A Spot of Bother – Beware The Blob!

I’m quite convinced that when I talk to some clients about post production, they think I’m just a con artist trying to make life difficult, complicated and expensive for them. Perhaps they put me in the same category as a car mechanic, who stands there sucking his teeth, telling you all the expensive things he’ll have to do to your car to make it run properly. Like emptying the ashtray, or fitting a new phalange.

Why can’t I just shoot the photos and hand over a CD of everything and let the client go on their merry way? Well I could, but before I let my pictures go, one of the most important tasks I carry out is to ensure the images are clean.

I don’t mean I check them for naughty lady bits. Hopefully on an average corporate shoot there isn’t even the remotest risk of that. What I mean is the fuzzy blobs that show up on a photo when dust attaches to the camera sensor*.

This is a common problem for digital SLR cameras. Every time I change a lens, I’m letting dust into the gaping mouth of the camera, and the next time the shutter is fired the dust gets attracted by static charge onto the sensor which shows up as a grey mark on the image.

Some SLRs have special cleaning settings which shake the sensor down on startup, in the hope that the dust can be vibrated off. But these systems are only effective up to a point. I regularly clean my sensor manually, but I have to change lenses on most shoots, letting more Hoffman – sorry, I mean Dustin.

dust spot on digital photo sensor.

Top and bottom-left, blobs tend to show up more against blue.

So when I get the images onto my computer, in addition to the setting of resolution for print or web use, colour and exposure tweaks, captioning etc ad infinitum, I check each and every frame for those dreaded blobs. If not viewed at the right percentage (size) on screen, they can easily be missed, but they’ll manage to show up nicely on your website, and even more so in print.

To the extent that they’ll look ugly on a photo, they can wreck an expensive print run of brochures, so tell me, do you feel lucky? Do you think you can spot and eliminate The Blob? Apart from anything else, do you really have the time to sit there and take blobs off every photo you use? And what if you miss one?

Next time you think the photographer resembles a shark with the scruples of a politician, just remember the alternative could be worse; a photographer who doesn’t care enough about your project to do proper post-production.

*To be pedantic, it isn’t the imaging sensor which gets the dust on it, but a filter which sits directly in front of the imaging chip. This filter, known as a high-pass filter, is there to reduce the amount of infrared light getting to the sensor, as this gives photos a strange colour cast. Digital camera sensors are very sensitive to infrared light, so the filter is necessary to counteract it.

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  • Ken of London May 5, 2010  

    Tim, I used to go through the post production talk so that I would appear to be transparent in my dealings, it just gave me more heartache and headaches than it solved.

    So I sat with some business friends and ask them to help me workshop a spiel that was both professional, informative, trace elements of humility and got the point across that this is how I do it.

    So my pitch is – the fee for the photography is ‘X’ this culminates in delivery (insert method here) of images. This fee includes all services and time required to implement this delivery to you.

    If you are comparing quotes be certain to make sure everything that is needed for delivery of images to my standards is included, to be certain call me if a quote has a detail you are not sure of, yes they are my competition, but you are my client and I am here to help you.

    Thats the general one, modified from client to client and has worked well over the last few years. So in summary it is – delivery of your brief will cost ‘X’, see you at delivery time.

    • Glass Eye May 6, 2010  

      Ken, Thanks for your suggestion. That’s useful for anyone battling with this issue. Of course some clients will always think that if a picture looks ok on their screen at 25%, it’ll look ok in their 4-colour glossy brochure and won’t bother to ask why a quote from you or me is more expensive than the dump-and-runner that doesn’t take the time to deliver publication-ready images. This is just life…

  • Jelly Rat May 6, 2010  

    Be worth checking them for naughty lady bits Tim, just in case 😛

    • Glass Eye May 6, 2010  

      Oh I do that too. All part of the service 🙂

  • pogomcl May 6, 2010  

    hate spots, including those on 4legs that use one to lift and piss on my Heinekin bag… kill all Spots I say, 4, 3 or no-legged kind.

    the spots that are the worst are inside the lens… sensor is the easy thing, but lens–ooooohhh, dat costs money. 100mm eats dust, not the camera. Got the camera trained.

    yeah-trying to tell a “business consultant” that the pic doesn’t leap out of camera and onto AGE website effortlessly was impossible. Sometimes maybe a big blob in strategic place might get point across that Spot is unwanted Dog and Dog Collectors should get their Due (doo). Sanitation Workers get paid more for cleaning up dirt.

    • Glass Eye May 6, 2010  

      Funny, my 100mm is fine! One of my favourite lenses! But we each have our own experiences…

      Good luck with Spot the dog. He’s a scamp, isn’t he.