Lightroom – Library Module

AdobeLR5Lightroom – oh how I love thee.  I can say with absolute certainty that I took a crucial step In the right direction when I decided to use Adobe Lightroom.  This software is amazing.  I will readily admit that I am finally beginning to scratch below the surface after two years of use.  The more I use, the more I learn and the more I benefit.  I am absolutely smitten.

I just finished – yes, only a few minutes ago, adding keywords to 4001 images (2012 and 2013 to date) in a master jpeg catalog. This change up in my workflow (previous outlined in workflow part 1 & part 2) has taken considerable time, but it has been worth every hour.  The Library module of Lightroom is amazing.  Meta data, keywords, oh my – love it.  Smart Collections are my best friend.  I can now see at-a-glance how many photos I have on specific subject matter.  The Library module has easily and quickly allowed me to create Smart Collection for some of my favorite subject matter:  barns, couplas, abandoned, state parks – you name it.  Figuring out and establishing your set of keywords may take some time, but do it; do it now.  This process will only take longer the more you put it off.  I wish I would have had my act together right away – it would have saved lots of times.  Some lessons are ok to learn the hard way.

LR5Library

I can very easily see what photos I have tagged as barn.  I know which photos were taken in Wisconsin.  I also know which were capture in the Spring.  I have 54 shots that = barn, WI, Spring.  Why is the season important?  It isn’t at the moment, but may be down the road at some point.  It is easy enough to add the keyword, so I figured I would.  If I would have had my act together sooner, I may have added county name as a keyword.  I could see that being useful in putting together different collections.  These are the things you need to consider when you establish your keywords and how you will apply them.

I can also very easily share my collection of irrigation photos via my library smart collection.  From all season even – Impressive eh :-).  Smart Collection can do that.  $150 is a small price to pay to keep your photography act together.

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Photography Workflow – Part 2

A continuation from Photography Workflow – Part 1, My Workflow…the back story

Part 2 – The Revised Workflow

I think I have arrived at a good fit for our needs regarding our photography workflow.  We both publish our own blogs, share photos on facebook and we also do some for-hire work.  Right now all of Cyndie’s photos are backed up to a 1 TB external drive.  Mine are backed up to 3 TB External and in the cloud.  Part of our challenge is Cyndie works primarily on her MAC laptop and I on my desktop PC.  Getting files together and organized is a bit of a quandary as you can imaging.  The following revised workflow plays out swimmingly on a laptop or desktop alike.  I will describe for you what all those shapes and lines are all about below. PhotographyWorkFlow (A) CONNECT CAMERA – Self-explanatory.  I have a SD card reader in my laptop and a USB cable permanently affixed to my PC to transfer files from camera to computer.

(B) DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER – Image files are copied to a project folder using the following naming convention:   yyyy-mm-dd event, subject, etc.  Windows PC’s have an import dialog box that will pop up when you plug a camera in; I am not sure about MACs.  During this process you can tag the images; I use this opportunity to inject my naming convention here.  RAW files are then copied to the local drive on either a desktop or laptop.

(C) PRE-FLIGHT/RATE – I typically do what I call a pre-flight of the shoot.  By pre-flight I mean I review all images and delete any blurry or out of focus shots.  I also ditch any with extreme exposure issues (blown highlight/lowlights, etc.)  I use Faststone Viewer for this step because it is very fast and the application is FREE.  This application has a pretty good feature set and does many things other more costly Adobe projects do.  Basic adjustment are a few clicks away and you can easily evaluate your photos.  Once I have culled out the obviously bad images I will create a Lightroom catalog in the folder that contains the RAW files.  Once the images are in the catalog, I will do another round of review and rate each shot on a scale of 0-4 stars.  The more stars assigned, the higher the priority.

