Ten Reasons Why I Love Capture One Pro (Podcast 702)

Ten Reasons Why I Love Capture One Pro (Podcast 702)


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After another three weeks with my head stuck inside Apple’s Xcode developing environment, and then a few more days struggling with a new eCommerce system that I’ll talk a little about later, I decided to come up for air today and talk about my favorite image management and editing software, Capture One Pro, from Phase One. As a Capture One Brand Ambassador a number of years ago I was asked for a few paragraphs about why I love this software, but after using it for four years now, and with no sign of jumping ship anywhere else, I figured it was time to put down my definitive list of reasons for still being head over heels in love with Capture One Pro.

I also have an announcement about a great page that the Phase One team has put together, and the chance for you to win a Capture One Pro license, so please stay tuned for that at the end of this episode!

1 – Image Quality

First and foremost, the reason I love Capture One Pro is it’s outstanding image quality. When I first tested Capture One back in 2016 to see if I was interested in using it, I imported around 50 images into a catalog and processed them, and I was instantly amazed by the amount of detail that I saw in my images. The shot that really showed me what I’d been missing is the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane portrait that I used on the cover of my Making the Print ebook. I had processed it high-key in Lightroom originally, but I was simply not aware that there was that much detail in the feathers when I saw my original photo.

Red-Crowned Crane Shot Comparison
Red-Crowned Crane Shot Comparison

In fact, these are the two photos that I used on the cover for the original release and for my 2018 release when Craft & Vision closed their doors, and I actually toned down the detail a little in the new version, because I was so accustomed to the original image at this point. Still, though, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that the difference is significant. The moment I saw this, I realized that I had to spend more time looking at what Capture One Pro could do for my photography.

2 – Excellent Black and White Conversion

The next reason is that I am able to create quality black and white images without using a plugin or other software. I was never really happy with Lightroom’s black and white capabilities and had been using Silver Efex Pro which I really liked, but I didn’t like having to save my images as TIFF or PSD files, which we’ll also get to shortly. In Capture One Pro though, I am able to convert to black and white with the control that I want, and, in true form, the image quality that I have become accustomed to.

Black and White Conversion
Black and White Conversion

The tonal range is excellent, and when necessary, I can easily create additional masks to modify things like the foreground rocks in this image with one mask and add a second mask to adjust the sky. Of course, generic adjustments to the entire image are still possible with the background layer. I’m going to put a video together showing more about this soon, but for now, if you are interested in seeing more about some of the masking and black and white conversion capabilities, check out the videos and other posts that I’ve already released on Capture One Pro here.

3 – Highly Customizable User Interface

I am also a huge fan of the highly customizable user interface of Capture One Pro. I don’t know if this should be visible by default in the latest version, because I generally continue to build on my originally saved Workspace, but as you can see from this screenshot, you can add Tool Tabs from the predefined tabs, or create your own Custom Tool Tab, and that gives you things like the Black and White tab that you can see in the previous screenshot, which I added and customized to my liking.

Highly Customizable User Interface
Highly Customizable User Interface

For example, the Black and White Tool Tab that comes with Capture One Pro contains the film grain tool, for adding artistic grain to images, but because I never use that, I simply remove it from the Tool Tab. I do use Layers a lot though, especially on my black and white photos, so I added that to my Black and White Tool Tab, along with the High Dynamic Range sliders, which I also use a lot.

4 – Most Edits Work on Layers

The other thing that I love is that pretty much all of the edits you can make to an image can be applied just to specific layers, including masks, as well as generically to the entire image. There are a few exceptions, such as the generic Black and White sliders because, at this level, you are telling Capture One Pro how to convert the entire image, although there is very granular color edibility that we’ll look at shortly.

Layer Adjustments
Layer Adjustments

The Vignette tool also works on the entire image or the crop, depending on your selection, but as you can see from this screenshot, there is a paint-brush icon next to all of the other tool headers. This indicates that the adjustments that you make with that tool can be applied to layers. These icons become visible when you select a layer in the Layers tool.

5 – Advanced Color Editor

I also love to work in color, and Capture One Pro gives me complete control over the color in my images, via tools such as the Advanced Color Editor. Here I took a screenshot of the same image showing the original raw photo, but also showing the processed image with the mask that I created to enhance the blue in the ice, and the final processed image. You can move the vertical bar separating the two views as well. On the left side, I have three views, and on the right side, I have the final processed image.

I created the mask by selecting the color with the color picker from the Advanced Color Editor, and then right-clicking the ellipsis in the top-right of the Color Editor and then selected Create Masked Layer from Selection. This is a great way to select specific colors for finely tuned adjustments. Here are the three images as regular files too, so that you can see them in the Lightbox by clicking on the images.

6 – Luminosity Mask

In the previous major update, Capture One was given one of the most useful features that I can recall for a few years, and that is Luminosity Masks. This enables us to select specific areas of the image based on a very fine-tunable luminosity range. I covered this in the following video that I release as episode 658.

7 – Keep My Images in Raw Format

As I mentioned earlier, removing my dependence on third-party plugins and programs meant that the vast majority of my images, and I’m talking pretty much 100%, are kept in their original raw image format. I also find that the editing tools, including cloning and healing, are good enough that I can avoid jumping into Photoshop or Affinity Photo to make larger changes for the vast majority of my images. Seriously, I save maybe one or two files each year in a format other than the original raw file, and this is huge for me. I really dislike having to round-trip to other software to work on my original image as keeping them in their original raw format gives us the ability to benefit from all future processing engine updates.

Phase One isn’t just sitting on their thumbs, they release a major update to Capture One Pro pretty much every year, and each time they upgrade, there is potential to see even better image quality in my photographs. If my images are stored as a TIFF or PSD, or any other third-party file format, I have to go back and redo any work that I did on my original because that was baked-in to my copy. Because all of the changes I make to my images are stored as instructions and mask files etc. when I never leave Capture One Pro, nothing has to be redone when the processing engine gets updated. I can usually simply press a button to update the image to the latest processing, and I’m done.

This also, of course, saves on disk space, as third-party file formats are generally much larger than the original raw files unless you are saving as JPEG, which should never be the case for the main archive version of your images anyway.

8 – Organization and Filtering Images

Although I initially wasn’t overly happy that I had to split my one huge Lightroom catalog into multiple yearly catalogs when I jumped ship to Capture One Pro, I have become accustomed to my current workflow, and feel very comfortable to move between my yearly catalogs, as well as accessing all of my Final selects in a master catalog, as I explained in my previous post.

When I need to find images, the filters section provides pretty much everything I need to find specific images, based on my star ratings, gear selection or searching for the keywords that I add to my images as I archive them, or any EXIF data, including that which I added myself to scanned film photographs.

Scanned Film Filtered by Custom EXIF
Scanned Film Filtered by Custom EXIF

Note that in this screenshot, I’m showing medium format film that I tagged with Phil Harvey’s ExifTool and my own custom script that I use for walking through a folder of images tagging each as I go. There is no way that I’m aware of to enter data into the camera EXIF field with Capture One Pro alone, but it uses data that you add like any other camera.

9 – Workflow Speed

It’s also possible to customize the keyboard shortcuts for most of the commands in Capture One Pro. This helps us to tailor our workflow to our own needs and allows us to really streamline the workflow, which leads me to one of the largest benefits I’ve found after improved image quality, and that is the overall speed with which I’m now able to work through my images.

In the past I would leave my location workshops with at least a number of days of images unprocessed because I simply didn’t have time to process and select my images each day. Now though, I leave every tour with every day except the last completely processed. I go through and make tweaks to my selection before saving my final selects, but I’m generally caught up by the time the tour finishes.

As an example, one of the biggest time savers for me has been the ability to create a keyboard shortcut that copies all of the changes I’ve made to an image to the clipboard, and then apply them to future images with a second shortcut. I use SHIFT + COMMAND + C to copy my adjustments, and SHIFT + COMMAND + V to apply them to other images. As I go through similar images this saves me heaps of time, and as the image content changes requiring changes to my copied adjustments I simply update the copied adjustments and continuing pasting until it needs changing again.

10 – Tethered Shooting

The last thing that I wanted to mention is the ability to shoot tethered. I left this until last because I don’t do it often, but when I need to, I really enjoy having the ability to do this right there in Capture One Pro. When you first connect a supported camera, you get one dialog that asks if you’d like to register your camera with Capture One Pro and literally it’s just one click, and you get access to all of the controls that you see on the left side in the Capture Tool’s Live View Window here.

EOS R Live Tethering
EOS R Live Tethering

As you can see, you can control most of the aspects of the camera right from the Live View window, including even making very fine adjustments to the focus, and, of course, releasing the shutter, so if you do focus stacking, this is a great way to work. I’ve also found it very useful when doing portrait work, as being able to see the images on the computer as we shoot makes for a very dynamic shoot, and once again, really speeds up the workflow.

Essentially, Capture One Pro is just that, a Professional image editing package that provides the tools and image quality required to satisfy even the most discerning professional photographer, but these benefits are available for anyone that forks out for a license.

Win a Capture One Pro License!

On that note though, as I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I have a Capture One Pro license to give away and wanted to invite you to take a look at an amazing resource that the Capture One Pro creators have put together, called the 30 Day Challenge. I’m not going to ask you to watch every video, but do take a look and watch the videos on areas that you are interested in. If you are new to Capture One Pro, this really is an invaluable resource.

If this all whets your appetite enough to give Capture One Pro a try, please do download the fully functional 30 day trial version, with no credit card required, and take it for a spin yourself. I had been meaning to try Capture One for years, and finally set an afternoon aside to do it in the summer of 2016, and from that first photo that we looked at earlier, I was hooked. My photography is simply better and I enjoy my photography more now that I use Capture One Pro, and that is why I’m happy to recommend it to you.

To enter for your chance to win the license that I have, I would like you to do two things, in addition to downloading the trial, and that is to write one paragraph describing what you liked about Capture One Pro, and link to one photograph or blog post that you can share based on your experience. Please post these below in the comments, and make sure that you use a valid email address for your comment, so that I can contact you if I select you as the winner. Your mail address will not be visible to anyone else, and I will not share any of the email address with anyone, including the folks at Phase One, the makers of Capture One Pro. We aren’t harvesting addresses, we just want you to have fun, and get the most out of your photography.

