Developing Your Style and Self-Acceptance (Podcast 635)

Developing Your Style and Self-Acceptance (Podcast 635)

In this week’s post, I’m going to relay my thoughts on spending lots of time on lengthy post-processing techniques to “improve” our images, or more accurately, what I do to avoid spending this time, including some self-acceptance advice, based on communication with a listener.

This episode was spurred by a recent email exchange with listener Evan Stewart from Saint Louis, Missouri, so I want to start by thanking Evan for the mail, your questions, and providing some food for thought.

In the exchange, Evan asked how much I use Photoshop and mentioned that he is at the point in his photography where he can’t help being curious about trying more advanced techniques such as focus stacking, exposure blending, and luminosity masking, and was asking if I used some of these techniques in my own photography. My reply may well be useful to others, so I decided to share and expand on that reply here on the blog.

Personal Preference

To set the stage and relay a kind of disclaimer about what I’ll follow on to, I will start by saying what I said to Evan in a follow-up to my main reply, which is that some people feel as though they must spend hours on a photo to make it good, and I feel for them. Aimed at anyone that spends a lot of time on images, I do understand that some people simply enjoy working on images.

I personally do not, which is why I shoot and process the way I do, as I’ll explain shortly, but I can spend hours on my computer doing other things. It’s all personal preference, so please understand that what I’m going to talk about today is not condemning anyone for spending time on images if that’s what you like doing.

If however, you find yourself spending a lot of time working on images to recuse them, and the time spend is putting pressure on you, it may well be time wasted, so I hope that what I’ll relay today will help you to save some of that time, so that you can spend it doing something else more enjoyable.

How Often Do I Use Photoshop?

In reply to Evan’s question about how much I use Photoshop to process my images, I said that I do use Photoshop to work on my photos very rarely. Probably less than 0.1% of my images are edited outside of Capture One Pro, but when they are, I use Photoshop. I used to edit some of my images in the Nik Software suite, named Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro, but I haven’t used these applications at all since switching to Capture One Pro just over two years ago now. Some of the effects that I was getting can be done in Photoshop, but I did like the results I was getting with Nik until Capture One Pro gave me an alternative that I liked.

Time Spent on Image Processing

Partly because of how I shoot, I actually spend less than 30 seconds on the vast majority of my images. Occasionally I shoot something that requires more work, say for example if there are power lines running through a scene, and I decide to shoot it anyway, this kind of photo would require more work, but even then I generally don’t spend more than five minutes or so.

I understand that how little I do may result in my images not being quite as impactful as some of the work of the other photographer’s but this is my style, and I personally enjoy my results. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m under no delusions that I’m some kind of amazing photographer, but I do make work that I am happy with, and for the vast majority of photographer’s out there, I think this is a good place to be in our work.

Content, Not Complacent

Having said that, I also think it’s important to make a distinction between being content with our work and being complacent. Being content leave room for improvement, and I’m always on the look-out for a better photograph, and ways to improve my work, but I want to make those changes in the field, during the creation of the images, not after the event on my computer. 

Complacency, on the other hand, leaves no room for improvement, and this is a place that I never want to be. Even though I shoot some locations every year, there is always an opportunity to improve, and being self-critical is vitally important to that process, and for me, this self-criticality starts in the field, while I still have a chance to change my raw materials, literally my raw images.

Raw, Not RAW

That statement reminds me of a time when Jeffrey Friedl, who you may know for his amazing Lightroom Plugins, pulled me up for spelling raw in capitals, like an acronym. Jeffrey is probably one of the most knowledgeable people I know and realized I’d been getting this wrong when he told me that raw images literally are just raw, as in not cooked, rather than R.A.W. actually meaning something.

It doesn’t help that most camera manufacturers and many people in the industry use RAW, but I can say with my hand on my heart that since Jeffrey explained this to me, I have not only always used the lower case raw, but I think I’ve had a deeper appreciation for what raw images really are, and this also leads nicely to one of the main reasons that I work hard not to make copies of my images in a format that takes me away from my raw files.

Non-Destructive Editing

The moment you export and edit your images in a program like Photoshop, or the Nik plugins, you will eventually end up saving your image in a format other than your original raw image format, and once you do that, you lose the ability to easily update your photographs to the latest and greatest versions of the processing engines that come with your chosen image editing and management software. I use Capture One Pro, but this is the same with Lightroom and many other applications that are what we call “non-destructive”. 

When I first started using Capture One Pro just over two years ago, it was at version 9, and since then, there have been two major releases taking us to version 11, and both of these releases have brought improved image processing with an updated processing engine. When I first processed the image that we’ll look at in a moment, I had some cloning to do that was not possible in Lightroom, so my only option at the time was to take my image into Photoshop to do my editing. This was one of the rare times when I round-tripped out of Lightroom and ended up with a PSD file with my changes baked in.

I resented the time I’d spent in Photoshop though within just a few weeks. I’d taken my original photo into Silver Efex Pro and converted it to black and white, but as I lived with the image I realized that I’d made the trunks of the trees in the foreground a little too dark. I had to go back into Silver Efex Pro and reprocess it, and that meant that I had to also go back into Photoshop and clone out the cable car lines a second time. This felt like such a waste of time to me.

Then, a few months later, in the summer of 2016 I switched to Capture One Pro, and during my initial tests of the product, I used the same image to see if I could both create black and white images that were as good if not better than Silver Efex Pro, and I checked to see if I could do cloning in Capture One Pro, so that I could avoid baking my changes into a destructive file format rather than keeping them in their original raw format.

It turned out that Capture One Pro passed both of these tests, so I now had a copy of my original raw file with all of the cloning done in Capture One and so when versions 10 and then 11 came out, I just clicked a button to update the processing engine, and the image grew incrementally better with more subtle detail and better handling of the shadows. I was able to improve my photo twice, with no more effort than a couple of mouse clicks, simply because I had been able to keep my image in its original raw format, so this is a major time-saver and benefit.

My “No See, No Edit” Policy

Let’s take a look at the image I’m referring to as we start to discuss more of the methods that I use to help improve my photography and save me time in post-processing. Since I started shooting digital back in 2000 I made a conscious decision to kill two birds with one stone. I’m not a purist in the sense that I will not clone anything out of my images, but I don’t like to make the decision to do so lightly. I want to modify the content of my images based a deliberate, conscious decision.

Couple with a desire to create images that require as little as possible work on the computer, I decided to train myself to be more observant in the field, by sticking to my personal policy not removing anything that I was not aware of when I exposed the photograph. If I didn’t see it in the field, I do not allow myself to change it later in postprocessing.

What this means is that if I see the cable car lines running through a scene, I am OK with removing them later, but if I do not see the cable car lines or anything else distracting in the image until I get it onto my computer, I do not allow myself to remove the distraction. I’m left with two options, live with the annoying element, or throw the image out, and 99% of the time I go with the latter option.

To illustrate this, here’s a photograph from Mount Asahi in Hokkaido, with the lines of the cable car running through the scene. I knew about these when I composed the photograph but liked this scene so much that I decided to spend the time to remove them later. There is actually also a large pillar to support the cables, but I positioned my camera so that I hid that behind the third foreground tree from the left. Another decision that I made to help save me time on the computer.

To see the cable cars on the left side of the photo, grab the vertical line in the middle and drag it over to the left side of the image. You’ll see the cables behind the trees across most of the left side of the photograph. Another minor benefit of keeping my images in raw is that I could show you the processed black and white image today, and just turn off the cloning adjustments for the before/after images.

I have found though that my policy of not allowing myself to remove anything that I didn’t see when I initially made the photo has really helped me to be more deliberate in my compositions. There were times when I had to throw out images that I otherwise really liked, so I soon learned that I had to do better. It’s surprising how much a little self-kicking can do. I really recommend it to all photographers.

No Exposure Blending

Evan had asked if I had come to peace with not using any exposure blending techniques, but for me, it’s not so much a case of coming to peace with not using techniques like exposure blending, I really just don’t believe it’s necessary. Part of this in my case is because I don’t often shoot in very bright weather that might cause really high contrast images, but apart from a few times well over ten years ago, when our cameras weren’t as capable as they are now, I really just haven’t photographed any scenes that in my mind needed more than one frame to capture the necessary dynamic range.

Part of this is also my own sense of the aesthetic. You might remember me talking about this photo (below) earlier this year about how I often let the windows go white in my Namibia work from Kolmanskop. This is not because I’m too lazy to take multiple shots and blend them together, but because I really just prefer to see the images that way. It leaves more to the imagination and to me, feels a little more surreal than a photo where we can see both the inside of the room and the exterior perfectly exposed.

