Photography and Technology. A three-part article describing a beginning, my own current setup and a bigger, more established future system for my fashion photography needs! By a computer guru!

These days, for many, computers and photography don’t go without each other. I thought with all the news Apple computer has been making especially in the last couple of years, with the introduction of the Mac Pro and now with the new Macbook, that I thought a blog post on the marriage of tech and photography would be a good thing. Considering my expertise in technology, who better to talk about the use of it? Honestly, I have yet to meet a photographer that matches my understanding of it. Double-honesty: Not even close **Big Grin**

When I played around with photography, long before I thought about doing this professionally, my images never saw any editing. I didn’t even know even back during film, that photographers would adjust colors and create effects in the dark room. I simply thought they had some magical skills they did during the photography! I was quite surprised that even during film that not only certain chemical concoctions were used, but the timing of them and tools like razors were used! And then computers pretty much took it a whole other level. We all know about the stories of the gross-use of Photoshop.

Lillian Bassman - Artistic Portrait

Lillian Bassman – Artistic Portrait

Before I delve into the tech, I have a great story about one of my favorite photographers: Lillian Bassman. The story is about how these electronic tools are merely tools and haven’t changed the art. Seriously!

Lillian Bassman was a fashion photographer for Junior Bazaar and later Harper’s Bazaar during the 1940s – 1960s. Absolutely dreamy and gorgeous fashion photography! But in the 1960’s, she got fed-up with certain aspects of the business and simply quit cold-turkey. In fact, there were bags of un-processed negatives of work she did found in her attic! Negatives were later processed and showcased in a museum.

But during her fashion photography days, she certainly spent her fair share of time in the dark room perfecting her style with the chemicals and tools used during that time to achieve her style. I know I would’ve been totally frustrated as I failed chemistry. Multiple times! I’ve had several old-school photographers tell me about their love affair with the darkroom. I simply don’t have the patience for it! Go home, copy the images onto the computer and fire-up Photoshop!

Lillian Bassman - Harper Bazaar December 1950

Lillian Bassman – Harper Bazaar December 1950

About 30 years later after Lillian Bassman traded in her cameras, the person who developed those un-processed photos showed them to the people at Neiman Marcus. The people were so impressed that they wanted Lillian to do their next campaign! Mind you, Lillian was in her 70s already! But you know what? She learned Photoshop partially for the campaign! G-E-N-I-U-S! And you know even the crazier part? Her images looked just like how she made them in the darkroom! I even read a comment from her on how a photographer’s vision shouldn’t change with the tool they use… Amen.

When I first started actually editing my photos, I only had my venerable Lenovo X200 Thinkpad laptop. I believe I bought it originally it in 2008 or 2009. I love Lenovo laptops as they were originally IBM ThinkPads. I still think Lenovo laptops are the best PC laptops you can get. It’s one of the sturdier brand and best compatible with anything Windows-based. In my opinion, one of the most professional looking systems too. The X200 was also one of their lightest and smallest systems. When I got that laptop, I couldn’t be happier!

Probably the biggest thing I did with that laptop when it comes to media creation was to create a short, 2-minute video I did on a road trip I did. It actually did a decent job of it. I used Adobe Premier Elements 8.0 and still, happy with the quality of that video. 4GB of RAM, 80GB hard drive, Intel Core Duo, Windows XP and it got the job done. I used an external hard drive to keep all my work on which was probably a 500GB drive. It took about 20 minutes to render that video though! I still remember going to lunch when I pressed the ‘Export’ button. I was really careful I had all the options set correctly before starting the process!

Lenovo X200 Thinkpad with Lightroom

Lenovo X200 Thinkpad with Lightroom

I was also using Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 to edit photos. I tell you, editing photos in Elements was PAINFUL! This version of Elements didn’t have Layers like the real version of Photoshop. Took forever to do retouching. The Elements version has no right to be associated with Photoshop. At least with version 8, the skills you learned don’t translate into the real Photoshop. I guess if you never intend on advancing your skills, then it’s fine. But that kind of thinking doesn’t even compute for me. Photoshop Elements is a little better now as it includes the Layers feature, a critical tool in the true version of Photoshop. The Elements version is still woefully inadequate for anything other than casual and amateur work.

For a while though, it worked. The big thing for me was having an external monitor attached to the laptop. Hey, that laptop had a 12.1″ screen and editing was going to kill my eyes! I had a Viewsonic VX2125 I believe and it was actually very decent. The resolution and color reproduction I got on it worked well. I also used an external keyboard and mouse.

And a discussion wouldn’t be complete without talking about backup. What I say to that is: What backup? The only thing I was really concerned was about was accidentally deleting or over-writing an image I was working on. Failed hard drive? Just doesn’t happen. I guess with my experience, I see it coming and use a new hard drive before any failure. I usually swap out drives every 2 – 3 years for capacity issues and that system works for me. I can’t remember my last drive failure. And I’m not superstitious either. Though the more important my images have become to me, I’ve made changes in my backup! At the time, I would simply copy my images to a separate hard drive. Not the most sophisticated setup. But it worked fine for me.

I’d say within 6 months of starting my profession, I knew I was going to upgrade my system. The big issue was that I couldn’t run what I considered lower-powered photography applications with any sort of stability. One of those applications would be Adobe Lightroom. Adobe Photoshop Elements sufficed for editing fashion and portraits, but for organizing and processing large numbers of event photos, Lightroom is master. It was and is still a big part of my photography income. The Bay Area is one of the top markets for event photography and hey, any income I can get with photography and replace with my day job is certainly a positive step!

The problem with that system was that I couldn’t export more than 10 photos without Lightroom crashing on me! I pulled out all the computer tricks I knew to get my laptop to work! My little Lenovo laptop X200 just couldn’t handle it. If my laptop couldn’t handle Lightroom, there was no way it would do the full-version of Photoshop!

Next episode: My Current Setup. More than just a processor or hard drive upgrade!

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

  • Technology: Tech and the Photographer-Mobile
  • Technology: Tech and the Photographer-Desktop
  • Technology: Tech and the Photographer-The Intro
  • Event: NYFW: How a Photographer Prepares

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