The deadline for entries is May 25, 2020, and I’ll announce the winner shortly after that. Also, please only enter if you do not already own a current Capture One Pro license. Let’s give people that haven’t already got one a chance to win.

New Digital Products Store

New Store Screenshot
New Store Screenshot

One last bit thing that I’d like to share with you is that I have just created a new digital products store via FastSpring, that enables me to offer downloadable products with a streamlined checkout process, in a multitude of currencies, while staying on top of worldwide sales taxes which is becoming a full-time job in itself.

At the moment you can buy my eBooks and Fine Art Border scripts, as well as my Viewfinder Mockup files, and a more streamlined monthly desktop wallpaper subscription with a 12 image Starter Pack. At the time of recording, I’ve had to use just basic links for the wallpaper subscription, but the actual checkout and delivery process is already much smoother.

If you are finding yourself stuck indoors self-isolating during these difficult times, hopefully, my eBooks will help you to fill some free time that you might have, so to celebrate the opening of my new digital products store, I’m offering a 30% discount off all of the currently available products below, until the end of May 3, 2020. Just use the code NEWSTORE30 when you checkout to claim your 30% discount! And if you know me, you’ll know that I don’t do sales very often, so don’t miss this chance if you have thought about picking up any of my digital products.

Although my general intention is to provide my digital products as popups throughout this website, you can also see all of the products together on FastSpring here and I’ll list them below as well: https://mbpkk.onfastspring.com/


Show Notes

Check out the Capture One Pro 30 Day Challenge here: https://www.captureone.com/en/explore/30-day-challenge

New FastSpring store: https://mbpkk.onfastspring.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


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Importing & Organizing Photos in Capture One Pro 9 (Podcast 537)

Importing & Organizing Photos in Capture One Pro 9 (Podcast 537)

As I switch my digital imaging workflow to Phase One’s Capture One Pro 9, I’m learning how to bring out the most from this powerful raw image processing software, and today I’m going to share how I’m now importing and organizing my images.

You might remember from episode 534 that I have just switched to Capture One Pro from Lightroom, and so my goals are to maintain as much of the control that I had in Lightroom as possible, while making use of the powerful features now available to me in Capture One Pro. I don’t necessarily want to simply emulate my Lightroom workflow, although there are things that Lightroom does better, so I want to get as close to this as possible.

If you want help with actually migrating from Lightroom and importing your archives, take a look at episode 534 first, as I cover this in that post. Today I’m starting a more in-depth series that I’ll build on as time allows, and it makes sense to start with importing and organizing images from shoots, although I’ll start with some background on how I’ve organized my catalogs and other considerations.

Multiple Catalogs

First of all, I’d like to talk a little about my Catalogs. Although in Lightroom I used to have my entire library of images in one catalog, this really doesn’t work with Capture One Pro, because there is too much data held inside the catalog folder.

Catalog Selection Pulldown

Catalog Selection Pulldown

I tried to put all of my images from 2000 to 2015 into a single catalog, and it ended up 174GB in size, and took around 3 minutes to open, then another five minutes or so before you could navigate around. Also, when I tried to select All Images under the Catalog Collections, Capture One became unusable for around 15 minutes, so I had to force quit the program, and that corrupted the catalog and it was not recoverable, so I had to throw it out. Capture One Pro just cannot handle this number of images, which incidentally was around 165,000 of them.

So I’ve split up my previous year folders. I now have an one catalog called ~2005, which has everything up to 2005, then an individual year folder for each year from 2006 to 2016.

My 2016 folder is of course work in progress at this point, but once this year is over and I’ve finished all my editing, it will simply become the archive for this year and I’ll create a new 2017 catalog for next year.

This strategy gives me more manageable catalog folder sizes. My 2016 catalog is currently about 21GB, and will probably become around 30 to 35GB by the end of the year. I can live with that.

I can also switch easily between catalogs, with the Catalog pulldown under the Library section, as you can see in this screenshot (right), and it only takes about 10 seconds to switch, so this is a workable solution.

The only thing I wish I could do but currently cannot, is to search across multiple catalogs. If I could do that, this strategy would be totally stress-free for me.

Finals Folder

Finals Folder Structure

Finals Folder Structure

I also maintain a separate catalog called my Finals, and into this I copy all images that I consider my final selects. So, my year folders contain all images that I didn’t delete from all shoots, and I do all of my rating and keywording initially in these folders.

Then when I have completed my editing for any given shoot, I copy my final select images into my Finals catalog, separated out into year folders. I currently have 16 folders in there.

This means the year catalogs become more of an archive, and I can open just the one Finals catalog to get access to all images that I think are worth a hoot from 2000 to the present day.

I tend to open this Finals catalog more than any other as I’m working on various tasks. This also means of course that I can search across all of my final selects too, which I think is important to be able to do.

Portability

One final note on this, is that I always keep my Finals folder on an external hard rive, and it goes everywhere with me. This means that even if I’m traveling, I can plug in the external hard drive, and access every half decent image I’ve ever shot, no matter where I am.

And, my current year folder is also on that hard drive. Once I have completed my 2016 images and am working with a new 2017 folder, I’ll move the 2016 folder to my Drobo, attached to my iMac in the studio, and I’ll repeat the process until 2018. Rinse and repeat.

Organizing the Folder Structure

2016 Year Month Day Folder Structure

2016 Year Month Day Folder Structure

For many years now, I have organized my original shoot photographs into a Year/Month/Day folder structure, as you can see in this screenshot (right). This means that all images I shoot go into a single folder for each day that I photograph anything.

If I am shooting with multiple cameras, they still go into the same folder, and if the filename should end up with the same number, Capture One will append a new number to the end, rather than overwriting the first file with the same number.

With the way I’m now naming my files though, I have the camera include 5D1 and 5D2 in the filenames, so that I can tell which of my 5Ds R cameras was used to shoot the photograph, so the file names will never be the same.

All day folders for each month go into a single folder with the number of the month, and all month folders go into one year folder for each year.

I find having everything in day, month and year folders makes backing up images and organizing your image library easier. When I first started digital photography I did what a lot of people do, and put images into individual shoot folders, with the name of the shoot.

This quickly becomes unmanageable, as you forget what you’ve backed up, and the more folders and shoots you get the more difficult it becomes to find anything.

I find it much easier to have everything in these Year/Month/Day folders, as I personally remember quite well when I shot at any particular location, so I can generally find things quickly just by navigating to a year, and a month folder. I always use keywords to find images in my catalog, and we’ll touch on this shortly.

Show Folders Hierarchy

Also, note that by default, you will see all of your folders in a flat hierarchy, and will not be able to find anything. To make Capture One Pro display your images in the correct Year/Month/Day folder structure, right slick the folder and select Show Folders Hierarchy from the shortcut menu that is displayed.

Import Workflow

OK, so now that we have our folder structure strategy in place, let’s start to import some new images. Note that although Capture One Pro also supports Sessions instead of Catalogs, for now, we are going to cover just Catalogs because this suits how I work most of the time. We’ll talk about Sessions at a later date.

Another thing that I’d like you to bear in mind as we walk through this workflow, is that I try to do as much as I can in my workflow as early as possible. The earlier you do something, the more time you’ll save later. If for example, you change your filenames during import, it’s done and dusted. You can forget about it from that point on.

This helps in a number of ways, for example for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) if you share your images online, but it also gives you a kind of a SKU ID for each image, especially if you include the date and some other custom text, so we’ll look at how to set this up in a moment.

Also, we want to drop our images directly into the folder structure that I’ve mentioned so far, and we need that to be automatic. There is nothing more wasteful time-wise than navigating to folders and setting up your import details every time you do a shoot, so we’ll cover this too.

Create a Location Sub Folder Presets

Before you even insert your memory card into the computer, open Capture One Pro and select the Catalog that you want to import your images into. For me, this year, that Catalog is called 2016. Then, insert your memory card into your computer, or a card reader etc. and Capture One Pro should automatically display the Import dialog. If it doesn’t, click the Import button which by default is the downwards pointing arrow in the top left of the toolbar, or select Import Images from the File menu.

If it’s not selected, select your memory card from the Import From, Source pulldown, and turn on Include Subfolders if necessary to see your images in the right side of the Import Images dialog box.

Under Import To, select the Destination, where you’ll save your images, but resist the temptation to navigate right down to the Day folder in our Year/Month/Day folder structure. Remember, we want to automate this, so you don’t have to do this every time you import images.

Import to Year/Month/Day Folder Hierarchy

Import to Year/Month/Day Folder Hierarchy

To create a preset to automatically import your images into a Year/Month/Day folder structure, click the ellipsis to the right of where is says Subfolder, under the Import To section, and you’ll see the Locate Sub Folder Tokens dialog, that you can see in this screenshot (right).

Select Date and Time from the Group pulldown, and you will then be able to add the Year, Month and Day of the Month options. Note that to create a folder hierarchy, you’ll have to type a forward slash “/” between each element.

Also, note that if the year option only has two “y” characters in parentheses, click the downwards arrow, and select the four “y” version from the pulldown.

When you’ve done that, click the Presets pulldown at the top of this dialog box, and select Save User Preset, and give your preset a meaningful name. I called my preset “Import to Year Month Day folders”. From this point on, until you change it, this preset should be automatically selected whenever you import images, but if it ever is not, come back to this dialog, and select it from the Presets pulldown.

Renaming Files on Import

As I mentioned earlier, I also think it’s better to rename your images on import, to save time later. Of course, if you need to change the filename later, you can easily do that anyway, but it’s much better to have your base file name changed to something meaningful from the start, so let’s set that up too.

Create Naming Format Preset

Create Naming Format Preset

Under the Naming section, click the ellipsis to the right of the Format field, and you’ll see something similar to the following dialog box (right).

I usually prefix all my image file names with MBP, followed by an underscore “_” so you’ll need to decide what, if anything, you will use for your images.

After that I want to insert some kind of descriptive custom text. There is no Custom Text option like there is in Lightroom, but if you add something called Job Name, this enables us to do the same thing.

If you select All from the Group pulldown, you can find the Job Name option, and add that to the Format field, then type another underscore, and locate Current Year, and again, change this to (yyyy) not just (yy), for the full year number, and add that to the Format field as well as the Current Month (MM) and Current Day of Month (dd).

