Thursday, May 31, 2007
Vincent Laforet - Still A Photographer
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet takes advantage of anything he can to streamline his workflow and his access to a formidable archive
Laforet uses Aperture as a tool to review and edit his work the same way he has always edited. "I can go into full-screen mode and cycle through the images. I then tag them one through five—one being the lowest, five being the highest—and review the entire take rather quickly. Aperture was the first app that would let me work with the RAW files and not have it be completely tedious." With experience comes wisdom.
Laforet learned early on about the limits of the JPEG file format. "I think you regret shooting JPEG as opposed to RAW almost as much as throwing out a negative," he says. "Remember how you used to edit slides and just throw them in the bin if they were out of focus? You'd never see them again. And you know you had ‘the shot,' but it could then never be recovered. The same thing can be said about shooting JPEG versus RAW. Every assignment I've ever shot in JPEG, I just shake my head, and say, Uh, look at the lost tonal range.
"What I love about Aperture is I was able to do RAW during the U.S. Open and keep up with the people shooting JPEGs because my workflow is down." After downloading the images to his computer, says Laforet, "I'll add a little saturation, a little contrast, some sharpening or change the color balance. I'll then stamp that look in all the other frames.
The import process allows the photographer to include all of the ancillary metadata—photographer name, shoot date, location, etc. By being thorough and organized, a photographer can track every image from every shoot. Without making such an effort , managing and searching for images becomes a nightmare.
And that's a huge time-saver. Obviously, there's no competition to shooting JPEGs and transmitting them. That's still the fastest because there's no decoding and you can do it right from your camera these days with programs like Pocket Phojo."
Covering devastation takes a heavy toll on any photographer. The need to record what's happening and bring those images to the rest of the world drives shooters like Laforet to keep doing it despite the fact that there are far easier ways to make a living. The realities of New Orleans' plight after Katrina are shown in both the broad scope of massive flooding and the intimate suffering of hospital patients who had been evacuated to the airport.
The $2,500 Call
Laforet remembers the old days, when he was just getting organized. "I would call my wife, and say, I need this file. I don't know what DVD it's on, I only know what it's called. But if we can't find it in the next hour, we're going to lose a $2,500 sale. She responded, ‘You've got to be kidding. You've got 500 DVDs.' That's not a professional way to manage your business."
Laforet has learned a lot since and modestly agrees that he's more organized than most photographers. "I'm just trying to find a way to have it be as redundant as possible," he says. "For example, in discussing the pictures I took of the New York City Marathon, I'll also export, out of the 2,423 files that I've shot, only those that I've rated, which is as little as 10 percent. If you realize it's about 20 megabytes per file or a little bit less, that's six gigabytes of RAW files that I really need to keep. The entire take occupies 35 gigabytes. And that's where, for me, Aperture's ability to manage the Library pays off big time because you can't store 35 gigs per shoot on your primary online server. You're going to run out of space and you're setting yourself up for corruption issues when you deal with so much data—it can quickly become a nightmare. But if you can manage it so you keep the ones that are tagged online and the one's you'll mostly never ever use or need to see again, it's fine. Therefore, I burn the bulk of the nonselects onto DVDs and keep a referenced JPEG file within my Aperture Library, which takes up far less than 1 MB of space as opposed to the 20 MB RAW file.It's always searchable and accessible even with the RAW file offline. My problem used to be that I didn't want to delete the other 4/5ths or 5/6ths because who knows when they will ask for that 'Monica Lewinsky picture.' [The shot of Monica Lewinsky hugging President Clinton was taken by Dirk Halstead.]"
Continues Laforet, "When is that going to happen? I can't just start throwing stuff out. You'll have a client who will say I love this picture of the Empire State Building and I want it a little more to the left or a little more to the right. And I know I shot a frame before and after. If it's inaccessible, it's worthless to me."