Workflow 101 – Part 1: We Shouldn’t Be Polishing Turds

Workflow 101 is a new series I’m doing here on the blog.  When I first started my business, I feel like I struggled to find my groove for a while in terms of workflow.  I was constantly asking myself,  “What’s the best way to get an image from my camera to the final edit?”  Things got so much smoother once I had a process down. 


In this series, I’m going to share what works for me.  The idea for this series has been marinating in my mind for a while now, so I hope it’s helpful as you explore what works for you!  Thanks for following along!   (PS – you can sign up for email or rss updates so you don’t miss anything)  Here we go!


Workflow 101 – Part 1:  We Shouldn’t be Polishing Turds


Okay, I know it’s not technically ‘Workflow,’ but starting with a good image needs to be a given.  You’ve heard the phrase… “You can’t polish a turd.”  Well, I was going to use that as my title.  But the problem is that with Lightroom and Photoshop, we can actually do a pretty darn good job at polishing turds.  In other words, we can take a pretty crummy photo and, a lot of times, make it into something respectable.  Maybe even amazing.


Although there are several problems with this, one main problem stands out to me:  If you are using Photoshop and Lightroom to ‘fix’ all your crummy images, you will get BURNED OUT.  Let me say it again – BURNED OUT!  How do I know this?  When I started out, there were so many instances when I was at a shoot and I’d say, “Oh, don’t worry.  I’ll just fix it in Photoshop later.”  Toys in the background.  Boogers in the nose.  Snot on the face.  Rather than ‘bothering’ mom to change a baby’s shirt, planning to fix all the drool later in Photoshop.  Rather than bothering mom to turn the baby yet again into better light, trying to fix it later.  Bad shadows and crummy lighting.  Trust me, when you are spending tons of time FIXING in Photoshop and Lightroom rather than ENHANCING, burn out is inevitable. Because although we can get fairly good results, fixing takes lots and lots of time.  And the result is always subpar to getting it right in the camera.


Of course, it is certainly helpful to have some tricks in our arsenal to be able to FIX things as needed.  Because sometimes it is unavoidable.  But when you are spending all your time fixing, you will get frustrated and bored.  And you won’t become the photographer you want to become.


Do you know how you come across images that you just drool over?  Images you could only dream of creating?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 99.9% of those were correct in the camera.  So the message of ‘Workflow 101 – Part 1’ is this… Get the image correct in camera.


In my experience, if an image has these 5 qualities, it is usually a winner:

  1. It’s properly exposed.
  2. It’s in focus.  Typically the eyes are the focal point.
  3. It’s well-lit.  The lighting is pleasing, no harsh shadows or hotspots.
  4. There is little to no background clutter.
  5. You’ve captured the expression.


If you’re still struggling with the technical side of your camera, I would really recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.  It was after reading his book that things finally started clicking for me.  If you are still unsure of how Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO all work together, spend time on that rather than on editing right now.  You will thank me for it later!


So that’s it for Part 1 – Get it right in camera.  Let’s all aim to stop polishing turds, okay?!  We all want to be great photographers, not just good photo fixers!


Thanks for stopping by, look for Workflow 101 – Part 2 soon!

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3 Responses to Workflow 101 – Part 1: We Shouldn’t Be Polishing Turds

  1. Pingback: Workflow 101 – Part 2: Setting Up Your Color Space and Bit Depth | Polished Picture

  2. Pingback: Workflow 101 – Part 3: Lightroom Work | Polished Picture

  3. Excellent tutorial. I’m so glad they are helpful!

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