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Author Topic: What a Digital Tech do?  (Read 6965 times)
ynp
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« on: August 01, 2008, 11:16:20 AM »
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I am following all the recent discussions on the new exiting products from Leaf, Hasselblad and P1. People are saying how Digital Techs are important,  they say how the techs know all the quirks of Leaf and  P1 backs, how they are experts on the digital workflow. I even Googled some digital tech companies in the USA and looked at the big carts they use.

Now I got seriously curious: does that mean professional photographers do not own the professional equipment or they do not know how to use it or they do not understand the digital workflow and shooting software?
I am not ironic, I just cannot understand what additional value the digital techs bring. It is said they are paid more than an assistant is paid, does that mean they are providing the final look of the files or the color cooking is still the duty of the photographer?

I live in Russia and have very limited experience with commercial shooting. I observed several commercial productions when we rented out our studio and the pros were dealing with all the workflow on their own.
Thanks,
Yevgeny
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2008, 12:37:47 PM »
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The easiest way of seeing the value of a good digital tech is to be half way through a shoot you have no digital tech for when a fatal error message appears on your screen.

Obviously the responsibilities and pay of digital techs vary greatly from shoot-to-shoot, genre-to-genre and region-to-region, but in general I think of the digital tech as the person responsible for the continued functioning and proper organization/backup of the digital captures. Most assistants are responsible for enhancing the image (e.g. crafting better lighting) or lowering the workload (e.g. carrying/moving stuff). In contrast, the base success of a digital tech is a binary function; either the digital capturing is working or it isn't.

Of course a great digital tech does lots of other things like maintaining as-you-go backups, style images on the fly, advise the photographer and assistants on exposure/focus/items-in-background, produce in-shoot proof sheets etc. However, the primary and largest responsibility is to make sure that when the photographer pushes the button that an image is captured and stored in an organized way.

A contributing factor to the cost of a digital tech is the amount of expertise and continuous reading required to keep current on high-end systems. My job here at Capture Integration is to be sort of a 2nd-level digital tech (the guy a good digital tech can call when they are stumped), and keeping on-top of new/obscure sources of problems can be enormously time-consuming. Some techs stay current on P1/Leaf/Hassel/Sinar/Canon/Nikon all at the same time!

Finally, age of the photographer can be an important demographic consideration. Photographers who learned film and aren't interested in immersing themselves with 1s and 0s will rely on a digital tech far more than someone who has always shot digital and is inherently more comfortable with the equipment and workflow.

Just my two cents, and I eagerly await the input of in-the-field techs and photographers. I'm sure the techs and photogs will have very different views :-).

Doug Peterson
Capture Integration, Phase One Dealer
Personal Portfolio

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I am following all the recent discussions on the new exiting products from Leaf, Hasselblad and P1. People are saying how Digital Techs are important,  they say how the techs know all the quirks of Leaf and  P1 backs, how they are experts on the digital workflow. I even Googled some digital tech companies in the USA and looked at the big carts they use.

Now I got seriously curious: does that mean professional photographers do not own the professional equipment or they do not know how to use it or they do not understand the digital workflow and shooting software?
I am not ironic, I just cannot understand what additional value the digital techs bring. It is said they are paid more than an assistant is paid, does that mean they are providing the final look of the files or the color cooking is still the duty of the photographer?

I live in Russia and have very limited experience with commercial shooting. I observed several commercial productions when we rented out our studio and the pros were dealing with all the workflow on their own.
Thanks,
Yevgeny
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JDG
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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2008, 01:39:56 PM »
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Now I got seriously curious: does that mean professional photographers do not own the professional equipment or they do not know how to use it or they do not understand the digital workflow and shooting software?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212342\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

In my experience... there are many photographers that this is entirely the case.  They own nothing (which works because they can bill the client for the rental... and this is normal practice in NY), and they dont have a clue when it comes to technology or workflow.  It's kind of of depressing, but it keeps me employed I suppose.