Kolmanskop Accountant's Bathroom
Kolmanskop Accountant’s Bathroom

Similarly, I don’t mind in this photograph that the walls are leaning outwards from the angle that I shot this. That is not to say that I never do any keystone adjustments mind. I do, but only when the effects that I a remove are a distraction for me. I think people sometimes feel that they have to remove any and all form of distortion, and again, that’s each individuals decision to make, but personally, I don’t feel that every photograph has to be absolutely perfect in this respect.

Don’t Deliberate, Be Deliberate!

In complete contradiction to that sense of not caring for the above image though, I should note that I do quite often take the time to ensure that my camera is at just the right height to prevent my vertical lines from leaning in at least part of the time. This falls under my heading of being deliberate. I find it ironic that the same word pronounced differently has both ends of the spectrum covered for me in this respect.

I won’t “deliberate” over some issues, such as leaning walls, or spending hours on images in post, but I absolutely will be “deliberate” and take the time necessary to craft my compositions, so that everything is just as I want it, as I did for this photo (below) where I moved the frame on the floor to a more pleasing location and spent extra time ensuring that my camera was at the right height to get all of the vertical lines perfect straight.

Kolmanskop School Corridor
Kolmanskop School Corridor

I guess it’s also ironic that I completely don’t care that we can’t see everything outside the windows to the right in this shot as well. I think my point is, once again, that we have to develop a sense of what we are happy with, and in many respects, this takes time and confidence in our work.


As I think about this for today’s post, I realize that Evan’s email to me that prompted this post had a more appropriate subject than I had initially thought. I started this post with a different title, but as I write, I’ve adopted the subject of Evan’s mail, which was “Developing your Style and Self-Acceptance”.

In some areas of my photography, I’m a stickler for getting it right and ensuring that everything is perfect, but in other areas, I simply decide to not give a hoot, and that really does come from reaching a point where you can not care what other people think. Having the confidence to say that it is simply not important to be able to see what’s outside, and deciding that the walls are leaning outwards doesn’t matter, comes from having a strong sense of self-acceptance.

The Roll of Your Trusted Critique

If you listen to everything that everyone will tell you it can be quite paralyzing, as you really will never be able to please everyone. This is where the significance of your trusted critique comes into play, and equally important, is developing the ability to ignore the words of the untrusted critique.

I’ve mentioned a number of times in the past that my wife is who I consider my main “Trusted Critique”, although there are a few others around the world whose advice I will head. Whenever I have a decision to make about my photography or any other creative pursuit for that matter, I don’t consider my work to be complete until I’ve run it past my wife. Her advice means everything to me, but I should note that I don’t take on board everything she says.

There are times when I like something that she doesn’t, and at the end of the day, it’s my art, and I have the final word, but for example, if I’m working on a set of images, say a portfolio, or a selection of work to send a client, nine times out of ten, if she says that something has to go, it goes. A lot of the time, I use her opinion to check my own suspicions, and over the years, I’ve learned to preempt her advice, and simply remove images that I know she will dislike.

Cooling Off Period

I also recall a story from my good friend Graham Morgan, an award-winning photographer from Australia, who was on his way home from Antarctica and showed his wife a photo that he was about to delete but she told him to keep it. The following year he won the Australia Nature Photographer of the Year with that photo! This is a powerful reminder of the need to seek advice from a trusted critique.

It’s also an important reminder that making the final decision on photos that we’ve shot straight after shooting them isn’t always a good idea. Giving yourself at least a few days, ideally a week or more after a shoot to make a more subjective decision about your work is very important.

When I return from a trip, I generally want to start talking about it within just a few days, so I force myself to complete at least a preliminary cull as soon as possible after getting home, but then I always continue to refine the selection for another week or two until I make my final selection. Invariably I find that as the memory of the shoot fades slightly, I am able to be more ruthless in my selection, and the more we can remove from a selection, the more condensed and rich the final set will be.

Controlling Exposure for Optimal Dynamic Range

As I mentioned earlier, in part of my reply to Evan, I had also stated that if you are careful with your exposure, you can generally get a better quality image from a single frame than from blending. Now, I realize that there are techniques that can help to blend images together without really being able to tell it was done, but the majority of the time they require more work than I personally am prepared to put into each individual images, so once again, this is personal preference.

My advice to people has always been that if using exposure blending or any other HDR techniques feeds your creativity, then go for it. If however, you are doing it to overcome limitations on your camera, then first learn how to expose your photos to get maximum dynamic range in a single image, then decide whether or not you need HDR. Once you get used to looking at the histogram, there isn’t even any guess-work. You can see right on the back of your camera if the image fits in a single frame, simply by referencing your histogram.

Exposing To The Right (ETTR)

Now, I’ve talked about ETTR or Exposing To The Right a number of times in the past, so I’m not going to go into great detail on this, but I want to summarise why I still do it, and a few other considerations that you might keep in mind if you are still formulating your own strategy.

First of all, I want to mention that thanks to the wisdom received from Graeme Nattress, who’s forgotten more about image processing than I’ll ever know, I’m no longer talking about the cause of noise in images based on the old Luminous Landscape article that used to be my primary reference. Graeme helped me to understand that the old explanation is not valid, but also that the benefits of Exposing to the Right are very real all the same.

I have though been Exposing to the Right instinctively for many years though, and experience has proved to me that my images are better quality for it, so I’m still using this technique for almost all of my work.

Basically, what I do exposure all of my images so that the lightest part of the histogram data falls just short if not slightly touching the right shoulder of the histogram. On the rare occasion when I find myself photographing a scene with the sun in the frame, I will allow it to become over-exposed slightly, to give myself some leeway in the shadows, but even then, one frame generally gives me enough dynamic range.

As an example, here’s a photo (below) of a lighthouse with the late afternoon sun shining through the windows of the lantern room, shot on this year’s Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour. When looking through the viewfinder, as you might imagine, everything except the sun looked almost completely black. I could see from the histogram though, that if I set my exposure so that the sun is just starting to over-expose, the shadows were not spiking up the left shoulder.

Again, this is a comparison image, so you can slide the vertical bar from left to right to reveal more of the final processed image on the left, to see how much detail I brought out in the bottom third of the photograph. All I did was ran a gradient mask over the bottom third and opened up the shadows slider to around half way. I also pulled out the shadows across the entire image with a very slight tone curve adjustment and placed a second gradient mask across the top of the sky to darken it down a little. This isn’t the greatest image I’ve shot by a long shot, but I think it helps to illustrate my point.

Reading the Histogram

Basically, expose so that the information on the right of the histogram is just about, or in this case, just touching the right shoulder, and check to see if you have a spike on the left side. If you do see a spike on the left side, it means that the shadows are going completely black, which, similar to highlights going completely white means that it might be difficult or even impossible, to recover any detail in these areas. As long as the shadows on the left side are not spiking though, there is detail in the shadows that can be used.

Noshappu Lighthouse Photo Histogram
Noshappu Lighthouse Photo Histogram

Do also be aware that the camera’s histogram is generally based on the JPEG preview, so it tells a somewhat harsher story than your image processing software probably will. Both Lightroom and Capture One Pro give you around a stop of light back, compared to how the images look on the camera. 

I also use a piece of software called RawDigger to check my images, especially ones like this, to see what the image really looks like, and I can also create a very details histogram, such as this one (right) that I got from the original raw file of the photo we just looked at.

In the RawDigger histogram, we can see a small spike on the right side of the histogram, which represents the bright sky around the sun that I overexposed slightly. On the left you can see that the shadow data tapers off nicely, showing that there is a little bit of information lost, but enough to be able to bring out detail in the shadows.

I don’t have a photo of the histogram on the camera, but here two are two histograms from Capture One Pro with the original raw file on the left and the processed raw file on the right. You can see how the shadows were steep and close to the left shoulder, but not spiking. Also, note the small spike in the highlights for the sun, but see how I was able to bring that under control in Capture One Pro. Going over a little bit is rarely a problem, but we do need to avoid going over by a large amount.


So, as you can see, using the histogram as a tool can really help to make educated decisions about your exposure. Based just on the image, or even just what you see through the viewfinder, you might think that a scene like the Lighthouse sunset would need multiple exposures merged together, or even HDR processing, but in my opinion it really isn’t necessary, unless, as I mentioned, you actually enjoy the process and that process feeds your creativity. 

For me, there is nothing more off-putting than getting home from a shoot and having to spend hours working on images, and as fast as the process may have become, as far as I’m aware, there are still no applications that will allow you to keep a processed and tone-mapped HDR image in raw format, so you cannot benefit from future processing engine updates.

Don’t Fight Your ISO

That example was for a high contrast scene, but as I said, I Expose to the Right for all of my work, and I have received feedback from people that know, that the quality of my images is higher than most, and we attribute this to the way I shoot, taking control of my exposure. 

