My 12 step programme
This is my basic raw work flow, it may not be perfect or suit everyone but people in the Alpha group of flickr wanted to know. So this is all their fault :). A lot of these step will be covered in greater detail latter. I’m also assuming you have a calibrated monitor and know a bit about histograms.
1. Back up raw data
Before I do something I might regret, every bit of raw data is saved to an external hard drive for future use. This takes a bit of time and a lot of hard drive space, but its good to know if something happens to my PC or for some reason I delete the wrong images I have something to fall back on. I also save that data with the same folder layout as on my PC so its easier to find in the future.
2. Browse and sought
After I have a back up, I copy the raw data to my PC. My D: drive (sorry mac people I use a PC) is actually 2 x 1TB hard drives set up with a RAID 1 mirroring (yeap another backup) . My folder structure is set up so that it makes scene to me. D:\photos\”event type”\”event name”\”date DD.MM.YYYY”\RAWA900 (or RAW700 dependant on the camera(s) used). Now I can view the Raw data and delete what I don’t like or think is unusable. It is possible to include the soughing out into step3 depending on your own personal work flow and software used. I used to do it this way but found I rushed it too much.
3. Import and tag your data
Once I know what photos I’m keeping, I import them into Lightroom from the path D:\photos\”event type”\”event name”\”date DD.MM.YYYY”. Note that the RAW900 and Raw700 are missing. Instead I chose all sub folders, this way I can import all the raw files from all the cameras I used at once and avoid any name conflicts. Light room will look at the time stamp in the EXIF data and place all the Raw images chronology, so it pays to have your all your cameras set to the exact same time. Now I tag them with basic info “event type””event name” and “location”. I don’t tend to add a lot of tag info just the very basics. Once there are imported into the library I will skim over them again to see if there are any others to delete.
4. Global adjustments
In the first phase of developing the raw images, I check for the following: is the overall exposure how I want it? Is the white balance correct? How does the tone curve look? How is the noise, do I need to reduce now or latter when I sharpen? This is where I will also any black and white conversions.
Cropping and rotating your composition is important so don’t rush it. IMO Lightroom has some great features for cropping your image. And with a great composition you will have that real WOW look. Have a look not only at at the crop aspect ratio but the “Crop overlays” for other composition and crop ideas. After I have cropped I decide if I will add a touch of vignette or not.
6. Saturation and Contrast
After exposure and composition, the basic final image is starting to take shape. Tweaking the Saturation, Contrast, Vibrance, Clarity etc will start to give it some real kick.
Unlike JPG’s, Raw files aren’t sharpened in camera. Sharpening is a fine process and I see a lot of photo that I think are over sharpened. Guess its something I’ll have to write a lot about later. I have been told by a lot of people sharpening in Photoshop is a lot better than Lightroom. That my be true but I’m too lazy to export 500 images to Photoshop (or Elements) for sharpening, if I am working with individual images then maybe.
8. Fine details
So far I have only done global (affects the whole image) editing. But once all the general stuff done I can concentrate on the finer details. Things like dust spots, blown out highlights, Skin and eyes. This is a whole blog just in itself.
9. Ask the wife for her opinion then move on to next image
I don’t actually ask her to look at every photo (although she often wants to). An extra set of critical eyes can make all the difference. Don’t be afraid of of a second critical opinion. You don’t have to agree with them but its great to know how other people see it. And very often she is correct or has fantastic ideas.
10. Export for other software or jump to 12
Any individual Images then need special treatment get exported as a TIF or DNG ready for Photoshop elements or what ever. other wise so straight to 12
11. Adjust in another software
This is the what ever bit mentioned in step 10 and not something I do a lot of. But it does happen every now and then
12. Export for the desired medium
Once every image is ready its time to export them all. 99% of the time my exports will be highest quality JPG. All files get a custom name (based in the event and date) with sequential numbering, this also helps avoid any name conflicts that may arise from shooting with more than one camera. The export path is D:\photos\”event type”\”event name”\”date DD.MM.YYYY”\export so that all the info is kept together. Now its time to go have a well earned beer as exporting 1500 files can take a while. Very rarely do I export for web or any other format