The Magic Frame: On Negatives & Sorting



Continuing further on the topics that I had started off with. In the old days, we had negatives. After developing negatives, we would first make a contact sheet. The contact sheet was the basis on which you would choose your photographs  – the ones that you would further process into the final print.

David Hurn says that a well processed contact sheet should have well developed ‘prints’. You should be able to analyse each photograph well. A contact sheet with a preponderance of under or over exposed photos is a sign of sloppy photography and processing.

True. Now, let’s come to the modern age, when most of us shoot digital. Things may have just become complex, in a sense.

When I shoot with film, I don’t have the facility of instant feedback. I can’t view the image on the screen. Also, I know that there is a cost attached to each roll of film that is processed. So, I am very careful with my composition and shooting. It keeps me grounded.

When you are out shooting, it is good to have a theme that you are focussed on. There are several reasons for this. One, it trains your eye to the theme that you are focussed on. You spot opportunities more often, and don’t get distracted.

When I did my one year in the Walled City, I focussed on the people, and on the old windows. No monuments, barring a few for reference.

Shooting randomly is tough from a shooting perspective. Also, when you open up your images on Lightroom, Bridge or whatever browsing programme you use, you get a bewildering array of photographs to shoot from.

Typically, when I process photos, they also tend to follow a theme. There are exceptions, of course. I am re-editing some photos of Allahabad, and I processed some of them to look a wee bit different from the approach that I was following. I managed to rescue some photos that I thought, were absolute tosh.

However, while I do process each photo individually, and I process each to its need, I will be following a ‘travel’, or ‘street’ or ‘monochrome’ or ‘arty-farty’ approach.

As I progress on the processing, or image making path, I take more time per picture.

This means, that my process time per picture has increased.

This further means that I process fewer and fewer pictures.

Unless you know what you are shooting, you will not be able to sort and choose what you will process.

Making sense of your ‘digital negatives’ is as important as making sense of your ‘analogue negatives’.

A coherent shooting and sorting approach makes this simpler

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