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Life Before Photoshop: Cessna

Look ma, no Photoshop!

Here’s another post in my never ending quest to bring to life the: over the top, incredible, amazing, unbelievable, and yes even scary idea that you can actually create your pictures “in the camera”.

I started teaching workshops in the early eighties when we used film, and Adobe was thought to be a type of building material that went into houses in the southwest part of the US. Through the years I’ve seen the transformation from film to digital, and for the most part students of mine that I teach online at the PPSOP and the “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet fell in love with photography after the sorrowful end of “cellulose acetate”…momma they took my Kodachrome away!!!


For the most part, my fellow photographers think that Lightroom and Photoshop are just part of the process; a needed part of the process. An integral part of picture taking, the results being a good photo that we can show our friends and family and watch them react favorably with plenty of “Ooh’s and Aah’s .

Well that’s all well and good, and truth be told I also enjoy Cs5, but my first thought is to take on the challenge of creating my photos before I pull the trigger (that’s Texas talk for clicking the shutter). That includes cropping in the camera. You see, by not cropping in the camera, you’ll never know where the edges of your frame are. The best thing that ever happened to me was that I’ve spent the majority of my forty-six year career in film and without the added help of post processing…why you ask?

Because I think it’s made me  better photographer.


The photo above was taken for Cessna. I was in a shoot plane designed for taking air-to-air photos of their line of aircraft. As you can see, one side of the plane is completely open. We took off first and I positioned our plane so the Citation Jet would get the best light. As the jet approached, I sat on the edge with my feet hanging out and I started shooting until it veered off, leaving a lot of turbulence in its wake. We went through the steps a couple more times until I felt I had it “in the can”. You see, there wasn’t a way I could view my shots in the back of the camera!!!

Checking the direction of the light.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and check out my 2013 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com



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    { 7 comments… add one }
    • Gary Thursby February 9, 2013, 3:44 pm

      Just love these before photoshop articles! How fun and exciting that assignment must have been! Myself being a little afraid of heights, I do not believe that I could have pulled that one off! My hat is off to you Joe! I agree you should compose your photographs in camera. Henri Cartier Bresson religiously lived by that same code as well. I used to feel like it was kinda like him showing off but it is a great working technique to make you a better photographer. I recently watched a video from a “pro” photographer who stated he would never give out a digital raw file or even a high quality jpeg. His reasoning was that raw files were not complete and did not match his vision for the photograph. I guess his vision is accomplished through editing raw files through Lightroom, and not looking through the viewfinder at the actual image. He also stated that he did not give out high quality jpegs either because he didn’t want people running around making prints from drugstores or altering the jpeg because his name is attached to that image. It made me think about you and Bresson and how completely dependent younger (lol I am 36) photographers are on photoshop software. 
      I mean if I hired this man for a special event in my life, he would hold all the digital files and could only get  prints from him. He could charge whatever he wanted to for prints because your stuck. You do not have anything but your photos( I mean his photos ) on his hardrive. How did you handle your clients Joe? I understand you need to build a body of work a portfolio of your best images but how much access to the original negative/ slide etc do you allow? Did you ever share your negatives/ slides/ digital files with your clients? Also in this digital world hard drives crash all the time potentially losing the photographs. I would hate to try and order a print from this man in five years and have him tell me the file is lost due to hard drive failure or file corruption or he deleted it to save space. Thinking I was never going to order any more prints. I know this got a little off topic Joe, but would you hire a photographer like this?

      • Joe February 11, 2013, 4:33 pm

        Hi Gary,

        I also wouldn’t give out a raw file because it’s not complete. I always do at least a small amount of “tweaking”, so I always convert to an 8 bit tiff. If I’m going to show the client the shoot, I’ll send them a very low res jpeg so they can pick the one they want me to work on…if need be.

        If there’s printing to be done, I want to be the one doing it or at the least have control of the finished product. People just aren’t as picky as I am, and the very last thing I would ever want to happen is for someone to say, “it’s not the greatest print, but it’s fine for me…YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course the important thing is to spell it out ahead of time so there’s no misunderstanding. Btw, Bresson printed his own work, and would never send it out to someone else…unless it was an assistant and had total control.

        If everything is spelled out in writing as far as what you will get for what you’re willing to pay for, and you accept that, then it’s buyer beware. If you want a DVD with the images on it, then you negotiate that. In my situation, I virtually never provide prints. I’m usually shooting for an advertising agency, magazine, or a corporate design firm that wants a high res till file so they can send it to out and create the ad, or put it into a brochure. All photographers have different policies. If you come against a hard guy, then if it were me, I’d move on. There’s too many good shooters out there that will work with you.

        Since I shoot a lot of variations, I only give the client what I wouldn’t mind being printed; the rest is destroyed. If I give them something I don’t like, the odds are that they will use it!!!!!

        I back up the back up and keep the back up to the back up in a separate building, so losing files would never be a problem. The top shooters will do the same, so the key is to do a lot of research and check out references before you hire someone.

        FYI, I can stand on the struts of a helicopter, or hang out of an airplane and it doesn’t bother me. On the other hand, I get nervous when I stand on the top step of a six foot ladder???????


    • Gary Thursby February 11, 2013, 9:59 pm

      Thanks a lot for the information I really appreciate it! lol yeah that is kinda wired because I am defiantly the other way around! Ladders are fine now planes are a different story! Another funny story is my father worked on airplanes for the military for over 30 years and hated to fly too! Flying in a KC 135 tanker and being in the boom section is very scary. Nothing but crystal clear plexiglass right below you Yikes! No thanks.

    • Valeriano February 14, 2013, 6:47 pm

      Few photos are really good with a crooked horizon, this is one of them. Amazing.

      • Joe February 15, 2013, 8:30 am

        Actually, in my camera it was straight. The plane I was shooting from had made a hard turn to get away from the potential backwash from the jet. I didn’t want to straighten it as it wouldn’t have looked real.


    • Joe February 16, 2013, 8:11 am

      Thanks for the comment, they’re always appreciated.

      For me, the challenge has always been, is, and will be, to create photos in the camera…or at least as much as possible.


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