The next thing I added was the Image Name option, which literally just takes the image name, and appends it to the end of the new filename. Once you’ve done this, select the Presets pulldown and give your new preset a name. I called my MBP Rename. As with the location, unless you change this, it will be selected now for all future imports.

Import Images Dialog

Once you have these two presets created, and are back in the Import Images dialog box, you should see something like this screenshot (below).

You can see from the Sample Path, that our images are going to go to my external hard drive, which is called MBP Traveller, because it travels with me and travels between computers, and the images will automatically be placed into my Year/Month/Day folder structure. Under the Naming section, if you enter some meaningful text into the Job Name field, this will get picked up by our file renaming preset, and used to build our new filenames, also including the date and original filename.

Capture One Pro Import Dialog

Capture One Pro Import Dialog

In this example, I was importing photos of prints coming out of my new printer, so I used Canon_PRO4000 for my Job Name. This means that from now on, if necessary, I could easily search for the word PRO4000 or Canon, and get a list of images. I could do this both within Capture One Pro, or even just in the operating system search feature, and that can be useful sometimes.

Importing Multiple Shoots Simultaneously

Note that if you are importing lots of images from various shoots, and want to use a different Job Name or custom text for each, you could just select the relevant images from the right side, and import them shoot by shoot. Or you can simply import the entire memory card first, leaving the Job Name blank, so it uses Untitled, then select your various types of images, and select Batch Rename Images from the File menu.

At this point, I have found no way to use the original unique ID number that is embedded in the files, so the only way to rename files after the initial import is to use the Batch Rename Find and Replace method. If your files have Untitled as the job name, just search for Untitled and replace it with whatever Job Name or custom text you want to include in the new filename.

Renaming Individual Files

To rename any file directly, you simply click on the filename in the thumbnails view, and change it right there, which I really like.

Copyright Information

Back to the Import dialog quickly before we move on, I wanted to also mention that it’s a good idea to add your Copyright information, as you can see in the above screenshot. Again, once you’ve added this, Capture One Pro will remember what you entered until you change it, so you may only need to do this once, then you can forget about it until the following year, when you just need to update the year number accordingly.

Adjustments

If you find that you are making the same adjustments to all of your images after importing into Capture One Pro, you can create a preset of those changes, and assign that preset during import by selecting it from the Styles pulldown in the Adjustments section. You could assign other creative presets, like converting everything to black and white during import if you wanted to.

At this point, I haven’t really decided on any generic changes that I want to make on all of my images, so I’m not using this yet, and may never use it, but I have started to create presets for various looks, and I’m using them in my processing after import, so we’ll look at this in a future Capture One Pro tutorial.

Keywording

In addition to including a descriptive word or two in the filename during import, I always add keywords to my images, so for example, if I need to list all photographs that I’ve made of Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes, or Snow Monkeys, I can simply search for these keywords and find all images with the keyword assigned very easily.

In Lightroom, I used to add my main generic keywords for a shoot right there in the import dialog, but that isn’t possible in Capture One Pro at this point in time (Aug 2016) so I’m trying to get into the new habit now of adding my generic keywords straight after import. I am forgetting sometimes, which is why I really would like to be able to do this on import, but I’ll stick with it.

Just go to the Keywords section in the Library tab, and click on the field where it says Enter Keywords, and add your generic keywords for the shoot. Then, later on, after I’ve made my final selection of images, that I might share or send to OFFSET for consideration for inclusion in my stock library, I select each batch of images, and add more refined keywords.

For example, for a shoot from Hokkaido, say in the area of Akan, where we photograph the beautiful Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes, if all of the images on the card include cranes, I might include that in the first generic keyword list, but if we have some fox shots, and maybe a sunset shoot on the same card, I would probably add the keywords Winter, Japan, Hokkaido, Akan and Snow straight after import.

Then later, I’d go to just the crane shots and add Japanese Red-Crown Crane, Bird, Avian, and maybe Graceful, White, and any other descriptive keywords that it makes sense to add. I don’t go crazy with keywording, but I think it’s important to get the main keywords assigned to your images. This makes it easier to find things later, and improves SEO if you post your images online or send them to a stock agency etc.

Rating and Color Labels

Just like in Lightroom, you can rate your images as you browse through your library simply by hitting a number key, from 1 to 5, or zero to remove a star rating. You can also add a number of color tags to help with your organization, and three of the main colors also have shortcuts.

You can assign a Red tag by hitting the minus “-” key, a Yellow tag by hitting the asterisk “*” key and a Green tag by hitting the plus “+” key. You can also add color tags from the Adjustments menu, and Color Tag submenu, or click the color tag icon at the bottom left of the image thumbnails.

No Reject Flags

One thing that I miss from Lightroom is that there is no Reject flag, or Pick flags, but I rarely used the Pick flags. To Reject an image you just had to hit the X key on the keyboard in Lightroom, and then once you’ve selected all your rejects, you can hit COMMAND + DEL to filter out and delete all of your rejected images.

My Rating System

I thought of going back to my old rating system, in which 1 star means the image is to be deleted, but I like the rest of my system now, where 1 star means it was once selected, but fallen out of favor. 2 stars is an original image, for something that I made a TIFF or other format copy of the image. 3 stars is anything worth a hoot, 4 stars is stuff that I want to actively share with people, and 5 stars is portfolio class, by my standards.

While looking for a way to reject photos, I came across a Niels Knudsen post from a few years ago suggesting to use “-” to mark images with a Red tag, and then delete them. I didn’t really want to do that, because I use Red tags to mark the last frame of a series of images to be stitched into a panorama, but I think I’ll change that, and go with the minus key, Red tag for now. On a Japanese keyboard (that I use) the minus key is the only one of the three color tag shortcuts that doesn’t require you to hold down the Shift key, so it makes most sense.

Filtering Images

Filtering on Star Ratings and Labels

Filtering on Star Ratings and Labels

Once you have star ratings or color tags assigned, you can easily filter on these values to get a cut down view of your images. For example, when I’m ready to select just the Red tag images to delete them, I just go to the Filters section in the Library tab, and click to the color tag to filter out the images, as you see in this screenshot (right).

You can hold down the ALT or COMMAND key and click on multiple ratings and color tags to filter on more than one at a time.

Once I filter out all of my Red tagged images like this, I can hit COMMAND + A to select them all, then the Delete key, to remove them from my hard disk.

Working with Multiple Folders

Being so accustomed to simply being able to select multiple folders and see a view of everything inside all of them in Lightroom, I was stumped initially by the fact that you can’t just select a top level folder under the Folders view in Capture One Pro, and see everything in that entire folder hierarchy.

For example, if I click on my 2016 folder, or any of the month folders, I do not get a list of all images inside each of my day folders. I have to click on the actual day folder. I cannot even select multiple day folders, which I found incredibly frustrating at first.

Then I realized that if you click All Images under the Catalog Collections panel, the Date section under the Filters panel comes to life. With All Images selected, as you might imagine, you get a list of all images in the Catalog. To drill down to specific dates though, you can select the month, or multiple dates in the Date section.

Searching for Images

Search and Filter

Search and Filter

The Search features in Capture One Pro are really quite powerful, but takes just a little bit of getting used to. You can for example search for images based on Keywords and file names, as well as pretty much any other text field assigned to or embedded in the image, and this is linked to the star and label filters.

If I want to search for all red-crowned crane images that I shot in February this year, but only images that have a 3 star rating or higher, you just type the phrase to search for in the search field, and click on the criteria while holding down the COMMAND key on your keyboard.

You can also right click the ellipsis to the right of the Search field to display a more advanced search criteria dialog, or right click the ellipsis to the right of the Filters section label to opt to select which fields are included in your search.

Sticky Search and Filters

The other useful thing is, if you navigate to a different folder, or even a different catalog to look for something, and then come back to the same view, each view remembers its own search and filter criteria.

This used to drive me crazy in Lightroom, because it forgets it’s filters every time you navigate away, but Capture One Pro does not.

Clear the Filters When Finished

Conversely though, if ever you come to a folder and can’t see the images that should be in there, the first thing to check is the Filter and Search fields. It is possible that you have something set down there that you forgot about. Because of this, it’s a good idea to just hit that circle with the X in it to the right of the phrase you were searching for, and it will clear not only the search phrase, but all of your other selected criteria like star ratings, color tags and dates.

Display by Keyword or Place

There is also a Keywords and a Place section under the Filters panel. These are pretty self explanatory, but basically, when you open them up, you can see a list of keywords from all of the images in your current view, as well as Places if you have geotagged your images. If you click on any of these, you can get a view of all images with common criteria.

Collections and Selects Collection

Capture One Pro also supports Collections, very much like Lightroom. As I mentioned in my earlier post about jumping ship to Capture One, if you import your images into Capture One by importing Lightroom Catalogs, you will keep any Collections that images used to be in.

But you can of course create your own Collections from scratch to organize your images. For example, if I’m interviewed about my work, and I’m asked to provide some photos, I generally create a new Collection inside a folder called Interview Images. I was recently interviewed by Craft & Vision for their new blog, so I created a new Collection called “Craft and Vision Blog”.

Selects Collection

Selects Collection

Although you can drag and drop images into a Collection, it’s often quicker to use a keyboard shortcut, and to enable this, you’ll first need to right click the new Collection, and select Set as Selects Collection from the shortcut menu. This is pretty much the same as making it the Target Collection, in Lightroom.

Once you’ve made a Collection the Selects Collection, you’ll see a little tray with an arrow pointing into it to the right of the Collection name, as you can see in this screenshot (right).

Then you can use the shortcut COMMAND + J on a Mac or CTRL + J on a PC to add images to the Selects Collection. To remove an image from a Collection, you can just hit the Delete key. This does not delete the photo, just removes it from the Collection.

This is powerful, because it can be used to build collections, and narrowing down images for a final selection after a shoot etc. Then, once you have your final selection, you can change the Selects Collection back to some other default Collection you might use, and you are left with a regular Collection to keep your images in.

Of course, the images themselves don’t get moved around your hard disk. They remain in their original folder. You’re just creating logical links. Images can also be in multiple Collections etc. This is just for organization purposes.