That being said I have worked with many fantastic photographers who could run the workflow themselves, but its more cost and time effective to hire a tech company.
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nik
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« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2008, 02:33:21 PM »
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Sometimes the photographer can't do it all - and should not. Just like with lighting, makeup and styling, get someone else to do it if the budget allows for it and/or if you don't care to do it /don't know how to do it. Some photographers have their own equipment and still hire a tech, others rent. I think it's best when the photographer can focus on getting the shot and keeping the AD happy. The lighting, digital tech, styling is handled by the team with expectations set by the photographer. The tech's job is - and often not limited to - make sure that the technology runs smoothly during the shoot, including recovering from crashes (phase one anyone?!?), backing up, processing files (during or post shoot), ftp'ing files, checking lighting, focus, moire, color calibration and accuracy (can't reproduce that crazy purple? ask the tech to modify the color range / profile).

Digital technology has essentially brought the lab in-house (w.r.t. film). Having someone knowledgeable with the tech of color and the bits behind it is as important as  having a lab that you can trust to deliver the results you expect - quickly.

-Nik
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Natasa Stojsic
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« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2008, 03:16:00 PM »
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I am following all the recent discussions on the new exiting products from Leaf, Hasselblad and P1. People are saying how Digital Techs are important,  they say how the techs know all the quirks of Leaf and  P1 backs, how they are experts on the digital workflow. I even Googled some digital tech companies in the USA and looked at the big carts they use.

Now I got seriously curious: does that mean professional photographers do not own the professional equipment or they do not know how to use it or they do not understand the digital workflow and shooting software?
I am not ironic, I just cannot understand what additional value the digital techs bring. It is said they are paid more than an assistant is paid, does that mean they are providing the final look of the files or the color cooking is still the duty of the photographer?

I live in Russia and have very limited experience with commercial shooting. I observed several commercial productions when we rented out our studio and the pros were dealing with all the workflow on their own.
Thanks,
Yevgeny
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212342\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Yevgeny,

Every time I work on a big job.... yes, I want somebody responsible for troubleshooting!!!

Everybody I know in Photo Industry is working in dual capacity anyway, so to put more pressure on the top of that is asking a Little too much!

Look at it this way, who cares if every one of us is Polyglot and speaks over 7 languages when in truth we can only speak one at the time... even if you could speak one and write the other, still...
for how long do you think you would want to do that...    

Perhaps, your workflow is different but I think it's healthy to have help and share responsibility... anyway, leaves more time for your creativity  !!!

Although, don't forget I know where we come from our mentality is different...
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[span style='font-size:11pt;line-height:100%'][span style='color:black']N a t a s a   S t o j s i c[/span][/span][span style='color:gray']  .......................................................................................................................................... [/span]
[span style='color:gray']PHASE[/span][span style='color:skyblue']ONE[/span] [span style='color:gray']P30[span style='font-size:7pt;line-height:100%']+[/span][/span]| [span style='color:red']MAMIYA[/span] [span style='color:gray']645 AFD II [/span]  [span style='font-family:impact'][span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'][span style='color:#98AFC7'] | 28mm f4.5 D. AF | 35mm f3.5 AF | 55-110mm f4.5 AF Zoom | 80mm f2.8 AF | 120mm f4.0 MF Macro | 150mm f3.5 AF[/span][/span][/span]
ynp
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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2008, 04:33:19 PM »
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Natasa and guys, thank you for your insight !

FYI I am no pro,  I have a day job, and I do some copying work for my wife who owns a gallery here in Moscow and we own a gallery in France ( with a local partner). I was the first person who bought an eMotion 22 in Russia (from Jenoptik, not from Sinar!) I briefly owned an eMotion 75, a db20 Phase One and I am more or less familiar and comfortable with Sinar and Phase One workflow.

I will try to explain why I am so interested in the Digital Tech stuff. Recently we decided to rent out my digital backs and some of my cameras to public. My daughter is a designer and she runs her own company (http://www.scruplesbranding.ru/en/news/); the renting of my equipment is dealt  by her. It supplement her cashflow a bit.

