My Workflow

I have been asked by several newbie photographers in the last few weeks and months about post capture work flow and compression of images, in readiness for wiring.

I have in several other places on this web site addressed the sizing issues and compression however it would appear that a number of visitors are unable to grasp the basics with having it illustrated with pictures, so here it is, the idiots guide to post capture processing, resizing and compression. It is important to note that my workflow is geared to getting images moving fast, from the CF card to the newspaper’s picture desks. If you are dealing with commercial work, or production of huge high quality prints, you will almost certainly want to introduce additional steps, to deal with noise reduction etc.

I have outlined the way that I work, using the products that I use, if you use something different then you will have to adapt it.

Firstly I use Photoshop CS2, for almost everything (except for wiring obviously) whereas a few years ago, I had to use Photoshop for Image treatment and Photo Mechanic for  browsing and captioning.  However the new browser in CS is very good, and it supports the Canon RAW format (as well as the Nikon NEF format).I nearly always shoot RAW, with the possible exception being when I know I am going to shoot several hundred frames in a single job. One of the biggest complaints about the Canon browser software (other than it was a bit Fisher Price toy-like) was that it was very slow.  The Photoshop CS browser is a substantial improvement and makes to viable to shoot RAW for almost every job.

In fact there are a number of Nikon snappers out there (now) that use CS’ browser and shoot NEF files, and have noticed a massive jump in image quality, and they had the advantage of using Fotostation (which was better than the Canon software). I too have noticed that there is far less degradation of th eimage quality since shooting in RAW and converting, rather than shooting jpeg (which has already been compressed, sometimes substantially, by the camera before you have even seen the image).

The screen capture above shows the PhotoShop Browser window, with the thumbnails on the right and a larger image to the left, the ability to quickly scroll through hundreds of images very quickly using the left/right/up/down arrows or the scroll bar at the side, makes it quick and easy to select the images that you require. 

Then a double click on either the large image or the thumbnail will open the image in Photoshop; you can also select multiple images and double click and they will all open in PhotoShop.  If you are shooting RAW or NEF files, before they open you will get an additional screen giving you a wide variety of adjustments.

The advantage is that these adjustments are carried out on a full size RAW file, rather than on an already compressed (and therefore degraded) Jpeg image.  An additional advantage is that when working with the RAW file, you can carry out a far greater range of adjustments.

In a Jpeg image you may be able to adjust for + or – a stop or two of exposure, before the image becomes un-usable, with RAW you can double that maybe even treble, useful when your flashgun has under or over hit, on a car shot. Other adjustments include White Balance control; again it is possible in Jpeg but the image quality degrades very quickly.

Having chosen the images, made any heavy corrections in the RAW handling part of PhotoShop, clicking on OK, finishes the transfer of the now corrected image, (if you have selected a number of images and decide that you do not want to transfer one of the images pressing the control key will change the function of the OK button to Skip, if you click on Cancel it will cancel all transfers to Photoshop (that haven’t already been done).

In PhotoShop, there are only a limited number of adjustments that I will make and most of these I have assigned to Actions, which means a single mouse click instead of chasing through menus for each item.

There is a particular order that I use them in, although some will argue the benefit of doing sharpening last and others that colour balance should be done first.  I believe that all adjustments should be made prior to sharpening, Sharpening is the most destructive process that you can carry out to an image (in usual operations anyway) I usually, for convenience Rotate the image (if required) so that it is in the correct orientation, You will usually only need to rotate the image in one direction if you have something like the EOS1d or Nikon D2H, (if you have an EOS350 without the battery pack and extra shutter release you may need to rotate differently depending on the photograph.

Next up I carry out any Cropping that is required, No need to have a Action assigned to this as it will vary from image to image and the crop tool is visible on the standard tools option.

Auto Levels, if this doesn’t have the desired effect, which sometimes it doesn’t, I will then undo, and use the levels option. Unsharp Mask is next applied. The Image is then captioned.

Finally, before the image is saved the USM is used, see elsewhere on this blog for more information on how to use USM effectively.

Occasionally if the image needs some further tweaking I will use the Curves function, which is a very powerful tool, although I tend to use it for adjusting the dynamic range of an image (increasing or reducing contrast) and some tweaking of brightness in various parts of the image (shadows, highlights etc.)

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