Aperture As Inspiration

by Steve Simon

I have maintained that Aperture can make you a better photographer in many ways. Not only can you organize your photographic life, getting rid of the cyber-clutter (duplicate images) and ultimately have more time to shoot; but it also lets you recognize connections in your work, which can be expanded into strong collections of photographs.

This has been quite a revelation for me, and since versions add only tiny files to each album, I can experiment with endless ideas, grouping them into albums, which can blossom into full-fledged projects.

When I'm out on a shoot and I see a good picture unrelated to my current assignment, I shoot it. With Aperture, there is a place for this image; it doesn't get filed away and forgotten.

Millennium Kiss.jpg
PEI kiss.jpg

I've been shooting for so long now, that I begin to see similarities in photographs I take, even if they are continents or decades apart, or even further apart in terms of subject matter. It may be the composition is similar, the light or gesture. Or maybe it's the subject matter; shapes, faces or emotions evoked. Regardless, I sometimes get curious to see how images will play together, and from there, ideas and new bodies of work are born.

This is more than just categorizing images and putting them in a specific drawer for future consideration. This is about using Aperture to inspire you to develop ideas you can run with.

It's so easy to create albums and experiment with these connections and ideas, it's actually fun. And when something is fun, you don't mind doing it. And when you start to see results, well that just feeds the fire.

The kissing couples were all taken at different times in different places, while shooting something else. But with Aperture I can now create a "kissing" album and drag all my similar pictures inside. I can play with them, move them around, seeing how the album evolves over time and find inspiration to shoot more images about love or lust. It's a collection that eventually will grow into a new project for exhibition, or even a book someday.

Tattoo Kiss.jpg
Couple embrace.jpg

I might want to toss them onto an Aperture Light table and play with sizes and order, looking for a narrative, or print them as an essay. When I'm ready, I can create a web page and email trusted mentors for advice. Or even put a book together to take around to show people.

This is one of the reasons I embraced Aperture from the start. I saw its potential for organizing my photographic life and ultimately inspiring me to become a better photographer.

Next week: Aperture as teacher.


Bill Griffin
2007-04-26 16:10:02
Great way of sharing your renewed passion Steve. Switching to digital got me started but quickly reminded me of the chaos from earlier days shooting commercial and managing files of slides. Aperture is changing all of that for me too! This past weekend I shot 350 images on commerical assignment and then 250 images on personal assignment. Last night I learned more fully what the promote system and Lift / Stamp tools can do for quick editing. Today I mailed 7 CD's full of edited images to my client. Total time 4 hours.
I'm digging deeper into use of Exposure, Highlights / Shadows, White Balance and Colors and the workflow is fast. The cool thing is I don't even bracket my exposures anymore once I have it right on the camera's histogram.
Take this article deeper and help us with your knowledge of filing the multitude of versions in projects.
Steve Simon
2007-04-26 16:25:49
Bill, I'm with you, the best and perhaps only way to really learn this program is by using it. I too am finding out how much faster my workflow is becoming because of it. I'm not sure what you mean by filing the "multitude of versions", but if it's about retrieval, then developing a good key-wording system will help find images without having to remember too much. As I get deeper into Aperture, I intend to write about my experiences and make suggestions. Comments like yours are helpful to share the wealth.
2007-04-26 23:19:15
You know, I think this happens as a result of using any decent DAM program that lets you slice and dice your entire archive, and gives you more time to reflect. If you go from dark chaos to Aperture, or iView, or Portfolio, you're bound to think it is responsible for the sudden revelation of forgotten masterpieces and themes. Doesn't mean what you say of Aperture is any less true.
Steve Simon
2007-04-27 04:34:25
Gio, I agree with what you're saying. Though I do think that Aperture, because it can do it all "under one roof" provides a feeling of security and well being. I suprise myself using those words to talk about a computer program, but photograhy is such an important part of my life, I want it to have a good home base, and Apeture is it for me.
2007-04-29 07:32:42
I think that all this really falls on the shoulders of keywording, and more precisely, how good you are with it. And by good, I mean COMPLETE. Once your library starts to grow, finding the pics to group together can be a chore unless you can group them easily. I make sure I put the location of each shot, and I have it grouped so hierarchical it's ridiculous. I mean, seriously. I have the city, county, state, all under a heading of "Location." that way, I can group all my pics together by location if I desire in the future. the thing is, you don't know now what you may want to find later, so you have to be so very complete and articulate about what you put into each file's metadata. I just try to put everything I see, including prevailing colors.

like for the first picture, it'd probably be something like: B&W. Girl. boy. man. woman. couple. kissing. sky. Confetti. city. building. crowd. Coat. hat. Night. Lights.

I could probably come up with more, but you get the idea.

Why? because how the hell else are you going to find this picture out of 20,000 later? You don't know now what you'll want to find in the future, and as of yet, I haven't found a program that can actually find things by thinking. We have to do it at this point. Computer, find me all pictures where the prevailing color is red, and there is at least one woman, adult, with trees in the background. Warp speed, Captain. Beam me up.

Steve Simon
2007-04-29 09:00:41
Anthony, I think you raise good points. Having a comprehensive keyworded library is everybody's dream, the trick is to get it done. I find i'm so obsessed with at least getting the minimum done with an overloaded life schedule, that keywording takes a back seat. But it is important, particularly for the future and well worth the investment in time. I'm going to find a way to make sure i'm better at it in the future. You inspired me!