Exporting Originals

We’ll talk about exporting files and printing with Capture One Pro in a future tutorial, but to complete this discussion of my workflow today, I want to talk about how I copy my Final select images into my Finals folder and Catalog. Once I have my final selection of images from a shoot, I filter down to everything that is 2 stars or higher, because I want all of my original images for anything that I made a copy of, and everything rated 3 stars or higher.

Export Originals to Finals Folder

Export Originals to Finals Folder

Then, with everything that I want to export selected, I right click one of the thumbnails, and from the shortcut menu, select Export, then Originals. You can also get to this option from the File menu. Then all I need to do is select the destination folder and I keep the image name, because that’s already changed on import, and click the Export button, as you see in this screenshot (right).

Note that this does not automatically add the image to the Finals catalog though, so I then have to switch to my Finals catalog, navigate to the folder under the Folders section in the Library tab, and right click it. In this example, I right clicked 2016. Then select Synchronize from the shortcut menu.

You will then see a dialog showing the number of images that will be synchronized, and giving you the option to show the importer as well. If you select to show the Importer, the preset that we created earlier, to import images into our Year/Month/Day folder structure will be selected, so you’ll have to select Current Location instead, and then you’d have to reselect your folder structure preset when you import your next memory card.

To avoid that, you can deselect Show Importer, and just click sync, and your new Final selects will be imported into your Finals catalog but remain in your 2016 Finals folder, which is where you want it anyway.

Please note that due to changes in Phase One, the discount code that I mentioned in the Podcast is no longer valid. 

Also, note that you can download a fully working trial version of Capture One Pro from the Phase One Web site, and try it out for a full 30 days before you buy. See if you love it as much as I do.

Wrap Up

OK, so we’ll wrap it up there for today. I know that at times this might have sounded a little complicated, but in practice, it really isn’t. Sure, Capture One Pro isn’t as smooth as Lightroom in some respects, but in others, I’m finding it more powerful, so I’m still happy to have switched, and I’m happy to work around a few areas that are a little more troublesome than my old Lightroom workflow. In my opinion, the image quality and processing power of Capture One Pro is worth it.

Also note that if you are already using Capture One Pro and are happy with your import and organization workflow, I’m not necessarily saying you have to change anything. This is my workflow having used Capture One for the last month.

If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be leaving for Greenland and Iceland two days after this episode is released, and I should have an episode about Outputting images, ready for you next week. I’m going to save a conversation about processing images until I get back from my travels, as I’ll have been processing every day and expect to be able to talk about my processing better after that. Plus, I’ll hopefully have some nice new photos to share with you as well.


Show Notes

Download Capture One Pro here: https://mbp.ac/c1download

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Podcast 254 : Color Managed Digital Workflow Seminar Report

Podcast 254 : Color Managed Digital Workflow Seminar Report

On Saturday August 7, 2010, I gave a full day seminar at X-Rite Japan, focusing on the Color Managed Digital Workflow. Today I’m going to run through the key areas we touched on, to hopefully spark some ideas for your own workflow.We had a great time on Saturday. My main objective was to relay many of the things that I bear in mind when shooting, from pre-capture, to all sorts of output methods, including slideshows, Web, PDFs and my personal favorite, prints.

Title Page of my PresentationWe also did some hands on exercises, where we all photographed the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, and created profiles to apply to images, and we ran through a printer/paper combination calibration, again to create a profile to apply when we print, to ensure accurate color throughout the digital workflow.

I started by talking about why calibration and color management is important. I’ve heard it said that it’s important to calibrate our monitors, because it puts us all on a level playing field, and we know that other people will see our images as we expect them to see them. This is only true in very limited circumstances. They basically need to be using the same monitor and profile, with all the settings exactly the same, and viewing their screen under the same ambient lighting conditions that you do.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to calibrate your monitor, far from it, but the main reason is so that you are in full control of your workflow through to output. You need to know that you are starting at the right place, so that you can proceed to work on your images with confidence, right through to the print. The print in my opinion is one output format that you can control how people view your images to a pretty high degree. Of course, prints are still affected by the ambient lighting conditions under which the viewer views them, but our eyes often compensate for that better than you might think, and you can adjust to certain viewing conditions if necessary. The fact that you have a calibrated monitor will of course help others to see your work as close to your intended finished images as possible, but don’t expect your images to be the same on all other monitors.

One major theme throughout the day was that I wanted to impress on the participants the importance of making everything you do, as stress free as possible. I turned up for the seminar in my usual shooting clothes. I explained how I buy quick drying outdoor gear, and will always choose something with a collar when possible, because this stops the camera strap from chafing your neck, especially when it’s hot and sweaty as it is in the Tokyo summers. I also mentioned that I always buy neoprene or some kind of elasticated camera straps, because these help to make the camera feel lighter than the straps that come with the camera. I also always buy straps that have clips to remove the strap easily when you are using a tripod, especially when shooting long exposure images, because the strap can catch the wind and vibrate the camera.

I also showed the group my Black Rapid straps, that I use for fast past hand-held shooting. I use single straps when I only use one body, or the double strap when I shoot with two bodies, like when I’m shooting wildlife. I also fit my straps with Really Right Stuff quick release clamps, so that I can quickly change bodies and lenses without having to screw things into my plates. I use Really Right Stuff plates and L-Brackets, because the all have screw threads, so I can screw the Black Rapid straps into them pretty easily, but I generally try to use the quick release clamps, and remember that I have Really Right Stuff plates on every camera body and lens that has a tripod collar. Everything is interchangeable, and very fast to switch between.

I spoke about the importance of shooting RAW, to give yourself the best possible image quality, and not so that you can change settings as an afterthought, or rely on getting the exposure right after the event. This will always result in lower quality images, and I suggest that we all strive to become better photographers, and get it right in the field. You only want to be changing exposure in post, if you messed up in the field, and have no other choice. Even then, having a RAW image instead of a JPEG, will give you much more latitude.

We talked about some auto-focus techniques, like using LiveView to tweak focus, and then moved on a simple studio setup, where I set up a graduated gray background, and set up some small constant daylight balanced lights that are OK for small subject still life work. I’d bought some flowers, which we would shoot, but before we did that, I took the group through the process of shooting the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport gray card, then setting a custom white balance, and then shooting the Passport’s Classic Target which we’d use to create our DNG profile, and we included the Color Enhancement Target, which we’d also use later to tweak White Balance when necessary.

Setting up the lights (Copyright © Lem Fugitt - http://www.robots-dreams.com)

Setting up the lights (Copyright © Lem Fugitt – http://www.robots-dreams.com)

I also shot the same flowers after putting orange gels over the studio lights, and we turned down the ambient light in the room, so that the orange light was the main light source. You can see the difference in the following two images. The first is the first gray card, shot with the daylight preset, and then the second image is the gray card under the orange light, shot with the custom white balance that we assigned having shot the first gray card.

Gray Card Under Daylight Balanced Lights

Gray Card Under Daylight Balanced Lights

Gray Card Under Orange Gelled Lights

Gray Card Under Orange Gelled Lights

The difference in the color of light is striking, and yet we went on to shoot the flowers again under the orange light, but with the correct white balance for that light, and this is the resulting image. It is correctly balanced, and looks exactly the same as the first photo of the flowers that was made with the daylight balanced light source.

Flowers, Shot Under Orange Gelled (Tungsten) Lights

Flowers, Shot Under Orange Gelled (Tungsten) Lights

This image also of course has the DNG profile that we created from our X-Rite ColorChecker Passport shots, using the Lightroom Plugin that comes with the Passports applied. I took the group through how to create the profiles, and we then applied them to our images, and with the colors in the flowers that I selected, you could really see the subtle pinks in the carnations and the violet colored flowers to the right pop as we assigned the profile. I’d wanted to bright reds and pure blues, because these really pop, but couldn’t find these colored flowers. When we assigned the profile to the photo of the ColorChecker Passport used to create the profiles though, again, we could see all of these colors just pop into place. It’s really quite impressive to see.

I explained to the group too that I used to add saturation to my images, with a preset that I created years ago to emulate FujiChrome Velvia, which was a heavily saturated slide film that I used back in the day, and still really like the look of. I actually used to apply +25 on the Blue and Green sliders, and +50 on the Red sliders in Lightroom. Then as cameras changed and RAW images got a little punchier right out of the camera, I dropped this down to +18 on the Blue and Green, and +25 on the Red channels. Now, with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport and the accompanying software to create my profiles, I find that the colors pop enough, and look so natural, that I no longer need to adjust the saturation of my images in Lightroom. I just create the profile, or use one that I already have from similar lighting conditions, and the images look exactly how I want them to.

Trying to be as thorough as possible, I gave a brief talk on Depth of Field, but as it was such a full day, I’m going to be dropping this and a few other subjects from future seminars. Everyone agreed that the day was very useful, but we covered a little too much, so I’m going to be tweaking the contents for the next time. This took us to our morning break, where I actually ended up showing the group how I configure my tripod to get down to ground level for macro or ultra-low angle photography. They were hungry for all sorts of information, so it was a pleasure to be working with them, and not having a break didn’t bother me, or the group.

After the break, I spoke about customizing the ID Plate and the Panel End Marks in Lightroom, and we moved on to some of my most used Keyboard Shortcuts. I’m not going to go through these here, but I do want to stress the importance of learning shortcuts for everything that you do regularly on your computer. If you ever watch a professional graphic designer, or anyone that spends a lot of time in an application, it’s often difficult to even see what they are doing, because they make such extensive use of keyboard shortcuts. If you have to reach for the mouse every time you want to make a selection, it can really slow you down.

We talked about rating images too. Not just on the keyboard shortcuts to help us to work through lots of imags quickly and efficiently, but also the importance of a good edit of your selection. I also mentioned that you want to edit differently depending on the type of photographs you are editing down. For example, for your portfolio, you only want to include your very best images. Your portfolio is only as good as your worst image.

For clients, you don’t want to only include images that you like. If you have a bunch of images that are technically accurate and artistic, but you just don’t like them, you’ll do your client a disservice by at least not showing them a selection of these shots, because there may be something in there that really sings to them. Indeed, I often find that the images that my clients select are the images that I least expect them too, so leave in anything that is technically good and well balanced. Do though, remove duplicates. If you have 5 shots of essentially the same thing, get rid of four of them. Don’t make your client, or your family members and friends for that matter, look through all of your images. It’s your job to make that selection, not theirs.