Because I own two Sinar backs ( the eMotion 54LV  and an SB 54H) and because I have access to an eMotion 75 I previously owned, it was quite logical and scary at the same time to let people lend our equipment. Previously I was asked by the Rollei and Sinar sub-dealer to help some photographers who were renting their Sinar digital backs and I helped them  with  to set the Sinar and Brumbaer software.

I discovered that there are two types of photographers who were interested to part with some money and pay us rent.

Some of our clients  are mostly interested in my  SB54H multi-shot. Two of them  are owners of the Sinar-P3/P2 with Sinarback 54M and they rent only when they shoot fabrics and moire prone materials. They know the trade and they understand the software and they  have no desire nor need  to touch my eMotion backs.

Gradually we brought new customers of a different type, people who own and shoot DSLRs and need (or want) something better, sometimes to impress their clients. Some of them are young people who never had any experience with MF and they want eMotion 54LV or 75 and my Sinar-M with the AF lenses;
they have very limited understanding of RAW workflow and we do conversions for them in-house. If they shoot at our studio we assist them, if they need to shoot outside we send a person to keep an eye at the gear and to provide some assistance on location. Then we can be sure that no "yellowish" files leave the studio/location.   It  looks like   a sort of digital tech work free of charge.
Very often we are asked to do the TIFF or DNG conversions; I do not like to be involved in this part as I am sure that all the conversion stuff is very subjective.  I am a control freak   myself and I cannot understand how this part of creative process can be delegated to a stranger.

The concept of a dedicated person responsible digital troubleshooting was unknown to me and now I understand it better. Hopefully I will not be involved in a frightening big scale production to worry about it.    

Thanks again,
Yevgeny
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gwhitf
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2008, 05:13:34 PM »
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I keep a separate chapter on my website, to show (and impress) clients with my Digital Tech full-time team. I haven't updated the site in some time, but this gives you a glimpse into my studio, and my back-up team, and my server:

http://www.squareamerica.com/ib.htm
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James R Russell
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2008, 05:44:26 PM »
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I keep a separate chapter on my website, to show (and impress) clients with my Digital Tech full-time team. I haven't updated the site in some time, but this gives you a glimpse into my studio, and my back-up team, and my server:

http://www.squareamerica.com/ib.htm
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212424\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


gwhitf,

Like the suit.

JR
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TMARK
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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2008, 12:51:14 AM »
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I keep a separate chapter on my website, to show (and impress) clients with my Digital Tech full-time team. I haven't updated the site in some time, but this gives you a glimpse into my studio, and my back-up team, and my server:

http://www.squareamerica.com/ib.htm
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212424\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

This could be a promo piece for the MFDB makers.

I really like the graphics.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 01:32:58 AM by TMARK » Logged
James R Russell
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2008, 10:22:05 AM »
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The easiest way of seeing the value of a good digital tech is to be half way through a shoot you have no digital tech for when a fatal error message appears on your screen.

Obviously the responsibilities and pay of digital techs vary greatly from shoot-to-shoot, genre-to-genre and region-to-region, but in general I think of the digital tech as the person responsible for the continued functioning and proper organization/backup of the digital captures. Most assistants are responsible for enhancing the image (e.g. crafting better lighting) or lowering the workload (e.g. carrying/moving stuff). In contrast, the base success of a digital tech is a binary function; either the digital capturing is working or it isn't.

Of course a great digital tech does lots of other things like maintaining as-you-go backups, style images on the fly, advise the photographer and assistants on exposure/focus/items-in-background, produce in-shoot proof sheets etc. However, the primary and largest responsibility is to make sure that when the photographer pushes the button that an image is captured and stored in an organized way.

