In the days before digital only professional shooters working for newspapers and magazines, and wedding photographers, would have been concerned with planning how they were going to process their images. For the rest of us it was very simple. We had a 36 exposure film and once it was shot you sent to the lab for processing. A couple of days later you had (hopefully) 36 images back.
Skip forward a little over 15 years and now we have cards capable of holding in excess of 5,000 images and when you couple that with a spray & pray attitude to shooting then an average shoot could generate a lot of images.
In this blog post I am going to run through my workflow in the hope that it may be of some use to readers. By no means is this the perfect workflow and others may have different suggestions, all of which are quite valid. In reality workflow is about finding what process works best for you.
The flow below is from a typical model shoot for which I will shoot between 100 to 200 images, or for a wedding somewhere between 500 and 1000 images will be in the order. In the contracts that I sign I commit to give the other party completed images within 4 weeks, and I generally give them a high and low resolution version of the image. Usually I will also produce a sneak peak within 7 days of the shoot for posting in social media.
My workflow actually starts with the ethos that where possible I will try to get it right in camera. This means that once I get the model into position and even before I take the first image I looking for distractions or items that I may want to fix up later. While a lot of things are relatively simple to fix in the computer, the reality is that even a simple fix taking only 1 minute to fix in Photoshop adds up to a lot time if you have to apply it to 60 images. It is far better to spend 5 minutes at the shoot getting it right.
For a model shoot I will generally shoot everything onto one card but for a wedding I will use a separate card for each part of the service as well as using the second slot of my D600 to replicate the other card. This is just a safety procedure.
So after the shoot then this is the workflow:
- I download all the images from camera to computer. If the shoot only involves a single card then this will be done via Lightroom (LR) import, however if it is a larger shoot (such as a wedding) I will use Bridge to load the images from the card, and then import into LR from the saved location. Generally I will create a new folder for the shoot and save all the RAW files into a subfolder. The LR import has a preset in it that adds all the copyright material. Also in order to keep my images better defined I have separate LR Catalogues for models, weddings and paid commercial work.
- Once the import is done I ensure that a backup is taken of the drives.
- I will then use the LR grid view and go through the images very quickly and look for any that have obvious errors with them. These get flagged as rejected and once the first review is complete are deleted from the machine. In the whole process these are the only images that are actually deleted from the machine.
- I will then go through the images again and this time I will use the rating system. I will set the LR filter to display only those images without a rating set, so that I can jump around the shoot if I want. Images that I believe are suitable for editing receive a 3. Those that I am unsure of will receive a 2 and those that I do not wish to proceed with get a 1.
- Once this process is complete I will then change the filter to only show those with a 3 and I will look at the set as a whole. If there are images that are very similar then I may downgrade some to a 2. If I feel that a particular look needs some additional photos then I will go back to the 2 selection and elevate one. For a model shoot this is generally quite a quick process however with a wedding it will take longer as I need to ensure that my total set captures the day and the people who attended.
- Once I have selected my images for editing I will start the processing. Generally I will start with global setting such as exposure which if I adjust on one image I will then generally apply to all of the images from its set by synching the adjustments. After these global setting has been done then I will work on each using the other adjustment tools. I generally do not crop the images in LR because I prefer to do that in Photoshop (PS).
- When the LR editing of an image is complete I will change it’s ranking to a 4. That way if I do not complete all the images in one session I can use the LR filters to show me where I am up to.
- I will now export the images as full size jpg’s into a folder called “Finals” and in the process change the names and generally have “HR” at the start of it. This stands for High-Resolution and is the set of images intended to be printed. I will them open each document in PS and do any adjustments that I think are needed such as removing blemishes or objects I don’t want in the image. I will set the crop tool to 6in by 4in and then crop the images. I save them at Quality 12.
- I now go back into LR and import in the High Resolution Images. I then select them all and Export them but this time I precede them with “LR” for Low Resolution. I will set the JPG quality to around 75% at 96dpi and I will set the physical size to be a maximum of 800 pixels on the longest length.
- Once the files are complete I open these images in PS and run an action against them that adds a border and my watermark to the image. These are saved at quality 8.
- Finally the images are burned to CD.