Having explained all about the import dialog, and how heavily I rely on presets through my entire Lightroom workflow, we went on to actually import our images of the Passport and the flower shots that we’d shot earlier. We changed the file name on import, as well as deciding on a file organization strategy, and we added our generic keywords, all on import, so that we don’t have to mess around do that later. My general rule of thumb is do everything as early in the workflow as possible. Everything that you put off for later, will take more time to revisit. I even apply a metadata preset that fills out my copyright information in all of my images, right there on import.

We also discussed Collections and Sets and organization images once you have them on the hard drive, after which we went on to actually calibrate our monitors. I went through the process myself, and then the group all calibrated their monitors using the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo, and that took us to lunch time.

Syncronized Monitor Calibration

Syncronized Monitor Calibration

After lunch, now that we had calibrated monitors, a bunch of our own images and the photos of the ColorChecker Passport on our hard drives, we went on to use the Lightroom plugin that comes with the Passport to create a DNG Profile. We also created a profile with the desktop utility that also comes with the passport, which you have to use on occasion if the Lightroom plugin can’t find the registration marks that it needs to identify the color target, in your photo of the Passport.

My ColorChecker Passport, Shot Under Orange Lights

My ColorChecker Passport, Shot Under Orange Lights

On applying the profiles we could see the color pop in, as I mentioned earlier, and I also showed the group how you can use the Color Enhancement Target on the Passport to modify the white balance by clicking on the slightly warmer or cooler white balance patches that X-Rite included in the target. This in really useful if you want to warm up or cool down an image after the event. Remember that the passport will give you accurate color balance, but at the end of the day, how you want the image to look is part of your artistic vision, so it’s nice to have the tools to modify this quickly, easily and reliably.

I also pointed out that once you have your profiles, you can apply them not only in Lightroom, but they also appear in the Camera Calibration section of Adobe Camera RAW, that you use from Bridge or Photoshop. I also mentioned that X-Rite have now provided a tool called the DNG Profile Manager, that can be downloaded after you register your ColorChecker Passport, and this helps you to manage the profiles on your hard disk, filtering by camera, and changing the names etc. We also touched on the importance of backing up your profiles, because they are stored on the system drive and would be lost if you re-install your computer.

We then went through some of the common editing tools that you have in Lightroom, like the Dust Removal tool, Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter, and I spoke a little about the histogram, and how to use it as a guide, both when shooting and editing images, and how to use the over or under-exposure warnings while editing images too. We worked through cropping and rotating images, the new Lens Correction in Lightroom 3, and Vignettes, and I showed the group a few trick to easily reset sliders by double clicking on its text label, or how you can reset entire groups of sliders or settings, by double clicking on the group’s text label. You can also do this by holding the ALT key down and single clicking the group label.

We did some Black and White and Duotone conversions in Lightroom, and I cranked up Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro to walk the group through what I did on one of my favourite black and white images. I also demonstrated how to add frames and watermarks to images during export from Lightroom using the LR/Mogrify 2 plugin, from Timothy Armes. We walked through how to create Slideshows and export them as both a PDF, and as a Video, which again is new in Lightroom 3, and we looked at the Web Gallery options, which took us to the afternoon break time.

After the break, we walked through creating a printer profile for your printer and paper combinations, using the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo. The great thing about the ColorMunki Photo is that you use it to calibrate both your monitor and your printer. You can also calibrate projectors with it, so it’s a very versatile tool, especially for the price. If you missed it recently, I actually released a video walking you through the process of calibrating your monitor and printer with the ColorMunki, in Podcast episode 249, so check that our if you’re interested. I also included a section on how to optimize profiles in both the video and the seminar.

Printer Calibration Charts (Copyright © Lem Fugitt - http://www.robots-dreams.com)

Printer Calibration Charts (Copyright © Lem Fugitt – http://www.robots-dreams.com)

We then went on to take a look at the Lightroom Print module, and actually printed out some of our photographs of the flowers that we’d shot. I discussed presets again, as I probably use more presets in the print module than any other module, because of all of the combinations of papers and print sizes, as well as various types of borders. I also showed the group my Excel spreadsheet that I created to calculate the size of my borders and the cell sizes that contain the images, so that I can ensure that my images occupy the same percentage of the paper in relation to the border, across all of my fine art prints.

Marcus, Eiji and Lem

Marcus, Eiji and Lem

We then covered soft proofing in Photoshop CS5, and moved on to the importance of backing up our images, both at home, off-site, and in the cloud, with services like Backblaze and Mozy. This took us to the end of the day, and although one guy had to leave as soon as we’d finished, to watch some fireworks with his family, we hung back a little longer, and did a little more printing, courtesy of X-Rite, and discussed the day.

All in all the feedback was that the seminar was very useful, though I could cut out a few areas, and I fully intend to do that. As my first attempt at this totally home grown workshop though, I was really pleased with how it went. I hope you also got something out of listening to how the day progressed today as well.

Marcus and Eiji (from X-Rite Japan)

Marcus and Eiji (from X-Rite Japan)

Before I wrap up, I would publicly like to publicly thank the folks at X-Rite for loaning the color management tools, and the room in their offices to enable me to deliver this seminar. I really appreciate all of your support, and especially would like to thank Eiji, for not only spending his Saturday with us, but for also helping on some of the technical areas that I would not have been able to answer accurately without his help. Thanks Eiji!

I’d also like to thank the guys that turned up for the seminar, and shared their Saturday with me. It was a pleasure to meet those that I’d not met before, and to see those that I had met before again. Thanks for your incredible feedback too, especially Marcus, who just sent me some of the most valuable feedback I could have possibly wished for. Also, thanks to Lem Fugitt, of www.robots-dreams.com, for the photos that you took during the day, some of which you kindly allowed me to use in the Podcast and blog post today.


Podcast show-notes:

Details of the seminar: http://bit.ly/mbpcmdw

My video on the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo: http://bit.ly/mbpcmp

ColorMunki on B&H: http://bit.ly/mbpbhcmp

ColorChecker Passport on B&H: http://bit.ly/mbpbhpassport

X-Rite Product Details: http://www.xritephoto.com/

Checkout X-Rite’s Webinars here: http://www.xritephoto.com/ph_learning.aspx?action=webinars

Music created and produced by UniqueTracks.


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Digital Workflow Revisited – Part 2 (Podcast 91)

Digital Workflow Revisited – Part 2 (Podcast 91)

So here we go with the second part of my Digital Workflow update. If you haven’t listened to the first part in Episode 90, you might want to go back and listen to that first, but it’s not essential. Last week I covered from capture to the end of my selection process of images. We now have a list of final images that I’m going to take through the rest of my workflow. So let’s get right down to it.

One thing that I didn’t mention last week that I really should of is that most applications are riddled with keyboard shortcuts, and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is no exception. Something that I find speeds up pretty much all of my workflow on the computer is shortcuts. We all have our favourites, and I’m not going to go into detail here, but I do suggest that when you select things via the menus, check the shortcuts that are usually displayed alongside the menu item, and remember any that you choose often. They’ll all save you time in the long run.

Something else that I should have said last week, but was really just running out of time, is that before exporting my images from Lightroom, I make any changes that are necessary in the Develop module. I mentioned that I apply a Develop Preset on import that changes the saturation of all my images. Sometimes though, this can be a little too harsh, so I have to check each image to make sure that I’m not overdoing the saturation. This is especially important if I have any skin tones or say flowers that are already highly saturated. Reds for example start to blow out quite quickly if the red saturation is on the high side. Lightroom also adds +50 Brightness to all images by default. I find that this is OK for the majority of my shots, but for some that are close to the right shoulder of the histogram, it takes them too far, so again they have to be pulled back a little. I also do any cropping and rotation that I feel necessary here in Lightroom, as it’s reversible. If I want to see how I cropped an image at any time in the future, or change that crop even, I can just go back to my raw file and do it there in Lightroom.

This is really just about the limit of my work in Lightroom before export. We’ll come back to Lightroom later though for printing. So to export, I just make sure that all the shots from my shoot are selected, and hit the export button in the Library module. Again I have a couple of presets saved in the export dialogue. They both use the same settings, which is basically to export Photoshop PSD files, with an AdobeRGB colour space profile at 300 dpi to a directory called Finals. I keep a PSD copy of all of my final selected images in this single directory. Note as I said last week, I’m currently considering changing my colour space to ProPhoto RGB, which is the one Lightroom recommends. I have used AdobeRGB until now because that’s the widest gamut my camera uses, but as I’m making changes to the colour in Lightroom I figure it’s probably going to be better to allow me to maintain as much of the color integrity as possible by switching to the larger gamut colour space ProPhoto RGB. The only thing that is different between my two presets is that the one stops there, and the other actually goes ahead and opens the images in Photoshop as they’re exported. If I have anything up to 10 or so images to export, I usually select this one. If I go much over 10, I select to just export them.

If I didn’t select to open the images in Photoshop, we come to a slight glitch in my current workflow. What I’m doing now is opening the new Bridge that comes with Photoshop CS3, which is great, but I’m not using it for anything more than a glorified file viewer because I’m doing all my RAW work in Lightroom. I have to open Bridge though so that I can go to my Finals directory into which I just exported my shots, and select which ones to start opening in Photoshop. What I want to be able to do is to able to tell Lightroom to monitor this directory to new files. Right now if I want to open my new Photoshop files from Lightroom, I have to re-import my Finals directory. If I could just say right-click that directory in the folder menu in the Library module, and select something like “watch this folder” or “dynamically update” and Lightroom automatically imports anything new in there, or removes anything I’ve already deleted for that matter, then my workflow would be just a tad smoother and I could go straight to Photoshop from Lightroom. Hopefully this is something that Adobe already has in version 1.1 or later.