Basically, the darker your images get, the more noise you’ll see in the shadows. I have talked about ISO Invariance in Episode 520, and I agree that if your base ISO could be ISO 100 you can increase the exposure in post for a number of stops, and really not see a lot of degradation in image quality. This means that especially when you are running and gunning and the light is changing so fast that manual exposure may cause you to miss shots, you can go to an automated mode and then brighten up the images in post if necessary.

This is only the case though if the scene is bright enough that ISO 100 would get you to within two or three stops of your required exposure. Once your scene is so dark that you ISO 100 does not get you to within two or three stops of your necessary exposure, the only option is to increase the ISO, and when you start to increase your ISO, you can’t benefit from ISO invariance. Your only option for darker scenes is to increase your ISO and if you are afraid to increase it high enough to essentially expose to the right, getting the histogram data as close to the right shoulder as possible, then your shadows are going to get noisy.

Use Highlight Warnings

Another thing that I want to add here, is that it’s also important to turn on and use the Highlight Warnings or “blinkies” in your camera so that you are made aware when small areas of the scene or subject start to become over-exposed.

Himba Smile
Himba Smile

For example, when photographing the dark-skinned Himba people inside their huts in Namibia, their eyes, teeth, and shells around their neck start to overexpose as you increase the ISO, but it’s virtually impossible to see this on the histogram. You have to check for these areas blinking in the preview image, or if you are using a mirrorless camera, some of them have these warnings in the electronic viewfinder too.

Some people make the mistake of trying to get the peak or hump of the histogram over to the right side, but when shooting images like this one of the young Himba Girl (left), that will result in her eyes, teeth, and regalia all becoming overexposed, and although just a little is fine and controllable, we don’t want to overexpose these areas too much.

To be clear though, the goal is to increase the exposure to the point where the brightest parts of the scene or subject are as close to the right as possible, but not overexposed, and sometimes, this requires us to increase the ISO so much that some people start to back off.

This image was shot at ISO 5000, and that scares some people, but because I was still essentially exposing to the right, until the bright areas started to overexpose, the shadows still have almost no grain to speak of, and this is with a 50 megapixel camera, which was supposed to be really bad in low light. The reality is that even with such high-resolution cameras, if you push the ISO to the point that you need it to be at to give you an ETTR image, then the shadow areas will still be clean enough to give you a useable image.

You might also recall that this is one of the ten images that I printed at 44 x 62 inches for display in an exhibition at Canon’s Headquarters here in Tokyo, and the feedback I’ve received is that people were very surprised that this image was shot at such a high ISO, and they were looking at a five foot tall print, so I think that’s proof enough that my technique has helped me to create images of a pretty high quality, often in somewhat challenging environments.

The "Namibia" Wall
The “Namibia” Wall

Manual Exposure

This may be obvious already, and I certainly mention this a lot, but just to be thorough, I should also mention that I shoot almost exclusively in Manual Exposure mode. I just find this easier, as it enables me to get my camera set up for a specific scene, exposing to the right, and then just shoot, without having to worry about exposure compensation, which I find completely annoying. 

I know that some people like to just let the camera decide, and if your scene is bright enough that ISO Invariance will help you to brighten up your images as necessary without losing any image quality, you really won’t be negatively affected by shooting in an automated mode. For me though, I’ve been shooting Manual for so long, that it’s just more intuitive, and second nature.

The Manuals Were Wrong

Another thing that I wanted to talk about, with regards to using ETTR techniques to get better quality images, is that sometimes people quote the camera manuals, that often say that a good histogram has one large hump, and that should be in the middle of the histogram. Forget this if it’s something you tend to bear in mind, for two reasons. Firstly, having the data in the middle of the histogram may result in unnecessary noise in your images, especially in the shadow or dark areas. 

The other reason is that the histogram represents a mapping of all the tones in the image. It is not uncommon for a histogram to have multiple spikes. This image, for example, has a spike on the right side, that represents all the white in the crane’s and the snow, and a spike of the left, for the dark background. And there is nothing in the middle, which is where the camera manuals will have you believe the data should be.

Cranes Taking Flight (with Histogram)
Cranes Taking Flight (with Histogram)

Of course, as a guideline, for an average scene, it’s not a complete failure as an example, but it’s important to understand what the histogram represents so that it can be used as a tool to work towards shooting images of higher quality, rather than allowing something you’ve been told to lead you to make mistakes.

OK, so the last thing I want to relay is that it is also not necessary to try and have your image data fill the histogram. Some scenes do not contain a wide enough range of tones to create a full histogram from the left to right side. As an extreme example, and to make one last point, here (below) is another snow scene from Hokkaido.

See if you can guess where the histogram spike will be for this image, then drag that vertical bar over to the left to reveal the embedded histogram and see how close you were. 


Let’s start to wrap this up now, with a few last words on why I put this post together. I kept Evan’s part about developing a style in the title, even though we didn’t go into detail on this, because I think that the way I shoot plays a large part in the look of my work. I don’t I have a distinctive style that comes from a type of processing, because as I’ve said, most of the time it isn’t the processing that defines my work. That in itself is, to me, one of the most important things that I wanted to relay today. 

I’ve been told that people can tell my work, because of the quality of the images, and I like to think that this is because of the care I take in setting my exposure, and how careful I am to compose my images in such a way that they contain as few distracting elements as possible. A lot of my work is somewhat if not straight on minimalist, but rarely cluttered, and I think these things all inform my style.

I’ll stop writing for now though, and get this out there. I’ve already been writing for a day and a half, but there is still so much more to say related to this topic. I’ll try to follow up next week with a discussion of some of the things that I consider as I decide on my compositions, as we didn’t really get into that today. If there is anything else that you’d like me to cover, just drop me a line or write a comment below. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Show Notes

My post on ISO Invariance is here:

Music by Martin Bailey


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Capture One Pro Image Editing and Processing (Podcast 544)

Capture One Pro Image Editing and Processing (Podcast 544)

This week’s podcast is a video tutorial, to walk you through my new image editing and processing workflow in Phase One’s Capture One Pro. I have been using Capture One Pro since July, and have absolutely fallen in love with it, to the point that I haven’t used Lightroom once since switching.

I have also not used Silver Efex Pro or Color Efex Pro at all, and I’m finding myself in Photoshop less often too. My biggest test was how comfortable I felt working on all of the images from my recent tours in Greenland and Iceland, but these were no hiccups at all. I have worked exclusively in Capture One Pro, from import to export and everything in between.

One thing that I was kind of surprised by, was just how little work I had to do on most of my images to get them to look how I wanted. I have never been a heavy image processor, but during my earlier tests, I was putting quite a lot of time into each image. In reality, most of the images that I worked on over the last few month were how I wanted them to look after tweaking just a few sliders.

On occasion, I dived in and did a little bit of work with Adjustment layers, and sometimes did extensive cloning and healing to remove unwanted features like lots of people in the shot, and none of this was difficult to achieve.

What’s really enhanced my Capture One Pro workflow, is the ability to customize Capture One Pro’s user interface and shortcut keys, literally putting everything that I need right at my fingertips. Because of this, I also spend some time in this video explaining some of these aspects, especially the custom shortcuts.

To make it easier to follow along, I’ve actually shared my shortcut customizations here along with a PDF to print them out for easy reference. If you haven’t customized your own shortcuts, you might want to give these a try. Come back to check the shortcuts page from time to time too, as I’ll continue to tweak my shortcuts and will update the page whenever I do. There is a link to the page in the PDF to make that easy to do.

So, here’s the video. It’s almost an hour long, so grab a coffee and a plate of cookies, and I hope you find it useful.

Here too is a link that will list all Capture One Pro tutorials that I release. With this video, we are currently at four, but this list will grow over time as I release more.

Capture One Pro 10% Discount

Please note that due to changes in Phase One, the discount code that I mentioned in the Podcast is no longer valid. Do give Capture One Pro a try though. You can download it here and use it for 30 days before you make up your mind.

Show Notes

Download Capture One Pro to Try:

View all Capture One Pro Tutorials:

See details of future tours here:

Music by Martin Bailey


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Download this Podcast in MP4 video (formatted for iPhone).

Exporting and Printing Images in Capture One Pro (Podcast 538)

Exporting and Printing Images in Capture One Pro (Podcast 538)

Capture One Pro is a very powerful raw image processing application, that supports the photographer’s digital workflow from importing through to exporting, in a number of formats. Today we’re going to look at the many ways in which you can export your images from Capture One Pro, including printing.

Last week, we covered importing and organizing images and catalogs in Capture One Pro. Right now, I’m in Greenland and next week I’ll be in Iceland, photographing some of the planets most beautiful and striking landscapes, so I’m going to save a tutorial on processing images until after I get back.

