After you take a photo, how does it develop from a file on your memory card to the finished picture? How do you turn your untouched RAW files – into something special? Welcome to a light hearted overview of my very own photography post processing workflow!
With the world being so busy, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to get out there to flex the camera muscles! So while the cameras have been sitting on the shelf during my photography drought, I thought that writing about photos – would be just as good as taking them!
People sometimes ask, what’s my photography post processing workflow? How do my photos make the journey from my memory card to the finished gallery? Well grab yourself a hot drink and I’ll gladly share my photography processing workflow with you!
This post is a light hearted introduction as to how I work. A general overview of my habits and basic reasonings, with a few tips thrown in based on lessons I’ve learnt! I’ll happily write a more detailed “step by step” guide to my photography post processing workflow at a later date!
Set The Scene
It’s been a few weeks since my last real photo adventure where I visited the beautiful city of Paris. Street photos. Landmark photos. Paris was a delight to photograph and explore again.
I then enjoyed the journey home on the Eurostar with a nervous excitement. Eager to get home and load the memory card into my computer and review the photos I’d taken!
Memory Card Madness
I don’t know about you, but when getting back from a photo session I find “inserting the memory card into the computer” will always get my full undivided attention?
The world around me will “stop” while I focus intently on inserting the card containing all my photos and hard work into the machine. Then wait for the tiny yet reassuring “click-click” as it docks! After a few agonising seconds the little window “pops up” onscreen informing me that all my photos have been saved. Phew!
Once I know my files “are there” I start importing them into Lightroom. Its hard not to feel the nerves kick in as a stream of photos begin “tiling down” the screen, and I hope at least a few of them are “keepers”.
You know the ones!? The photos you took and immediately had that feeling. Like everything was “right” when you pressed the shutter button? Then you made that quick glance at the review screen feeling a sense of excitement as you realise it could be a keeper!
I tend not to “scrutinize” a photo on the camera screen after taking it. Usually I just have a quick look to make sure all the right things are in focus, and the picture is correctly exposed. I leave the image processing and finer critiquing for when I’m sat in front of the computer with fresh eyes.
PS: I wonder if anyone got the Mass Effect reference with this subtitle!? The Keepers!
Cafe Mocha & Maltesers
It’s a dark and stormy night outside. Perfect weather to be cocooned indoors, sat at my desk with a computer and a memory card full of potential keepers. The room dimly lit by a desk lamp with a hot cafe mocha on one side, and a fresh packet of Maltesers on the other.
I also like to listen to my favourite music channels on an internet radio station called SomaFM. Either a channel called “Groove Salad“, or if I’m feeling particularly thoughtful and melancholy I’ll listen to the atmospheric “Drone Zone“.
I find working to music with lyrics very distracting as I end up singing along and losing my train of thought! If you ever need a simple ambient soundscape to accompany your image processing or writing, then stick on some Drone Zone.
PS. It’s worth noting that SomaFM is listener supported. If you could be awesome as to donate a few pounds/dollars to help keep them on the air I’m sure they’d appreciate it!
Be Ruthless. Delete!
Lets face it, after a long photo session we’re all quite tired and want to relax the brain. So unless I’m working to a tight deadline, I like to work progressively and process images over a period of time.
I find it very useful however to do an initial “quick sweep” through the photos and delete the ones that clearly didn’t work.
Leave the main processing and image adjustments to another day when you can critique with fresh eyes and energy. I do find however that it’s beneficial to sit down straight away when you get back home, and clear out the bad shots, and put a few highlight flags on the good ones.
Cook Photos Until Well Done
After processing a photo and deciding it’s a keeper, I’ll leave it to “cook” for a few days whilst I work on the rest of them. I’m a big believer in reviewing photos over several days with fresh eyes. What do I mean by fresh eyes? Well, I mean your “artistic eye” which can easily become accustomed to the way something looks!