We’re now ready to start working on the image in Photoshop. As I mentioned last week, there is one thing that needs to be done in Photoshop after installing it to ensure that you don’t mess up the colour profile of your images. To do this, from the Edit menu select Color Settings and in the Working Spaces section set the RGB pull-down to AdobeRGB (1998). As the majority of my images will be coming from Lightroom with the profile already set, I generally select for Photoshop to preserve the embedded profile, but then select the option to “Ask When Opening” so that Photoshop displays a message if the profile is different to my selected workspace. As I said last week, not all monitors will display in AdobeRGB, but when you print, you’ll get the benefits of a wider colour gamut. Unless you change your workflow, like I’m considering changing to the ProPhoto RGB colour space, or you buy a new computer or reload Photoshop, once you’ve set this you can forget about it. I usually save these settings to my documents folder so that I can reload them from this dialog easily later.

Anyway, I now have a bunch of photos open in Photoshop. I mentioned last week that I do very little in Photoshop, so not to get too excited. For the majority of shots, I’m really just interested in spotting out any dust marks that I might have had on my camera sensor. If I’m shooting with a wider aperture, I find that pretty much none of the dust on my sensor will show up, but as I stop the aperture down, it will show up more and more making this task a little more tedious. Of course, once again, doing as good a job as possible during capture will help to reduce this overhead, so I tend to take a very large blower and blow out as much of the sensor dust as possible before a shoot. My preferred spotting tool in CS3 is still the Spot Healing Brush, which I resize to be just larger than size of the dust spot and then I just click on the spot itself. This is faster than cloning and works most of the time. It doesn’t work well sometimes if the dust spot is positioned on a line or something textured, so I keep my eye on the effect and switch to the clone tool when necessary. This allows me to select exactly what part of the image to use as the base for the clone. If I know I have dust, I generally scan the surface of the image at 100%. This might be overkill, but I find it easier to get the image perfect here than later when I come to print it. If you print something out at 13×19 inches with dust that is only visible at 100%, you’ll still see if most of the time, so I get rid of it now before saving the file.

 

Sugatami Pond

Sugatami Pond

Because I’ve done all of my global changes like saturation etc to the image in Lightroom, once I’ve spotted the image, I’m done with editing. The only time I’ll do more than this is when I want to merge two images using a mask to get over dynamic range limitations of my camera. In fact, to break the monotony here a little, I’m going to include image number 1079 of the Sugatami Pond at Mount Asahi in Hokkaido. This is a shot that I merged from two images in this way. I’ve spoken about this before, but just for completeness I’ll go through it again. Because the mountain and the pond were much darker than the bright sky, I took two shots of the scene, one with the water and mountains being one and two thirds of a stop brighter than the sky. Then I used a mask in Photoshop to merge them together. This is what I would have done with a gradual neutral density filter a few years ago, but I just find it so limiting to have to work with the straight line of the filter, however gradual it is. I end up with a couple of layers in Photoshop, which I do not merge before saving. Again, I like to keep everything I do reversible. I never know when technology is going to allow me to do these things better in the future. Of course I would quite possible want to go back and re-process the RAW images if much time has passed, but still, I want to be able to see where I merged the images and stuff like that to make the process quicker. The same would go for any change I make in Photoshop such as saturation or tonecurves if I hadn’t already done that in Lightroom. Save it all in the Photoshop file for posterity. It does bloat the file size quite a bit, but disk space is relatively cheap these days so I don’t worry too much about this.

Although I’ve updated the action having upgraded to Photoshop CS3, the next part of my workflow is very much unchanged since the first Podcast on this a year or so ago. Basically once I’ve done all the editing I want to do to my image, I save the PSD file that I just worked on, then I save off two more copies. I assign a function key to my Action for this, and when I hit it, it changes the image from 16bit to 8bit, and then saves a full size JPEG. This is the image that I use in digital slideshows. This is becoming less and less necessary as Lightroom also has a Slideshow module that allows me to create very professional customized slideshows with my logo embedded and I can save that in a number of formats as well as just display it straight out of Lightroom. This means of course that I can use the PSD files as well. So my full sized JPEGs are almost obsolete. Thinking about it, I used to also use this JPEG for printing years ago, as I used a piece of software that came with my printer that didn’t support Photoshop files. That was so long ago though. I’ve probably been using Photoshop for printing for the last five years or so until Lightroom came along. Really now the only time I use these now is for a Windows slideshow. I generally set my Windows screensaver to show a slideshow of my JPEGs when I’m not using my PC. I like to be able to do that though, so I’ll probably continue to output this JPEG for now.

The next step in the Photoshop action is to change the profile to the Web friendly sRGB colour space and resize the image, then sharpen and add a frame before saving off a final copy, which is the small JPEG that see on my Web site. I used to use PhotoKit Sharpener from Pixelgenius for the sharpening but when I changed my PC a few months ago it seems that the license I bought was tied to my old PC, and I didn’t get a reply from Pixelgenius’ support team, so I’ve give up on PhotoKit Sharpener. There were some great tools, but with Lightroom now handling sharpening for printing, the only thing I miss is the creative sharpener, which allows you to quickly create a mask for sharpening specific areas of an image, but as I rarely do this I really don’t feel the need to buy a new copy of this tool. So I’m back to using the Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop, which I think does an excellent job too.

The last thing my Photoshop action does before saving my image is actually something destructive, but I still feel necessary, and that is to apply a Digimarc MyPictureMarc watermark. This is a digital watermark that is embedded into the face of the image that allows anyone that might save the image from my Web site to see that it is copyrighted to me in their photo-retouch program. It doesn’t stop them editing it, but it lets them know that I’m serious about my copyright. I have to say though that I’m also a little unimpressed with Digimarc’s sense of urgency around their technology. It seems that the browser plug-in that they provide to create a link to my copyright information is not yet available for IE 7 or for Windows Vista, and their Photoshop plugin is not yet fully supporting CS3, although the Digimarc plug-in does seem to work with my account code. As more people move to Vista I’m hoping to see some better compatibility here soon, or I’ll start to reconsider my use of this tool.

All of this Photoshop work apart from the dust spotting is saved in an action. Again, like the colour profile settings, I save this in an action in the My Documents directory, so that I can reload it easily later. Anything that has to be done more than a few times should go in an action. It just makes like so easy. If I’m processing images that I shot with a wide aperture, I really have to just quickly scan the image to see if there are any dust marks, and then press the function key that I assigned this action to, and that’s it. All of the Photoshop work is done and it even closes the file for me afterwards.

The three copies of my image are now saved to three separate directories, which are Finals for the Photoshop files, inside which is a directory called JPEG for the JPEGs, surprisingly enough, and then back up to the same level as my Finals directory I have a third directory called Small, for the small versions for the Web. One tiny tip here is that when you have lots of folders in your My Pictures directory, which is where I save these images, the can get lots quite easily. To keep these folders at the top of the list when sorting by filename, I put an @ mark at the start of the file name, so my Finals directory is actually @Finals and my Small director is actually @Small. This way I don’t have to dig down too far into my list of directories.

At this point, I have a Photoshop file that is spotted and exactly how I want it, which I can use for printing or in a Lightroom Slideshow. I also have my small versions that I will upload to my Web site. We’ll get to printing in a moment, but first let’s talk briefly about having your photos on the Web. Although I’ve customized the heck out of it, I use a free piece of software called Coppermine to create my Online Web Gallery. I chose Coppermine years ago as it allows for easy integration with phpBB, the other piece of free software that I use for the forum, so that members can use the same account for both parts of the site. It doesn’t easily allow for a gallery on a different site to share the same phpBB installation, so there’s still some customization left there to join the members’ gallery web site to the main one. Anyway, Coppermine also allows for a lot of customization if you are so inclined. That’s how I was able to extend it in many ways, such as adding a Shopping Cart to my gallery to allow people to buy prints, and also to do things like adding the voting system for the Assignments to the members’ gallery Web site, as well as lots of other stuff. It does require a knowledge of PHP coding though to get this indepth, so it’s definitely not for everyone. If you want to just use it to showcase your photographs though, it’s a good choice. If I was to setup another web site now though, just to show my work, and didn’t need to do all this customization, I would definitely take a closer look at the Web module in Lightroom. This allows you to create HTML and Flash based Web galleries that are going to be fine for most applications, and it even uploads them to your Web space for you. I’ve not really looked into this very much myself, as I have it covered, but I thought I’d mention this as food for thought if you are looking for some way to get your images on the Web.

One other thing that I’ve started doing, and I have to update soon, is creating my Portfolios as slideshows that can be displayed full screen on a Windows machine. I tend to put lots and lots of images into my main gallery, and really this is way too many for someone to just get a feel for my work. However, the Portfolio button on the menu at my Web site will allow you to be spoon fed what I think is my best work. As I make time to do this, I’m not only going to update my “Nature of Japan” portfolio, which is the only one available at the moment, but I intend to do more specific Portfolios such as ones just on flowers etc. For this I use a piece of software from Photodex called ProShow Producer. I went into detail on this in Episode 55 though, and nothing really has changed, so if you are interested in this, please take a listen.

OK, so let’s move on to one of my favourite parts of the digital workflow, and in many senses the most traditional end result of any photography, and that is printing. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t print anywhere near as much of my work as I’d like to. This is true for most people these days. We can view our images is such high quality on the computer screen or TVs now that it has become much less necessary to actually print a hard copy. I still though really enjoy to print out my images on large, high quality, cotton rag paper, and just hold it in my hand. I find that even taking a loupe and check out the finer details is still incredibly gratifying even though we have the ability to do a similar thing by viewing the image at 100% on our computer screens.

The major change in my workflow since my first Workflow Podcast is that I know do all my printing from Lightroom. The Printing module in Lightroom is incredibly useful. Again, making use of presets, I can save all of my layouts for any kind of paper, including not just the margin sizes and how the image is placed within the printable area, but also the profile for the paper I will be printing on, and the printer settings I choose will also be saved, so it saves so much time when getting ready to print the same combinations a second time. If I want to use the same type paper for a different sized print, I just select the preset, adjust the sizes, and save another preset, so the more I do, the more presets I create and the easier and faster the workflow gets when repeating the same actions. I’ve covered printing with profiles in the past, and much of this is still relevant. Basically I never allow the printer driver to do any adjustments to the image. I create and save a few presets in the printer driver that basically turn off all colour adjustment and bi-directional printing. I’m not sure if this is the correct English term, as my printer drivers are Japanese, but bi-directional printing is when the print heads expel ink both when moving out from its start position, and on its way back. This as you can imagine makes for much faster prints, but the quality degrades very slightly. I find I get better results when turning this off, so the ink is only applied to the paper when travelling in the same direction.