As I’m still relatively new to Capture One, that will give me more time to practice my own various processing techniques, so the discussion will be more valuable for you, and I’ll hopefully have some nice photos from Greenland and Iceland to share with you as well. This week, let’s concentrate on getting your processed images back out of Capture One Pro in a number of different formats.

Exporting Original Format Images

Export Originals to Finals Folder

Export Originals to Finals Folder.

If you simply need to export your original raw files, or any other format of image that you might have in your catalog, you can simply export the original file, as I do to make a copy of my final selects to my Finals folder, as I mentioned last week.

To do this, select the images you want to export, and right click one of the thumbnails, and from the shortcut menu, select Export, then select Originals. You can also get to this option from the File menu.

I don’t change the image name on export, because I changed on import. After checking the destination etc. click the Export button, as you see in this screenshot (right).

Output – Process Recipes

For most other file export operations, you’ll first jump to the Output tab in Capture One Pro, which is the single cogwheel icon, that you can see in orange in the top left corner of the screenshot here (below). If you can’t see the detail, click on the image to view it larger.

Capture One Pro Output Process Recipes

Capture One Pro Output Process Recipes

In the Output screen you can create and select Process Recipes, which are used to export your images into various formats and sizes. There are a number of Recipes already in this view when you first install Capture One Pro, but I think almost all of the one’s you can see in this screenshot are Recipes that I’ve created myself.

Export Formats

Capture One Pro supports exporting images in JPEG, JPEG QuickProof, JPEG XR, JPEG 2000, TIFF, DNG, PNG and PSD file formats. If you intend to import your images back into Capture One, avoid using Photoshop PSD files, because they aren’t supported. I’m now using the lossless TIFF format for all images that I will bring back into Capture One to continue to work on, say for example, if I need to go into Photoshop to do some extensive cloning.

You can change the file format from the Format pulldown under the Process Recipe > Basic section, but if you are going to output in that format more than once or twice, save yourself some time by creating a Process Recipe preset.

Process Recipe Presets

To create a new Recipe, click the + button at the bottom of the Process Recipes panel, and an Untitled Recipe will be added to the list, with the name selected ready for you to change it to something meaningful. You might enter something like “TIFF 16 Bit Full Size (ProPhoto RGB)” which would be good for exporting images to edit in Photoshop.

Export for Web Process Recipe

Export for Web Process Recipe

Export for Web

You can resize images during export as well, and add watermarks, so let’s look at how you might create an Export for Web Process Recipe.

Note that if you start changing the settings under the Process Recipe section before creating a new Recipe, it will just change the Recipe that you currently have selected, so let’s hit the + button at the bottom of the Process Recipes section first, and give our Recipe a name, like “Export for Web”.

Although you can export as PNG, the JPEG format is more suitable for photographs for the Web, so select JPEG from the format pulldown. I usually select 92 for the Quality, because it halves the size of the file but leaves no visible artifacts in the image.

Resolution is good at 72 pixels per inch for the Web, and I’m going to set the Height of my image to 960 pixels. I like my landscape orientation images to be 1440 pixels wide and 960 pixels high, but to stop my portrait orientation images getting too tall, I also resize those to 960 pixels high, so just selecting 960 pixels high resizes both orientations correctly.

I’d like to be able to open my images in Finder after they are all created, but Finder isn’t actually listed as an Application on the Mac OS so I leave Open With set to None.

Select an Output location, and if you want to change the name of your files on output, create or select a preset for that too. You can see a summary of your settings in the Process Summary area, but for before we click the Process button, let’s check a few other things. Under the Adjustments tab, uncheck Disable Sharpening, because you generally want your resized Web images to be sharpened a little.

Under Metadata, select your required options. It’s best to keep your Copyright information intact, but you may want to remove GPS coordinates, especially if you are going to share images from your home. Including Camera Metadata is usually OK, and actually better if you are sharing your images in an education-centric environment, and including Keywords is usually a good idea too.

Watermarking Images

Add a Watermark

Add a Watermark

If you like to watermark your images for the Web, you can do that under the Watermark tab, as you can see in this screenshot (right).

I just use my logo in black with a white drop shadow, and reduce the Opacity to 77%, and this makes it somewhat transparent, but can be seen on most colored backgrounds, so I don’t have to mess around selecting a different colored logo depending on the background.

The Horizontal and Vertical positions shown here will place the watermark in the bottom left hand corner of the image. If you want to just position the logo with your mouse, click the little hand icon at the top right corner of the Watermark panel.

Once you’ve set that up, just click the Process button, and your select image or images will be output to the Output folder you specified, resized and watermarked and ready for the Web.

Export to Multiple Formats Simultaneously

One of the other great things about the Capture One Pro Output tab, is that you can turn on the checkbox for multiple Process Recipes, and once you press the Process button, you’ll get a copy in all of the selected file formats and sizes.

If you want to specify a specific output location for certain image types, so that they don’t all get put into the same Output location, you can select a different location under the File tab too, and this is saved in your Process Recipe, which is very useful.

Round Trip Editing

To send a selected photograph to a third party application for editing, you can right click a thumbnail and select Open With, and select the third party application, such as Photoshop, from the submenu. Keep in mind though that this method will open the original file without any of the changes that you’ve made in Capture One, and that may not be what you want to do.

A better option if you want to keep your changes, yet send the image straight to a program such as Photoshop, is to right click the image and select Edit With, which opens a dialog for you to select the format and color space etc. as you can see in this screenshot (below). Note also that this will create a copy of the image that it sends to Photoshop.

Edit With Dialog

Edit With Dialog

Also, note that under the Adjustments tab of this dialog, there is a Disable Sharpening option. Most of the time raw files need a little bit of sharpening to make them look normal again, as raw files can be a little bit soft. Keep this option in mind, and uncheck it, to enable sharpening as necessary.

The great thing about using this Edit With method, is that the copy that is created is added to your Catalog automatically, so when you’ve finished editing in the third party program and save your image, when you come back into Capture One Pro, it’s right there waiting for you.

Always Soft Proofing

One of the coolest things about Capture One Pro is that you are pretty much always in soft proof mode, which means you get to see the affect that the selected Color Space or ICC Profile has on your images as you edit and output them.

In the earlier screenshots, with the Himba Girl, I had a 16 bit TIFF Process Recipe selected, and it was using the ProPhoto RGB color space. This gives me the most wiggle room when editing my images. I also have an Adobe RGB and an sRGB color space TIFF Process Recipe, so that I can easily compare all three color spaces.

Most of the time, as I switch between these various color spaces, the software does what it’s supposed to do, and correctly converts between these larger and smaller color spaces, so it’s difficult to impossible to see any difference.

I have a few black and white images that I have processed in Capture One Pro, that do change slightly in the Capture One Pro interface, but when I export them, they all look the same, so I actually think that’s a problem with the software rendition of the image on screen.

A very import application of this soft proofing feature, is that you can choose to view your images using either a specific profile, or always use the profile that you have selected from the Process Recipes list, regardless of where you are in the user interface. To make Capture One always use the selected Process Recipe ICC profile, under the View menu, choose Selected Recipe from the Proof Profile submenu.

Soft Proofing for Print

With Capture One set up to always use the Selected Recipe’s ICC profile when creating your preview, you can create a Recipe and select one of your print ICC profiles, and select that to get a soft proofing view of your images before printing them. I selected a 16 bit TIFF, and selected my printer ICC profile while creating a number of printer soft proofing profiles, as you can see in this screenshot (below).

Soft Proofing for Print

Soft Proofing for Print

Also note that when soft proofing for print, it’s generally a good idea to change the background to white, to simulate the white borders or matte around your print. If you view the print with a dark background, it makes the paper simulation look too harsh, and it’s difficult to really gauge what your printed image will look like.

To change the background color, go to your Capture One Preferences, and change the Color for the Viewer under the Appearance tab. Also, while you are in the preferences, set a widish Proof Margin, say of around 30 pixels. With that set you can easily turn on the Proof Margin with the button at the top left corner of the viewing area, next to where it says Background in this screenshot.

Finally, if you have Viewer Labels turned on, showing shooting information and the filename below the large preview of your photo, turn that off by selecting Hide Viewer Labels, under the View menu. By this point, you’ll have a photo totally surrounded by white.

Adjusting for Print

You can see in this screenshot (above) that when selecting a matte media type, like Breathing Color’s Pura Bagasse Smooth, the image can look a little bit pale and lack contrast. I find that the reality is a little bit better than this in the print, but it’s a good guide, as matte prints are never as punchy as gloss prints.

If you want to make some changes to your image, just for print, it’s a good idea to make a Variant, which is a virtual copy of the original image. In Capture One Pro, when you right click a thumbnail and select New Variant, you get a copy of your image without any of the changes you’ve made to the image. Assuming you want to keep those changes and make further adjustments for your print, select Clone Variant from the shortcut menu.

