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Thread: My workflow

  1. #1

    Default My workflow

    As promised, a discussion of my workflow and philosophy.

    I shoot in Large Fine Jpeg, I have no experience with RAW, but I understand the quality is better if you go that route. My reasons are that the incremental improvement in quality is not worth the extra processing time, the content of the shot matters more than the image quality, and I can hardly tell the difference anyway.

    First thing I do is shoot LOTS and LOTS of pictures. Everytime my wife asks me whether I got any good ones, when I've finished a 256MB card, I will deadpan "One or two". It's a standing joke between us, but usually quite true. Out of a couple hundred shots, only one or two will be keepers, and mostly caught by accident.

    Next thing is to delete like mad when I've transferred the pictures to the computer. It might seem to defeat the purpose of taking lots of shots, but by deleting those obviously out-of-focus and awful moments shots (eg eyes half closed) which you'll never use anyway, you can find your good shots much quicker.

    Then it comes down to choosing the best out of two or three of the same shot. Some shots are instant keepers with priceless expressions, some you have to agonize and choose between.

    Now, let's say I've picked a nice picture to work on. First thing I do when I open it in PS is to crop it. I crop to remove distractions and recompose the shot, moving the subject to the side instead of dead centre, and rotate the crop by 1 or 2 degrees where necessary. If there's a diagonal line in the picture I try to make it end in a corner. I try to stick to the 3:2 ratio (usually 600 x 400), because that looks most natural and pleasing, and also subliminally implies that you did NOT crop, even though you did. If really cannot, then I will try a square format or panoramic. 4:3 ratio pictures just cry "Amateur!". Really.

    After I crop, I will do an Auto-Levels and see if that improves the picture or destroys it (eg by changing the contrast or colour cast). If it looks horrid I simply use Ctrl-Z to undo the Auto-levels and adjust the levels manually. This usually entails moving the sliders on each end inwards to the foot of the histogram "mountain", then adjusting the centre slider until the details can be seen to your liking. If the slider on the right needs to be moved in too much, you usually end up with blown-out highlights. One way to avoid this is to then adjust the curves instead. The theory is a bit too complicated to go into, but suffice to say that using two points to make the curve "S-shaped" usually improves the contrast without blowing out the highlights or killing the shadows (which is desirable if you're doing B&W anyway).

    Next step is to see if the picture works better in colour or B&W. Generally I prefer B&W because facial expressions are better appreciated in B&W, whereas colour distracts. But if the colours add something to the picture (eg similar coloured clothing or highly contrasting objects) then I will keep it in colour. The way to do this, of course, is simply to convert to grayscale and see if you like the result. If not, simply Undo the conversion. I tried the Lab Luminance route, but in the end I found that simple conversion to grayscale works best for me. The trick is in adjusting the levels again after converting to grayscale. Increasing the contrast (in the manner described above) works wonders. "Normal" grayscale usually lacks contrast and therefore "punch".

    Once I am happy with that, I will decide if any further effects would help, like adding grain to the picture or a softness filter (the technique has already been described). But be cautioned that for this sort of thing, less is more. Don't get carried away, or your pictures will end up looking like Primary School Paint Shop Pro projects.

    The final steps involve sharpening the picture using Edgesharpen (I posted the action somewhere - do a search) and reducing the noise if excessive. The principle behind these two actions are very simple - only the parts which need sharpening or noise-reducing will have the filter applied to them. This is done by applying the filter through a mask, which has been defined by the "Find edges" filter. These two actions are assigned to Function keys, so it's a matter of pressing these function keys.

    Then comes the framing. I add a single-pixel black border, then use the "Drop Shadow (full image)" action that comes as a default with PS 4.0. Again, these are assigned to function keys, and two keystrokes complete the work.

    And that's it. All my kung-fu secrets exposed. I know it's all text and no pictures, I'm too lazy to work on that right now. Maybe later. In the meantime (in the spirit of Sulhan), if you're not sure about anything I'm talking about, feel free to ask and I'll be glad to explain.
    Last edited by StreetShooter; 19th September 2002 at 11:29 PM.

  2. #2

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    if only 1 out of 100 shots is a keeper, would shooting RAW significantly increase processing time? (you can fast-preview using the embedded jpg?)

  3. #3

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    Thanks for posting your workflow. I guess it is a somewhat similar workflow to one I adopt for my digital pictures. Except for one part, and I am really curious about this...

    Why are 4:3 ratio pictures considered "amateur"?

    I only usually crop to 3:2 when I need to print, or when there's really something in the photo that's bugging me and can be cropped off to meet the 3:2 ratio.

    Just wondering about it, because I know I've composed my picture in a 4:3 viewfinder (or lcd), and I'm thinking your camera does that as well. Do you compose your picture at the time of shooting with crops already in mind?

  4. #4

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    Apparently on a 2Ghz machine, it takes 3 seconds to process each RAW image. For 200 shots that's 3x200 = 600 seconds = 10 minutes. A bit long for me to wait (I mean, that's why I'm in digital, right - so that I don't have to wait for the prints to come back?) and also takes up too much storage.

  5. #5

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    Originally posted by Que Lynn
    Thanks for posting your workflow. I guess it is a somewhat similar workflow to one I adopt for my digital pictures. Except for one part, and I am really curious about this...

    Why are 4:3 ratio pictures considered "amateur"?

    I only usually crop to 3:2 when I need to print, or when there's really something in the photo that's bugging me and can be cropped off to meet the 3:2 ratio.