The other thing I save in the printer driver preset is the type of paper. Be it matte papers, semi-glossy or Silk papers or watercolour for when printing to the Epson Pro Matte papers. Back in Lightroom, I select the profile for my printer when printing to a specific paper under the Print Job section. I also select my print sharpening here. I find for glossy papers, just Low sharpening is fine, but when printing to matte papers, when the ink bleeds more, I choose Medium sharpening. Even if your original is incredibly sharp, I find that it’s best to apply some sharpening when printing. In my old workflow I used to do my sharpening and save a copy of the file just for printing. This is no longer necessary with Lightroom as it applies this sharpening only to the data it sends to the printer, and then discards it. As there is no noticeable time spent doing this, there simply isn’t any necessity to save a copy for print any more. What I will do if I notice that certain prints need a little more or less sharpening, is I’ll now attach a keyword to that effect, but I have not had to do this so far.

One other thing I really like about printing from Lightroom and again, this can be saved as a preset. It’s possible to create layouts where you have multiple images being printed on the same page. I rarely print out contact sheet style pages, but on occasion I receive orders for lots of small prints like 5x7s. If the paper the client wants is not available in that size though, I am of course going to have to cut a larger piece of paper. To maximize the use of that paper, I simply lay out multiple 5×7 shots on a piece of 13×19 and then trim the images as necessary. I can print cutting guides onto the paper too, so that I can trim them precisely. This is just another way in which Lightroom helps to streamline the digital workflow and another reason why it’s now at the heart of my workflow. As you will have heard, the only time I stray from Lightroom is to remove dust spots or do the odd bit of merging and run my save action in Photoshop. For pretty much all other activities I’m straight back into Lightroom.

So we’re almost to the end of the Podcast, having now output the images to Web and hard copies. The other thing that we cannot ignore though is that we now have a humongous amount of digital data now sitting on our hard drives. Keeping all those ones and zeros in just one place though is a recipe for disaster. Indeed, if disaster strikes and your hard disk should for any reason give up the ghost, or say you have a fire, flood damage or earthquake, or even a burglary, if you only have one copy of your precious images, then you would regret losing them for the rest of your life. To avoid that, we have to make regular back-ups, and preferable get that backup away from your home to protect it from localized natural disasters.

In the first workflow Podcast I mentioned that I occasionally burned all my images to DVD and gave this to my brother who lives in the UK for safe keeping. With more than 700GBs of data now though, this is just no longer a viable option. My main second back-up right now is a Terabox, which is basically an external USB hard disk case, with space for up to 4 250GB hard drives. I have all four filled and use the internal hard disk controller to configure these as a single one terabyte hard drive. Since upgrading to Windows Vista I was pleasantly surprised to see that a file copy tool called ROBOCOPY is now included with Windows by default. Robocopy is incredibly powerful and can be used to mirror the contents of one location to another. You have to be careful when using the mirror feature, as it will, without warning, delete anything in the target location that is not in your base location. I have some scripts that I created in simply text files with a cmd extension, and these just kick off a series of Robocopy synchronizations. The first one goes and gets all of the new Podcast audio files from my Mac Mini and copies them to my Windows machine. The next copies all of my new downloaded files and Outlook mail archives, and anything new in the My Pictures folder, and the last one copies all of my new RAW files from my main photo hard drives. It only recopies anything that is new or updated since the last time I ran the script. Every few weeks, when I’ve got a few more shoots worth of images to backup, I take this Terabox home from my office a few blocks away, and run the scripts, then take it back the next day. This way my files are protected from anything that might happen to my apartment.

The problem with this though, is that unlike the DVD solution where the back-up was in a different country, it’s still relatively local. If an earthquake struck, which is very possible here in Japan, and both my apartment and office building falls down, then I’ve lost both copies. Of course, if I’m in either one at the time, I personally probably won’t care, but hopefully someone will. Because of this, I’ve started to look into paid online storage. I found a few places but many were looking relatively expensive, especially when we’re talking almost a terabyte of data in total. A few weeks ago though, a member of the MBP Forum, Rick Phenicie from California posted a link to a company called Mozy, who I am seriously considering signing up with for online backups. I was hoping to actually get signed up this week so that I could report on my initial experiences, but something else kind of grabbed me for a few days. More on that in the housekeeping later, but with regards to Mozy — anyone can sign up for a free account with 2GB of space. If you have more than 2GB of files to backup though, as most of us do, there is just one account that will cost you $4.95 per month, but that allows unlimited storage for personal, non-commercial use, and a professional account for commercial use. I’ll let you know later what I think of the service, but after doing some searching online and seeing a good spread of comments, in general it seems well worth giving a try, so thanks for putting us on to this Rick.


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Michael Rammell

Posted on behalf of Martin by Michael Rammell, a Wedding Photographer based in Berkshire, England. Michael also has a long-standing passion for Nature & Landscape photography. To catch up with Michael, visit his Web site, and follow him on the following social networking services.

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Digital Workflow Revisited – Part 1 (Podcast 90)

Digital Workflow Revisited – Part 1 (Podcast 90)

Having been asked by a number of people, and also meaning to do this for a while, today I’m going to start a two part Podcast to explain all the major steps in my Digital Workflow from shooting to printing or showing the images on the Web. Today I’m going to cover from capture to the end of my rating process, when I have a final list of images that I’m going to take further in my workflow. This is effectively going to be an update to Episode 12, when I originally described my digital workflow. As with everything, the workflow changes as new tools become available and as personal preferences change or we just learn new ideas. I imagine that in a year’s time, I’ll be updating this again. For the sake of time, I’m not going to go into too much detail on what I used to do in comparison to what I do now, unless it’s really relevant, but I will mention briefly as necessary. I’m also going to start today from the actual shooting of the images, as this is an important part of the overall workflow. Of course there’d be no need for a workflow if there were no images, but assuming we’re taking some kind of image, I think it’s important to start with things I consider during capture. Not all of my ideas are new or original, and not all of them will be of interest or of use to you. If there are some things that you do like the sound of though, by all means, merge them into your own workflow.

So, from the offset, you have to decide how you are going to record the images to your memory card, assuming that you’re shooting digital. The first thing I do when I get a new camera is to set the colour space to AdobeRGB. Usually the default will be sRGB, but this is only really appropriate when you only intend to view your images on a standard computer screen. Many high-end displays now actually support AdobeRGB as well, so this may not always be true. The Web is still predominantly sRGB, so if you only ever intend to view your images on a computer screen, or publish them on the Web, you don’t need to worry about this. If you want to print out your images with the most colours available with current technology, selecting AdobeRGB is advisable. There are other colour spaces, such as ProPhoto RGB, and even if the best colour space you can capture in is AdobeRGB, if you are going to play around with the colours in post processing, it might be worth investigating this. I’m currently considering doing so, but have not yet made the switch. There are some things that you have to do later in your workflow with regards to colour space, but we’ll get to that later.

The other thing I always do is shoot in RAW mode. I know that many people are clinging to JPEG, and I myself did until a few years ago, because using RAW used to be a pain. It took a long time to view images and you often had to push them through separate processing procedures before you could even work with them, but all that is changing. Computers are getting faster and the software to support the RAW shooter is now so good that it’s absolutely not an issue. So now all the benefits of RAW come at very little cost in terms of additional effort or waiting etc. Not only does RAW allow you to change settings like the White Balance in post processing if you didn’t get it right in camera, but also you’ll get better detail in your highlights and shadows, and anything that helps me to get the best quality final image possible, is highly recommended.

Most Canon users with a camera released since the 5D will know about Picture Styles. When I first did a review of the 5D in episode 5 of this Podcast, I said that I didn’t like the Landscape picture style because it was too gaudy, but since then, I’ve learned how to control my colours better with some finer tuned exposure, and it really wasn’t much longer after that episode when I realised that the extra punch the Landscape Picture Style gave my images was actually quite pleasing. Because the Picture Style settings are not portable to other RAW processing packages, initially, I was tied to Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software for my RAW conversion. I continued to use DPP for rating photos and processing them for a while, but spent a little time figuring out how to emulate those punchy colours in Adobe Camera RAW, and used that for quite some time afterwards, until Adobe Lightroom came along. We’ll get to that later too, but for now, the important thing is that I shoot all my images with the Landscape Picture Style applied. You may wonder why I do this if I no longer process my images in Digital Photo Professional. Well, the main reason is that I am going to punch up the saturation to a similar level, and I want to see the results as I shoot.

Anyway, the point here is that I always shoot in RAW, with the AdobeRGB colour space, and the Landscape Picture style selected. I take care to get the exposure as close as possible in the field, using methods that I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, and I do not shoot sloppily just because I can change exposure in post processing easily through using RAW. I’m not perfect, and I may still make the wrong decision on exposure from time to time, and I admit that I will adjust exposure to save an image, but this is never intentional. Sharpening tools are much better now than they used to be, but that is no excuse for sloppy focusing or not using a tripod when necessary either. I want my images to have the best chance in life as possible, and that means getting it right in the field as much as my skills allow.

If I’m going to be out and about for multiple days, I always take a portable storage unit and a backup hard drive with me. I went into detail on this in episode number 75, but basically I use an Epson P-5000 to backup my compact flash cards. I put the used cards into my card case, with the back label facing up, to show me that it’s used, and that I only have one backup of it. Then when I get back to my car or to a hotel later, I use a second small portable hard drive which I can connect to the P-5000 via a USB cable, and then backup the contents to the second hard drive. Once I’ve done this, I format the CF card, and put it back in the card case facing upwards, so that I know it can be reused. Now I have two copies of all shots taken to that point, so if the hard drive on my P-5000 should die for some reason, I have a backup.

