Nothing short of magicI seem to spend far too much time thinking about ways of improving my workflow which means I don’t seem to get much work done.

This has to change and I need to decide on every step so I can simply follow the rules and get stuff done rather than keep stopping and thinking “this could be better if…”.

I have created a Workflow page with concise notes for me to follow. These may change over time but the reason for changes should be explained somewhere on this blog. You are welcome to use this as a guide if you find it useful.

I am going to try and explain the process I go through from camera to finished product to help clarify what steps I take in the hope that I might be able to simplify things a bit. At least if it is written down I can just follow my own rules rather than make it up each time I come home from a days photography.

My main camera is currently a Canon EOS 350D and I shoot the majority of shots in RAW. The flexibility of RAW gives you an extra bit of leeway. I am still learning and have found in the past that I occasionally get the settings wrong. The photo may look fine on the little screen on the back of the camera but when you get back home and look at it on your monitor you end up disappointed, even checking the histogram doesn’t always tell the whole story.

I also own a couple of compact cameras so some shots are in JPEG as well. This workflow needs to allow for both RAW and JPEG.

There is the possibility of losing photos which worries me a bit. So backups are very important but at what stage in the workflow is the best place to backup? Still not sure about this one so I currently take backups of all photos as soon as they are copied off the card. Not happy with this idea though as the RAW images are unprocessed to if I was to lose the images I then have to go through the whole selection/processing procedure again.

Lets start by thinking about the steps to get from camera to edited image:

Step by Step

Import

The images need to be copied from the memory card to a hard disk. I currently use a freeware program called DIM (Digital Image Mover). This allows me to rename the images as well as making an automatic backup. There is also the added benefit that it checks if the files have already been imported to stop duplication of images.

Anyway I store these imported images directly to a network drive on a separate machine as well as a copy on my local machine. Both copies are write protected to stop me making amendments to the original images. This is especially important for the JPEG files as, due to JPEG being a lossy format, every time they are saved they lose a bit of detail. Even something as seemingly innocuous as rotating an image can degrade an image slightly.

I am presently undecided whether or not to split out imports depending on camera model. This seemed like a good idea to me recently but I have since been having second thoughts. The import program I use ensures filenames are unique by checking if the filename exists in the output directory and if so it increments the count on the end of the file. If I store these images in separate directories for different cameras then these filenames are no longer guaranteed to be unique.

There is an added complication here that I sometimes get photos from other people, after a family party for example. What do I do with these photos? I still want the filenames to be unique and I may still need to do some editing of the photos but I need to know that they weren’t taken by me. Yet another little problem is that not everyone keeps the date and time correct on their cameras and so the import program can put these images in completely the wrong place. Anyway this is just something for me to bear in mind so for now I’ll brush over this and hopefully come back to it at a later stage.

Culling

After an import I go through all the new images and remove any completely useless images. If there are a few that look similar then I also try and remove any obviously inferior duplicates, for example if there are 2 shots of the same person in the roughly the same pose but in one the person has their eyes closed I will probably get rid of it.

This is only a first sweep though, and this photos are not the finished product,  so I do not go overboard here. If for any reason I pause while trying to decide whether or not to remove an image then that one stays, for now.

Process

This section is all about turning a image direct from the camera, or a digital negative, into a production image. There are many different uses for an image so there may be more than one production image from a negative.

As an example I may have an image that I want to put on my website so a JPEG image of roughly 800×600 may be required and to keep the size down I could reduce the quality of the final JPEG to 70%. I also want to make a print of this image so I will need a much bigger resolution with 100% quality setting if using JPEG to store the image. There might even be a need for a TIFF image if the image is going to used in a magazine or some other purpose.

For my processing requirements I have settled on DXO Optics Pro after trying a few different options. I hope to go into more detail for my reasons in another post.

This is probably a good stage to try and get rid of any duplicates or any images that didn’t quite make the grade, before filing them away. But this step is entirely optional.

Archive

Once I have finished all processing for an image I want to store it away safely in case I want to re-process it again in the future. So I need an archive of all of my digital negatives with easy access to any particular image I may require.

That about covers the steps that I can think of and as this post is already starting to get a bit long I am going to finish here and go more into the directory structure and anything else relevant in Part 2

Image: Creative Commons License Pylon757

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