Using Color Readouts

Another very useful feature in Capture One, especially when it comes to preparing to print, is the Color Readouts. Generally, when printing, you want to avoid total black and total white. I often don’t head this advice myself when it comes to blacks. I’ll go to 100% black and my printers usually handle it fine, but it’s worth understanding this theory, and generally worth trying to avoid pure white.

Select Add Color Readout from the bottom of the Picker tools, which is second from the right in the toolbar above the viewer in this screenshot (below). Then, click on some of the key areas of your photograph. I like to check the darkest area, the brightest highlight, and a mid tone.

Using Color Readouts

Using Color Readouts

When I placed these Color Readouts on my original image, the background was 0, total black, and the shell was 255, which is pure white, so I created a Clone Variant, and adjusted my Levels, to bring these values in just a little, which would be good printing practice. You can see that now in my resulting image, my darkest background has a luminance of 2, and my brightest highlight, the shells on this Himba Girls traditional necklace is 253. Her face is 111.

Exposure Warnings

Another option for checking the darkest and brightest areas of your image for print, are the Exposure Warnings, which you can turn on with the warning triangle icon in the toolbar. I set my highlight warnings at 253 and my shadow warning at 2. As you can see from this screenshot (below), the background is mostly 2 or darker, but I intentionally darkened that, and I’m fine with printing this image as it is, with just a little tweak.

Exposure Warnings

Exposure Warnings

Of course, if you want to make any other modifications for print, increasing contrast, changing the colors to stop them going out of gamut, now would be the time to do it. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to display gamut warnings in Capture One Pro, so unless it’s really well hidden, I don’t think it supports it. I’m hoping that is something that will change at some point though.


Once you have your soft proofing done, and are ready to print, you could of course just send the photo to Photoshop and print from there, but just as I always printed from Lightroom, I love to be able to print right in my processing and workflow tool. Plus, I hate printing from Photoshop, so I’ve been printing quite happily from Capture One Pro for the last few weeks.

Unlike Lightroom where you go to the Print module to print, in Capture One Pro, you can hit the Print button from the top menu at any time, regardless of where you are in the program. The print window opens, and you get to select your settings.

We can create templates in Capture One to save margin and layout information, but it forgets about page size and ICC profiles whenever you close the program. Fortunately, these are quick settings to change, so select your paper size, and the ICC profile for your printer and media combination from the Color Profile menu.

Printing from Capture One

Printing from Capture One

From what I’ve seen so far, the print Sharpening that is done by Capture One when set at 25 is enough for my own images. You may need to change this depending on how sharp your original image is, and also it may need to be increased for larger prints too, but for now, I’ve been leaving this at 25.

You can set your margins depending on how much border you want. I use my 7:13% offset border, to raise the image up slightly, and you can see the dimensions I use in my Print Borders spreadsheet that you can download here. Once you have entered your border dimensions, click the Templates pulldown, and select Save User Template. In this screenshot (above) you can see that I called this one 18 x 24 inches 7-13 borders.

So, once that’s set up, I can quickly recall my margin sizes and I’m ready to hit the Print button. Another very cool thing about printing from Capture One Pro, is that when I switch from Landscape to Portrait orientation, it automatically switches the borders around for me, so I no longer have to save a separate template for each orientation.

No File Names!

The only thing that I don’t like about printing from Capture One Pro, and I’m hoping this will be changed very soon, is that it does not pass the filename to the printer. It prints everything as Untitled, and that renders the Accounting Manager with my Canon large format printer pretty much useless.

I need to be able to identify the files printed to find the print costs, and when they all say Untitled, that becomes a pain, especially when I sometimes have to show the costs to customers via email, because without their filename in the accounting information, I could be charging them for any old print.

See You on the Flip-side!

OK, so we’ll wrap it up there for this week. As I said, I’ll be in Greenland when this is released, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to record an extra episode or two while I’m in Reykjavik, before I start my Iceland tour, so there may be a bit of a blank before I get caught up again at the end of September. Do stay with me though, because I’ll be back, and I’m looking forward to sharing my new work with you and putting together a tutorial on how I’m processing my images in Capture One Pro 9 as well.

Capture One Pro 10% Discount

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.

Show Notes

Download Capture One Pro here:

Music by Martin Bailey


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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Image Selection Workflow After Winter Wildlife Tour #2 (Podcast 514)

Image Selection Workflow After Winter Wildlife Tour #2 (Podcast 514)

Having just completed my second Japan Winter Wildlife tour for 2016, and taking way too long to whittle down my final selection of images, today I’m going to talk a little about some of the techniques I use during this editing process.

Despite 2016 being an el niño year, resulting in us having much less snow than usual on both of my Japan winter tours, this turned out to be just as productive a trip as any year, if not more so. The more we have taken away, the more we seem to receive in other opportunities.

I shot about 500 more images on this trip compared to the first, giving me a total of 7,500, and after my initial run through these images to find the ones that I thought were good enough to show people, I similarly had 750 images, compared to around 800 from the first trip for this year.

As with the first tour, I decided to leave my 7D Mark II at home, and worked exclusively with my two Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies, despite this being a wildlife tour. I touched on this a lot during my four travelogue episodes for the first tour, so I won’t keep going on about this, but I have continued to be amazed at how well the 5Ds R coped with the fast paced shooting.

The autofocus worked incredibly well. Much better than the 5D Mark III in similar conditions, and I actually found the reduced frame rate liberating. It had me thinking much more about the critical timing at which I would release the shutter, especially for the eagle shots that we’ll look at later in the series of travelogues that we’ll follow up with. I also had less than half the images to look through, which saved me time, and that’s always a welcome benefit from any new shooting style.

Whittling my Final Selects

With so many images that I was happy with from this trip, I found the selection process even more challenging than usual, and I used a few different techniques for whittling down my images from this trip that I thought might be useful to talk about, so before we get into the travelogue series, I’m going to walk you through some of these processes.

As I travel, I try to look through my images from each shoot, and when other activities such as sleep get in the way, I make a note of which days I’ve looked through, and which one’s I haven’t. For this trip, I managed to look through 9 of the 12 days, so I went through the other three days over the last week, after getting back from the tour.

During my first pass I generally just give anything that I want to look at again 3 stars. This is my “worth a crap” rating. It means that I’d be happy to show people the image, although might not proactively do so. After tour #2 I had 750 of these initial selects which I then needed to reduce to a more appropriate number, which is as few as possible, as usual.

Using Lightroom Smart Collections

To make it easy to review images I generally create a Smart Collection for three star images and above for any multi-day trip that I do. This helps me to quickly view all images that I have rated by going to that Collection, rather than selecting all folders from the dates of the trip, then filtering on three stars or higher.

To create the Smart Collection I just go to the Collections panel in Lightroom’s Library Module and click the + symbol to the right of the Collections label, then select Create Smart Collection… As you can see in this screenshot (below), I then select three stars for the Rating field, and this is set by default to “is greater than or equal to”, so anything with three or more stars will be included in this Smart Collection.

Smart Collection Settings

Lightroom Smart Collection Settings

I then click the + button to the right of the Rating line to add more criteria, and select Capture Date, then “is in the range” and enter the start and end dates for my tour, which was Feb 22 to March 4, 2016. Now, I can see all images with 3 stars or above for the entire trip, just by clicking on this Smart Collection folder.

To reduce my 750 initial select images, I started to look at groups of similar images and reduce them to as few as possible. After my second pass, I was down to 348, so I was able to remove just over half of my original selection. I still had 151 images of the Steller’s Sea Eagles and White Tailed Eagles, so I did a third pass just through these images, and removed an additional 25 images, but then I was stuck again. I really felt as though the 125 eagle shots that I had left were quite strong images, so I guess this is a nice problem to have, but I really wanted to reduce my overall number of selected images even further.

Lightroom Slideshow Functionality Change

With a total of 323 images left in my Smart Collection for the trip, I tried using my slideshow and coffee process. I’d been through the entire set a number of times at this point, but having hit a wall, it was time to simply feel my reaction to the images as the slideshow progressed.

I start a Lightroom slideshow, and if I am happy to see the next image come up, it stays, but if I get even the slightest sinking feeling as the next image comes up, I hit the 1 key on my keyboard to demote the image out of my selection. 1 star is my “once great” rating. It means I once thought enough of it to promote it above the others, but then decided otherwise. I just like to keep this star on there as a reference.

Anyway, it was this point in time when I realized that Lightroom no longer works as it used to, so the keyboard is not recognized during slideshows. This is actually quite huge for me, as I use this process a lot. It’s even more annoying because the slideshows in Lightroom are being nicely enhanced with features like “Pan and Zoom” and better synching with music being added, but now I have to click through each image in full screen mode, which I don’t like so much. I like to remove anything that disrupts how I “feel” about each image, so the slideshow was perfect for me.

