9 December 2015

Workflow - Do I need one?

In any discussion of digital photography, the subject of “workflow” is sure to arise.  There are as many different workflows as there are photographers, as workflow is a personal choice affair.  However, some don’t even realise that they have a workflow, let alone a particular methodology of producing their digital photos.   Snapshooters will require a simple workflow such as take the picture,  download the images to a PC automatically via Wi-Fi or up-load automatically to a social media website.  Job done.   When the memory card is full, toss it in a drawer and stick in a new one!  I wonder if mobile ‘phone users do the same when the ‘phone memory is full?   Enthusiasts may use a more complex workflow to properly archive and back-up their images and professionals will require a workflow that combines archival as well as economic factors.  

My workflow is as follows (this is just the way I work - you may prefer a different workflow and your mileage may vary):  

For family shots and snapshots:  Nikon D7100 (or Fujifilm X-T10)

Camera set to sRGB - Jpg normal - Optimal quality - size Medium, picture control Vibrant, sharpening +6, contrast auto, D lighting auto.

Files are copied from memory card to a folder on HDD and the folder is duplicated on a backup HDD.  I don’t use Lightroom to copy the files from the memory card to the HDD as the process is too slow.

Files are imported into Lightroom catalogue “at present location” using a preset that bumps the clarity and the vibrance up slightly and adjusts the tone curve to increase mid-range contrast slightly.

Files are reviewed in LR’s Library module and the rubbish is marked as “Rejected” (X)

Rejected files are deleted from the LR catalogue as well as from the HDD.

Files are then reviewed again using the loupe view at 100% and are again marked as either rejected (X) or “Pick” (P).  The files marked as “Pick” are opened in the develop module and edited for shadow / highlight detail, white point and black point, IF NECESSARY.  Most times, the files do not require any adjustment.

Back in the library module, the files marked “Pick” are exported as Jpg fine files with sRGB colour space, full size, with the suffix “master” added to the file name, to a folder named “Master Negs - Family”  The same files are then exported again as Jpg’s to a folder named “Family pics Web”, and a subfolder showing the location and date, downsized to 1280 x 853 pixels, compression 60%, sRGB, sharpened for screen display.  These are the files that I distribute to family members or post on the family website.

For competition, commercial or exhibition prints:  Nikon D610.

Camera set to RAW + Jpg large fine.  AdobeRGB, Picture control Normal, Saturation 6, Sharpening 5, Contrast auto, active D lighting normal.  (All these settings only affect the Jpg files, remember)

All images are copied to a temporary folder on the HDD and the RAW (NEF) files are converted to DNG using Adobe DNG converter.  (I don’t use Lightroom to copy and convert the files as this is really too slow.  There is now some opinion that with the new generation of high resolution cameras converting to DNG does not save significant disc space if one uses the lossless compressed RAW setting, but I still prefer to use the DNG format as there are no “sidecar” files to worry about and they open much quicker.)

All files are copied to a folder on the HDD named for the camera type and to a subfolder named for the file number range and a brief description i.e:  Nikon D610_xxxx-xxxx_Smith portrait and the folder is duplicated to the backup HDD and to the second backup HDD.

Files are imported into LR catalogue “At present location.”  RAW and Jpg files are displayed as separate files.

Files are reviewed in LR’s Library module and the rubbish is marked as “Rejected.” 

Rejected files are removed from the LR catalogue and deleted from the HDD. (Not the backup files.)

The RAW files are viewed again using the loupe at 100% and checked for sharpness, and again the rejects are deleted. (Both RAW and Jpg but not the backup files)

The files selected for use are marked “Pick” (P).  The RAW files thus selected are opened in the “develop” module, which is similar to ACR, and corrected for exposure, contrast, clarity, vibrance, sharpening, white point, black point, and luminance and saturation of the individual colour channels.  If necessary they are opened in Photoshop (from within LR) and a copy with LR adjustments is edited.  I do this where I need to use layers etc.  The result is automatically saved in the same location as the original as a Tiff file.

The edited files are exported as Tiff files with the suffix “Master” appended to the file name, at original size, to a folder named “Master Negs” with the file numbers and a brief description as the folder name.

The same files are then re-exported as Jpg files downsized to 1920 X 1080 px 60% compression sRGB colour space for sending to the client/subject/customer electronically or burning to a CD.

The files selected for printing are again opened in the develop module and checked for colour and contrast in Photoshop and re-sized according to the size of the print at 300ppi before being exported as Adobe RGB Tiff files to a folder with “Print” appended to the file name.

The Jpg files are merely used when reviewing the files initially and are not used for anything further.  They do make a belt and braces backup though.

Only once all this is done are the memory cards formatted in camera.  Never format your memory cards with your PC.

So to summarise, on the HDD there are four versions of each image.
The original ex-camera file (RAW or Jpg or both)
A “Master Neg” full size Tiff file in AdobeRGB colour profile.
A “Print”  Tiff file resized to the print size at 300 ppi in AdobeRGB colour profile.
A “Web” Jpg file downsized, compressed and sRGB colour profile.

It is not necessary to backup these files on the second HDD as the LR catalogue is backed up on both HDDs as well as the backup HDD.   As LR is non-destructive, any file can be re-created from the catalogue data as long as the original file is available.

How and why to back-up your images is a whole other subject, as is colour management, which I will address in future posts.  

If you do not use Lightroom, but one of the other imaging editing applications, you should modify the above workflow to suit, if you wish to use it yourself.

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