With (D), I begin with the 4 stars first and work may way down until I have enough image for whatever I am working on; typically a blog post. (D) POST PROCESS – I have created a number of presets that address lens correction and basic image adjustments.  We have also purchased a number of presets that make achieving a certainly look/feel rather easy.  For the most part though, I stick to the basics unless the project otherwise calls for it .  I will, on occasion, play with HDR, Color Efex Pro and/or Silver Efex Pro depending on the look and feel I am looking for with a particular photo or group of photos.  I am very happy that Nik plug-in suite is available for $150 or less.  I think I paid over $300 just for Color Efex Pro at one point.  This is also the point I would assemble multiple files into a panoramic image. Adobe Lightroom is where I live 95% of the time  (It is worth $150; arguable more).  Even more now since version 5.  The clone and heal tools are much better now.  I still use full-blown Photoshop for more involved editing/fixes, for creating panoramic images and for creating images with multiple layers.  As previously mentioned – Nik plug-ins are our photo alchemy of choice.  I have used some Topaz tools, but prefer the interface of Nik better.  Even though Nik has a great HDR plug-in, we also use Photomatix.  I think that about covers the post processing toolbox.

(E) OUTPUT/SHARE/PRINT – Once post processing is complete, I output files for use – low resolution jpg’s for facebook and my blog an/or high-resolution for print.  We both use several output presets depending on the end use.

(F) CATALOG/KEYWORDS – I create an output folder that is named exactly what I named the project folder (RAW & catalog files) in (B).  I then copy the contents of the folder into the master jpg catalog on my desktop PC and assign keywords.  This master catalog and jpg images are incrementally backed up to the external drive and to the cloud on every other day.  This is a big deal; especially since I have begone to tackle not only the current, but also my photos since 2011.  This is going to be a bugger, of that I am sure, but if I can get a chunk done here and there – perhaps during a rainy day or this Winter (see how I have already procrastinated this out to Winter!).  I am excited to get all my shots together from over the years and examine the keywords.

(G) ARCHIVE – Both the project and output folders are copied from my PC (desktop or laptop) to an external hard drive.  This may not happen immediate and may take place more on a quarterly basis.  I have my backup software pointed at this data so I am covered even if I haven’t completely archived the files.

(H) BACKUP – The external hard drive is  incrementally backed up to the cloud every other day. I think that about covers it.  It has been a bit of a journey to get here, but i think I feel pretty good about where we are at.  The RAW file storage does not conform to the 3-2-1 method; I may have to rework/rethink that at some point.  Remember – you keep 3 copies of anything that is important to you (1 primary and two secondary), you keep the files on two different media types (Internal HD, external HD, Cloud, DVD’s, etc.) and you keep 1 copy offsite (Home/Business, or the cloud).  Having our RAW files in only two places (external & cloud) is better than only one.  The jpg and all Lightroom catalogs conform to the 3-2-1 rule though.  I think I would give myself a solid B+ on the situation.  Things could be better, but the situation isn’t so critical and we aren’t making our living on photography.

Keep your situation in focus and always in perspective.  Mind the big picture. Can you sink gobs and gobs of money in perfecting and streamlining your workflow?  Yes.  My advise is to start small, but think of the future.  Developing a solution that you can scale up (or even down if need be) would be a very smart thing to do.  Another good tip is to not over-complicate things.  KISS – keep it simple stupid is some very solid advise.  The last thing you want to do is create a monster to manage that takes away from your time shooting. It makes a big difference if this is just a hobby or a business or both.  The bottom line here is that requirements can inflate rapidly depending on what your needs are.  Figure out your needs first and develop processes that are as simple as possible and work for you.  As time and money allows – get fancy from there and not a minute sooner.

Photography Workflow – Part I

Part I – My Workflow…the backstory

Arrows and blocksI didn’t start out thinking about a photography workflow, but I sure wish I had.  Even if I had – change is inevitable; that is one constant you can be sure of.  Technology changes so rapidly and keeping up is almost impossible.  The more you immerse yourself, the more you learn and that initiates change as well.  Ultimately you need to find what works for you.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>SHARE/PRINT

In the beginning, my needs were pretty basic.  I downloaded the files from my camera to my PC and then shared them on facebook and/or made prints.  Things have changed considerably over that last few years.  It didn’t take long before I began to explore that vast and very expansive world of post processing magic.  Yes – magic – it is amazing what can be done with the digital negative with today’s technology and software.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>PRE-FLIGHT/RATE –>SHARE/PRINT

Early on I dabbled with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, played around with Nikon’s View NX2 features, and made basic adjustment in Photoshop .  I used View NX2 as a means of viewing raw files and eliminated the trash (blurry, out of focus, etc) images before I proceeded further.  I didn’t really have a method of keeping track of my photos other than the file folders I created to download my images to.  It was a very crude filing system.  It is a good thing that I have an amazing memory and it has served me well in recalling where a photo is located…for a short time.  It didn’t take long though to advance beyond my memory.  After you have amassed thousands of pictures over multiple year, things just start to run together.  At this point I had heard about workflow, but didn’t have a clue really what it all meant.