So, while manually going through the images, even after doing this a few times, I was still at 311 images. I’d only managed to remove another 12 from my gut reaction to the images. At this point, I decided to go the other way, and promote the ones that I really liked.

Using Raw Emotion to Select Images

When traveling these days, I generally create a Lightroom Collection that I set to sync with Lightroom Mobile, so when I drop images into that Collection they automatically sync with my iPad and iPhone. I just set that Collection to be the Target Collection, which means that I can add images easily by hitting the B key while browsing or editing images. This gives me an easy way to show the tour participants what I’ve been capturing as we travel, and also my wife can follow along with my progress from home.

Lightroom Mobile Screenshot

Lightroom Mobile Screenshot

The thing with this process is that I obviously don’t just drop all of my selects into this synced Collection. Unlike my initial selection which I give three stars simply to indicate that I want to look at these images again, for my Lightroom Mobile Collection I only add images that I feel are good enough that I want to show people. I make this decision as I work through my initial selection process, so there’s a lot of gut feeling involved. It’s a raw emotional response to the images, and I think that is worth working with.

By the time I’d been through all images from the tour I had around 180 images in my Lightroom Mobile Collection for the trip, so these are images that I already knew that at some point I’d felt strongly about. More strongly than the superset of 750 initial selects in the Smart Collection, so I decided to do some further comparisons of the larger group against this subset of images.

I went into my Lightroom Mobile Collection and labeled all of the 180 images in there with a blue label, then went back into my Smart Collection, and in the grid view I could now easily see all of the images that I had added to my gut feeling favorite images Lightroom Mobile Collection. More importantly, this blue label also enabled me to filter out all images that did not have a color label assigned, so I could look at only the images that I had not yet added to this subset. Theoretically these should be the less-good images.

By this point, I’d been back from the tour for over a week, and the emotion of each shoot was pretty gone, so when I looked through these images, I was able to simply feel my reaction to them a fresh, and add anything else that I thought was good enough to want to show people to the Lightroom Mobile Collection.

After doing this, with the memory of the last pass through my lesser images still fresh in my mind, I went back into the Lightroom Mobile Collection, and did another pass, this time with the newly added images included, and removed everything that I didn’t feel was up to scratch. Some of them were from my initial Lightroom Mobile selection, and some were added for the first time. I could see this because of the blue labels, which I thought was useful.

This process enabled me to reduce my overall 3 star image count to 251, which is a closer number to what I like to work with, but by this point I’ve been pretty ruthless, and felt uncomfortable removing anything more at this point. These base three star images will probably remain in the collection, and I’ll present these to Offset, my stock photography agency, for their consideration as well.

My Lightroom Mobile Collection, which contained images that I would more proactively like to show people, had increased a little at 214 images. At this point, I promoted all of these images to 4 stars, and removed the blue label. I don’t like to leave color labels on images, and it was no longer necessary. My 4 star rating is, as I say, for images that I proactively want to share, and I give 5 stars only to images that I feel are portfolio worthy, or actually in a portfolio.

Selecting the Absolute Best to Show You!

By this time, it was 2:30 on Monday afternoon, and I am supposed to be releasing the first travelogue episode for Tour #2 today! At this point I started the process of selecting my final 30 or a maximum of 40 images to talk about. We already now that I wasn’t able to get to the travelogue episodes. The process just took too long. I made Lightroom’s Quick Collection the target Collection again, and then sat through the entire set again, hitting the B key when an image that I thought I’d like to talk about came up on my screen.

Well, as you might imagine, I ended up with a new shortlist of 112 images. I’d added just over half of my 4 star images to my Quick Collection. Aargh!

So, I had to go back and start to select similar images again. I had 46 sea eagle shots, so that was an obvious place to start. For example, I had five shots of White-Tailed Eagles with their talons forward, coming in to catch a fish, so I removed four of them. I had six shots of White-Tailed Eagles side-on actually catching the fish, so I removed five of these, leaving just the one with the most dramatic splash.

I repeated this process for the various types of eagle shots, but the most difficult group to reduce was these four images of a Steller’s Sea Eagle coming in to land on harbor wall at Rausu (below). These four images are already a subset of a series where the light reflecting from the snow on the wall, back up onto the eagle, was absolutely stunning.

Four Stellers Sea Eagles

Four Steller’s Sea Eagles

I love each one of these shots with a passion, so I was disappointed to see that on closer inspection, the third image was a little bit blurred as the eagle lunged forwards. That did make removing one more image a no-brainer though of course, and the other three were absolutely tack sharp.

In fact, as we are not going to have time now to actually start the travelogue this week, let’s take a look at just how sharp these images are. Keeping in mind that the image is already cropped slightly, here is a 100% crop of the fourth of these images (below). I can’t tell you enough how much I have fallen in love with shooting wildlife with the Canon EOS 5Ds R.

Steller's Sea Eagle 100% Crop

Steller’s Sea Eagle 100% Crop

All I’ve done to this image in post is increase the Shadows slider in Lightroom to +18 and increased the Clarity to +12. Apart from that, and the crop of course, this is straight out of the camera, so hopefully you’ll see why I’m so excited about the resolution and image quality of this camera. The shutter speed was 1/1000 of a second at f/10, ISO 400, at 234mm.

In a desperate bid to reduce the number of images down futher, I actually removed the last shot of the White-Tailed Eagle snatching a fish from the water as well, as the Steller’s Sea Eagle shot was better, and this enabled me to get the eagles down to just 12 images for now, so I went through the rest of the remaining 75 images in a similar way, trying to remove more.

The next difficult set was trying to reduce the number of Whooper Swan images. We had two amazing mornings at Sunayu, at Lake Kussharo, with a number of beautiful fly-ins and incredible light. I found it really difficult to reduce the images I will talk about, much past this selection (below). I ended up removing some of my favorite images simply because I didn’t think their true beauty would come through in the limited Web size that we have to use here.

Last 16 Swan Fly-in Shots

Last 16 Swan Fly-in Shots

As you can see, we had very different conditions each day, which made it even more difficult to reduce the number. Especially the second of our two days there, the swans looked as though they were just sitting in a huge soft-box with stunning light, and such a tiny subtle difference between the birds and their white background.

So, finally, after a few more heartbreaking decisions, I arrived at the 40 images that you can see in this screenshot (below) that I will talk about over the next four episodes.

Final 40 Images from 2016 Tour#2

Final 40 Images from 2016 Tour#2

If time allows, I’ll try to start recording the travelogue series early, and release the next episode before the end of the week, so that we don’t spend much longer on these travelogue series. I also have some other exciting stuff coming up as well, that I don’t want to delay any longer than necessary, but it really depends on how much time I can assign to these tasks in the coming weeks. Either way, let’s wrap it up there for today.

2018 Winter Wonderland Tours

Before we finish, I’d like to remind you that we are now taking bookings for the 2018 Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours. For details and to book your place, visit the tour page at Our 2017 tours are already sold out, but if you’d like to be put on the wait list, please contact us.

Winter Wonderland Tours 2018

Show Notes

Details of the 2018 Tours:

Music by Martin Bailey


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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Image Management Workflow for the Mobile Photographer (Podcast 466)

Image Management Workflow for the Mobile Photographer (Podcast 466)

Over the years I’ve developed and evolved a pretty sound file management workflow for working with Lightroom on multiple computers, both in the office and when I’m traveling. I’ve talked about various aspects of this in previous episodes, but I thought I’d report on my current image management workflow for the mobile photographer.

I’m going to explain how I currently manage my Lightroom catalog, settings and presets, and my photographs and video archives, including how I now move from one computer to another quite seamlessly, but first a little background.

Until now, I’ve kept my Lightroom catalog on the internal hard drive of my desktop and laptop computers, and synched between the two before I made any major changes to the library. This works and if you have a fast enough network, it’s not too much of a pain to sync your catalogs, but because the previews that Lightroom creates can often become quite a hefty chunk of data, I used to leave them out of the synchronisation, which means that I’d have to rebuild previews on the other computer before I could quickly view images. If I synchronised the image previews as well, it took quite a bit longer, and that can really slow you down when you need to move computers, which I sometimes do multiple times each day.


My entire digital workflow revolves around Lightroom, so rather than synching the Lightroom catalog and my most recent work from computer to computer, I figured that it would be easier to just put it all on an external hard drive, and move that around. I’ve been doing this a while now, and never been happier with my workflow, which is why I decided to share this today. Let’s first look at what you need to put on that external hard drive to make this all work smoothly.

Lightroom Settings folder contents

Lightroom Settings folder contents

Firstly, I recommend that you set up Lightroom so that it saves all its presets with the catalog. This means when you move the Lightroom catalog all of your settings will go with it. If you don’t do this, you’ll still have to synch the settings around separately, which we want to avoid.

