1.18.2013

An interesting perspective on teamwork in fashion photography.

"......When you shoot for fashion versus more of your traditional portraiture, do you ever become annoyed having to work with a team of stylists, beauty, and production people?
Working with stylists and beauty team has its function. I'm not necessarily frustrated with that part, as much as I am with the current state of fashion photography. I think, with the advent of digital photography, the dictatorship aspect of photography became democratized and over time became a group effort, which I think is bullshit. I'm sorry, but photography is a dictatorship; it's not a democracy. At the end of the day, I don't sit here and tell the hairstylist to move the hair a little bit this way when they're working. I'm sure as fuck not going to have someone tell me what to do with photography. With that said, as a photographer it's your responsibility to fulfill the needs of your client. You don't want to be a dick about it; there are plenty of people who do that, which, I think, is equally bullshit.  ........"


From an interview with Norman Jean Roy, fashion photographer.  It's a rocking fun interview and you can read it all right here: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/norman-jean-roy-digital-ruined-fashion-photos.html

Make sure you click on his slideshow.......it's really, really good.










By Request: Kirk's woeful and unruly back-up strategy.

If you really love an image then make a really nice print and store it well.....




I once sat through a lecture by Vincent Laforet which included a half an hour sidebar on his back up strategy. At the time he was using an Apple iServe system which is basically a huge box filled with expensive and redundant hard drives. Everything he filmed or photographed would be backed up on three different RAID arrays and then spooled to Tandberg tape back-up systems. Two copies would be made of the tapes and stored in different locations. Laforet postulated that, at the time, he had several hundred terabytes of information stored and that his monthly cost for cooling the storage infrastructure (just cooling!!!) was about $800. He went further and told us that he would "migrate" the data to newer HDs on a fixed schedule. A "back of the envelope" calculation quickly told the audience that this methodology would require, in short order, a full time employee just to migrate and service the stored information. And can you imagine the number of man hours expended in cataloging each image and video sequence?  I squirmed in my seat. I'd seen the work and like every other artist I know the keepers probably amounted to 1% (generous) of the total stored. That's a lot of seconds to hang on to for posterity...

Of course, when I got back to my humble office in west Austin I felt like an inadequate IT provisioner. Until I remembered that I'm a freakin' artist and not a server maintenance worker....

All my storage philosophy derives from the formative years I spent (about 20) shooting film. Here's how we did back up in the film days:  Shoot film > edit film and throw away the rejects, in the garbage, gone. > Place film in archival sheets and label with description and job number. > After film was used by client and returned, place in filing cabinet by job number. > Try not to set fire to anything in the studio wherein flames might convey to said filing cabinets. > Always make a point to live far above the 100 year flood zone.  While the stakes and our egos were no where as big then as they seem to be now we did routinely make a few "dupes" (film duplicates) of our best work. Not necessarily the profitable work but the work we liked best. We'd use repro dupes if we were selling images as stock. Better to lose an expensive dupe than a irretrievable original. But I'm thinking that maybe we did 100 dupes a year. Max.

There was no separate, off site storage because the bulk of the material existed only as single original pieces of film.

Now we fast forward to now. Seems like everyone I know just puts their images on a hard disk and then makes a second copy on another hard disk and calls it a day. I can't imagine a scarier way to do the business. It's probably a prejudice from the days when our images existed in the physical realm but I need to have one component of my back up that I can hold in my hands.

So, here's how I do it:

I come back from a shoot and I open Lightroom. I set up the import menu to copy the files to an external hard drive. I click the little box to make a second back up to a second external hard drive. I name the folders on both hard drives the same. Before I hit "import" I go through the image thumbnails on the screen and edit out as many as I possibly can. The more images I dump upfront the fewer time and space resources I use up on the back end. I don't need to store everything I ever shot.

Before I hit "import" I make sure I fill out the metadata fields so I can automate most of the organization of the images, after the fact.

I hit "import" and my computing machine sucks the raw images from my memory cards into these waiting folders. When the process is complete I take the memory cards (all SDs, in my case) and put them into a job envelope. The un-erased cards become my third back up, temporarily. If lightning strikes the studio and demolishes the hard drives through some electronic voodoo I'll still have the original files on the cards to reconstruct from.

I buy my external hard drives in pairs. Currently, on the glass topped desk there are two Western Digital 3 Terabyte drives plus a 2 terabyte Time Machine drive that backs up system software and applications.

Next step: I edit in Lightroom. Eventually I'll output the finals from Lightroom into a folder of images that goes to the client. The images are profiled for specific uses, as requested by my clients. Sometimes I am the client.

When I've done everything I'm going to do for a job I take the original edited raws and all new Jpeg or Tiff variations and put them into one folder with the job name. I might even include a "read me" file if the job is complex and multi-faceted. Then I burn two sets of DVD's of all those files. On a large job the folder often exceeds the 4.4 gigabyte limit of the DVD's so I use an app called "Folder Splitter" to bust the big folder into manageable, smaller (4.4gig) folders. A big job, like the recent Dell World 2012 job, might have four or five folders. Doesn't matter, we burn them till we've got them. Two copies of every folder. If the job has a reasonable expectation of a long life or the images are my own art for my own pleasure, or family memories, one copy gets burned onto a Verbatim Gold DVD with a (advertising) promise of a 100 year life.

I've been using DVDs for seven years now and have not had a single failure. Surely, I have just jinxed myself...

We make very clear, in our conversations, contracts and delivery paperwork, to clients that we are not responsible for storage of the images beyond three years. If images are mission critical to them we advise that they make back up copies to store in their servers. Just like printers we are not selling them plates and print blankets for eternity we are selling one time use as specified by contract. Once images are delivered and applied the contract has been fulfilled. While we make every attempt to keep archives of everyone's files for up to seven years we are not in the "storage" business. And we don't want to be in the storage business.

From time to time we go through the filing cabinets and throw stuff out. The economic landscape seems especially volatile right now. Does it really make sense to hang on to those headshots we did for Dr. Koop.com? Or any one of a couple dozen tech start ups that are long gone? I don't think so.  I just dumped about six linear inches of DVDs that were headshots of executives from around 2002-2004. Those are images that were never going to be ordered again.

I'm not doing any real storage on the web. Well, I have over 100,000 images up on the Smugmug servers but those images are also resident on my disks and DVDs here as well. And none of the ones on Smugmug are higher res than 1800 pixels wide.

When storage takes more time than coffee or shooting or lunches you've just switched over to a different sort of undertaking than photography. I'm sure many of you have more advanced methods and I'm sure I'm falling short of some people's perceptions of "industry standards" but the question was, "What do I do for back-up?"  Not "what is the best practice in the universe for archival backup over the millenia?"  Sound reasonable?

Thanks, Kirk