Keep it simple, keep it fast

Taking photos is a fun thing to do, and it is easy to shoot a lot. The downside is that all these photos should also be stored and post processed afterwards, and this can become a burden when you shoot a lot.

Here is an overview of a typical workflow:

  • Take photos
  • Put the  photos on the computer
  • Organize the photos and rate them
  • Process the RAW files and send them to a photo editor
  • Do some modifications inside the photo editor(only when necessary)
  • Export to JPEG to store on the computer, send to the web, etc.

The first step is obviously not done on the computer, unless you scan some photos or old negative, but all the others are done on the computer and can take a lot of time, using the right tools will keep the whole process simple and fast. In this post I’ll take a look at how I am trying to approach my complete photographic workflow. I am in no way an expert in photographic workflows and I am still trying to get this workflow working for me.

Get it correct in camera

First of all, when I take a photo I try to get the shot as good as possible. I try to get the correct crop, the correct exposure and I try to get the horizon as straight as possible. This way I don’t have to spend time to post process the image. I rather make some extra photos with different exposure and composition than to use software to get the shot correct. Since going through the photos and discarding the once you don’t like is much easier and faster than trying to correct a photo in post processing. This means however that I need to know what the photo should look like before I take it especially when I should consider the crop. This is not easy, but I found that when you try to visualize the photo before taking it will result in a better picture.

Get the photos from the camera

As soon as I am finished taking photos, I am at home or near my laptop and I have  some time, I will take my memory card and copy the photos from the card to my hard drive. There are multiple ways of doing this and there are a lot of application that can help you here. I don’t connect the camera to the computer, but use a card reader, this saves the battery life a lot. I also don’t use any of the applications, since they are mostly to much focused on one type of shooting.

Most (if not all) applications assume that when you import or download photos from the camera, the photos belong to one job or category, there is no way to tell these applications that you took some shots of Amsterdam and some shots from the forests near Ede (which for me are two different categories, architecture and nature) and used the same card for this. These are two separate jobs/categories and you want to store them in different directories or label them differently. This is at least a problem I  ran into last year on holiday, on the same day we went to different locations and I took a lot of pictures on all the locations.

What I do at the moment is just copy all the photos to a folder on my desktop and from there I add them to the correct locations. Now that the photos are on my hard drive I will put the card back in the camera and format it so that it is ready for use.

Judging the photos

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t really had a good system for going through my photos and decide which I wanted to keep and which could go away. Since I used different applications to go through my photos, I had a lot of different ways of doing it. Sometimes I used ranks, (“Oh this photo is good, that gets 4 stars, that one is bad, that gets 2 stars”) other times I just went through my photos and when it was a little bit good (“it’s not blurry, so process it”) I processed it and saved it in Gimp.

A few weeks ago, I came across the following blog post:  http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2011/03/photo-editing-101/. This post describes that you can go five times through the photos and decide whether the photos are good enough for the next round or not, when the photo is good enough it is rated by an extra star or higher rank. Although I didn’t complete my first sessions using this method, it is a method that I would like to try out and see how it works. Obviously this will only work when I have software that has good support for this, and there is exactly the problem I have at the moment. Although Rawstudio does support ranking, you can’t do it using the keyboard, which slows down the process considerably.

Processing and correcting

The most essential step in the workflow is processing and correcting the photos. I only try to do the basics like adjusting the white balance, straighten the photo, cropping, lens and colour corrections and a bit of sharpening. When I am finished with this step I send the photo to Gimp where I save the photo in Gimps native format.

I try to keep this step simple and fast so that I can move on to the next photo as soon as possible.

Advanced Post Processing

Not all photos are perfect and sometimes the camera is dirty. It is now time to remove dust, unwanted objects / people and so on. This can all be done using Gimp.

Sometimes I want something different like a black and white image with a red flower or something like that, this can’t be done in most raw processors, so I also do this in Gimp.

I am not doing this for majority of the photos, because it just takes to much time.

Exporting

Since I do some post processing inside Gimp, I decided that it would be the easiest to use Gimp for exporting the images as well. I already did this a few times, and it takes some time at the moment (especially when you also want your signature and copyright notice on the photo) but I think part of this can be automated using some scripts.

Conclusion

Post Processing can take a lot of my time and that is annoying. I wan to spend more time shooting and learning. The biggest problem I have now is that I can’t rate the photos very easy but I tried a new (at least for me) peace of software called digiKam where I can rate the images by pressing Ctrl + <number>, but installing it on my machine gave me a lot more packages than I want. I will use it to try out the rating method and use ufraw to process the photos and of course Gimp for the rest. Hopefully I can come up with a replacement for digiKam which fits more in my workflow.

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