Once I get home, either with a card or two full of images or my portable storage, the next thing is to transfer those images to my computer. I used to use a PC Card slot adapter that allowed 32bit transfer of images, which was way faster than the older adapters, that only transferred in 16bit. Since I built myself a new PC a few months ago though, I don’t have a PC Card slot, so I bought a multi card interface. This is basically the same size as a floppy disk drive, and indeed incorporates a floppy disk drive, but it also has some 15 or so other slots, including a compact flash card slot, so all I have to do is push the card into the slot. If I’m copying from my P-5000, I just have to plug it in to the USB cable, and I’m away. Actually the Epson P-5000 also registers its own compact flash slot as a drive on the computer, so you can read cards in via that, but I hardly ever use this feature. I didn’t want to tie myself down to having this as the only option, so now it’s just easier to use the slot if I’m transferring images from a card. I’m copying via USB 2.0 now, which is how the drives slots are connected inside the PC, and I’d say the transfer speeds are comparable to my old card adapter.

Before I start to copy the files, I create a directory for them in my new folder structure. I’ve changed this since the first Podcast on my digital workflow. Since I started using Adobe Lightroom, I have started to use the year, month and day hierarchy. That is, now, in my hard drive on which I store my images, on the top level, I have a folder for each year I have images from, which is basically every year since 2000. Then in each of these folders, I have a folder for each month. I don’t think there’s been a single month where I haven’t shot a single image over the last seven years, so each year folder contains 12 month folders, just named numerically from 1 to 12. Then inside each month folder I have a day folder with the number of the day of the month on which the images were shot.

I used to have a system where I could see both when the contents were shot, and the location of the shoot in the folder name. Now, I embed the location of the shoot into the EXIF data when importing into Lightroom, which allows me to more easily search for shots from the same location without selecting multiple folders. So on the subject of importing into Lightroom, some of you familiar with Lightroom might be asking why I don’t just copy the files during the import and allow Lightroom to create the director structure. Well, as I’m currently using Vista, this function doesn’t work. I’m hoping it is going to be fixed in version 1.1 which should be released very soon, but right now, not being able to copy files to a different location during import is a known Vista issue, so I’m doing it manually. Once I’ve copied the files to my hard disk though, I go into Lightroom and select to import them by referencing them at their current location. It’s at this point that I select a Lightroom preset to apply to all images. This is basically the preset that boosts the saturation on all images being imported to match what I saw with the Landscape Picture Style that as I said earlier is not portable to Lightroom or any other RAW processing tools other than Canon’s proprietary Digital Photo Professional. I basically created a preset that I named Landscape Picture Style Emulation, which applies plus 65 saturation on the red channel under the Camera Calibration section in the Develop module, and plus 18 for the Green and Blue sliders. I go ahead and select this to be applied during the import, as I find it suits most of my shots. I am careful of doing this if many of my shots are portraits, as the boost to the red is a little unkind on skin tones. If I have shot portraits, which is not very often, I deselect this Develop Preset before importing. I have to deselect it, as Lightroom remembers the selections from the last import.  I also here select a Meta data preset that embeds my name as the creator and copyright holder of the image and my Web site URL to the images metadata. This information, along with any other keywords, such as the location of the shoot, all gets embedded into the images metadata.

It’s not much of a pain, but the file moving not working also stops me from using another feature that I really like of Lightroom which is to rename shots during the import. Until the known issue is fixed though, it just means that the next step in my workflow is to hit CTRL A to select all images that I have just imported, and then select Rename Photo from the Library Menu. Note that in Lightroom the menus change depending on what module you have selected, and the Rename Photo option is only available when you’re in the Library module. I have a preset created for my file renaming, which adds my initials, MSB then an underscore, then adds the keywords that I can type in for each renaming session, then another underscores, then the date of the shoot from the files’ EXIF data, then a four digit counter, starting from 0001 that automatically increments the number of the image as the rename proceeds. I used to maintain the number of the file for each image, but I no longer do this. Basically now I’m thinking that it’s better to be able to easily see how many shots I made on that particular day. That reminds me, if I was to be importing multiple cards for the same day, I’d put them all in this same director, and import into Lightroom before renaming, so that I get the numbers in sequence. You can actually go back and do this as many times as you want, and Lightroom will simply discard all of the original numbers, but it’s more efficient to do the renaming in one batch.

You’ll probably have noticed already that I’m using a lot of presets. I find that anything that has to be done more than once can be made much more efficient by creating a preset. As we’ll see as we proceed, pretty much everything I do has a preset or an action for Photoshop, so that we can do the same task or process with the same results time and again. Most Lightroom menus contain not just the current presets, but also an option to create a new preset, or if you change the options after selecting a preset, the menu also has an option to update that preset with the current settings. The additional options appear in pull-down menus, but for preset menus in the modules you just click them to apply them or right click like preset buttons and select “Update With Current Settings” to update them. Of course, if you want to retain the old setting too, you’d just add a new Preset.

So, once I have all my images in Lightroom I’m ready to start rating my images to narrow down the best shots that I will take further in my workflow. This might be a good time actually to publically answer a question I’ve replied to many times in email, and possibly on the MBP forum too. I’m often asked what percentage of my images are “keepers”. My answer is usually, if you want to know how many images I take through my workflow and say upload to my Web site, it’s around 5%. This in itself though is misleading. This does not mean that the other 95% of my work is junk. In the search for better images and testing my own techniques and refining my artistic vision, I shoot a lot of images. If time allows, I’ll often shoot the same subject many, many times, from different angles, with different settings and maybe switching lenses or switching between portrait and landscape. The truth is that many of the images would be useable, and often quite successful shots, but uploading 60 images of the same flower to my Web site would not be practical and I’d simply bore everyone to death. If the results warrant, I’ll sometimes upload more than one shot of the same subject, but generally, I aim to only select one shot of each subject, and that I find brings my percentage down to around 5%.

Because my tastes and requirements from my images will change over time though, I never delete the remaining images, unless they are technically flawed. On occasion for example, because I shoot in manual mode a lot, I’ll see something and just shoot the first frame without changing the settings, and I’ll realise as I do so that I’m in manual and the exposure is way off. This will result in an image that is way too under or over exposed to be of any use. There is also going to be the odd time when pushing the envelope a little with regards to slow shutter speeds, where I introduce camera shake, or the subject movement also make the image unusable. I rate these with a one during my first pass, and then select all images rated as a one, and delete them before my second pass. This is pretty much never more than 1 or 2 percent of my images though for the majority of shoots. So if you really want my keeper ration, even when calculating in shoots where I really do push my luck with slow shutters speeds and moving objects, I’d say it’s still more than 95%.

Anyway, let’s continue to get into more detail on how I actually rate my images. Lightroom offers a number of ways to rate images, but I still prefer to use the stars system. I now though have 5 stars to play with, which gives me more flexibility when rating, enabling me to rate my images in fewer passes, again saving time. As I just mentioned, in my first pass through, I mark all images that are technically flawed that I intend to delete with a one. I’ve actually improved the efficiency of this process recently thanks to a tip from listener Psquared, real name Phil Peck from Idaho, USA. Phil heard this on another Photography Podcast apparently, but was kind enough to pass it on in the MBP forum. Basically when you are in the Library module, if you press the Shift key and then the number from 1 to 5 that you want to rate the image, Lightroom will apply that rating and move to the next image. This means that if you turn on CAPS Lock on your keyboard, all you have to do is press the number for your rating, without SHIFT as it’s effectively on, and Lightroom again applies the rating and moves to the next image. This is a great tip. Thanks again to Phil for this.

Basically what I do is hit Shift and Tab together, to get rid of all the toolbars in Lightroom so that I can view my images as large as possible, then just move through my images hitting the numbers on the ten key pad. If I hit 0, it leaves the rating at 0, and moves on to the next image. 1 is to mark for deletion. I then select three initially for anything that I like the look of. When I’ve finished this pass, I select everything with a rating of 1 with the filter that you can find on the top of the thumbnail toolbar, and make sure I’m filter for only images that are marked as 1 and not 1 or above. Once I’ve selected them, I hit Backspace to move these images to the recycle bin.

I now change the filter to show all images rated 3 or above. At this point, I start a second pass. I tend to use the arrow keys again for this now, rather than the CAPS lock and rating number method just mentioned. The reason is that now, from my group of shots, I’m more likely to want to go backwards as well as forwards through the images because I’m comparing similar images. I’m looking for subtle differences between similar images that make one better than the other. I’m also thinking of different compositions of the same subject, and seeing if I can narrow down my final selection to as few images as possible, even on this second pass. Right now, I tend to hit the number 2 key to demote lesser images. Because Lightroom is currently set to only show images rated three or above, this makes them disappear from the list. I also now start to hit number 4 to promote anything that really stands out to a higher level, though they remain in the list at this point. This helps me to see which images I like best if I’ve still not withered the list down to one of each subject.

I don’t spend too much time worrying about this on the second pass though. Once I’ve gone through the group a second time, more often than not, I’ll now have something pretty close to my final selection. I then go back to the beginning again, and start a third pass, than quite often will be my final pass. I’ll choose the very best images by hitting number four. This way I later on if I wonder about my selection process I’ll have everything from my first pass marked as a two star rating. Everything from my second pass will be three, and my final selection will be marked as four start images. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible to narrow my final list down in three, four or even five passes. When I get to this point, I generally find it’s better to sleep it. Unless you are up against a deadline, leaving the very last kull for a day or so can really help to see things in a different way. I find that the emotion attached to photos can often lead us to put something in our selection that will not come across in the image itself. This emotional response to an image though, in my case at least, starts to die off as time passes, and that can enable you to detach yourself from the experience of shooting the images, to make a much more objective decision about your selection. Anyway, whether it’s a smooth rating process, or I take a break and spread it over a few days, I will end up with a group of images rated with 4 stars, that I am now ready to take further in my workflow. We’ll cover that in the next episode though, when we look at what I do next with the images in Photoshop, and I’ll also touch on Printing, uploading to the Web and my backup process. Please don’t get all excited about the Photoshop stuff though. I really do very little to my images in Photoshop, so I wouldn’t like it to be too much of an anticlimax.


Show Notes

It’s highly unlikely that anyone hasn’t already found this, but here’s a link to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the core of my current digital workflow: http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom/


Audio

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Michael Rammell

Posted on behalf of Martin by Michael Rammell, a Wedding Photographer based in Berkshire, England. Michael also has a long-standing passion for Nature & Landscape photography. To catch up with Michael, visit his Web site, and follow him on the following social networking services.

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