Sometimes I get thoughts from the absolute weirdest places. I have this tin of Burt's Bees hand salve that I carry around with me in my purse. Yesterday I was sitting at my computer procrastinating and rubbing some on when I noticed that the color was applied unevenly around the top rim of the tin. While not a giant catastrophe it did trigger a whole mental conversation with myself (only child dontcha know) about the risks and rewards of automating processes versus doing them by hand.
This may sound random but I think that it relates to photography a lot more than you may think it does at first blush. Most all photographers will agree that shooting your camera on auto or "P" is horrific and unthinkable because you are letting go of any artistic control that you may have over the final outcome of your image. Okay, I'll buy that. You are a pro and people pay you for the vision that you project onto a scene and render on (digital) film.
So, doing things by hand and having complete control must be the best way to go for all aspects of your photography, right? Not so fast. What about actions? I'll bet that you don't print all of your own prints by hand either. You can probably see where I am going with this.
We use automation to save us time and because automation is supposed to deliver us with more consistent results than if the same project was done by hand. Obviously, as was the case with my tin of Burt's Bees, automation needs to have hands on monitoring to be sure the product is still meeting standards. So, it is up to us as photographers / business owner's to come up with a system that balances the need for quality, consistency, artistic integrity, and time management.
I do not have a perfect system in place, but I was reading something on Chenin Boutwell's blog where she was talking about workflow tips. The thing that she said that was like a Eureka moment for me was that you must have your 3-5 "looks" that you use and stick to them to avoid spending massive amounts of time experimenting. Why didn't I think of that? Obviously even actions aren't a silver bullet since each photo is unique, but I am going to start being more conscious of what I want my "looks" to be and incorporate them into my workflow. I already have one in mind that I used for the Weddings for warriors photos (they are edited and ready to be posted soon!)
What are your tips and tricks for balancing the need to control vs. the need for automation? I'd love to hear what others are doing for their workflow!