My Workflow

Now that you have shot your assignment, you need to take care of all those images. It’s not just a matter of cropping, adjusting the sharpness, and otherwise manipulating the images. You need to archive with a view to the future so that you can readily find your images when you need them.

My workflow extensively includes Photo Mechanic from Camera Bits. It is a dream program which allows me to cull images, record IPTC data, include information through the use of Code Replacements, and much more. It is an affordable bit of software that a sports photographer cannot do without, but can be applied to almost every genre of photography.

Most definitely sports photographers, but wedding photogs, landscapes artists, portrait photographers, editorial and entertainment shooters, and many others can use the amazing features of Photo Mechanic to make their post shoot lives so much easier.

I’ll cover the different process within Photo Mechanic in depth in future posts, but will give basic explanations of how those processes merge into the post shoot workflow.

IngestAfter firing up your laptop and starting Photo Mechanic, you’ll want to Ingest your images. In the popup window you’ll be able to designated the source of the images, likely your writable media, and the destination where you want to save your shots. You can even assign a secondary file location in order to backup your images on the go. Not a bad idea.

The Ingest window also allows you to apply the IPTC stationary pad information to your photos, which will let you bulk edit the files to include such info as the event you shot, where and when it was, apply captioning and copyright details, and so much more. IPTC data encompasses many more areas and, again, will be covered on its own. While you don’t have to include this function at this point in time, doing so eliminates extra steps later.

You can also rename the image files to fit with your own style of archiving. I have mine set up to be my name, the date captured, and a numerical sequence which is reset to zero each time I ingest a new shoot. But, the combination of naming criteria is almost endless through the use of Variables in Photo Mechanic. 

Setting the features during Ingest will bulk write the information to your image files as the thumbnail screen loads. When the screen is available, which is almost immediately, by hovering your cursor over the thumbnail, you can either rotate the image left or right, select to view it as a large thumbnail, or check out all the great information you just wrote to the images during Ingest.

Again, each aspect of the ingest process will be covered in more depth. At this point we are just going through the workflow steps.

Photo-Mechanic-1For the purposes of workflow, this is the stage where we start to cull your shots so you’re left with just the very best while all others are discarded. No one is perfect and neither is every image we shoot. Instead of keeping fuzzy, over- or under-exposed, or otherwise bad images, only to have to scroll through them in order to find one you want, we take care of them now. Click on the magnifying glass in order to bring up the review window where you can see every detail of the image in all its glory.

By hitting the delete button on your keyboard and then confirming with the enter key, you can progress 1000s of images in very short time. Each time you delete an image the window will repopulated with the next one shot, from your media source. When you want to keep an image, just hit the arrow key to the right to proceed to the next file.

CullingDuring this stage we can also assign a colour-based rating code and up to a 5-star score to the image. I usually don’t do it as it slows down my workflow, but the two systems do allow you to find and sort images when looking for quality photos. It’s a personal choice and my way may not be best for your purposes.

As I am culling the images I am looking for shots that I can use for publication or of key features of the shoot. For instance, if I am shooting a sporting event, I will select shots of players how had a particularly good game or who featured prominently in the outcome. Selecting images from the review window is done by clicking on the + sign in the menu bar to add the file to your selection.

selectionWhen this phase is completed, you can close the review window and the selected image will be highlighted in yellow. Clicking the drop down box will allow you to view just the selected images and hiding the rest. From here you can go into the Information window and apply Code Replacements or to adjust any of the data you applied during Ingest.

Code Replacements are a gift from Camera Bits, the makers of Photo Mechanic. Code Replacements permit you add information to the images with a a bare minimum of key strokes, but maximum detail. Code Replacements could take up a post all on its own.

When ready, make sure the selected images are still highlighted in yellow. If they aren’t, simply hit Ctrl-A and voila. Then select Image and Edit from the main menu. This will send the images to your assigned photo editor, whether that is Lightroom, Photoshop, or what have you.

After editing, a word of caution.

Save the images as “Save As” and not “Save for Web”. Choosing the former will maintain all the information you have assigned to the files. Choosing the latter will strip out all the extraneous information in order to reduce the size of the image and optimize it for web use.

That’s it really. What you do during editing, whether painstakingly agonize over every brush stroke or the absolute bare minimum, your workflow should get you to that stage as fast as possible while incorporating and including all the pertinent information you’ll need for your future use. If you can remember where you shot a specific image, who was in it, what they were doing, and what was the end result, then your memory is much better than mine.

As with any workflow, its effectiveness is only as good as your commitment to it. It’s too easy just to save your files to your hard drive and select a few for editing. That is a recipe for very quickly filling your memory and setting yourself for a hard drive crash and the loss of your shots.

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