Ugh. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, I know what I was thinking – it went something along this line:
“I can offer to be the photographer, get to do some photography instead of my regular work for a bit, and hang out with the gorgeous receptionist for a bit.” (She turned out to be pretty cool, too.)
Our HR manager (well, now it’s People & Culture – same thing, as far as I can tell) wanted staff photos, since we’ve grown to the point where no one knows anyone anymore. She didn’t want anything fancy, just a head & shoulders shot, so I spoke up.
I brought my strobes and camera in (didn’t bother with tripod) and went to town. The one thing I didn’t anticipate is that I still had my regular duties to do, I’m only doing the editing during work hours (since I wasn’t getting any extra for this), and despite this being a mass-produced event, I was still putting a little effort into the retouching.
That last sentence was my big mistake.
If I didn’t care as much about the final product, I’d have just saved everything as a jpeg straight from the camera and been done with it, but noooo! I had to bring out people’s eyes, just a little bit more. Or I cleaned up the pimples and pock marks on their faces (I work in a computer shop – we have a few people with these). When you’re doing three figures of images plus your regular job, it takes bloody forever.
So, what did I learn from it that can be applied to mass shootings (not the CNN news, live coverage type)?
- Use a backdrop. This sounds basic, but I had this cream coloured wall, so I decided to not set up the backdrop every session – oops. It was the cleanest wall, but there were two pictures hanging behind it. They were removed, but the hangers remained. One was covered by the subject, but the other was constantly in the original, and so had to be factored in during cropping, or had to be manually edited. It was only a few seconds to do, but in volume, that time adds up.
- Use a tripod. Same reason as above. It keeps things consistent. You can raise and lower it, but you’ll always be at the same distance, so you’ll generally have the same cropping points.
- Have an assistant. I had this great girl from HR, Taylor, working with me (I should hope so, since it was technically her project). She took down the names, in order, so that when I retouched the images later, I could create jpegs that were JimSmith.jpg, instead of _MG2945.jpg. She also posed as my tester for the light positions, as well as my white-card holder. Plus, it was nice having someone to chat with in between shots.
- Have some muscle on your side. Most adults don’t like having their photos taken, especially for staff photos. Getting them to voluntarily submit to this is like pulling the teeth while cat herding. (I will never get sick of this video.) Getting a big boss who wants them to do it and can put pressure on them to make it happen, makes the whole thing happen soooo much faster.
- Get Comfy. Make your workspace yours. Set up what you find you usually use. Put everything where you find it’s most accessible. As an example, here’s what my workspace on my work computer looks like (the red line splits the left and right ends; like a “…”). Since I’m predominantly right-handed, I tend to leave the things I use more frequently on the right, and the things I look at more frequently on the left. My computer at home has a lighter background shade, and I should change this one, if I ever need PS here again. It really can mess with your colour perception, so be careful.
Lights, Camera, Actions! Make a frickin’ action out of everything. Does it take two steps to do? Make an action out of it. Do you have to go through a drop-down menu and then another sub-menu to click on it? Make an action out of it. It sounds petty, but you’d be surprised how much faster things can go. To speed it up even more, change the setting on your Actions menu to…
- Buttons! If you look up at that screenshot, to the right of the Actions tab (assuming you have it on your workspace, which I highly recommend), you’ll see the little drop-down icon. If you click on it, the first item on the menu is “Button”. That’s what turns the list into the menu that I have on my screen. No more highlighting the action and then clicking the ► button any more; just click on the action once and off it goes.
- Colour Coding. Colour coding your actions makes them so much easier to find. Pick the ones you’ll be working with for that session, and give them all one particular colour. You can always remove the colour coding once you’re done, but it makes them so much easier to find, especially when you have an extensive list of actions!
- …Yet There Is Method In ‘t. I know this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Keep a method to your madness. It’s important when you’re retouching 2 pictures; it’s extremely important when you’re retouching 200. Develop a workflow and stick to it. This applies to both the retouching itself (so that you know what you’ve done and what needs to be done, without wasting time constantly double-checking), as well as file storage (so if your Taylor happened to switch two names in line, you can just go back, find the original numbered PSD’s, and save a renamed copy, rather than starting from scratch with the raw files. Remember, your final probably isn’t in numerical sequence anymore – it’s in alphabetical).
- They’re staff photos. Don’t overdo it! They don’t need model-level retouching. They probably don’t need any retouching. Shoot, rename, save, repeat. But then, you’ll be like me and hate sending out stuff that
One of the cool things I found from it, was that I could test locations. 🙂 I’ve wanted to do a shoot around here for a bit now, and this seemed like an easy way to test. So, with a few certain persons (no surprise, some of the more attractive ones in the company), I offered them a more unique staff photo, rather than just the plain ol’ “up against a wall mugshot” photo. As a result, the company (well, me technically – I didn’t give over copyright on these ones) has a few staff photos like this one:
I did a good gangbanger mugshot for my own picture, but then another guy wanted to do one as well, so I ended up not using mine for the staff photos. It was a shame, too; it turned out really well! Oh well, I need a new shot with my freshly painted bike, anyway.
So those are the things I learned during this process. Hopefully, I said something that may make your life a little easier down the road. If you have any ideas of how to streamline the process, feel free to add your two cents!
Until next time, take it easy, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. And if you do, take pictures! 😉