You’ve shot 50 or 500 or a couple of thousand images at the music festival. Now it’s Monday morning or maybe Monday night.
Where do we start?
First of all I make sure the images are safe. I remove the memory cards from the cameras and I download the image files into newly named folders to both of my external hard drives. The folder get a name like Beaches Jazz Festival 2011. I remove the memory cards from the computer and I put them away for a few days as I make certain I’ve safely downloaded all of my images.
Then, after my monitor has been on for at least half an hour, I calibrate it. I use a Spyder 3 and it works. What I am aiming to improve is what I see on my monitor as compared to what comes out of my printer or ends up in my online gallery. If your monitor is set too dark or too light you’ll never get close to what the printer outputs on paper. And I’m only talking about getting close. I don’t run what are called printer profiles for different papers. I get around this by using the paper manufactured under my printer manufacture’s brand name.
Should I be calibrating my printer? Sure but I’m not selling fine art images for $400 or more. So my printing and online images only need to look good to my eye and not to some calibrated standard.
Having said that, I am considering buying a colour patch device which acts very much the same as shooting a white or grey card before your festival shooting so as to give you a white balance reference for use with your image editor. By using a colour patch you can get your colours closer to reality. Normally you won’t see much of difference right up until a light blue, green or light magenta blouse on one of your subjects just comes out in the wrong colour. Then you’ll understand the value of calibration at camera, monitor and printer.
Okay we’ve got the monitor calibrated and I like to turn down the lighting in the room a little.
The next device I plug is my Wacom digital tablet. It will take sometime to get comfortable with a digital tablet but once you do there is no going back to a mouse. The Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch series is a bargain at $99 and comes with a copy of Photoshop Elements. I’ve got a medium size Intous model and it’s really easy to use. There’s even a wireless version and one deal for $399 that includes Lightroom 3 – sweet.
Next up for me is Lightroom 3.
Now any decent RAW photo editor will work.
(And I neglected to talk about why RAW in my last post. Festival shooting is always tricky because you never know what light – if any – you’re shooting with so it’s incredibly important to shoot RAW rather than JPG. In RAW you can change everything. In JPG you can only change a few things (like brightness) a little. If the white balance is screwed up and you’ve shot in JPG the only solution is to make the image into a black and white shot.)
Editors include Photoshop Elements, NX Capture 2 (only really works with Nikon NEFs. Yes you can import your Canon RAW images as Tiffs but nobody I know does.), Aperture 3 (only works on the MAC platform) has been discounted at the Apple store for $79 which is a huge discount for fabulous software. Next up is Lightroom 3 and for those with deep pockets there’s Photoshop.
I use Lightroom 3 because it is more than just a photo editor. It’s also a database manager for all of your images. If you’re shooting lots of shots regardless of whether you’re a pro or an amateur Lightroom 3 is a blessing. It’s fast. It’s consistent. And, best of all, it never actually touches your RAW images.
Where some editing software takes your RAW image and changes it when you save it Lightroom 3 only pulls up a JPG representation of the RAW file and attaches a list of your changes which it applies only when you create a copy to file. So the copy has the changes attached and your RAW file remains pristine.
So why not use Photoshop (I do have it.) but at $800 or so it’s too expense for most of us and while it is a pixel editor (This is why it’s so powerful.), most photographers don’t edit at the pixel level but at the more global image level. In other words if I want to swap heads in a shot of two folks Photoshop will do that seamlessly. But my intent is to create pretty pictures, then Lightroom 3 is my choice.
Once I’ve fired up Lightroom 3 I import the images (remember these are JPG representative images and not the original RAW files) and they load within a minute or so. This importing JPG representative images is lightening fast compared to importing all the RAW files as some editors do.
Once Lightroom 3 has imported all the images I go to grid mode where I can see about nine thumbnails at once and I do my first rough edit. All I’m doing here is keeping anything that has potential and not picking anything that is fatally flawed by wrong exposure or shot of my feet etc.
Usually this means I’ve eliminated anywhere between 20 and 50 per cent of my shots.
Now using whatever method (flagging, colours, stars) I set Lightroom to show only my picks.
From here I start working on the images. I’ll unpick anything that doesn’t work and start making changes to images I want to keep.
So how do I process a couple of hundred images and reduce the online number down to 100 or so?
I have a secret 🙂
In fact I’ve got a couple of files full of secrets. They’re called filters or presets. And they save an enormous amount of time.
I have all of the NIK software packages which work within Lightroom 3 as external editors. (The also work with other editors including Elements, Aperture and Photoshop. The colour filter software Color Efex 3 works within NX2.) These powerful editors can make major changes to images. NIK has noise reduction, sharpening, filter effects, HDR, black and white and colour changing editors. Each one is worth its weight in gold IMHO.
I also have a large file of presets from Seim Effects. These presets are not editors but they do apply simple settings to the image. Could I manually apply these settings? Sure but by using the filters I not only speed up the process but some of the presets are way more clever and create way more beautiful effects than I could do on my own.
Once I’ve finished editing an image I save it as a full-size JPG in file folder on my hard drive. I name this folder something like Beaches Jazz – 2011 – Picks and these are the images I publish online in my SmugMug or Flickr galleries.
I also use this file to choose the images I’m going to print on my Epson 3800 printer. I can do a 16″ X 20″ print and trust me at that size they’re impressive. The only downside is the cost of ink which runs around $600 to buy a whole new set.
Once I’m finished editing I make copies of my Picks folder on my two external hard drives and I burn a DVD of the finished work.
And then, and only then, doing I reformat the memory cards in the camera they are going to be used in and reset the cameras back to factory specs, recharge the batteries and put everything back in the camera bag ready to go on a moment’s notice (That’s the old photojournalist in me.)