To make this change go to Lightroom’s Preferences, then under the Presets tab, turn on the “Store presets with this catalog” checkbox. You’ll now see a “Lightroom Settings” folder in the same location as your Lightroom catalog (right).

If you don’t know where your Lightroom catalog is, go to the Catalog Settings and you’ll see the path to your catalog under the General tab’s Information section. There is a “Show” button there. Click that, and check that your Lightroom settings are now with your catalog. This is also of course where you’ll need to go to copy your catalog to your external hard drive. (Just copy the entire Lightroom directory, including your Lightroom Catalog.lrcat file and your Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata file/folder to your external hard drive when you’re ready.)

One Lightroom Catalog

Note that apart from a catalog with one image in that I use in an automated process to keep my printer from running unnecessary head cleaning processes, I have all of my images in a single Lightroom catalog. I currently have almost 300,000 images including some videos in my catalog, and it runs fine, so I like to keep them all in a single catalog.

This makes it easy to search across my entire library for images and build collections from absolutely anything I’ve shot. If you use multiple catalogs, you’ll need to decide which ones to use with this workflow, or just ensure that you move all of them to your external hard drive.

Drobo Mini

Drobo Mini

Drobo Mini

To ensure that Lightroom works as fast as it can with this portable workflow, I recently bought a Drobo Mini with 4 x 1TB 7200 rpm hard drives, and a Crucial 250GB mSATA Internal SSD which I put into the bottom of the Drobo Mini as an accelerator disk. This speeds up Drobos so much that as long as you are using Thunderbolt to connect them to your computer, you really just don’t have to worry about the hard drive speed. It’s not as fast as an internal SSD drive, but it’s fast enough to run Lightroom stress-free directly from the external hard drive.

You can also run Lightroom from slower portable hard drives, but I suggest that you use at least USB3.0 connected drives, such as the WD My Passport Ultra drives that I use in my ultra-light portable workflow when I simply cannot carry the weight of the Drobo Mini in addition to my MacBook Pro. This may be necessary especially when traveling overseas, as the one downside of the Drobo Mini is that it isn’t very, well, mini. It’s quite a hefty piece of kit to carry around in addition to a laptop.

[UPDATE Aug 1, 2015: Note that I’ve pretty much stopped using the Drobo Mini. Having to plug it into the power every time I wanted to use it became quite tiresome after a while. It’s also just too big for any kind of air travel. I have now started to use Western Digital My Passport Pro 4TB drives. These are Thunderbolt only, so won’t work on Windows at this point, but they are powered by the laptop, and they are slightly faster than the Drobo Mini, so I’m now using this as my main catalog hard drive, and they are small enough for air travel as well. I have two, with the second a straight backup of the first.]

Recent Work and Final Selects on External Drive

Lightroom Catalog Contents

Lightroom Catalog Contents (click to view details)

In addition to my Lightroom catalog and settings, I also keep my main archive of all of my best work to date, which I call my “Finals” or “Final Selects”, on my Drobo Mini, as well as all of the photographs and video that I’ve take during the current year. So basically most of what I need to access regularly is in one place and always available when I travel.

Main Archive on Drobo 5D

My main archive of all images and video that I’ve ever shot and not deleted is almost 7TB of data, so it’s not practical to keep all of this on my portable hard drive, and because I have every image that I thought was good enough to sell or show people in my Finals folder, it’s not even necessary.

I can still get to my raw images and any TIFF or PSD files that I might have also created from them, right there on my portable drive, so what I call my “Photo Originals” folder lives on my Drobo 5D attached to a desktop computer in my office studio. This is literally everything from every shoot I’ve done that didn’t get deleted.

Decide and Stick with Your Strategy

One thing that will cause you to get frustrated with a strategy like this, when you’re synchronising folders around and have photos in multiple places, is if you lose track of which copy is your main copy. As we can see in this screenshot (right) I have my Finals folder on both my Drobo Mini and my Drobo #1 drive (a Drobo 5D). The main reason I do this is so that it gets backed up into the cloud via Backblaze, and we’ll talk about that shortly, but it’s important to try to keep this as a backup copy, and not a working folder of images.

I do sometimes just need to reference images or grab something quickly over the network, and because my iMac stays on all the time, from anywhere in my house I can connect to the Drobo and access my Final Selects. This is also why I keep this linked to Lightroom, but I don’t do any editing or create collections from the Drobo #1 drive, because it not only causes you to lose track of changes and break your Lightroom collections while you’re traveling, but you also have to sync your changes back to your main copy. This is doable quite easily, but I find it much better to not get into that, and my portable hard drive solution that we’re looking at today helps us to avoid this too.

Diagram #1 – Base Computer

OK, so I know that this will be heavy going without some form of graphical representation of what I’m talking about, so I’ve created a few diagrams for us to reference today as I explain this further. Let’s look first at my main computer. We all use at least one computer to work on our images, so this should be useful even if you don’t use a laptop in addition to your “base computer”.

Diagram #1 iMac with Drobo Mini

Diagram #1 iMac with Drobo Mini

Take a look at the first diagram (above) and see on the left that my workflow starts with transferring images from the camera to my portable hard drive, which is connected to my iMac. This could just as easily be a Windows machine. It’s not important what system you use. What’s important to note here is that my images go into a folder for my current year on my external hard drive, along with the Lightroom catalog and my settings and presets.

Diagram #2 – Local and Cloud Backup

As I mentioned, I keep my main photo and video archive, my “Photo Originals” folder on a Drobo 5D, which is always attached to my base computer. As soon as I’ve finished transferring images from my camera and have them renamed, and if time allows gone through and done my first quick edit of my images, then I copy the folder for that shoot to my Drobo 5D, here called Drobo #1.

Diagram #2 iMac with Drobos and Cloud Backup

Diagram #2 iMac with Drobos and Cloud Backup

As  you can also see from the diagram, because I have Backblaze set up on my iMac, as soon as I copy any new images to my Drobo 5D, they start to backup into the cloud. I will continue to synchronise changes to this Drobo 5D as I edit the images from my shoot, but I want to start to get my cloud backup started as quickly as possible. Any later changes will also sync into the cloud, so there’s little reason to wait on this, unless you are paying for data upload.

Diagram #3 – Second Backup for Paranoia’s Sake

There’s one last element of this base computer setup that I’d like to talk about before we move on, and that’s my second Drobo 5D which is purely for local backup purposes. I know this is a little paranoid, but bear with me. The Drobo 5D can have one hard disk fail without losing any data. If a hard disk fails, you simply pull it out and put a new hard disk in, and the Drobo automatically writes the necessary data back to the new hard drive, and you are safe against hard disk failures again.

In my paranoid mind though, that’s not enough to feel safe. I could have a second hard disk fail before my data is fully secured after replacing the first one, and the entire unit could fail too, leaving me with nothing local to fall back on. Assuming my Backblaze backup had already completed, I could of course download or have them send me my cloud backup on hard drives, but that takes time and I’d be panicking for days until my data was restored, so I just prefer to have a second local backup, as we see in this third diagram (below).

Diagram #3 - Second Drobo Mirrored Backup

Diagram #3 – Second Drobo Mirrored Backup

ChronoSync for File Synchronisation

For all of my file synchronisation I use ChronoSync from Econ Technologies. This is the only operating system specific part of my workflow that we’ll touch on today. ChronoSync is only for the Mac OS. When I used Windows, I used to use a command line tool called Robocopy, but I haven’t used that for years, so I won’t go into the Windows alternative today. If you have a great tool that you’d like to recommend for Windows, please drop a note in the comments section below.

ChronoSync is an incredibly powerful file synchronisation tool. It’s important that you actually read the help to avoid deleting files unintentionally, but once you have a good understanding of how it works, it can make life a lot easier. One of the reasons for this, is because you can save your synchronisation tasks and open them again later to rerun them. For example, after I’ve transferred my images from my camera to my Drobo Mini, to copy them to my Drobo 5D and start my Backblaze backup, I simply launch a saved Sync task that will look for anything that has been changed or deleted from my 2015 folder on my Drobo Mini (see below) and copy or delete it from my Drobo 5D as necessary.

ChronoSync Screenshot

ChronoSync Screenshot

As I work on my files from a new shoot, or make any changes to my earlier 2015 files on my Drobo Mini, I just run this task again. For the whole of 2015, the current year, I will use my Drobo Mini as my main archive, and the Drobo 5D 2015 folder will be my backup, so I generally just Mirror the changes across. If necessary, you can do a synchronisation and copy any changes that you make to the target drive back to your main copy, simply by changing the Operation that you see in the middle of the screenshot.

