What I Learned About Trying to Shoot and Process 1,000 Photos in Four Days at CES

The Men of PodtechThe Men of Podtech Hosted on Zooomr

Well today is my first day back from shooting CES over the past four days. I’m feeling oddly more emotional than I usually do, it’s not quite depression, but more seriously reflective. I worked so hard with so much intensity while at CES. I was hell bent on publishing 1,000 photos and I failed at this. I uploaded about 700 photos and I seriously worked as hard as I possibly could. I slept no more than three hours each night there and tried to work as efficiently as I could. Zooomr’s servers are getting pounded today after my “Babes of CES” shots showed up on Gizmodo, Valleywag and Digg (buried — I hate that you can’t see who buries stories on Digg — but still getting 64 diggs and climbing).

I’ll still get 1,000 shots of CES online. I’m sure of that. I just didn’t get them up while there and some of the shots are perishable.

Anyways, I’m disappointed that I didn’t make my goal but feel like I still got quite a few decent shots out of my trip.

I also feel good that I got to spend at least a little time with some old friends, online friends that I got to meet in person for the first time and made some great new friends. It was great meeting Michael Gartenberg and Dave Zatz for the first time in person. Hanging out with Gabe and Steve and Tina Gillmor. Getting to know Bill Streeter and Doc Searls better (I love Doc’s photos of sunsets). Jason Fields from Snap, Staci Kramer from Paid Content, Alex Rowland from CozmoTV and Renee Blodgett, Jeremy Pepper, Eric Rice, Jim Courtney, Brian Solis, Andrew Schmidt from Nyquist Capital, Chris Nuttall from the Financial Times.

And then there was Sarah Meyers who does the Party Crashers stuff and is working on some cool upcoming stuff in video.

Podtech’s hospitality was awesome the entire time. I’ve felt pretty close to the Podtech team working with Scoble on the Photowalking show, but this CES trip really felt like family with them. John and Linda and Robert and Valerie and Maryam and Jeremiah and Eddie and Irina and Christopher and Dave and heck the whole team. Every single one of the Podtech family made both Kristopher and I feel so at home there at their bloghaus.

Seagate CEO Bill WatkinsSeagate CEO Bill Watkins Hosted on Zooomr

Seagate sponsored the Bloghaus and I also just have to add that they probably get Web 2.0 and the new social media more than any company in the U.S at present. By partnering with Podtech and building a presence with many of the top tech bloggers out there at CES they built enormous goodwill.

But Seagate did more than just pay for the suite, that would have been easy. They were present there and interacting and doing it not because they had to but because they wanted to and because they wanted to learn about what we all are out there doing. Bill Watkins Seagate’s CEO spent a lot of time hanging out himself personally in the Bloghaus and was incredibly approachable.

It is so rare for bloggers to have access to top CEOs and when they do it’s usually on a very formal basis for the purpose of an interview and tightly controlled. Hanging out with Bill in an easy and informal atmosphere and seeing what a super down to earth guy he is was just great. He’s a hell of a guy who speaks his mind has a great attitude and sense of humor. Sharing a drink and pizza with him and learning about where Seagate is headed (hint, bigger and bigger drives to fill up all that user generated content that we are all creating) was really one of the best things for me to come out of CES this year.

So what were the problems I encountered with trying to get 1,000 shots up online?

Probably the most significant problem I encountered had to do with Adobe Bridge. As much as I like the Adobe Bridge application I put it through the test at CES and in a lot of ways I’d give it a poor grade.

I’m beginning to edit all my metadata now directly in my photo file EXIF info. I hate the fact that the tags that I’ve spent hours and hours inputting into Flickr are locked into their closed system. And to be fair at present your tags are just as locked into Zooomr’s closed system as well, but at least with Zooomr I uniquely know that we are committed to figuring out a way to eventually get these tags back to our users and feel like I have more control to ensure that this happens working for the company. I’m sure that Flickr is just as committed in assisting their users in getting their tags out of Flickr but I don’t have access to the internal workings of Flickr so all I can say is that I hate that I can’t get them out today.

Anyways, the best solution to all of this for me at least, is to begin entering my meta data not into a photo sharing site but into the actual file itself. This way when I do upload it to Flickr or Zooomr or wherever, the metadata should carry over and the tags placed automatically.

Except that Adobe Bridge kind of sucks at this.

For the past four days I’ve been using the “file info” feature on Bridge to try and edit keyword data into my finished processed files and probably one out of 10 photos would not allow me to edit the metadata. When I tried to edit it it would just be grayed out, not allowing it to be entered. I have no idea why this was happening and would be grateful for anyone who had an opinion on why this was taking place.

So this made it very difficult and time consuming to add tags. Many times I had to re save a file entirely in order to get access to input metadata. This also made working with batches of more than about 4 or 5 photos at any time difficult. It would have been much easier to process 100 photos and then say bulk tag them in Bridge with CES, CES 2007, Las Vegas, etc. rather than having to do it over and over an
d over again with small little batches of 4 or 5 photos and sometimes encountering single photos themselves that couldn’t even be edited.

The other problem I had was that I wasted time uploading shots when I could have been processing or shooting. Rather than wasting time with slow EVDO access while shooting on the floor during the days of CES, I should have just saved all the uploading until I had a fast internet connection and spent 100% of that time shooting and/or processing.

