Sunday, March 12, 2006

Digital workflow #2

Picking up on my previous post about digital workflow, here's the second installment.

Processing images

Essentially workflow is about getting complete control of the process from taking the image through to the final print. Every link in the chain is critical if you want to consistently produce high quality images. So let's take a look at what you do with your images once they're downloaded onto your computer.

You may choose to shoot JPEG or RAW. Each process will have it's own workflow requirements but the key thing is that you follow a routine, a set series of steps which will ensure speed and consistency.

I shoot in RAW unless it's a photojourn assignment or event photography which requires the results to be speedily delivered. It is possible to deliver RAW images quickly too through using batch processing but it still takes more time than a straightforward JPEG.

The monitor is calibrated, ICC profiles loaded, so let's get down to processing. The first step is to delete all the images you just know you're never going to use. A quick cull is essential to keep hard disk space free and speed everything along. I have three categories. Shots I'm definitely going to keep, the maybes and the definite nos.

I start with the image I think works best from the session. The first thing I do is STOP AND LOOK. The best advice I can give you is don't rush in and starting cropping, altering curves etc, just look at the image. Consider it's potential, previsualise what you want to achieve and then set about planning how to get to your destination in the simplest and quickest way.

Photoshop and other image editing programs have several routes to the same destination and everyone uses their program in their own way. I think it would be wrong for me to say you should follow one or other path. What you need to know is: what you want to achieve and set about finding out which tools will get you there. Thousands of websites offer excellent advice, the help files in Photoshop are generally good; there are tutorials, books etc. Besides one advanced course in Photoshop I've learnt everything I know by reading up on it and experimenting.

The workflow process you follow, once you've decided what you want to do, should be to first start editing globally. I start with a crop, if the image requires it. This again speeds up the process because I don't want my RAM to be processing bits of image that I know I'm not going to keep. Every second counts.

I then move on to global corrections for colour, contrast, saturation etc

I always work in layers and name them appropriately.

Once the global corrections to the image are done I move on to work on selections. Avoid using burning and dodging tools if possible. It's far better to work with levels or curves on a selected area.

Once the image is processed I save it as a Tiff or PSD with all the layers. This is the master file. I am starting to use DNG, digital negatives now but I've still got a lot to learn on that side.

Your images all need to be properly captioned, keyworded and archived. There are several excellent portfolio software programs. Read the reviews and select the one that you think will work best for you.

Next week I'll discuss printing.

I hope this post has helped you.

Cheerio,
Paul
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