A contributing factor to the cost of a digital tech is the amount of expertise and continuous reading required to keep current on high-end systems. My job here at Capture Integration is to be sort of a 2nd-level digital tech (the guy a good digital tech can call when they are stumped), and keeping on-top of new/obscure sources of problems can be enormously time-consuming. Some techs stay current on P1/Leaf/Hassel/Sinar/Canon/Nikon all at the same time!

Finally, age of the photographer can be an important demographic consideration. Photographers who learned film and aren't interested in immersing themselves with 1s and 0s will rely on a digital tech far more than someone who has always shot digital and is inherently more comfortable with the equipment and workflow.

Just my two cents, and I eagerly await the input of in-the-field techs and photographers. I'm sure the techs and photogs will have very different views :-).

Doug Peterson
Capture Integration, Phase One Dealer
Personal Portfolio
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212356\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]



I think if I was the "2nd-level digital tech (the guy a good digital tech can call when they are stumped)"  I wouldn't spend too much time mentioning fatal error messages.  

I pretty much work genre to genre, region to region and some jobs need the tech, but if you know your stuff a lot of jobs don't.

In fact of the best 4 photographers I know and respect,  do it themselves and probably shoot 85% of their work without a dedicated digital tech.

I use techs, when the project demands it and some are brilliant, some are ok and some just are assistants that don't want to haul sandbags.

We're self contained and my first usuallyt does most of the digital tech on set stuff, but refuses to be called a digital tech, because he does haul sandbags and he's  proud of it.

Then again if I shoot tethered t, we just turn on C-1 and start shooting and nobody is at the computer.   The only thing you need to do is keep the shot folder under 400, because the rest is pretty much automatic.

As far as photographers learning 1's and 0's.  It ain't age, it ain't film-to-digital,  it's just work ethic and how deep you want to know your art.  Some do, some don't.


JR
« Last Edit: August 03, 2008, 01:36:28 AM by James R Russell » Logged

alexjones
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« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2008, 08:52:54 PM »
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I'm a little unusual I think as a Digital Tech.  I work in the Pittsburgh market and travel out to Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and the rest of Pennsylvania with my own rig.  Pittsburgh is not a rental market for equipment so the only alternative is to own everything.  I work for local shooters and those that travel into the area providing a turnkey solution to the shoot.  Check out the site and you can get a better idea of what I do.  I've added a new Hasselblad CF39II back and made some other changes to the kit since the last update to the site.

I provide rental lighting, digital capture, retouch, assisting and whatever else is needed.  With the local clients many times I carry projects from concept to delivery to client ready (or nearly) for press.  One area that I don't cover is CMYK work.

I'm also in the process of building a mid size rental photo studio here in Pittsburgh.  This is an extension of the kit that I offer.  http://steelgatestudio.com/

The process of shooting has become more complicated in recent years so the role of the digital tech is to make sure that everything is going well and staying in good order during the shoot.  Much of it is the same as the process of keeping track of the film and keeping it all labeled.  Keeping the technology out of the way of the shoot is also something that I try to do so that it does not intrude in the shooting.  With so much stuff on set it is easy for it to become a distraction to the person being photographed.

Alex Jones
Digital Tech Pittsburgh
http://steelgateresource.com/digitaltech.html
« Last Edit: August 02, 2008, 08:58:29 PM by alexjones » Logged
AndreNapier
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« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2008, 10:46:49 PM »
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deleted - for being too harsh and hot blooded with the respond.
AN
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James R Russell
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2008, 01:08:22 AM »
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James,
What is with your obsession with ex hairdressers -
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For the record, this bit of humor was not directed at you or any one person in particular.

Actually, I didn't know you were a hairdresser or hair stylist.  The little I know of you I thought you were a phtoographer/salon owner or a salon owner/photographer in the Chicago area.

In general this was obviously failed humor on my part.  I was just referencing to the number of people in the fashion industry that move from, model, hair stylist, makeup artist, to photographer.

Some of these people are quite good and know their art, some are not, but both groups usually produce a good end product.  

Also, for the record I have a very high regard for people that learn, stretch themselves are move forward in any endeavor as long as it's legal.

