FAQ No.4 - Post Production Workflow?

As promised.. a brief article on my post production workflow.. again, right up there as one the most frequently asked questions I get...

I should start by saying that this is not a definitive workflow process to be followed by everyone.. it's simply one that works for me.. and I'm sure that if you asked 100 pro's the same question you would get 100 different answers... having said that there are certain points which I consider to be "best practice" and I believe are good habits to follow at least at some stage during your workflow..

Ok.. so here goes... I've been out on a photo shoot... I get back to my desk.. and what happens next.?...

1. FIrst and foremost I want to load up my images and do a first backup.. so first upload to desktop folder and then copy folder across to my "workings" external hard drive.. this is a large capacity hard drive permanently attached to my desktop where I keep all recent shoots and collections of images to which I need frequent access;

2. Open up Lightroom... import all the images.. and rename... my standard filename architecture is... <<yearmonthday_original file number suffix>>... main reasons being that firstly computer sees the filenames in sequential number order so naming in this way results in files being listed in chronological order, secondly, filenames will never be duplicated, thirdly easier to locate files... 

3. Having renamed the files I will then do my second backup.. this will be to my NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive.. this is a multi drive unit which can store data in many different ways depending on the RAID (Redundant Array of Independent DIsks) configuration you specified at set-up.. I have mine set to RAID 5.. which means that any one of the 4 drives could go down and I still would not lose any data.. I replace the downed drive with a fresh one and all data is copied across with no loss;

4. Back in Lightroom I will then get on with the task of editing... I make a fast first pass of all images deleting as I go all obvious rejects... poor exposures, out of focus, etc.. a quick second pass will follow deleting all rejects based on artistic (or rather lack thereof) merit... a slower third pass will get rid of more of the same as well as highlighting any favourites;

5. Depending on the nature of the photo shoot, for example whether it is a paid job for a client or a personal project, I will then go through all images, still in Lightroom, carrying out basic adjustments for colour, contrast etc.. making further selections of favourites and ranking them by "stars" out of 5 and/or colour;

6. Having made all my basic corrections.. now comes, what is for me at least, the most laborious part.. captioning and key wording.. done in two stages.. firstly on a global level.. information that will be true for all images.. i.e.. date, location, client/project, copyright notice etc..etc... and secondly on an individual/group level.. captions and keywords true to single or groups of images;

7. Ok.. if the shoot was for a client.. the next step will be either to burn the lot to disk or upload to a Photoshelter gallery; or, if the shoot was for a personal project I would export the favourites to a separate folder of "collections" to be worked on further in photoshop;

8. For shots that I might select as potential portfolio images either for the folio itself or for exhibition or sale as fine art prints... I will normally copy the original raw file to another location from which I will either work on it myself in Capture One (if it only involves simple adjustments) or send to a digital technician more proficient than I am in Capture One to extract the best possible quality from the raw file.

...and that about sums it up.. of course there are variations on the workflow I've described above which depend on the nature of the photo shoot I've been working on and also my location.. but essentially this is generally the way I would work....

A quick point on the Lightroom vs Aperture debate... I use Lightroom because having trialled both bits of software I found LR more intuitive to my way of thinking.. I won't get into the whole "which is better" discussion because I'm sure both are excellent and it basically comes down to whichever one you feel most comfortable using.. my advice... try both and decide for yourselves.

wow..! I never realized quite how difficult it is to put in writing things I do daily and habitually... it is much easier to actually physically show somebody.. so if you join me on one of my workshops and this is of interest to you, please let me know and I will be more than happy to talk you through my process first hand.

Happy Shooting,