by now, this is one of those. It’s not a big deal, but it’s clearly a different perspective.

A couple of weeks ago, Tiffany wrote an article discussing tips for improving your photographic skills so that SOOC becomes more common in your work. In that article she repeated something that I had said to her about having been out on a photo shoot and taken over 500 photos. She mentioned that I was not looking forward to all the work in Photoshop ahead of me and she was correct. However, in this particular case, I didn’t see SOOC as the solution. I knew that I would be deleting a number of those 500+ shots.

From my perspective, my computer and Photoshop replace the darkroom and eliminates all the chemicals. Instead of pulling a strip of 35mm film out of a cartridge, winding it onto a 35mm reel, putting the reel in a developing tank, adding the chemicals, etc. all in complete darkness, I connect my camera to the computer and download the images onto an external hard drive.

Before the arrival of the digital age, the next step was to make a contact sheet. For those that don’t know what a contact sheet is, we would take the developed roll of 35mm film, cut it into sections of 5 frames each, lay the strips, side by side, on the photo paper, expose and develop. The result was a sheet of all the images on that particular roll of film. Using a loupe, the photographer or client could look at each of the images and select which photos to enlarge and develop. Today, we have Adobe Bridge or Lightroom that will do the same thing for us without all the work associated with creating the contact sheet.

Once the images to enlarge were selected, the photographer put the image in the enlarger, adjusted the enlarger until the desired photo was projected on the base, placed a sheet of photo paper in the frame, and exposed the print before putting it in the developing tank for the requisite amount of time. Now, Photoshop does all this and more and frankly it’s much easier and faster.

One of the reasons I captured over 500 images that day is because much of time I was either shooting for HDR or shooting multiple photos trying to get just the right one. Therefore, I knew that I would be spending some time in front of the computer.

Snowy Egret SOOC

This is the SOOC version taken with a 300mm lens with the lens and camera mounted on a monopod. It’s one of twenty shots I took of the Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret

This is the same shot after I finished with the post processing.

Sunrise over Cape Canaveral 3

Sunrise over Cape Canaveral 2

Sunrise over Cape Canaveral 1

These are the three exposures I took of the sunrise.

Sunrise over Cape Canaveral 1

And this is the HDR version of the same sunrise. There were at least another 30 exposures taken before and after this one that I deleted.

When I was shooting film, I used a lot of Kodachrome film that resulted in 35mm transparencies or slides. With slide film, the processed slide was always SOOC. I’d like to say that I could go out and shoot a roll of 36 exposures and have 36 great images. However, I, like most other photographers including the top professionals, threw away most of the slides. In fact, there were times when I was excited to have one really good image from an entire roll of film, although 3 to 5 really good images per roll of film was closer to the norm.

For the most part, being able to capture excellent images SOOC depends on your subject. Landscapes are much easier than small birds that rarely sit still. The landscape can be composed in the camera so that cropping isn’t necessary. However, because of their small size and the difficulty in getting really close to them, it’s frequently necessary to crop photos of birds, especially small birds like this Florida Scrub Jay or the Snowy Egret above.

Florida Scrub Jay

While I strive to achieve good images SOOC, I will almost always make some minor adjustments in Photoshop even if it’s only Levels or Curves. I also understand that for some types of photography it’s almost required, just like when I was shooting film I knew I was going to be spending more than a few hours in the darkroom. I think that SOOC is a great goal but the fact that it’s not always achievable isn’t a bad thing and striving for it is bound to improve your skills.

Photo Credits: All Photos Steve Russell

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