August 15, 2009
In our ongoing series of interviews with Lightroom users, Lightroom News was delighted to have ‘Within The Frame’ author David duChemin take our questions as he ventured off on yet another trip.
Hi David, thanks for joining us on Lightroom News. Those that know you here are probably most familiar with your excellent book “Within The Frame”. To kick off, can you give us a little background to your photography and how it eventually lead to the book?
Thanks for having me! I think at heart I’m a communicator, so I approach photography as an act of expression. But it took me 20 years to get to that point, like I was learning a language and suddenly understood that that language could be used to tell the stories I was most passionate at telling. It lead to the book because I saw a vacuum in the teachings of photography about why we use photography as an art form and not just how we do so. And then this crazy “hey, what if I write a book?” thing kind of spiraled out of control and here we are.
Within The Frame is essentially about Vision. How important is Vision to you as you shoot? Can you give us examples of what drives this vision?
Vision is everything. For the writer it’s knowing you have something to say and using words to say it. For the photographer it’s the same thing but in a visual language – the language of light and lines, colour and gesture. Vision is your opinion, your passion, the things you love, and find beautiful or unjust or really any other thing that draws your eye or your heart and makes you want to show others too. Without vision we end up pointing our cameras aimlessly with nothing to guide our decisions about framing, choices about optics, or other choices that affect the aesthetics of the image.
Within The Frame is your first book, but you recently linked to your second book on Twitter, called VisionMongers. How is this different to your first book?
It’s much different. Within The Frame is a book about the craft of photography, and the role of vision in that process. VisionMongers is a book about combining our craft with the world of commerce; it’s like a sketchbook of ideas for people wanting to make a life – and a living – from photography. Within The Frame was much more artsy fartsy; this one’s rubber-meets-road stuff for people who’ve got this desire to be working professionals in some capacity. There are very few good books out there that talk about this stuff and almost all of them talk about it in terms of a model that’s now mostly obsolete. We’re now almost entirely in the age of the entrepreneurial photographer and the one’s that want to make a living at it have to understand marketing and finance and the world of the entrepreneur as much as how to use a tone curve in Lightroom, or more.
With a Christmas release date, I know I’m looking forward to it. As your work entails a lot of traveling, it’s no surprise that you’re probably answering these questions on the way to Thailand. Why travel photography?
Actually I’m answering them on a flight home from Thailand, I fell asleep on the way there. But I photograph the world because it’s where my vision leads me. I know that sounds pretentious, what I mean is this – we all see the world differently, respond to it differently, and have different things to say about it. Some have something to say about flowers, auto racing, rock concerts, or weddings; I have something to say about the cultures of this planet and our universal issues of physical and spiritual hunger. It’s what draws me, what I’m most passionate about. As for the Christmas release date, that’s a little conservative and should be out well ahead of that.
In ‘Within The Frame’ you mention Lightroom in passing as your tool of choice for managing and processing your photos. How long are you using Lightroom and what inspired you to start using it?
I love Lightroom. For me it’s the perfect tool to refine my images. I’ve been using it since it came out in a Lightroom 1 beta version. I tried Aperture and at the time it was too resource-hungry, but now I prefer the Adobe family of software because they all work so similarily, and so well together. For me the simplicity of the workflow that Lightroom allows is intuitive and that means the technology doesn’t get in my way.
Do you process on the road, or do you keep that work for home?
Both. I’m very impatient and part of what I love about photography is the full creative process, so refining my images and outputting them is as much fun as capturing the images, so I do that the moment I can. But I generally wait until I am home to do colour-critical work and the nitty gritty work. I work with a Wacom tablet for much of my work – part of what I love about LR is the ability to take advantage of the pen tablet – but I don’t usually travel with my tablet. So I wait until I’m back home.
What would a typical post shoot session be like for you (from when the cards are downloaded)?
I download on the field each evening, rename files and apply metadata presets all on import. I also back up to a second harddrive at the same time, then convert all to DNG (if I didn’t have time to do it on import – that really slows things down, and again, I’m impatient.) and back those up to a third drive. Then I do a broad edit, pick my selects from the ones that jump out at me and work on those. The rest I leave until I’m home.
What’s your favourite tool in Lightroom and why?
That’s a hard one. There are so many great tools in Lightroom. In broad strokes I love the way the whole workflow is streamlined from beginning to end, love how it allows me to manage things the way I want to in the Library module. If I was pressed about my favourite tool I’d have to say it’s the brush tool for the way it allows me to really fine-tune the image without so much back-and-forth with Photoshop.
What would be your most requested addition to Lightroom?
Most requested? Not sure about that, but I wish the gradient tool were more like the gradient in Photoshop. I want to be able to choose which kind of gradient I use, like the ability to duplicate a reverse ND grad filter. Beyond that, one of the reasons I most take an image to Photoshop is sharpening, and I’d love to be able to do that selectively, and related to my output, in Lightroom instead of taking the image to Photoshop. But honestly, we’re at a point technically where our art and expression has never been easier – I think what I’d rather see in photography is less whining about what our tools can or can’t do, and more time spent on getting better at our craft. The tools will get better and better, but our vision and our craft will take actual, intentional effort. There are such big things a new camera, lens, or LR feature just can’t do for photographers and I wish there were more voices out there teaching the new photographers the truly important stuff.
Thanks for your time David, may the road rise to meet you as you go.
Absolutely my pleasure, Sean. Hope our paths cross soon.