In fact the people that love photography for the sake of photography and not the glamor, or the pay day I have the highest respect for.  

But your right, a lot of the people you admire will not be on this forum.

JR
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James R Russell
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2008, 01:11:05 AM »
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I'm a little unusual I think as a Digital Tech.  I work in the Pittsburgh market and travel out to Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and the rest of Pennsylvania with my own rig.  Pittsburgh is not a rental market for equipment so the only alternative is to own everything.  I work for local shooters and those that travel into the area providing a turnkey solution to the shoot.  Check out the site and you can get a better idea of what I do.  I've added a new Hasselblad CF39II back and made some other changes to the kit since the last update to the site.

I provide rental lighting, digital capture, retouch, assisting and whatever else is needed.  With the local clients many times I carry projects from concept to delivery to client ready (or nearly) for press.  One area that I don't cover is CMYK work.

I'm also in the process of building a mid size rental photo studio here in Pittsburgh.  This is an extension of the kit that I offer.  http://steelgatestudio.com/

The process of shooting has become more complicated in recent years so the role of the digital tech is to make sure that everything is going well and staying in good order during the shoot.  Much of it is the same as the process of keeping track of the film and keeping it all labeled.  Keeping the technology out of the way of the shoot is also something that I try to do so that it does not intrude in the shooting.  With so much stuff on set it is easy for it to become a distraction to the person being photographed.

Alex Jones
Digital Tech Pittsburgh
http://steelgateresource.com/digitaltech.html
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212668\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Alex is one of the very good ones, along with Eric Hillard and a few others that come on this forum.   Alex is one of the most upstanding people I've had the pleasure to know.
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2008, 05:28:17 AM »
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In fact the people that love photography for the sake of photography and not the glamor, or the pay day I have the highest respect for. 

But your right, a lot of the people you admire will not be on this forum.

JR
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It does seem that there is not much of an entry barrier into ... politics
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gwhitf
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2008, 07:00:27 AM »
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sipping fifth glass of whiskey and contemplating what to do with the uncertain future.

I simply think the business is changing; anyone that's over the age of about 35 can see it. More and more people involved, and everyone doing a smaller piece of the pie. I guess in the old days, the photographer would own the studio, own all the gear, have staff assistants, etc. -- now everything is freelance by the day, and now with digital, let's add in a digital tech.

I find it incredibly more complicated to do business now -- all these people involved, and the pressure of keeping them all available for particular shoot days. One person booked on another job, and your trusted team falls apart.

I find it creeps its way into the client area too -- now, they are not satisfied with marker comps or cocktail napkins -- now they want a swiped Getty image in place, with mocked up type in place, printed out on a nice Epson printer. And don't deviate from that layout, pal. And let's see every frame you shot within an hour of packing the truck -- online, and in print.

This now does allow most anyone with a vision to now step into the photographer role -- all of the craft is now done by freelancers and hired guns. Waltz in with some tearsheets, hand them to the freelance assistant, shoot the shot, (with camera set by freelance assistant), hand the cards to the Tech, and waltz right back out.

As for me, I like to go into salons and buy Paul Mitchell products, so I feel like I have personal pro hair. Or go to Pep Boys and buy the cool wrenches -- just out of revenge. Do I know what to do with them -- no way -- but I've got what the pros have.

I always thought that Tyen guy (ex-makeup artist) was a good photographer. I think it's easier with Beauty.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/demken_dook/s...57594077964223/
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« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2008, 07:32:57 AM »
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...   
http://AndreNapier.com
Ex - hairdresser

Wow. Nice images. I'd like to become ex-hairdresser too!
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2008, 12:30:45 PM »
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James is right a thousand times over.  If you happen to be the group he used as an example oh well.  It could just as easily been the Dentists.  Don't be so touchy, relax.

