What's a Workflow?

By Roger (3 May 2015)

Sometimes, when you're teaching something, you tend to throw out a phrase and keep going because the phrase is something very basic. You assume the audience knows what you're talking about. I know I've made that mistake from time to time. I got called on it, recently, while I was working with some absolute beginners. The phrase was “workflow.”

Workflow is just a series of routine practices that help you keep your actions consistent and efficient. You can create processes, or workflows, in many parts of your life, but, for photography, consistency can help in many ways, from remembering to check everything before you press the shutter to developing your own unique look in your photographs. There are many examples of best practices out there, but, in the end, you get to decide what works best for you.

You will usually hear “workflow” when we're discussing post-processing, but let's start with a workflow you rarely hear about: camera preparation. I try to follow the same workflow to ensure everything is ready to go, and I don't forget anything.

I keep my gear in a credenza, out of my camera bags, so I'm forced to think, beforehand, about which gear I'll need for whatever I'm going to photograph. Unless I'm going on a long roadtrip in my truck (where I'll pack my rollerbag and a smaller camera bag), I'm not going to lug everything around. Do I need a second camera or flashes?

Put your tools away after every use

Put your tools away after every use

Next, I check all my batteries to ensure they are charged. You don't want to run a battery down; reach for your spare; and find out it isn't charged. This can be a very bad thing, if you're in the middle of something important – like a wedding. Your camera is using a small amount of power even while it's powered down and sitting on the shelf. You can't trust your battery to be fully-charged, just because it was charged when you used it last.

I don't reformat my memory cards until I'm sure all my files have multiple backups. If anything disasterous were to occur before everything is backed up, I still have the files on the cards. I've never needed the cards, but it's a bit of insurance for me, just in case. Therefore, I need to reformat them before I take off.

My final step is the camera and lens settings. I have a preset on my camera that puts me back into my basic settings. Check your manual since most of today's cameras can do this. This will prevent you from carelessly not noticing the ISO has change or that you have dialed in some exposure compensation, etc. I synchronize my camera clocks to ensure they're showing the same time as my watch. Check your lens to see that your vibration reduction switch is on and your auto-focus mode is normal. Those switches can be changed from bouncing around in your camera bag.

My pre-shoot workflow ensures I am prepared for whatever I encounter. I get a little boost in confidence that everything is ready to go. The only drawback is that you lose the excuses for failed photographs caused by your camera gear. If the photograph looks bad, the problem is obviously the operator.

You may have noticed, I need to develop a better workflow for my blogging. My plan to put one out on the weekend hasn't worked very well. I'll get better. Mark is recommending writing the blog in the days before I post, but that's just silly.

I've been away from my computer for too many of the last few weekends. I've been having fun at the Cherry Blossom Festival and several horse events. Here are a few photos from those fun shoots.

Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.

Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.

Arena Polo

Arena Polo

Horse racing in Virginia

Horse racing in Virginia

Post-race cool down

Post-race cool down

Tallyho!

Tallyho!