The Tweaker

Chad Johnson, aka OMGChad, at PAX east. Bon vivant and all-around good egg.
Chad Johnson, aka OMGChad, at PAX east. Bon vivant and all-around good egg.

 

Oh, whoops: by “Tweaker” I’m referring to me, not to the subject of this photo (Chad Johnson, aka OMGChad, a fab former producer at TWiT who’s now off on his own and building his own business hosting his own YouTube channel).

And I don’t mean “tweaking” in the sense of being hopped up on meth. I mean “obsessively making minute adjustments, forever.”

Perhaps I could have saved some trouble by choosing a different title for this photo.

I just wanted to get at the fact that the PAX East photos I’ve been posting to Flickr are my first full project since switching from Aperture to Lightroom. It’s clear that Aperture did not, in fact, just off to the store to get a pack of cigarettes and that it’s never, ever coming back and I wonder if it ever really loved us, anyway?

Well, whatever: Apple’s not going to support my favorite photo library/editing app any more. I’m going to have to convert my Aperture instincts to Lightroom instincts at some point…I guess I might as well get started now.

It’s a frustrating and universal experience. You build more equity with an app or an OS the longer you use it. At this point I am really, really good at walking (no joke; I can walk across almost any surface without falling over…even if I’m carrying lots of stuff at the same time). It sucks to have to throw all of that away and switch to crawling.

Learning a photo editor isn’t the same as learning to run away from predators. You do get to carry over some basic understandings of how color and light work and an inarticulable personal definition of what constitutes a photo that “looks right.”

But this photo took me wayyyy longer to process that it would have in Aperture. It was shot in the press room, with that terrible institutional overhead lighting that knows only hatred and lives only to create unflattering skin tones. Just nudging the White Balance and Tint sliders won’t do.

It’s kind of a nice portrait and I wanted to get a copy to Chad before I forgot about it. I’ve now had a few more days with Lightroom and a little more time to focus, and this second version is way better. There’s more depth to the skin tones and Chad’s plumage is closer to its natural (or should I say “natural”?) red.

Getting back to “personal definitions of what looks right.” I feel like I screw up photos like this one by trying to make terrible overhead institutional lighting look like terrific balanced studio lighting. I’ll get better results by trying to make it look like good institutional lighting…or, as if it was shot with a camera that costs three times as much and is way better at solving white balance problems automatically.

Life is a learning process. I even post photos differently. I used to come home from an event like PAX or Boston Comic-Con and spend two or three weeks culling hundreds and hundreds of photos down to 80 or 90, editing and captioning each, and then posting a huge album all at once. Now, I use the brick-by-brick approach of posting a photo a day until I think I’m done. I like the pace, I like the ability to treat each photo like its own special project, and I like the fact that each photo typically gets thousands of views instead of just a few hundred. I also seem to think that 30 photos tell the story just fine, whereas when I did this the old way going from a shortlist of 110 photos to 83 final selections felt painful.

Well, so long Aperture. You were a great app with lots of life left in you and I’m sorry that Apple abandoned you for something younger and mobile-focused.