How often have you created something and thought its awesome! Only to go back only a few minutes later and realised that what you’ve created is just awfjul and not fit for consumption!
“Going back to your work” can be such a productive exercise. I even do this for my Instagram photos! Make adjustments. Apply a filter. Close down the app and go back to it later on! You’ll be suprised what “fresh eyes” can do for your perception of an image.
Lightroom, Photoshop & Wall Sockets
When dealing with RAW files, all of my post processing is first done in Lightroom. Lightroom handles all of the core processing functions like exposure settings, tweaking shadows and highlights etc. This is then followed by Photoshop for any touch-ups and image manipulations. Once it’s gone through Lightroom and Photoshop, I’ll save the file in it’s largest format into a dedicated JPEG folder, and call it a job well done!
I used to spend a lot of time using photoshop to airbrush blemishes, and remove distracting items from the background of images. However I quickly learned that by simply “adjusting my framing” or asking my subject to “sidestep away from the ugly wall socket” could save me so much time in post-processing!
Trust me, airbrushing out a random wall socket takes precious time and concentration that can zap your energy! Especially when you have a large album to work on late at night! Rather than looking through your viewfinder and thinking “I’ll just airbrush that out later”, why not simply ask your subject to sidestep into a cleaner background?
Speaking of “sidestepping”, do you remember that 80’s kids TV show called Knightmare? Where a team of plucky young nerds guided by the mysterious dungeon keeper, would navigate their friend through a computer generated world wearing a big helmet? Anyway!
But what if I’m photographing a wedding and cannot ask my subject to “sidestep” into a better background!?
Yes I agree, there are situations when you cannot ask your subject to move! Especially when your environment is a wedding, and your subject is the Bride, and she’s begun her walk down the aisle! In those instances where you cannot ask your subject to move, then you must be prepared before hand.
Scout your locations and look for things in the environment that will distract from the foreground, and then adjust your framing and even your positioning for the shot.
Perhaps you could try a wider aperture and slap some blur onto the background instead? For situations where you’re performing observational photography and you cannot “direct your subject”, you have to be prepared and able to make those distractions disappear either by clever masking, or making good use of focus and blur! Relying totally on airbrushing, especially when working a large album is asking for a headache!
A Little Longer In The Oven
Once a photo is processed and any airbrushing has been taken care of, I leave the photo to cook a little longer. After one last check, I’ll export the photo into a folder ready for the world to see!
Archive In The Cloud
I usually store my RAW files on my Google Drive in a dedicated folder. This allows me to archive the work at a later date, removing the files off my computer entirely and leaving the archived files up in the cloud. Ooh I think that’s the first time I’ve ever referenced “the cloud” in context! I feel quite techy and contemporary right now!
How do I archive my files onto my Google Drive?
- Create a dedicated Archive folder in your Google Drive. This folder will store your old archived RAW files.
- Click on “Preferences” on your Google Drive icon menu, where you can control which folders sync with your machine. Deselect your Archive folder so that it does not sync to your PC.
- That folder will now only exist in the cloud.
- Now if you check your Google Drive you will not be able to see it!
So how do you move your old files to the Archive folder if you can’t see it on the machine?
- Easy! Open up your web browser and visit Google.
- Click on the Google Drive icon.
- Here you can manage and move around your files and folders within your Drive.
- You can now move your obsolete RAW files and folders into your Archive and free up valuable space on your machine.
So that’s my photography post processing workflow! This article is more an overview of my approach to processing and preparing a photo. I’ll happily do a more detailed “step by step” guide of my photography post processing workflow at a later date!
- So how does your photography post processing workflow differ to mine?
- Do you have any strange habits you need to implement to get the best from your photos?
Every photographer is different. The way we work. The pictures we create. However we all share the same mutual passion. A passion to photograph and present this beautiful world – to the rest of the world.
Thank you for reading this overview on my photography post processing workflow. Please comment and share! =)