Breathing space

The last year has been a busy one. I've spent more time than ever out with the camera working on commissions, running workshops and coming up with new images. I'm certainly not complaining about that but for every hour I'm taking photos I spend probably two or three times that on the computer, processing, preparing, writing or keywording (shudder). It seems last year I was so busy (or unorganised) that I managed to fall behind with computer time and build up a huge backlog of images to be processed. 

My to-do folder had become something of a burden, a bit like a credit card that I couldn't afford to pay off. Making the minimum payment by processing the very best images from each shoot was keeping things ticking over but all of the untouched photos built up like the interest on a credit card and things started to snowball.

Just to clarify, the 'to-do folder' I'm referring to is an actual folder in Adobe Lightroom... A 'smart' folder to be precise. Smart folders can be set up to automatically collect all the photos which fit certain criteria, in this case everything that I give a certain colour label (blue in case you were wondering). So everything that I want to process at some point gets given a blue label and automatically added to my to-do folder that way however far behind I get, images don't get overlooked. As the size of the folder grew I decided on a limit... I wouldn't let it go over 500 images. When earlier in the year it passed that amount I vowed to keep it under 1000. When at the end of a busy Autumn it hit 1200 I decided enough was enough! It was time to clear the backlog to pay off the credit card if you will (ok, the analogy is wearing a bit thin now).

With plenty of free time over Christmas and grounded by wet weather I did just that and it wasn't the chore I expected it to be. Far from it, immersing myself in Lightroom and Photoshop sharpened my skills and gave me an opportunity to experiment a little. What's more, not only have I cleared the decks ahead of next year (although I still need to keyword everything), I now have a load of new work to unleash.

I won't lie, I sped the process up somewhat by throwing away quite a few images, photos that I have no idea why I'd earmarked themfor processing in the first place, but I also rediscovered plenty of images that I'd initially overlooked.

There are times, far more often than I'd like to admit, when I come back disappointed with the images from a shoot. Perhaps the light wasn't as good as I had hoped, the tide was wrong for the shots I had in mind or something else hadn't gone as planned but for whatever reason the resulting images don't meet expectations. Over time, as the images languish in my to-do folder, memories of the shoot fade along with the reason for my unhappiness. I can assess the images objectively, without expectations and in this case it turns out they weren't as bad as I first thought, one or two were even quite good.

I know that unprocessed photos will soon build up again but I think I actually prefer it that way now. I prefer to leave my work for a while before assessing it. Let's change the analogy for a moment, if we think of my to-do folder as a cellar where my work is left to mature like a fine wine, rather than a growing weight around my neck like an unpaid debt, it becomes an essential part of the process rather than a burden! Sadly that isn't always practical and I'm too much of a control freak to get somebody to help me with the processing (although they're welcome to do the keywording) but one thing is for sure, I'll be going back through the 25,000 images I took last year to make sure I haven't missed any more keepers.

Walberswick dunes

You can see more of my latest work in my galleries here.