It was also during this period I decided to create a blog.  I wanted to do more than just share a photo on facebook.  Blogging allows for more story telling and reaches a more vast and diverse audience.  Navigating social media is a whole other big and potentially crazy mess to venture out into.  Perhaps a post on that is in order…we shall see.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>PRE-FLIGHT/RATE –>POST PROCESS –>SHARE/PRINT

I was eventually introduce to Adobe Lightroom around version 3.x.  I was instantly amazed with its feature set, controls and capabilities.  At the same time I discovered Nik Software plug-ins. This opened up a whole other reality in regards to photography.  I was overloaded, over-stimulated and never before did I have so many cool and interesting tools at my disposal.  I was so enthralled with all of the new things I could do that I lost sight of managing this quickly forming mess of files.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>PRE-FLIGHT/RATE –>POST PROCESS –>CATALOG –>SHARE/PRINT

As I continued to use Lightroom more I began to understand more of what it was capable of.  When I began using Lightroom, I just jumped right in.  No training, no classes, nothing – just started clicking buttons.  This only gets you so far.  YouTube is a wonderful resource for how too’s.  I wish I would have watched more, more often and earlier on.  I watched and learned just enough to get started – get started at a mess that is.  I am not saying that any particular way it right or wrong – this is just how things unfolded for me.  I began by creating a catalog for each instance of shooting.  There are pluses and minus to this.  I wasn’t even at the point of utilizing keywords and other meta data so the +’s and -‘s easily escaped me.  I stuck largely to my folder structure I had used all along.  I think during this period I acquired a pretty good working knowledge of the develop module.  There is so much more to Lightroom.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>PRE-FLIGHT/RATE –>POST PROCESS –>CATALOG/KEYWORDS –>SHARE/PRINT

Holy Crap…keywords, now that is cool.  Managing your images and having the ability to search through them all by keywords is an incredible thing – provided you thought of all that ahead of time.  I did not.  I made the decision to change my catalog utilization; it was one catalog for all my images broken down by albums named by the date and occasion/subject from here on out.  I also began to utilize keywords so I could more easily locate images of the same topic.  I began the painstaking task of going  back through all of my albums and assigning keywords to the whole album and then also to each image.  Let’s just say that project never came to fruition.  I also started a new catalog for calendar year 2013 which left behind 2011 and 2012.   The thing with catalogs in Lightroom is, the bigger they get, the slower they get – or so I am told.  Having a new catalog for each calendar year wasn’t the ultimate solution in my mind either, but that is what I did.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>PRE-FLIGHT/RATE –>POST PROCESS –>CATALOG/KEYWORDS –>SHARE/PRINT–>BACKUP

It didn’t take long after my cataloging/keyword epiphany to realized I needed to get my digital act together.  I secured online cloud storage and implemented an additional external hard drive. This whole configuration is being modified currently.  The computer that was acting as my server had 1 of the 3 drive die.  It’s o.k. though as everything was backed up on my external drive and also in the cloud.  One could say I implemented a backup solution none to soon and they would be 100% correct.

TAKE PHOTO –> DOWNLOAD TO COMPUTER –>PRE-FLIGHT/RATE –>POST PROCESS –>CATALOG/KEYWORDS –>SHARE/PRINT–>BACKUP

And here we are present day; much wiser and more adept at this photography thingy.  With Cyndie and I both using laptops (1 PC & 1 MAC) and desktops (2 PC’s) we have been considering the best option in processing, storing, cataloging and sharing the images we create.  This workflow thing can be a real bugger to wrap your head around.  Things can get complicated if you let them. I an interested in something very easy to use.  I’d rather spend more time out shooting.  Cyn and I recently spent some time with some photography friends that shoot professionally.  I was able to glean some knowledge from them and put it use.  Thanks John and Emily @ Flom Designs and Photography.

The most important thing is understanding [realistically] what your needs are first and then tackle wants as you are able.  As we all know, needs and wants are very different animals.  I’ll go into this more tomorrow with Photography Workflow – Part 2, The Revised Workflow.