I started off trying to follow the workflow phases set out in the Gublins/Steinmueller book, The Digital Workflow Handbook, which consists of:
- Basic image management
- Basic optimisation
- Digital asset management
I would say that there is an important step before shooting though because whilst ‘shooting’ covers camera settings and taking photos, there are quite a lot of decisions that need to be taken before you get to that stage, for example what equipment you will need, what angles you will shoot from, what control you will have over your subject. I had decided to use the Bristol Balloon Fiesta as my topic. Having been there before I thought I knew where the best place would be to stand and where the sunlight would be coming from. What I didn’t recon on though was which way the wind would be blowing so which direction the balloons would be travelling when they took off, and as it happened, they flew over the top of us into the sun which made it a little tricky photographing the balloons in flight. We were fortunate enough to get right to the side of the arena but I would have loved to get in there amongst the balloons. There were one or two people inside the arena taking photos so next year I will write to the organisers and see if I can get a pass as this would have enabled me to get much closer to the action when balloons were being inflated. Another thing I had to think about was which was the best lens for the job. In the end I plumped for a 18 – 200 telephoto zoom with a circular polarizing filter. When the balloons were on the ground it was fine, but once they took off they moved quite quickly and this lens gave me the option of a fairly wide angle or a close up view. I had also taken a tripod with me but it really wasn’t practical, especially once the balloons took flight.
When it came to camera settings, it was a lovely evening so white balance was set to sunshine, ISO started at 100 but as the evening went on it was upped to about 800 which enabled me to set a faster shutter speed as the balloons began to loft and fly. When the balloons were in the process of being inflated and on the ground, I used aperture priority mode but changed to shutter priority when the balloons began to fly. I also changed from single to continuous shooting mode at this point and bracketed the exposures as much of the time I was shooting into the sun. I chose to shoot in RAW so that I had maximum flexibility when processing the images.
Basic Image Management
The next stage was to upload the images onto my computer using Photoshop Elements. I had other images on my camera, but by being selective about what I uploaded, I was able to change the filename so that it specifically related to the Balloon Fiesta images. I created a separate folder on my hard drive called ‘Bristol Balloon Fiesta 12’ , changed the filenames to BalloonFiesta12 and uploaded the images. I did not delete them from my camera at this point because I wanted to check the images first. Next step was to back the images up onto an external hard drive in their RAW format, this is a step that I have not taken in the past but gives me a complete record of all of my images as I took them. I then went through and deleted any images which were out of focus or too badly exposed to be recovered in RAW and allocated tags to the remaining images. As I wanted to show as selection of different stages at the balloon fiesta I went through the images again, allocating stars to what I considered to be the better images. I have subsequently found that this is an area that Lightroom handles particularly well as there is a comparison option that will allow you to look at two images side by side and select the better of the two and then go on to compare this with the next. This is an option I will use next time round.
Having got down to 20 images from about 200, I went through the selected images again, this time looking for images which showed different stages of the evening, e.g. balloons being laid out ready for inflation, partly inflated, testing the burners, before taking to the skies, etc. and this sift got me down to 14.
Prior to doing this course and without a specific agenda in mind, I would probably have gone through the next stages sooner, however now that I am shooting in RAW, the time taken to process an image has increased dramatically, so I’m only processing the pictures I want, as I want them. That seems perfectly logical except that the likelihood is that 100s of images will sit unprocessed on my hard drive. I wonder if, in time, I will become much more ruthless than I an now and delete many more of these images?
So the next step is opening each image in turn in the Elements editor and processing the RAW image; white balance, in the majority of cases this was left as ‘as shot’. I have the highlights and shadows clipping warnings turned on, so adjust exposure, reduce ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’ accordingly, make adjustments to saturation, vibrance, etc and when I’m happy, open the image in Elements. I have found all of those adjustments and more in Lightroom but then don’t know what to do with the file. How do I export it to Elements or save it as a Jpeg? Don’t know yet, hope fully the book will tell me when it comes!
Once images are open in Elements, I crop, adjust the alignment, get rid of any spots with the ‘spot healing tool’, adjust the lighting using levels or the colours using curves and save it as a jpeg file.
This is not an area that I have explored before. I don’t have any plug ins and am not yet confident undertaking selective adjustments using levels, for example. I’m sure my images could be enhanced further when I have learned some of these things but for now I have stuck with ‘basic optimisation’.
For this particular activity I chose to output my images as a slide show which I would save in PDF format so that I could send it to my tutor via email. This meant that I didn’t need to worry about resizing the images as this happens when I save the PDF file. Nor did I need to think about any of the printing related processes.
I highlighted my 12 selected images and chose the ‘create – slide show’ option. I reordered the images as I wanted them displayed, added a front title slide, text to each of images and a transition which I felt was not too distracting, previewed the slide show and saved it as a PDF file.
Digital Asset Management
Apart from backing up my files, which I now do regularly, I haven’t really gone very far with this section. The text talks about ‘flagging files that you think you might delete one day’. Why not just delete them now?? I can see that Lightroom will really help with this but I think it will be a slow process of working systematically through all of my folders first and organising years worth of photographs in a logical way. I can see too that if I start as I mean to go on with new uploads then that process will fall into place more quickly. Much of this is work for a series of cold winters days though.