DPP Home Profiles Jay Maisel - Going With The Flow

Friday, June 8, 2007

Jay Maisel - Going With The Flow

The master of color and self-diagnosed nontechie talks about keeping your artistic priorities in the JPEG-versus-RAW world

On Maisel's Heresy

Having only 63 frames means I get too careful. I won't experiment enough because, unconsciously, I know I'll have to put in another card. Secondly, I don't want to manipulate the image in the computer anyway. Lastly, all techies tell you that you must shoot in RAW in order to make big prints. I've had 40x60-inch prints made from JPEGs, and the only people who have a problem with them are the ones who get two inches away from the print and say, “Aha! There are artifacts!” Images put in the computer on RAW mode move with the speed of molasses. JPEGs are much faster. But, God forbid, if you should close them without saving them as Tiffs or Psds, they will recompress and lose data. Take your pick, run tests. Remember that I'm a technical idiot, but….

You'll be told by those who “know” far more than I do to shoot without sharpness and apply sharpness in the computer as the final step because you have more control in the computer than you do in the camera. I've been doing that and recently I was told that this is nonsense and to shoot on sharp in the camera. This makes sense to me because a) it's much more satisfying to edit sharp images, and b) I don't want to sharpen in the computer. I want to screw around with the image as little as possible. But try both and see what you like.

On Joy Over Technical

You'll be told to always work at the lowest ISO because you'll get better quality. True, but take this admonition with a grain of salt and feel free to shoot at much higher ISO. Being at a lower one means you may have to shoot at a shutter speed that causes unwanted blur or doesn't give you the ƒ-stop you want. I'd rather have lesser quality (form) than lose the image I want (content). Don't compromise the quality of your image for image quality!

As you shoot, try to be aware that subjects that may seem quite pedestrian to you now may indeed be fascinating bits of history in the future.

One piece of information gleaned from many years of shooting is that the more equipment you carry, the less shooting you'll actually do. For the last two or three years, I'm basically down to one camera (the Nikon D1x) and one lens (a Nikon 50mm ƒ/1:4). If I'm going out of town or working out of a car or helicopter, I'll add three Nikon zoom lenses (a 17-35mm, a 35-70mm and a 80-200mm). If I'm on a job, with assistants, I'll add everything, from a 12-24mm through 400mm, 600mm, even a 2000mm, if necessary.

Ernst Haas once said, “Critics know everything about photography except its joy.” I'm always hoping to see something that I've never seen before. For me, that's the transforming moment when the mundane morphs into the magical. Too often, photographers try too hard, reaching out for things that work visually. After a time though, you learn and understand. Wait until things call out to you. Don't shoot unless you're moved by what you see, then dig deeper. That is the joy in photography. For a guaranteed return on your photographic investment, make sure that there's passion in your work.

Everything that applied to film creatively and aesthetically also applies to digital. You're responsible for every square millimeter in your image. What you want in your image, emphasize. What you don't want, eliminate. If, when you're shooting, you bring the camera up to your eye and you see a picture you've seen before, put it down and look for something that's yours, not someone else's. Take the kind of picture you want to take. If you enjoy what you're doing, it will show and you'll bring joy to others.

To see more of Jay Maisel's photography, visit www.jaymaisel.com.



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