Friday, November 27, 2009

My travel photography workflow 2

So now all my pictures are in Bridge. Why not Aperture or Lightroom you say? Well firstly I'll admit to being a PC guy so Aperture is out for me, and why not Lightroom will be revealed. Needless to say it has nothing to do with Lightroom being either a good or bad programme (I've never used it so wouldn't know) but more the fact that I'm happy where I am and if it ain't broke...

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post as my images get imported into Bridge they get renamed and have metadata added. I use a naming protocol suggested in Peter Krogh's great DAM book, which is now in its second edition.

When I was shooting transparencies I used to name my images according to subject matter. So mammals was M followed by a three digit number. So starting at M001 and going up. I then had a Microsoft Access database which required me putting all the details of every picture in by hand. As you can imagine it was pretty arduous.

Anyway the naming was pretty irrelevant in terms of finding specific images and only really useful for locating their physical position in the filing cabinet. Using slide sheets you used to get 20 slides per sheet so M82 was on sheet 5 in the Mammals folder. But sometimes I would have elephants in the mammals category (if they were wild) and sometimes in the transport category (when they were carrying people). It didn't really matter where the slides were physically because there was a description category in my database and if I just typed in elephant it would tell me where every single one of my elephant pictures was.

And I went with this principle for my digital cataloguing. I wanted a situation where I could find a picture no matter what hard drive, folder or disc it lived on. I also realised that the name of the file wasn't important in locating it. Searching for images required good keywording. So again I followed Peter Krogh's advice and went with a naming system of Surname_date taken_camera file number. Makes no sense at all to a client but it does the important task of telling them straight away who took the picture.

The other important metadata I put into every single file at the time of import is my contact and copyright information. I make sure that my name, address, website, email, phone number and contact details are attached to everything I shoot - even the stuff I delete. You never know where your pictures are going to end up sometime so you want to have that information embedded in all your pictures. This metadata plus the naming of the files makes it pretty easy for an honest client to find me if they want to license my pictures. Does it stop people stealing my stuff? Does anything?

Now my workflow is based around shooting Raw. I only shoot jpeg on my little point-and-shoot, everything that gets shot on my dSLR (whether it be personal or work) gets shot in Raw. I just like to know I have the best quality every time. So that means all my files are in the Canon CR2 format.

Now making changes to Raw files in Adobe is all fine and dandy when you're using Adobe products. Any changes you make to the file in Camera Raw are there to see, but as soon as you take that file out of the Adobe environment you hit a wall because other software can't read the changes you make to your file. Make lots of glorious changes to a file in Bridge and then try and open the file in your Canon software.

While your file might have been adjusted in Camera Raw to increase saturation, contrast, brightness - whatever it is you do - as soon as that file comes out of its nice little Adobe nest the other software just sees the boring Raw file that came out of your camera. So I don't stay with CR2 for long. All I do is make basic changes to my images - enough so that I can show them to a client for them to make a final selection.

But to show them to a client I have to take them out of the CR2 format into....more on that next time and what I use to catalogue my work.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My travel photography workflow

Alrighty, so here I am back in the world of blogging after a week or so of running around like a headless chicken. Firstly let me preface this series of blog entries on my workflow by stressing that word MY.

I love learning new things but once I find a way of doing things that works for me I tend to stick with it until it doesn't suit my needs any more. Or until I see something that absolutely hands down beats the way I'm doing things at the moment. So if it seems a bit out of date - well you should see my wardrobe. :)

Secondly this is a workflow that is going to work better for those of you who don't do a lot of post-processing. I find that I hardly ever open up Photoshop any more. In fact working on the scans for my entry into the Travel Photographer of the Year awards was the first time I've had the programme open in quite a long time.

So here is my (possibly) ancient, straight out of the box (ie camera) workflow. Firstly I try and make sure I have enough CF cards to last me for at least a day's shooting. I carry a portable hard drive with me just in case, but in general terms I prefer to be able to shoot all day and back up at night. So this has meant going from 1GB to 4GB to 8GB and now 16GB cards! I never delete anything directly in the camera but keep absolutely everything so that I can go over it later with a fine tooth comb and make sure I don't throw anything out that I wanted to keep. Even shots you thought were terrible sometimes have their uses later down the track.

When I get back to the office if I've only shot one or two cards (which often happens on commercial shots where setting up takes more time than shooting!) I just upload them straight from the camera. Slow I know but I just let it do its thing while I'm in the shower or catching up with the kids or whatever. I'm a pretty relaxed kind of guy - no need to rush these things. :)

If it's a whole day of documentary travel shooting then there's usually a lot of full cards so I download them all to a portable card reader/ hard drive. I won't mention brands because then I'll be really dated. But I will say that I've had it for about 4 years, it's 80GB, downloads 1GB in about a minute, runs on rechargable AA's and has never let me down (touch wood). It doesn't have a screen but I never was the type to want to look at my pictures during the day. I think that comes from all those years of shooting slide film - sometimes you just know when you've got it and when you haven't.

When I have them in the portable hard drive I use a little script I got from Peter Krogh's site called Import from Camera. It's a bit old now and I believe Peter recommends a programme called Image Ingester. Anyway IFC is a great little script that when I point it to my hard drive will scan it and detect all the image files there.

It will then import them into a folder on my hard drive called "Unprocessed Raws" and I have the choice of keeping the original folder structure (as in separate all the pictures according to CF cards) or I can flatten the structure so they all appear together. I usually choose the latter. I can also rename all the files and add metadata. I can also choose to create a back-up copy of all my images in a different destination at the same time.

Tomorrow I'll talk a little bit about my re-naming structure, the importance of metadata and how I begin to work on my files.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still alive and photographing!

Hi there everybody,

sorry for being so slack on the blogging front. I've had a couple of big projects on that have taken me away.

Firstly in some pretty exciting news I found out that I'm a finalist in the Homeland portfolio section of this year's Travel Photographer of the Year contest. I've never entered before so wasn't really sure what was involved or if I'd get anywhere but I'm really excited to have made it this far.

Anyway I've been busy organising A4 prints of the entries, which I had to get printed in England because I wouldn't have time to get them done here and then send them over. I then had to upload the entries for possible inclusion in the book of the awards as well as fill out various forms. You can see the finalist images in the Gallery section here.

Last week I also had a commercial shoot which involved a lot of organisation and then post-shoot editing and processing. Seeing as it's something I've been so preoccupied with the last few days I thought I might go over my workflow in the next few posts.

Anway just to let you know that I'm still alive and kicking and will be back to blogging as usual.