A photographer should never underestimate the value of a good post-processing workflow.
Let’s Get Started
No matter how perfect the light was at the time the shutter button was pressed, how correctly the camera was configured or how well the shot was composed in the viewfinder, all images benefit from some kind of enhancement during post-processing.
My events often end with thousands of images which need reviewing and processing. It is therefore critical to have a workflow that not only maximizes the quality of the finished product but one that is also efficient and uses automation as much as possible. When I am managing multiple projects in parallel, time is important. It is even more so when client timelines or publication deadlines are the priority.
A powerful computer and clever graphics software are essential pieces of the puzzle. These can, however, become relatively unimportant if you have a time intensive, inefficient workflow.
Funny Story – My Learning Experience
Writing this article reminded me of a funny story from 2006. It was my first time out covering a premiership rugby match – I was excited! The final whistle blew, and I shot a few quick bursts of the winning team celebrate. Then I grabbed my heavy gear and ran down the tunnel to the media room.
With a fistful of memory cards, I waited a few minutes for my laptop to wake up, when it did, the image copy progress bar crawled slowly across the screen. Moments later, the laptop connected to WiFi and Norton Internet Security instantly stated that an update was required. “No, not now, go away!” I screamed silently at the screen. In the pandemonium, I must have hit the enter key and the laptop restarted. By the time I had finished everything, I had missed the deadline for the national press. Despite getting an image on the front page of local news, it was an essential lesson for me.
The moral of the story is this. The computer and software I started my first match with weren’t bad, they just weren’t suitable for the kind of environment I was operating in. I promised myself this would never become an issue again. The very next day I bought a new Mac Book Pro, and my journey with Apple and Adobe began.
Post-Processing and Workflow Related Tools
As you may know by now, I am an Apple guy, and for over 10 years Adobe Photoshop has been at the heart of my workflow. While most plugins come and go, I have been using the Nik Collection suite of tools for almost as long as I have been using Photoshop. I was delighted to recently read that DxO bought the product from Google and will start developing the suite again.
Now I will briefly touch on some topics that directly relate to the workflow itself or the quality of the output.
- The monitor, deciding on the right one is as important as choosing the most suitable computer or graphics software, or even the comfortable armchair you are sitting in as you read this! First, you look at it constantly (the monitor, not the chair!) so you don’t want it giving you eye-fatigue. Second, you want accurate color reproduction. I use an NEC Spectraview PA242W and highly recommend it on both counts. As far as office chairs go, I love my HÅG Capisco!
- Monitor calibration is critical. If you are manipulating the color or white balance in your images, how do you know you are doing so accurately? A device like the X-Rite i1Display Pro creates a unique profile for your monitor with your graphics card in the lighting you typically work. The calibration is done off of known color values and is a surefire way to modify color with confidence.
- Graphics tablets like the Wacom Intuos series are really helpful. During my image selection and review phase, I use the tablet for labeling, swiping, opening images, etc., it saves a lot of time. Also, when doing detailed editing (spot healing brush, clone tool, etc.) I find the stylus to be much more precise than a mouse or trackpad.
In late 2017, I returned home from 9 days in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks with 4,000 images. This total number of images waiting for your attention might overwhelm you. You may even consider it all to be a huge chore. Believe me, even with my workflow, it still took considerable time, but the experience was an enjoyable one.
In this series of articles, I will explain what works for me and why.
The second article will illustrate how, using Adobe Bridge, I review and classify the images. How I get to a final selection from an event and how I use Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) to perform the first stage of image manipulation.
The third article will show how I take that final set of images through Photoshop quickly and efficiently.
I hope this article was useful, please leave a comment if you liked it. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have.