White seamless post-processing hell

A few years ago, I gave up on shooting white seamless portraits. I left my roll of white paper at the old condo and let the new homeowner figure out what to do with it. I sold my background stands and crossbar to a photographer friend down in West Virginia. I sold my studio strobes and Pocket Wizards on eBay. I was convinced that I was never going to shoot white seamless ever again.

Then I got a call from my swing dancing friends in the Ann Arbor scene a few weeks ago, asking if I was willing to set up a backdrop and shoot portraits of dancers for the Valentines Day dance. They’d pay me a nominal amount, but I’d get to dance for free to the live band that evening. Foolishly, I said yes.

Dumb mistakes

I arrived at the Campus Chapel, where the dance was held, at around 8pm and unloaded all my stuff from my car into the basement where I was to set up. Half of the equipment I had with me actually belonged to Kenny; I borrowed his 9′ roll of paper and background stands and crossbar, as I didn’t have those things anymore. For flashes, I didn’t have studio strobes, but I had Flashpoint (i.e. Godox) flashes with built in radios, which would work in a pinch.

I spent about an hour setting things up. I really should have spent more time trying to get things right, but I thought I had reached the point of “good enough” where I could start shooting pictures of folks patiently waiting for me to finish setting up.

In hindsight, what I should have done was arrive at 7pm, and brought along a laptop loaded with Lightroom. It would have been worth it to spend an extra hour dialing in the lights perfectly and getting the exposure perfect — that would have saved me three hours of post-processing time. As it turned out, my white seamless wasn’t quite white enough, which means that for the 80 or so pictures — a small number of photos compared to what I shot for Pirate Swing years ago — I have to spend about 5 minutes in Photoshop on each one.

Post-processing hell

Since it was the Valentine’s Dance that I shot photos at, I figured that I’d try to get the photos done by Valentines Day, which is tomorrow. In an effort to avoid the delays that occurred for Pirate Swing, I’m absolutely resolved to try and finish post-processing the photos tonight and tomorrow evening.

I’ve spent about two hours on photos so far, and I’ve got 22 images done. I’m a quarter of the way through the batch. I may just stay up late tonight and try to knock out at least three quarters of the pictures.

Now I remember why I stopped doing this a long time ago — it’s the post-processing that kills me. It’s a shame, because once I got in the groove of shooting that evening, shooting portraits was one hell of a lot of fun. Dancers are goofy, and I’m a bit of a goofball when it comes to ideas, and it all comes together when I can suggest something stupid and the subjects willingly follow my instructions and even sometimes add some of their own awesome sauce on top of that.

But each picture I take saps away 5 minutes of my free time. That’s a heavy price to pay, especially since I simply don’t have the free time that I did back when I was in my 20s.

Perhaps in the future I’ll finally figure out how to shoot white seamless and not drown myself in post-processing work. For now though, I’m hating life as I work on each image, one by one.

My favorite of the white seamless shots I’ve post-processed so far.

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