No, no, not you. Other digital artists, like those guys who spend ten days recalibrating all of their equipment before developing each photograph. I hope you don’t do that.

What I mean by “functionally retarded” is, ironically, that these artists are smart—very smart. Genius level, in some cases. However, their intelligence draws them into an irrational attention to detail and measurement, which incurs a logarithmic increase in effort for each fractional gain in image quality.

As a digital artist, you are faced with an ever-expanding array of tools that can be brought to bear on your work. The mere existence of such tools is an invitation, to some, to spend the rest of their lives tweaking and re-developing a single image, printing it on every possible paper, using every possible ink combination, surface treatment, and mounting option. This is not what I would call art, it is completionism, pure and simple.

com • ple • tion • ist n.

  • Video gaming. One who seeks to unlock every secret and acquire every bonus in a game.

  • One who seeks to explore every potential facet of a problem area and implement the most exhaustive, imperforate solution.

Antonym, incrementalist.

There is a certain enjoyment to be derived from discovering better ways to do things. Surely in my own work I have spent countless hours trying different approaches to development challenges, applied newly learned Photoshop techniques, and prepared images for print in different ways until I settled on what I thought worked best.

The type of completionist that this diatribe is focused on, however, is he or she who ruminates at great length over technical minutia, arguing the theoretical proofs of each item’s superiority. Surely it is important to have an understanding of the mechanisms at play in one’s work, but do you produce recognizably better art when you have round-tripped your photo through the LAB color space to maximize each pixel’s adjustment potential?

Depending upon what type of work you do, perhaps. Though I think for the average photographer (and I mean average in the statistical sense), understanding the broad strokes of the technology involved allows for at least 95% of the possible image quality to be achieved. The few percent toward unachievable perfection come at a cost almost too great to consider, unless that journey is one you savor, or you’re independently wealthy and have time enough to spend on it.

Each photographer must, as a necessity, evaluate his or her own final product, criticize it, and grade it. If it is found to be lacking in some way, a solution to that shortcoming certainly exists. Weigh each problem against its solution until you have reached the best possible product for you.

My point is simply this. That Professional Photographer X says better results are gained by performing Process Y is no reason in itself to change your workflow. Try the technique, see how long it takes and whether its marginal gains are worthwhile for your style and in your own eyes. Only then should specific, technical proofs have any influence on your work.