End of Year Work

By Roger (18 December 2014)

Man, is it already the end of 2014? How does the year go by, so quickly? It seems like just a couple of months ago, I was talking about how to light your interior for easier Christmas photos, without blasting a flash into the holiday revelry. This is a good time to review that blog and make your preparations for your holiday fun. (In case you missed it, the link to that blog is here.)

You don't want a flash to spoil this mood

You don't want a flash to spoil this mood

At the end of every year, I do a review of my catalogs and delete superfluous photos. These photos are fine, technically, but they're dupes or just aren't interesting enough to keep on the hard drive. We've talked about doing that in past blogs.

This is, also, when I put some real effort into cleaning up some admin tasks in Lightroom. To help me with the deletions and admin junk, I have created some Smart Collections. (Mark explained them, back in 2012, here). I'll go into detail on one of them, but they all help me find the photos where I still have some decisions to make. Lightroom puts these in alphabetical order, so I'll go down them that way. When you create your Smart Collections, you decide what to call them, so, if you want them in a certain order – you're more OCD than me – choose your names accordingly. The most important one to me is the Still Unrated collection.

Smart Collections Workflow

Smart Collections Workflow

No City. This is an easy fix. This is one of the first areas of the Metadata section I fill in, immediately after import. So, how can there be some without an entry? Well, none of us are perfect, so I may have missed a couple. I'll click on this smart collection; enter the city; and Lightroom will automatically remove them from this collection. But, usually, these are photographs for which I don't know the location. A quick example? When I'm restoring old photographs for clients or from my genealogy work, I may not know where the original was taken. Most years, I won't ever get to zero here.

Easy Restoration, but what's the location?

Easy Restoration, but what's the location?

No GPS. I love geo-tagging my photographs. I have a GPS that puts coordinates directly into my camera's metadata when the GPS is connected. I don't always use it because I don't always care about the location of certain photos – portraits, for example. Again, restoration photos.

These types of photos are my excuse for that number never reaching zero, but the bulk of them are just photos I haven't gotten to, yet. Since they were taken when my GPS was not connected to the camera, I'll have to enter the geo-tag in the Map module. I do this, little by little, when I have free time. As you can see by the large number, I'm a little behind on that task.

I'm going to skip to my Without Keywords collection because this is one that will, absolutely, be reduced to zero during my end of year review. All my photos need keywords. Obviously, I've missed a few (hundred) this year, but that is just carelessness. I must have been in a hurry the day I imported them since most of them are from the same day's shoot. No excuses. Bad photographer!

And we arrive at the most important one for me: Still unrated. I use this one as part of my normal workflow. This Smart Collection is always in “Date Captured” order. The way I use this one requires a little more explanation.

After importing my photos, I, first, do a quick scan of them. Any bad photos – blurred, photo-bombed, closed eyes on portraits, etc. – are immediately deleted. Not removed from the database; deleted. I never want to see them again. They never occurred. ;-)

On the second scan, I look for photos I like. These are put into my “Quick Collection” by pushing on the short-cut circle, in the upper right-hand corner of each photo. These are the keepers. Later, they'll be post-processed and sent to clients; shown to others; or posted somewhere. When all the post-processing is completed, they are given a rating. When I'm extra-pleased, they may end up as a portfolio photo.

The first two scans are very fast. They eliminate the bad shots and identify the ones that strike me at a glance. This leaves many other photos unrated. If I have time, I'll do a third scan, and pick some of these for post-processing and rate them. If there isn't time, they'll remain unrated until I get to them to make a final determination of their fate. Here is an example.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

There is nothing wrong with this peregrine falcon photo (aside from the fact that I need to clone out the tethers). The focus is sharp; I like the bokeh; I even like its composition. It just didn't grab me, like the one I posted in last month's blog. It is part of a large volume of bird photos I took at my bird shoot last month. I overshot the event because I don't shoot this type of thing very often.

I don't want them to be deleted right away because, sometimes, I'll change my opinion on their relative merit. Someone may ask for a specific kind of peregrine photo. Maybe, I'll want part of them for a composite. Who knows?

I gave you a hint about these photos early in this section: This Smart Collection is always in “Date Captured” order. After six months or so, I'll re-evaluate the number of unrated photos from this shoot. Some will be kept – just in case. I may find one that I really like and somehow overlooked. Some will, then, be deleted because I think they're never going to be needed.

One more example.

