Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Photoshoot From Last Week Part 1

I HAD TWO PHOTO sessions with the staff photographer last week. I'll detail the first, and more sobering, here.

I had been told that I would have a headshot portrait taken earlier last week. The redesign of our magazine includes photos of the editorial board members, and I believe they want to be able to add the writers and editors too. Also, the PR woman wanted to put an announcement out that the company had hired a new senior editor for the magazine, so she needed a shot to offer anyone who might actually care to run a note in their publication.

To that end, I came in on Wednesday with my favorite Oxford shirt and headed down to the studio. It's actually quite substantial, with computer-controlled lighting, multiple backdrops, and even a hospital bed and a range of medical clothing in case we need to produce something not available in stock-photo collections. My needs were much simpler, and once the photographer popped a large memory card into his camera, we were ready to roll.

He took about 25 shots, some with me sitting normally, others with my arms over the back of my chair, each time saying, "Money" instead of, "Cheese." I didn't ask him why, but if I had to guess, I would say that the smiles produced using the more familiar word tend to look much more exaggerated.

Once done, he transferred his shots to the Mac beneath his desk (using a setup that named and copied them to a second drive all at once, very slick). I got to choose which one I preferred. This was fairly simple, as I really don't like the way I appear in any photos, so I chose the one that made me cringe the least.

Our photographer being a modern gent, he immediately commenced some Photoshop retouching on it. Although he claimed his work as I watched was superficial and that he'd go to work on it later, in three minutes or so he did a shitload of corrective work. It's not because my features are so spotless. His skill, possibly combined with custom retouching tools he had added to his version of Photoshop, was sure and swift.

It was at this moment that I realized I would never be a graphic designer.

This is no surprise to me, but it wasn't until I watched this guy at work that I completely divorced myself from the dream. The work I had seen at Pratt's show was all complete upon my visit. Seeing this guy work, seemingly by inborn instinct, underscored how being a late arrival to the design world was a severe handicap. To be at his level, or the level of any of the artists at the office (we have an actual art department and director), I would have had to start when my age was in single digits, surely when these folks' interest in illustration was born.

It is actually liberating to know that I don't ever have to claim greater competence in that realm. I will detail some of the things I've been doing at the new place, one very exciting, that take the place of that nebulous whimsy that I might be a designer. I can concentrate on the skills now being used in this position, both in editing — strong, but long neglected in my last job — and writing — potentially the greatest of my talents. Though I can use Photoshop in a fairly primitive way, thanks to the class, I was not depressed to see someone use it to our photographer's level of skill. Rather, it made me realize I had the power to sharpen my editing and writing talents to the point where they are as fluid and assured as his in the realm he chose.

He did help me realize one other talent I hadn't realized I had, which will be the subject of my next post.


India said...


Well, I'm glad you found comfort in this conclusion, but graphic design and photo retouching aren't the same thing. And you can take a class in the latter from the comfort of your own desk.

It's a useful skill, but I'll bet a lot of excellent graphic designers don't have it.

Schizohedron said...

No argument from me that retouching ≠ graphic design. What I found in my job hunt was that the vast majority of design positions asked for Photoshop competency I couldn't meet. That's why I took the SVA course. What I did not convey in the piece was how difficult I found the course, and how easily I was forgetting very basic lessons issued early in the course. What this experience told me was that, deep down, I didn't have a true interest in extensive Photoshop use along its many axes of utility. InDesign I picked up easily and with scant tutoring because layout interests me. Without truly liking that aspect of design — one that a lot of jobs seemed to ask candidates to do at least part of the time — I suspected I wouldn't be able to proceed in that field. Seeing the tools used in such a competent, instinctive way the other day finally led me to be honest with myself.

The perverse thing is that of the Photoshop skills we were taught in the class, I had a comparatively fairly easy time of picking up retouching.