High-End Fotografie im Workflow der Medienproduktion
St. Pölten, FH Telekommunikation und Medien, Dipl.-Arb., 2004
Today, photography stands at the beginning of a long supply chain, in which the photographer is much more involved than in earlier days. Some years ago, before the start of the "digital revolution", the photographer's job ended with the delivery of an accurately exposed slide to the pre-press technician, the lithographer or another graphical concern. But nowadays the photography business sees itself more than ever as a service provider, so that this erstwhile approach has become outdated. Typically, the intended use of a picture is now clarified prior to the project start, in order to reduce costs during the production process. In the analog sector, a film format is selected which is appropriate to the target medium; similarly, the appropriate number of pixels are used in the digital sector. The colour-balancing features of digital image processing (white balance etc.) now make it possible to replace traditional, expensive studio equipment, such as flash systems, by much cheaper permanent light sources, which of course decreases the necessary investments for professional studio start-ups. This has resulted in new market niches for service providers who until now were part of the IT sector. Web design agencies have recognized the possibility of producing their own inexpensive picture footage for their clients' e-shops, the technical quality of which, in many cases, is comparable to the lowest level of professional studio shots. The low requirements of digital pictures for the World Wide Web and CDs/DVDs have prompted many concerns to add this part of the production process, which was traditionally never their business, to their in-house activities. This has had two major results: First, several new professional profiles have arisen in the interface between classical photography and the new media, since major new-media service providers definitely cannot afford to offer their clients back-room pictures produced by inadequately trained staff. Second, entrepreneurs in the "classical" photography business are now faced with the decision of whether they should focus their start-up investments on an artistically-oriented professional profile or whether it would be more profitable to integrate themselves into the chain of media production. What does this much-quoted "integration" actually mean? A simple explanation would be to say that the photographer attempts to simplify further processing on the part of the secondary user by adhering to certain standards and norms, such as the use of standardized colour spaces and defined file formats with metadata profiles (ICC, EXIF etc.). In addition, the digital workflow allows the photographer to intervene in process steps which up to now were the exclusive domain of prepress technicians, in particular the omission of drumscans in the digitalization of high-resolution transparent originals. This study also deals with the target-medium-appropriate raw processing of pictures. This is another job that is being increasingly taken over by photographers themselves, because this saves costs both for the customer and for the photographer. This approach eliminates the necessity of an additional out-of-house data transfer, with all the possible error sources this implies; the amount of picture data depends on the project itself and not on the maximum capacity of the studio, which is advantageous if the pictures are meant for a film, TV or the Web and not for a large-format illustrated book. The economical use of computer resources and rendering time must be also included in this calculation. This study is addressed to the target audience of decision-makers in media enterprises, who are confronted with the topic "photography" in their project planning in the context of a contract award process and have to decide between outsourcing, investment in company infrastructure or other solutions. I also hope to offer everyone interested in the media a well-founded cross-section of the present conditions of the photographic production process, and I wish you all much success with your projects.
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