More and more with the changes in technology we are seeing graphic artists (and everyones cousin or uncle) starting to shoot and calling themselves photographers, and taking part of what we do for a living and doing it on the cheap.  They may or may not be very good at it but it does lower the standards for the entire industry.  We work hard at what we do and drive to make the best images possible.  We push harder than the job requires but we do it because we want great images.  When someone comes in and just gets it done and cheapens the whole process with little in the way of refined skill it gets under my skin and I suspect the skins of many here.

If someone wants to change what they do and become something new, great.  Just let them earn the respect of the industry by doing great work and not undermining the industry as a whole.  Putting in the years and paying dues is all part of the process.  Learn your craft from the inside out and practice it.

Cheap dollar stock and royalty free stock has eroded the perceptions of the people who pay us to do what we do.  It's hard to convince a client to spend $2,000 to $30,000 to produce images when they can get them for a buck or less by the folks that are just glad to get their pictures seen and used.  Using a cheap photographer for a shoot that bid the lowest is a recipe for disaster that I have seen backfire on clients.
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Schewe
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« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2008, 01:58:00 PM »
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Now I got seriously curious: does that mean professional photographers do not own the professional equipment or they do not know how to use it or they do not understand the digital workflow and shooting software?

I am not ironic, I just cannot understand what additional value the digital techs bring. It is said they are paid more than an assistant is paid, does that mean they are providing the final look of the files or the color cooking is still the duty of the photographer?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=212342\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Back in the old days when I shot film commercials (mid to late 80's) I learned a lot from being a director. First off, the "director" is solely responsible for the final footage's loo and feel but there is just about ZERO change a single person could possible light & shoot a pro 35mm motion picture camera let alone change film, pull focus, handle the sound and push the dolly.

So, the job is broken up into parts for which you assemble a team of experts. And I can tell you having a good team working together is hyper-critical. Any one of the team can essentially ruin the results but a good team working together can produce film that can simply not be done by an individual.

So it is with commercial photography. In motion, you can't even by a Panovision camera...the company won't sell them they only lease or rent them. And a Pano camera is such a complicated device that it takes a second cameraman to be in charge of film, batteries and lenses. The cameraman doesn't even do that. So, take the same approach to stills and the Digital Tech is the second cameraman in charge of the camera and it's operation.

Taking the Panovision analogy, the digital tech, who will be responsible for making sure the camera is in good working condition will need to spend time with the camera well before the shoot to make sure everything is working. Well, if the digital tech owns the camera and rents it with their services, that makes sense...the only downside is to the tech who must invest in the camera and make sure it's well taken care of.

So, if a photographer (director) is hired to do a large shoot, it may very well make sense to job out the responsibilities to others, each of whom is an expert in their own right...

The one think many photographers have a problem accepting is that who and what you are as a photographer has little or nothing to do with owning and operating a camera and more about knowing how to create a compelling photographic image. How fancy your camera or how big your lens isn't really very important...it's really down to what does the final image look like? And if it takes a crew to produce it, who cares?
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« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2008, 05:02:27 PM »
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Owning the whole system for me has been great because I know the system and know if it is in the least bit having trouble and making sure that it stays solid.  When things get added into the system it introduces new variables but a controllable set of variables.  If I had to assemble a system from scratch from some rental department it would make the job more problematic.

Schewe hits the nail on the head.  There is so much going on and so many roles to play now that the team is more important than ever.  If you have a great team then the photographer should be much more free to pursue and make great images.

The final outcome of the files can be largely determined by the Digital Tech and especially in the case of that Tech doing the post and retouch.  Shooting RAW gives the opportunity to re-cook the way that the image looks at a later point as desired.  In the film days there was very little you could do beyond the choice of emulsion, filtration, exposure and tweaks to the processing.

In some cases I have a great deal to do with the final look and sometimes very little.  It all depends on how involved the individual shooter wants to be in the process.  I have clients on both ends of that spectrum and they have their reasons for their approaches.  Some don't want all that time in front of the computer and some delight in it.

Alex Jones
Digital Tech and Photo Assistant Pittsburgh
http://steelgateresource.com/digitaltech.html
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