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Old Nov 17, 2012, 09:47 PM   #1
Puckman1
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Tell me about your workflow

I'm still trying to get a handle on how I want to do things in terms of workflow. I'm new to all this, so thought I'd learn a thing or two from hearing how others approach theirs.

I realize this is a fully subjective issue, and that no 2 workflows are likely to be the same. But I'm hoping to learn a thing or two by reading what you all have to say.

I find that I don't have all that much patience so far, when it comes to post-processing. I usually have multiple shots of the same subject or scene (trying different exposures and combinations) and tend to want to weed through them quickly once I get in front of the computer, to maybe focus on the one or two that I deem the best. But I'm not entirely sure how to proceed from there on. I tend to play with the different WB settings first (daylight, cloudy, etc) and then...well, I see a lot of talk about adjusting tone curves and contrast and sharpness and all that...But short of very minor tweaks that seem obvious right off the bat (usually adding a bit more saturation to dull looking color), I get a bit discouraged stabbing randomly at most of those settings and end up leaving most untouched.

Curious to hear how you all proceed once you've got a print selected for 'keeps'. Is there a method to the madness?
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 10:53 PM   #2
Prodo123
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I'm sure if you look around, you'll find a lot of different workflow threads. I've taken inspiration from a lot of them, and this is my current personal workflow.

I use Aperture for most of my RAW work, and for crucial, important photos I redo the RAW processing with either Photoshop or DPP.
This workflow works regardless of what RAW processor you use; this portion is just organization.

1. Import all RAW files into Aperture as a single project, delete all files on card and eject.
2. Separate the RAW files into separate projects, and give each project a title to help with identification.
3. Back up to a vault so all your files stay safe.
4. Go through each project and delete any shaky, misfocused or other blatant irrecoverable mistakes.
5. Go through each project and give each in-focus photo 1 star. Repeat the process, except you increase the criteria (better composition, sharper image, etc.) each time you rate the photos, until you end up with the cream-of-the-crop 5 star photos.
6. Go through the 4 star photos and see if there are any photos that can be worked on to become 5 star photos. 3 star and below should have too many flaws to do this.
7. You should end up with the best images from the shoot.

Now for the post work.

1. Adjust exposure and white balance.
2. Straighten the photo.
Heck, this is what most photos require, but if there are any other adjustments needed,
3. Play with the contrast, saturation and vibrancy using either the given tools or Curves.
4. Demolish chromatic aberration and lens distortion. Notice that one of Aperture's shortcomings is a lack of a distortion correction tool built-in.
5. Basic touch-up work if needed. If an image needs to be worked on in Photoshop, chances are, it's not a good photo to start with.
6. Export JPEGs for certain photos with watermarks for sharing on the Internet.
7. BACK UP!

I do realize this is a long process but this gives great results.
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 11:00 PM   #3
Macmonter
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My Workflow - Not For everyone

First off, I have a Nikon D90 set to capture JPEG + RAM, and I have Photoshop Elements 6. Also, I'm an amateur photographer who does it just for enjoyment and not for work. All pics are downloaded into Adobe Bridge (came with PSE). The acceptable RAWs are moved to a file folder labeled with the day's date and stored in a Documents folder on a HD separate from the HD storing iPhoto. All the acceptable JPEGs are sent from Bridge to PSE for tweaking before being sent to iPhoto. The tweaking usually involves light and color enhancements. In iPhoto the JPEGs are filed in Albums according to subject.

This workflow was not learned - it simply evolved over the past 12 years of my doing digital photography.
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 11:03 PM   #4
Prodo123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Macmonter View Post
First off, I have a Nikon D90 set to capture JPEG + RAM, and I have Photoshop Elements 6. Also, I'm an amateur photographer who does it just for enjoyment and not for work. All pics are downloaded into Adobe Bridge (came with PSE). The acceptable RAWs are moved to a file folder labeled with the day's date and stored in a Documents folder on a HD separate from the HD storing iPhoto. All the acceptable JPEGs are sent from Bridge to PSE for tweaking before being sent to iPhoto. The tweaking usually involves light and color enhancements. In iPhoto the JPEGs are filed in Albums according to subject.

This workflow was not learned - it simply evolved over the past 12 years of my doing digital photography.
If you're using PSE and Bridge you should look into Lightroom for a much more integrated solution. Adobe's RAW engine is miles better than Apple's, which is why I use theirs instead of Aperture's for critical work, and transferring files between Adobe programs is a breeze with Bridge.
Also, most digital darkroom software have an export-to-JPEG or JPEG preview feature which automatically generates JPEGs upon import, negating the need for a RAW+JPEG shooting mode.

Also, just wondering, do you use the Dvorak layout?
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 01:04 AM   #5
Puckman1
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A question comes to mind already, from reading the above 2 replies.

(PS: Thanks for sharing them)

What is the "basic" criteria for color/sharpness/contrast adjustments? Again, speaking as a complete beginner here, I find it a bit overwhelming.

One benefit I have found in shooting and importing raw+jpeg is that the jpeg already has had some adjustments made to it (in-camera) and usually looks a bit more lively and dynamic than the raw file (I have heard that this is normal, as the raw is completely unprocessed and tends to look more flat before it's gone through post).

To me, not knowing where to start, the jpeg gives me a general idea of what I should be aiming for in terms of color saturation, sharpness, etc.

Does that make any sense?
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 01:22 AM   #6
Prodo123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puckman1 View Post
A question comes to mind already, from reading the above 2 replies.

