my flickr photostream

Monday, September 28, 2009


© 2009 Simon Hucko. See it larger here

You have a great weekend shooting, come home, and unload hundreds of photos onto your computer. Now what? How do you wade through everything without it becoming overwhelming?

The process that you go through from pressing the shutter to putting out a finished product is known as "workflow." Different people have different preferred workflows, and it doesn't matter so much exactly what you do. What matters is that you have a well organized, well defined process for handling images. I'm going to outline the workflow that I use and why I do it that way, but there is no right/wrong answer: the important thing is that you have an answer.

- Even before pressing the shutter, you need to decide what file type and color space (wikipedia) you want to work with. I shoot RAW files in adobeRGB, because that way I get the most data possible for editing my photos. (JPEG leads to faster processing down the line, but limits the amount of data collected)

- The next step is deciding how to import and organize your photos. I've settled on Apple's Aperture, which acts as both a photo organizer and RAW converter/editor. I use a card reader to import files into my Aperture library, where I have a folder for each month. Inside that folder I create a "Project" for each shoot, along with a few projects to cover random photos or special projects. Upon import, I generally rename the files to something meaningful and add my copyright info to the EXIF data.

- Once the photos have been imported, you should back them all up. This is an area that I'm lacking in at the moment, but something that I desperately need to start. (Yeah, go ahead, yell at me. I know it's bad. I just haven't gotten around to doing anything about it.) Once you have them backed up you can re-format your memory card and use it again.

- Time to sort. I flip through my images and delete the obviously bad ones (out of focus, blurry, severely under/over exposed, obviously boring and useless, etc). On the same pass, I'll mark photos I want to keep and edit with three stars. Photos that I want to hang onto but don't want to bother editing I'll give two stars. If I have a series of photos of the same subject, I'll generally choose the best one or two to edit and ignore the rest. Anything that doesn't make the cut to be edited I leave alone for the moment.

- I've reached the first possible stopping point here. Every time I import photos onto the computer, I try to force myself to flip through and sort them immediately. This generally cuts the numbers by 1/2 to 1/3, and makes the rest of the process less daunting. If I don't do this, it's easy to get out and shoot more photos and import them, creating a large backlog. Not good.

- OK, so things are sorted and waiting to be edited. I generally don't edit everything in one sitting, just chip away at it when I have time. Most of my edits happen entirely inside Aperture, as I usually don't step outside the realm of general darkroom type editing. I edit in the suggested order, working my way through the bricks from top to bottom (don't worry if that didn't make sense, bricks are Aperture speak for adjustment box). If I decide to do something more drastic, I edit as much as possible with Aperture before round-tripping it to the GIMP (Aperture is non-destructive, but if you have to round-trip a photo or use a plugin it will create a copy and then apply your external edits to that, which are destructive). After editing a photo, I upgrade it to 4 stars. If I really like a photo, I'll bump it to 5 stars. These are the ones I want to show off.

- After editing everything I usually make a pass back through the unrated photos from before. If I see something I want to hang on to, I'll give it 2 or 3 stars (depending on if I want to edit it). Everything else gets deleted. Yep, deleted. I'm sure I'll get some flak for that, too. At this point, you should make sure all of your changes are backed up. *slaps self on wrist*

- Time to show off! Usually, I set the filter for the project to 4 stars or greater, and upload all of these to a Facebook album (at a lower resolution, usually 640p on the long side). These are the photos I want to share with friends and family, and they're less about the art and more about the people. I then bump the filter up to 5 stars and export those to flickr (at 1024p on the long side), which I use as more of a portfolio/gallery. I've taken to uploading things to flickr at a slower pace (one or two a day) to prevent going over the 5 picture limit of people's "Your Contacts" feed. Plus, I find things get more attention when you spread them out and give people a chance to look and comment.

- How about prints? If I really like an image and want to print it, I'll export a full-res highest-quality sRGB jpeg out of Aperture and upload it to a printing site. For more casual printing and photobooks from vacations, etc I use Their print quality is pretty decent, they have great prices, and they're always running sales and specials. For more professional/archival type work I go to Their print quality is excellent, and they have some nice options other than traditional prints. In both cases, I don't resize my images or apply extra sharpening before sending them. These printing services have big expensive printers with excellent drivers that will resize and sharpen your images the appropriate amount, and will usually do a better job than general photo editing software.

- You'll notice that I didn't mention anything about color management. Reason being, I don't worry about it. I'm not making professional prints for paid jobs, so if the color is a little off somewhere it's not a big deal. I've never noticed an issue with prints, and most web viewers don't have calibrated monitors and color managed browsers so there's not much point in worrying about it. Color management is a whole other can of worms, and I may go into it at some point if there's any interest out there (comment and let me know).

- I also didn't mention keywording or tagging photos. Again, something I don't do. I've considered starting, but am a little daunted by having to go through all of my old shots. Some day, perhaps. My advice - before you start keywording things, take some time to decide on a system and stick with it. You'll be glad you did later.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought this might be helpful. Do you have a workflow? How does it differ? What are the challenges you have with organizing and processing your photos? Any tips or tricks, or things I missed? I'd be interested to hear.


[title of blog] on flickr

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