Digital Workflow

>> Tuesday, 3 January 2006

"Short and simplified overview of my digital workflow"

Take a look at my photo book recommendations here.

This is just an overview that I don't necessarily follow slavishly and that is modified depending on the situation...

The Workflow

1... Copy from card to PC.

2... Rename raw files to follow naming standard
(sw: ACDSee)

3... Browse pictures to eliminate real duds [this step may or may not be done]
(sw: RawShooter Essentials)

4... Make backups: two separate backups on DVD. One DVD stored off-site. One copy of the raw is kept on removable HD, called on-PC “original”
(hw: LaCie Porche 250GB at the moment)

5... Catalogue backups and on-PC original (three separate catalogues)
(sw: Extensis Portfolio)

6... Do very rudimentary keywording of the on-PC “original” raw files
(sw: Extensis Portfolio)

7... Browse pictures to select the ones to “develop” (process to tiffs). This is done on a copy of the “original” raws. This results in a selection of images to process.
(sw: RawShooter Essentials)

8... Process or “develop” the “good” raws to tiffs (16 bit)
(sw: PhaseOne Capture One)

9... Filter noise on high ISO images. Some 800 need it, all 1600 and 3200.
(sw: PictureCode Noise Ninja)

10... Do final adjustments: cropping, colour, contrast, dust spotting, etc and reduce to the image to 8bit.
(sw: Adobe Photoshop CS2)

11... Catalogue the “develops” and move them to the “develops” drive
(sw: Extensis Portfolio)

(Note: I have currently a serious issue here. My develops are not backed-up and they need to be (even if they can always be recreated). It is not realistic to do that on disk (takes too much time). My intention is to have an additional removable HD that will back-up those files. A friend (and IT security expert) recommended to rather do it with a tape drive. That makes a lot of sense since having it on a HD makes it more vulnerable to e.g. viruses. But a tape drive is a big investment (even if the tapes aren't too expensive) so that will probably have to wait.)

12... Keyword and write descriptions. Including embedding to file metadata.
(sw: Extensis Portfolio, Word)

13... Upsize (if needed, e.g. to send to Alamy)
(sw: pxl SmartScale, Adobe Photoshop CS2)

14... Send to Alamy

I have probably forgotten some things.

A lot of SW and hardware required...

Comments on the sw:

ACDSee: a good browser if you want to quickly leaf through images. I mainly use it for that and for renaming (good batch rename). I use version 7 - have seen no reason to upgrade to v.8

Pixmantec RawShooter Essentials: a cheap raw converter (it is actually free...) that has a lot of excellent features and functionalities. It initially gives you the impression of giving strikingly good results. I made quite a few tests with it and found that I did not like at all the way it handled colours (the colours of the end result), and also I had the impression it did sharpening even when I turned sharpening off. So I don't use it for raw development. Instead I found it to be an excellent tool (and good value for money) to do rating and selecting of images to process. It is very quick to leaf through many images and select the good and delete the bad.

Extensis Portfolio: my DAM (digital asset management software). Frankly, I am not impressed with how it works (or the tech support) but it is the best I have found. iView MediaPro is very similar and had no real advantages that I could find. I wish they had a more forward-looking development team. This being said, it is robust and is reasonably ok for cataloguing and keywording. But it would be a nightmare if there wasn't the Excellent Portfolio User Forum and FAQ where you get fantastic support (but it has nothing to do with Extensis, curiously). My feeling is that cataloguing (and DAMs) risk being made obsolete if Adobe decides to make an effort in this area and build a DAM app that integrates into the Bridge. I don't think the Bridge in anyway can replace Portfolio, iView MediaPro or another "real" DAM today though.

Phase One Capture One: Very good and fast tool to do the "development" of the raws. Unfortunately, it is not "enough". You always have to process the images afterwards in Photoshop, but I find it much easier (and faster) to work with than Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

Adobe Photoshop with Bridge
, doing the final adjustments, as well as being the "shell" for some of the other apps.

PictureCode Noise Ninja: Easy to work with and seems to give good results. Integrates with Photoshop if you want or as stand-alone. Maybe you can do noise reduction in Photoshop instead but I have not really looked into it.

(ex-Extensis) onOne pxl SmartScale: upsizing. Most people seem to prefer Genuine Fractals. I did some tests (not very extensive) and my impression was that SmartScale gave better, less pixellated results. But maybe more importantly, it was much, much easier to work with. I also did some comparisons with upsizing directly in Photoshop. That seemed OK but not as good as SmartScale. Both pxl SmartScale and Genuine Fractals are now owned by the same company. I guess it is likely that one of them will disappear.

If you read this article here you will also get the direct links to the sw editors.


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