A couple of important things to note here are that I usually run the Trial Sync with the button in the toolbar before I actually execute the sync task. This is like a dummy run, and you get a dialog to see what will be copied or deleted, so you can check that you haven’t made any stupid mistakes before you actually make them. The other thing is that you can select wether to delete files immediately, move them to trash, or move them to an archive folder instead of deleting them. I don’t like the Move to Archive option because you end up with archive folders everywhere, but I do like to turn on to just move the files to the trash, rather than delete them immediately. This is just another safety net.

Lightroom Synchronize Folder

Lightroom Synchronize Folder

Synchronize Folders in Lightroom

Because I also have a 2015 (current year) folder in my “Photo Originals” directory on my Drobo 5D, once I’ve synched any images, I right click the folder in Lightroom, and select “Synchronize Folder…” This tells Lightroom to check the contents of the folder for anything new or removed, and you can also have it check for metadata changes as well.

Lightroom Export to Copy “Finals”

Once I’ve completed my editing of a shoot, and have my “Finals” or “Final Selects”, I copy these to the appropriate year in my Finals archive folder. Everything from the current year goes into a single folder. If I created a TIFF or PSD copy of my raw file, say to create a black and white version in Silver Efex Pro, or did some work in Photoshop, then I will keep both the raw file and the new format files together. If no copies were made, I just copy the raw files to the Finals folder.

Because I star rate my images to help with filtering, when I’m ready to copy my files, I just filter out anything with two stars or above. In my rating system, 2 stars means an original raw file. 3 stars is anything that I will present to Offset for consideration for inclusion in my stock library. 4 stars are images that I consider good enough to show people or use in a blog post etc. 5 stars are what I consider portfolio quality images.

Lightroom Export Original Files

Lightroom Export Original Files

So, when I’m ready to copy my final selects to my Finals folder, I simply filter anything 2 stars or above from my original shoot folder, and use a Lightroom Export preset to copy these images to my Finals folder on my Drobo Mini and my Drobo 5D.

At this point, I copy to both locations because I can add the images to the Lightroom Catalog at this point, and that saves me from synchronising the Finals folder after copying files across manually or using ChronoSync.

The important thing to note here is that although this is an Export, I’m not creating a JPEG or any other new format. I select “Original” as the format, under both the Video and File Settings sections. This ensures that the files are simply copied to the new locations, whether they are a raw file, or a TIFF or PSD etc.

Once I’ve setup something like what we see in the screenshot here (right) I just save this as a Preset, then when I want to copy my Final selects to my Finals folder, I just have to select them and right click them, then select “Copy Original to Drobo Mini 2015 Finals” which is what I called the Preset, and I have a second preset to copy to my Drobo 5D.

Mirroring Entire Drives with ChronoSync

To close the loop on the last diagram before we move on, I guess I should just mention that to mirror the contents of my first Drobo 5D to my second, I also use a ChronoSync Task, but because we will mirror the root of the drive, I set up a few Rules to prevent ChronoSync from copying and overwriting some important system files, as we can see in this screenshot (below).

Sync Drobo #1 to Drobo #2

Sync Drobo #1 to Drobo #2

OK, so now you’ll see that we have a pretty sound process in place for managing images based on a Lightroom catalog and a few ChronoSync tasks that we can launch and run when changes have been made. It’s a little more complicated than simply transferring images to the hard drive inside your base computer, but remember, there’s one key advantage to having everything that you need to use regularly on that external hard drive.

Diagram #4 – Image Library Portability

With your workflow set up this way, all you have to do to access your images on another computer, is to eject your portable hard drive from the base computer and plug it into another computer. Whether you are in another part of your house or office, or on the other side of the planet, if you plugin your portable hard drive, you have access to everything necessary to start Lightroom and continue working as you would on your base computer.

Diagram #4 - Image Library Portability

Diagram #4 – Image Library Portability

Because Lightroom remembers the last catalog that you opened, it automatically goes to the external hard drive, even if you open Lightroom with the application icon. Of course, to cause this to happen, when you first move your Lightroom catalog to the external hard drive, you’ll need to double click on the catalog in its new location to force it to open from there, but as long as you have Lightroom set up to open the last catalog, that’s the only time you’ll have to do this. You can also select File > Open Catalog… and navigate to your new catalog location too, but again, you’ll only have to do this once.

Of course, because the main archive of all of your images, what I call my “Photo Originals” lives on a hard drive on your base computer, so that won’t be accessible, but when Lightroom can’t see anything, it just marks the folder with a question mark, to let you know that it’s offline. You can still click on the folders, and if you have previews created, you can even see the images. If you need to be able to edit photos that are essentially offline, you can enable this by going to Library > Previews, and selecting Build Smart Previews, but without that you can’t edit images in the Develop module etc. until you get back to your base computer. The point is though, Lightroom handles this gracefully.

Backups While On The Road

Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2TB

WD My Passport Ultra 2TB

The other items that you’ll notice in Diagram #4 (above) is my mobile backup drives. I use WD My Passport Ultra  USB3.0 drives, because I think they provide great cost performance at just $99 for the 2TB drives. These are a little fatter than the 1TB drives, but I like to be able to backup my entire “Final” selects library on to these drives  as well as my current year’s “Photo Originals” folder.

Now, as you know, I’m paranoid, so when I’m traveling, I actually make two backups of my images. This means that as I shoot, I backup all of my current year folder to two backup hard drives. Backup #1 and Backup #2 in diagram #4. Again, I use ChronoSync for this, and just save a task for each backup, and run it as necessary. Because I only have two USB ports on my MacBook Pro, I actually have to eject and plugin new drives when I want to run my Time Machine backup, but because my Drobo Mini connect with Thunderbolt, I can have both Backup drives attached at the same time as well.

You can even create Containers in ChronoSync, which can contain multiple sync tasks, so if you want to backup your images to both backup drives without intervention, you can do that quite easily. This is useful if you want to for example start off your double backup before taking a shower etc.

I know that some of you will consider it overkill to have a total of three backups of your images while traveling, but depending on where you’re going, I think it’s necessary, and generally do this whenever I’m on the road. I actually had one of my three external hard drives fail near the start of 7 weeks in Antarctica, and that was scary enough. If that had been my only backup drive, I’d have been climbing the walls.

Ultra-Portable Alternatives

As I mentioned earlier, the Drobo Mini is a hefty drive to lug around, especially if you’ll be jumping on international flights etc. so here are a few ultra-portable alternatives that work seamlessly with this workflow.

1) The first and most obvious alternative, is to simply synchronise your Lightroom Catalog to the hard drive of your laptop, but of course this requires that you have a large enough internal hard drive or SSD to hold your Lightroom Catalog, your Preview images and also maybe the images you’ll be shooting as you travel. This is great if you have an internal SSD, because they’re lightening fast to work from, but big SSD drives are expensive, and if you’ll be traveling for a long time, it will likely fill up.

2) The second lighter alternative is to use a lighter but still external hard drive, like my WD My Passport Ultra drives as the main archive and for your Lightroom catalog etc. This isn’t as smooth and stress free an experience as working with the Drobo Mini, because these drives are much slower, but it works, and is a nice affordable second choice if you are going to be shooting a lot. Lightroom is pretty good at finding your images etc. on the new drive as well. At least on a Mac system.

If Lightroom can’t find your images when you open the Catalog on a different drive, signified by the folders having a question mark against them, just right click the top level folder and select “Find Missing Folder” in the shortcut menu, then navigate to the folder on your new hard drive. This will remap everything, including your previews, and in my experience will not corrupt your catalog or anything.

Set a Hard Drive Letter for Windows

If you use this method of using a portable hard drive in a Window environment, you’ll probably need to ensure that the drive letter doesn’t change as you move the external hard drive around. I don’t remember exactly where you do this right now, but you can assign a drive letter to your hard drives, so it’s a good idea to assign something well away from the start of the alphabet, like M for mobile. That way other drives that you might attach that will be lettered D, E, F etc. won’t displace your external drive’s letter.

Not Really a Cross Plastform Solution

I should also mention that this solution is not ideal if you switch between Windows and Mac regularly. The catalog can be taken from one operating system to the other and will open, but Windows and the Mac OS reference drives differently, so you’d need to tell the other OS where your files live each time you open the catalog on the other system.

Also the location of your presets and settings is not recognized, so I personally think it’s more trouble than it’s worth if you are switching between operating systems. It makes it easy to move from one system to the other, but not really great if you want to switching back and forth.


OK, so I hope that has been useful for you. Having synched my Lightroom catalog around for the last few years, I’m finding it much easier now to just move my external hard drive around. It might not be for everyone, but I am really enjoying this workflow. As good workflows should, it just works, and that’s important to me.

Show Notes

Drobo Mini + 4 x 1TB 7200 rpm 2.5″ HDDs:

Crucial 250GB Internal SSD:

WD My Passport Ultra portable hard drive:

Music by Martin Bailey


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