Searching through the dogcaught archives I realized it has been a very long time since I last discussed my photo processing work flow. So much has changed since that last post that there’s no way to reasonably cover all the technology updates I’ve experienced. Instead I will focus what is going on today.
Software wise I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.0, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta. Obviously the CS6 Beta won’t be around forever, but it is nice to play with. With Adobe’s new subscription model if I do have to have it I can always subscribe for a month with little effort. Dropbox also plays a key role.
My workflow actually starts before I capture an image. Before I shoot I turn on GeoTagr for iOS on my phone. GeoTagr runs while I’m shooting to capture the GPS coordinates of the images I shoot. When I’m done with the shoot I have GeoTagr dump the track file into Dropbox on the phone so I can effortlessly pick it up on my laptop during image processing. This is a relatively new part of my workflow but it is quite valuable to me since with a few clicks all of my images magically will appear on a map!
Here’s my 2012 workflow:
At the shoot:
1. Ensure the camera time matches the GeoTagr time on my phone.
2. Start GeoTagr tracking.
3. Shoot photos in RAW.
4. Stop GeoTagr tracking and send the track file to Dropbox.
Back at my laptop I import:
1. Pull the CF card out of my camera and insert it into the card reader.
2. In Lightroom I begin the import process. I have an import preset which does the following to all of my images as they are imported:
– rename the files to include the date (20120502 for example)
– apply my default metadata (IPTC Copyright and Creator information)
– move the files to my dedicated original image storage hard drive (or my local hard drive when I’m on the road)
– if all the images have things in common I will apply keywords in the import dialog (usually just the event name)
3. Next is the back up process. I use ChronoSync on my Mac (I’ve used SyncBack on PC for the same chore) to send the imported image files to a second drive on my home network. This normally runs at 6pm daily or I may manually force a backup. Once on the second drive the images are backed up to my offsite storage using Backblaze.
4. The full CF card goes into my bag for use in the future. I pull out the next card in order, insert it into the camera and format it. The camera is now ready for the next shoot.
Next is the mapping and keyword process:
1. Each image is assigned an event which describes the reason I’m taking the photos.
2. Each image is assigned additional keywords which describe the content of the image. For my railroad images I do keyword the engine numbers and other equipment numbers for future reference. As an example one of the images from my recent trip to the Gorge has the following keywords: 2012 04/14 Gorge, BNSF 7244, Mountain, Mt. Hood. The photo above has these: 2012 04/29 G+ Photowalk, Switch, Track
3. Each image is placed on the map in the Lightroom map module using the following process:
– import the track file from the shoot from Dropbox.
– select the images to apply GPS coordinates to and choose apply.
– if the images don’t have GPS coordinates available I will drag the images onto the map manually.
4. The last part of the keyword process is to check my smart collections which identify photos without keyword and map information. If those collections are empty I’ve been successful in key-wording and mapping all the images from the shoot.
This is complicated enough it would likely warrant a post of its own. Each image is different so giving you my exact formula for an image is really only good for that image. The stylization of each image is obviously quite subjective and what I would do is way different than what you would do. I will say that these general steps are involved:
1. For panoramas or HDR export the images to Photoshop for pano or HDR file creation and return them to Lightroom
2. Apply Global Reset preset (see Michael Frye for more information on the Lighroom 4 reset I use)
3. Apply Lens Corrections preset.
4. Apply Basic panel adjustments.
5. Crop if necessary (sooner or later depending on the image).
6. Stylization to taste.
7. Sharpening to taste.
I make extensive use of Lightroom’s Publish Services. I have numerous services set up for hard drive, 500px, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa (Google +) sharing. When I’m ready to share an image I drag it over to one of of the Publish Services and simply click the publish button. For images I export to my hard drive (generally these are for my website, computer wallpaper, printing to certain print services) I have set up publish services so that I have somewhat of an accounting of what I’ve output. All of my exports go to a specific Exports folder completely separate from the original files. If I need to reference a file I’ve exported I can find it somewhere in my Publish Services.
As you can imagine this process is always evolving. Just compare the 2007 version to today! Software updates and improvement happen pretty regularly so I try to stay in sync with those. I’m always looking for ways to streamline my process and reduce the amount of time I spend cataloging and editing images. I’d rather be out shooting than at home in front of the computer!