Monday, February 9, 2009

My Workflow

Young couple enjoying the view of Athens from the Acropolis

Back in the days of 35 mm film, my workflow consisted of clicking the shutter 36 times, removing the roll of film, sending it off to the lab for processing, and upon return, sorting the "keepers" from the "rejects." The rejects went into the garbage and the keepers were numbered and filed in a slide box. I always had intentions of entering each slide into a database, but the task was too daunting so it never happened.
My digital photography is a bit more involved. After clicking the shutter, here's what I do:
  1. When I get home from a shoot, I remove the memory card from my camera and use a card reader to move the images onto my computer. I use a card reader rather than connecting the camera directly to the computer with a USB cable because it reduces wear and tear on the camera's USB port and it doesn't drain the camera battery.
  2. The majority of my workflow is done within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. In Lightroom I use the "Import" feature to move the RAW files from my camera's memory card to the designated folder on my computer. I still use DVD's to back-up all of my images. A DVD has a maximum capacity of 4.2 GB so I never let a folder get larger than this size. I label each folder as SKJ_DVD##. When a folder gets close to 4 GB I create a new folder. All of these folders are contained within a folder I've entitled "Image Vault."
  3. Lightroom is great because it automatically creates date specific folders within my Image Vault folders. At the time of import I also add my copyright information and if all images are of similar content, I add content keywords at the same time. Adobe has created awesome tutorials for each stage of the process from import to export.
  4. Once a batch of images are imported into Lightroom, I use the "Library" module to begin the sorting process. I scroll through each photo and use the 'x' key to flag all reject photos. I only reject photos that are totally unuseable, ie. out of focus, dramatically overexposed or under exposed. After my initial pass I delete all of the rejects...I delete them out of my Lightroom library and off my hard drive. Gone. On my second pass through the batch of images I begin to select the best photos by using the 'p' key which adds a "pick" flag. Once I've got my best images selected, I move to the "Develop"module to make image adjustments.
  5. The tools in the develop module are arranged in order from top to bottom, in the recommended order that they be used. I sometimes jump around a bit, but typically I adjust the exposure, white balance, crop if needed, and finally boost the blacks and the clarity.
  6. If I am planning on using the image for iStock, I export the image in full size format and save it in .jpg format. I then close Lightroom and open up another program, Noise Ninja. Even at ISO 100, my Nikon D80 has some noise which has caused quite a few of my images to be rejected by iStock. After using Noise Ninja, my acceptance rate has greatly improved. After the image has been processed in Noise Ninja I upload the image to the iStock website where I add keywords and categories.
  7. If the images are for a client, I use a plugin within Lightroom to upload the images to my website which is hosted by Zenfolio. I've purchased an account with Zenfolio which allows me to use my own domain name, and upload unlimited images. Zenfolio allows me to create password protected galleries which allow the client to view their images without anyone else seeing them. Zenfolio also has a shopping cart feature which allows me to sell images from my website and add a markup to the prices charged by MPix, an online lab which is affiliated with Zenfolio. I've placed many orders with MPix and have been very pleased with the results. The prices are reasonable and the quality is superb. Images are printed and back to me within two weeks. I especially like their gallery wraps which are printed on canvas.
These are the basics of my workflow. If you want more detail or have specific questions, please ask by leaving a comment below.

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