    Just wondering about it, because I know I've composed my picture in a 4:3 viewfinder (or lcd), and I'm thinking your camera does that as well. Do you compose your picture at the time of shooting with crops already in mind?
    I knew that would arouse comment.

    Essentially I think it's because 35mm format is traditionally 3:2 (correct me if I am wrong) and 4:3 is used mostly by consumer digital cameras. Maybe it's just me, I don't know, it's a very subtle thing. Coming from a CP990 (which, incidentally, allows you to specify a 3:2 setting) where I used 4:3 all the time, and moving on to the D30, which only has 3:2, I've found that the 3:2 is more pleasing and, well, "photographic". 4:3, on the other hand, says "Computer image". Although more than 90% of my pictures are shared on the web and never end up printed, there is a certain pretension and prestige to being (OK, not "being" - thinking of myself as) a "photographer" as opposed to a "computer graphic artist", which, in truth, is what most of us are.

    Oh, never mind. Just try it yourself and see which you like better.

  6. #6

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    Oh, on my AMD K6 500MHz machine, it takes abt 1 minute (and its only a D30 RAW...). By the time it processes 200 images, you could have taken another 200 huh.... No! Pls tell me I don't need a new machine.....!
    BTW, the really last part of workflow, do u catalog and burn them to CDs? Otherwise, your keepers wouldn't be "keepers" if your harddisk crash right?

    ..NuTs..

    Originally posted by StreetShooter
    Apparently on a 2Ghz machine, it takes 3 seconds to process each RAW image. For 200 shots that's 3x200 = 600 seconds = 10 minutes. A bit long for me to wait (I mean, that's why I'm in digital, right - so that I don't have to wait for the prints to come back?) and also takes up too much storage.

  7. #7

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    Hmm.. I wonder about 6 x 4.5, 6 x 6 and 6 x 7 images then...

  8. #8
    Midnight
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    With regards to the 3:2 vs 4:3 aspect ratio question, I personally prefer 3:2 myself because it is closer to the golden ratio (Phi = 1.61803....) which has been historically verified to be aesthetically pleasing to the human senses.

    Having said that, though, I usually retain my digital photos in 4:3 format simply because that is what's captured by my digital camera and I don't want to discard image info unnecessarily unless I really need to crop to improve the composition. However, I much prefer the 3:2 ratio of 4x6 prints over most other print formats (i.e. 5x7, 8x10, etc... over here we have some labs that can do 4:3 aspect ratio prints for digital photos, but I don't like the look either) for purely aesthetic reasons.

  9. #9

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    Originally posted by YSLee
    Hmm.. I wonder about 6 x 4.5, 6 x 6 and 6 x 7 images then...
    Joe Public thinks 35mm when he hears "photographer".

  10. #10

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    Originally posted by nuts
    Oh, on my AMD K6 500MHz machine, it takes abt 1 minute (and its only a D30 RAW...). By the time it processes 200 images, you could have taken another 200 huh.... No! Pls tell me I don't need a new machine.....!
    BTW, the really last part of workflow, do u catalog and burn them to CDs? Otherwise, your keepers wouldn't be "keepers" if your harddisk crash right?

    ..NuTs..

    Well, that's not part of my workflow, it's my archiving.

    I store the pictures chronologically, with a descriptive folder name such as "2002-09-13 1543-1589 Kids at the park". The pictures (after deleting the rubbish) would have been renamed with an eight-digit number, no prefix eg "00001543.JPG". I use Irfanview to do the batch renaming. This means 100 million pictures with no filename duplication. That should last me till 2005. If I know the number of the picture, it's a cinch to relocate it. If not, the descriptive folder names will help.

    I once burnt a few CDR's, then stopped. Storage and archiving of CDR's is fiddly (they're lying around, there's lots of duplication, and labelling them is untidy). I simply have a couple of extra hard disks set as slave drives in removable racks, and copy the entire directory with one drag and drop. It's MUCH faster than burning CDR's (we're talking about 20GB at this point in time), and you can very easily transfer the whole lot from one computer to another, or back up if the hard disk crashes. And, of course, as time goes by, hard disks get bigger and cheaper, but CDR's still hold 650-800MB only. DVD-RW is still not mature, in my opinion.

  11. #11
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    Just wondering... what do you do with the photos after the whole workflow and archiving? I mean, you just keep those photos in archive? Do you mount those "keepers"? Do you sell them or exhibit? (Just a thought that I have)

  12. #12

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    Originally posted by Digipix
    Just wondering... what do you do with the photos after the whole workflow and archiving? I mean, you just keep those photos in archive? Do you mount those "keepers"? Do you sell them or exhibit? (Just a thought that I have)
    The nice ones of my family I send for printing at Standard Photo (35 cents per 4R - much cheaper than printers with special paper and inks), and put them up in cheap IKEA frames to admire. The touched-up image files are stored in subdirectories in a directory named "Prints", as well as the CDR I use to send them for printing. I never change the original image files, except accidentally. . This way if I decide to do something different to the image, I will always have the original to work with.

    The street shots are never printed. They're all web-sized, and kept in a directory named "Posted".

    All of these are in a master directory named "Digital Photos". I have another master directory I'm working on, "Digital Negatives" which are digital versions of the film negatives I've accumulated through the years. This is an ongoing project. Siong.

  13. #13
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    You mean you don't sell your photos at all?

  14. #14

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    Well, if YOU would like to buy them, we could work something out....

  15. #15
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