DPP Home Profiles I Embraced The Road - Colin Finlay

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Embraced The Road - Colin Finlay

You have to get in close to see the truth. Colin Finlay has made a career of bringing that truth to the eyes of the world—stories that aren't always pretty, but need to be told

To be as equally versatile in war-torn regions as on the beaches of California photographing models, Finlay remains selective about the equipment he uses. Having cut his teeth on film, he can work with any 35mm or medium-format system and instinctively know how to meter a scene and make a great photograph. The same applies for digital.

Finlay's first foray was anything but easy, however. He initially knew nothing about Photoshop; he was a darkroom guy. Says Finlay, “I can hold the negative, see it, touch it and know how to bring it to life. I had to start at the bottom and learn everything about digital from square one. I had to learn a whole new language and way of thinking.”

The learning curve was steep and challenging: “I was a film guy who had to be digital in three months. I almost quit the business because it was so overwhelming. Now, it's second nature. I can actually do more creative work shooting digital than I could with film. I can take my images places I never could with film. I've been able to convert color images into black-and-white, and that has opened up a whole new world for me.”

Finlay shoots primarily with 35mm-format digital camera systems from a variety of manufacturers. Since the nature of the work varies, he has to keep an open mind, matching the tools with the job. When it comes to printers and paper, Finlay continues to experiment with a variety of manufacturers. The type of job and the expected volume of images he'll produce influence his selection of tools.

Finlay frequently travels with several laptops and LaCie Porsche FireWire drives for redundant backups. He also has several 500 GB drives at his house and in his studio for permanent storage. In addition, he travels with 4 GB USB jump drives in his pocket at all times.

Unlike other photographers who constantly rely on the Internet for FTP transfers, Finlay generally doesn't have to send his images to clients or back to his studio. He has plenty of time with most of his projects to wait and return with the media on drives. When he's on advertising campaigns, art directors are often on set and can see their pictures in real time.

In addition, Finlay has made many friends with technology developers in the industry and frequently lends his input to further develop the technology. He has helped to create a nationwide Adobe Lightroom seminar, which is traveling around the country throughout the fall. Over the course of two days, students and faculty will hear a lecture by Finlay in which he'll share details about his career as a photographer.

The following day, Adobe's Senior Digital Imaging Evangelist Julieanne Kost will provide students with an in-depth seminar on using Photoshop and Lightroom to support a digital workflow. Plus, a small group of students will participate in a workshop assignment with Finlay. Students will select images from the assignment to be placed into a portfolio and uploaded to the Lightroom Website for sharing with an extended community of photographers.

Digital Precision—An Example

During the 2004 campaign shoot for Ocean Pacific, Finlay was working for a client who was 100 percent digital. The application of a pure-digital workflow implies quick turnaround and clients expect to see results immediately.

While waiting for just the right light, he made several test images to show the art directors how things were going to look. Concurrently, Finlay's assistant was pulling down the images as quickly as possible for review. “The less time the client and I spent pacing back and forth inside the trailer waiting, the better,” says Finlay.


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