Harpers Ferry Re-enactors

Harpers Ferry Re-enactors

This unrated photo came from my last trip to Harpers Ferry. The re-actors are sharply focused. I like the light, coming from camera-right, and the rim lighting it creates on the men. That day, however, I was concentrating my effort on portraits, and I posted my favorites a couple of blogs ago. This one may make the cut, later. There's a fire burning (maybe a shot to play with the new Photoshop fire tool). Maybe, I'll change to a vertical crop of just the two men on the left and use it in my sesquicentennial project. Time will tell.

In any event, you may want to come up with your own Smart Collections that help your workflow and cue you in on tasks you still haven't completed. (I think you need a No Keyword one, at the least. I will never understand why photographers don't take five minutes to keyword their work for easy searching.) And, of course, you don't need to wait until year's end to work on this stuff.

I hope your holidays will be as much fun as mine. I intend to shoot lots of photos of my favorite people in the next couple of weeks. Oh, and I probably will not be putting up a blog, next Thursday, since I'll be having Christmas dinner with those very people.

Travel Workflow

By Roger  (27 Feb 2014)

Since I travel whenever I can, I had to come up with an adjusted workflow when I’m on the road.  I always take my camera, whether I’m on a business trip, visiting relatives and friends, or just on a fun roadtrip.  You never know what you’ll be able to see and photograph.  Business trips can be frustrating because you don’t have the time to go visit the places you want to see at the times you want to see them, but, since I’m not paying for the travel, I take what I can get.  I’m told that is the proper order of things.  ;-)

Taken on my iPhone, at a business lunch.  Really.  Keep a camera with you.

Taken on my iPhone, at a business lunch.  Really.  Keep a camera with you.

My biggest challenge is the laptop.  It runs Lightroom and Photoshop without a problem, but I don’t trust what I’m seeing for a final photo.  Since my home office is equipped with two big, calibrated monitors, I have an environment for a consistent look.  I try to calibrate my laptop monitor before I travel, but I don’t always have time.  The way the photos appear on a laptop is affected by your angle of viewing; lighting where you’re working; colors of the hotel room; and lots of other factors. 

If you have moved to owning only a laptop, I would recommend you keep a good, calibrated monitor at your “normal” workspace.  When you are home, connect your laptop to this monitor, so you can keep your photos consistent.

Processed on my laptop. I hope the quality is OK.  Point Loma, San Diego, CA.

Processed on my laptop. I hope the quality is OK.  Point Loma, San Diego, CA.

Back to my travel workflow.  Let’s start with Mark’s recent blog on back-ups.  I carry an external drive with me, and back up my photos every single day.  I keep the drive with me (in the camera bag), so it can’t get lost or stolen when I check my bags.  (Although to be fair, I’ve never lost a bag in 20 years of travel, and only had two bags damaged.)  If I’m going to someplace special (a wedding or dream trip), I bring a second external drive.  The photos reside on my laptop, external drives, and on the original memory cards, until I reach home. 

Back at the hotel, I’ll import the photos into Lightroom on the laptop and review what I have.  Don’t forget to upload any photos you took with your phone camera, too.  Any really awful ones will be set to “Rejected” in Lightroom.  I’ll rate any that I really like.  Going through my normal workflow while I’m on the road allows me to get a feel for how I’m doing.  If I’m on a personal trip, I may find some subjects I want to revisit, maybe when the light is better or to change my camera angles, etc.

Usually, I don’t go much beyond normal Lightroom processing when I’m on the road.  I would rather plan my next day’s itinerary and prepare for that.  If I’m on a business trip, I don’t have lots of time to work on photos, anyway. 

When I’m lucky enough to have time and something I really want to work on, I’ll move into Photoshop, as needed.  Any work done in Photoshop will create a new file, so I ensure that file is included into the folders on my back-up drives.

When I return home, I’ve got lots of photos outside my normal storage systems.  I can export a catalog from the Lightroom on the laptop and import it to my home system, but I usually just import the files from one of the external hard drives. 

For people who love Lightroom catalogs, this is craziness; I’ve just deleted any work I did on the road.  That is true; however, this gives me a second chance to look at the images with fresh eyes.  As I have explained, because I don’t trust laptop monitors to be consistent, I don’t do much work on the photos while I’m away; I haven’t lost much.  And, if there are photos I don’t want to rework, I can still use the catalog method to import it.  Any work I’ve done in Photoshop is in a separate file, so that work still exists in that file.  You’ll have to decide what works best for you.

Once the photos are transferred to my desktop, they just move into my normal workflow.  I don’t re-format the memory cards or delete the files from the external drives until the photos are safe in my normal working mode, with new back-ups. 

Have you figured out how you’ll handle your photography on the road?  Got any additional thoughts?  I’m always open to new suggestions on how to make the process better.  Have fun when you’re out there.

San Diego, CA

San Diego, CA