(PS: Thanks for sharing them)

What is the "basic" criteria for color/sharpness/contrast adjustments? Again, speaking as a complete beginner here, I find it a bit overwhelming.

One benefit I have found in shooting and importing raw+jpeg is that the jpeg already has had some adjustments made to it (in-camera) and usually looks a bit more lively and dynamic than the raw file (I have heard that this is normal, as the raw is completely unprocessed and tends to look more flat before it's gone through post).

To me, not knowing where to start, the jpeg gives me a general idea of what I should be aiming for in terms of color saturation, sharpness, etc.

Does that make any sense?
Nope. The JPEG exaggerates the contrast and saturation to give the photo a "lively," unrealistic feel. If anything, the in-camera JPEGs are overprocessed. It's not good to use JPEGs as a reference because they are inherently incorrect.

First, let's start with the white balance. Try to find a white or gray area in a photo, such as a white wall. The white balance tool should give the Kelvin temperature of the light in a RAW file. If it's daylight, it should be around 7000K, and indoors should range from 2000 to 4500K. Play around the Kelvin slider a little bit to make the white or gray as neutral as possible; you can check this by putting your cursor over the area and seeing the RGB measurements of the color (stuff like 255,255,255). The three values should be equal; when this is achieved, the photo should have a more correct white balance. Of course you can intentionally warm or cool the photo to give it a certain atmosphere. Most cameras set on auto white balance tend to give close-to-accurate white balances, so most adjustments here will be within 500K of the default value.

As for contrast, when you put a photo through a post-processing RAW engine, the engine usually automatically adds a hue and contrast boost already to it. If you find it lacking, add a little bit but not too much of saturation, contrast and vibrance; give yourself 10%.

Sharpness, I keep mine maxed out to keep the photo as sharp as possible, especially since my main lens (24-70 f/2.8L) isn't a very sharp lens. I don't bother with this setting much.


Another reason you should use RAW is that it has 12 to 14 bits of color data. It has therefore 6 bits more of dynamic range that the computer can take advantage of, and usually it is in the highs. Which means that if you overexpose, you can recover the overexposed bits by pulling down the extra 6 bits of data into the 8 bit space.
This setting is called the "Recovery" slider in Aperture, not sure about others. It can also be achieved by pulling the high limit in the expanded curve graph (the one where the axes go above 1) to 1. Keep it zero if the exposure was correct to begin with; increase recovery accordingly to get more dynamic range.

In general, aim for the most natural settings you can find. Overly saturated photos may look more colorful, but after a while it's too vibrant to be considered realistic. You'd want a photo to be as close to reality as it can be. What I try to do is picture that I'm in the scene, and change the setting so that when I'm there, it could pass for reality.
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 01:34 AM   #7
Puckman1
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Originally Posted by Prodo123 View Post
Nope. The JPEG exaggerates the contrast and saturation to give the photo a "lively," unrealistic feel. If anything, the in-camera JPEGs are overprocessed. It's not good to use JPEGs as a reference because they are inherently incorrect.

First, let's start with the white balance. Try to find a white or gray area in a photo, such as a white wall. The white balance tool should give the Kelvin temperature of the light in a RAW file. If it's daylight, it should be around 7000K, and indoors should range from 2000 to 4500K. Play around the Kelvin slider a little bit to make the white or gray as neutral as possible; you can check this by putting your cursor over the area and seeing the RGB measurements of the color (stuff like 255,255,255). The three values should be equal; when this is achieved, the photo should have a more correct white balance. Of course you can intentionally warm or cool the photo to give it a certain atmosphere. Most cameras set on auto white balance tend to give close-to-accurate white balances, so most adjustments here will be within 500K of the default value.

As for contrast, when you put a photo through a post-processing RAW engine, the engine usually automatically adds a hue and contrast boost already to it. If you find it lacking, add a little bit but not too much of saturation, contrast and vibrance; give yourself 10%.

Sharpness, I keep mine maxed out to keep the photo as sharp as possible, especially since my main lens (24-70 f/2.8L) isn't a very sharp lens. I don't bother with this setting much.


Another reason you should use RAW is that it has 12 to 14 bits of color data. It has therefore 6 bits more of dynamic range that the computer can take advantage of, and usually it is in the highs. Which means that if you overexpose, you can recover the overexposed bits by pulling down the extra 6 bits of data into the 8 bit space.
This setting is called the "Recovery" slider in Aperture, not sure about others. It can also be achieved by pulling the high limit in the expanded curve graph (the one where the axes go above 1) to 1. Keep it zero if the exposure was correct to begin with; increase recovery accordingly to get more dynamic range.

In general, aim for the most natural settings you can find. Overly saturated photos may look more colorful, but after a while it's too vibrant to be considered realistic. You'd want a photo to be as close to reality as it can be. What I try to do is picture that I'm in the scene, and change the setting so that when I'm there, it could pass for reality.
Good read. Thanks for that!

I use LR4, but most of those things you mention are roughly equivalent in both LR4 and Aperture.

Interesting what you said about the "realism" vs. the "more colorful". What I find hard to wrap my mind around there is that the "realistic" photos (at least the ones I get out of my gear, unprocessed) tend to look very dull and flat and "grey", in a sense. I'm not talking about adding a tone of saturation, but I find most pics need a little bit of nudging in the saturation dept. to look remotely appealing (excluding B&W of course).

One thing I did not quite understand in your response. You mention that most raw engines automatically add a bit of contrast and hue. I was under the impression that viewing a raw file in LR or Aperture would show me the data in its raw form (as shot) without adding anything to it. Is that not the case?
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