The other thing I learned is that I’m far too much of a perfectionist in some ways. So many photos were probably “good enough.” But rather than accept “good enough” I’d spend tons of time on each individual image — dodging shadows around an eye, using the healing brush to remove facial imperfections, getting the vignetting on my corners just how I liked it, etc. Kristopher processes his shots much faster than I do using Aperture, but Aperture doesn’t give me the control that Photoshop does. I can’t vignette my corners, Aperture doesn’t have as sophisticated a tool set as Photoshop, etc.

Anyways, that’s all for now. I really had a great time at CES even if I didn’t get my 1,000 photos. Maybe next year a new version of Bridge will be out that can handle bulk editing better and I’ll plan on spending at least one more day in Vegas for CES. Or maybe I’ll just skip it altogher and hang out in San Francisco at Mac World next year instead. After all, the most exciting thing of all about CES wasn’t anything I saw on the floor this year, rather it was listening to Steve Jobs evangelize us all about the iPhone while we hung out at the bloghaus. Good stuff.

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13 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Who’s the blonde, and why is she flipping you off?

  2. Anonymous: they were the Vonage girls. That’s the Vonage “V” — heheh.

  3. Matt Ng says:

    cool pix.

    How long have you been taking pictures??

    Matt Ng
    Internet Money Maker

  4. Right on Thomas, you did a fantastic job, I’m impressed.

    ya know many of us are just happy to get 10 pictures up with your quality, let alone 1000.

  5. Fantastic to meet you as well, and an honor to have you take my picture.

  6. Dave Zatz says:

    Good to finally meet you TH! Looking forward to spending more time with you in SF in a few months to collect on our bet when the Apple starts offering HD downloads for the iDongle. 😉

  7. LeggNet says:

    Welcome back, Thomas.

    Thanks for the insight. I felt going in that the 1,000 photo goal was a reach, but I thought that if anyone could do it, it would be you. I imagine that taking the shots wasn’t the hard part, but rather the post and uploading. You are definitely NOT one to just dump your shots onto the server.

    Nice effort… now get some rest 🙂

    Rich

  8. Brian Solis says:

    Thomas, it was good to finally meet you in person too. Thanks for capturing CES with such passion and vigilance. The pictures are simply amazing. And, the one you snapped of Megan and me at the Bloghaus is my personal favorite!

  9. For the tags in Bridge, isn’t there a keywords panel that you can use? I use the Adobe File Browser (a feature in Photoshop CS that later became Bridge in CS2) and using the keywords panel you can select a whole batch of photos and check which tags you want for them.

    I’m guessing you already know about this and the problem is RAW-specific. I stopped shooting in RAW because I keep the photos on my laptop and it was really going through my hard drive space fast, and just adding a lot of extra work (having to convert them all to jpgs after shooting).

    Anyway, you took some amazing shots, there’s no way I could have taken 700 photos of your quality.

  10. Jon says:

    Great report and wrap up Thomas. I don’t think there is anything wroong at all being a perfectionist 🙂 You have to feel something inside you that says that photo is good enough to go online.
    Now where is the “special” AVN gallery?!;-)

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure you are already aware, but Aperture makes keywording and tagging photos, especially bulk files, very easy. After creating your keywords the first day it would have been a snap to just apply the common ones to all the other days photos. You can create projects very easily naming, comparing, sequencing, rating all quite quickly (all in RAW). And when Aperture’s editing functions aren’t enough (I run into that quite a bit myself) you can choose Photoshop (or whatever you prefer) as your external editor in the prefrences (even choosing PSD as the external imaging format) and open the photo in there from Aperture to do the tweaks that you need to do. When you’re done you just save the file and it updates back in the Aperture library. You may want to give that a try if you haven’t already.

  12. Shawn S says:

    Other people have already mentioned other products so I thought I’d chime in too. I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom Beta 4 to organize my RAW photo collection. Tags can be added to a photo either by dragging the tag onto a photo, or my preferred method, by typing into a text window that has auto completion.
    I also wanted to say thank you for the photos that you did post. I passed around the URLs for many of them, and not just the CES Babe ones.

  13. Joe Reifer says:

    Thomas – I use Bridge to immediately add copyright and contact information to my files via a one-click template. But using Bridge for adding keywords is a slow, cumbersome process and not recommended.

    Adobe stores raw file metadata in XMP sidecar files, which is smart – because your original, proprietary RAW files are not altered. If Flickr or Zooomr could read XMP sidecars, then your metadata would transfer over.

    Using cataloging software like iView Media Pro to add keywords and keep your files organized is a much faster and more and flexible workflow than Bridge. Using a DNG workflow with iView Media Pro is a safe way to make sure that your metadata “comes along for the ride,” as Peter Krogh says. Aperture is a closed system that locks you in. Lightroom isn’t finished yet. I wouldn’t trust an online application to write metadata back into my files at this point — the risk of file corruption is too great.

    Having a light, easy to organize and search cataloging tool like iView safely write your metadata into your derivative files only when necessary is the safest strategy for long term digital asset management.

    If you haven’t read The DAM Book yet, give it a look. There’s a wealth of great information on metadata, Bridge, and iView. I’m also covering some DNG and iView issues on my blog this week.

    Cheers,

    Joe Reifer