Sunday, 11 April 2010

Digital Photographic Practice: Exercise 1: Your Own Workflow

Examining my current practice:
As a hobby photographer my workflow is quite simple and typically looks like this:
  • Decide to take some photos
  • Ensure I have a spare battery and memory card with me
  • Select lens/lenses and other equipment for shoot
  • Shoot and edit technical failures ‘on the fly’
  • Change cards during shoot if long enough to ensure some images if one card fails (I always do this when visiting somewhere special on holiday, for example)
  • Upload images to computer (and recharge used batteries in parallel)
  • Select photo, develop and PP
  • Repeat previous step until all good photos processed
  • Back-up
  • Clear/format memory card
  • It has developed with time and I’m comfortable using this workflow;
  • It is relatively simple;
  • Charged batteries and clean cards are always available.
  • I often mess up the first couple of shots because I’ve not reset the camera to my standard settings;
  • It’s easy to concentrate on the technical issues of the shoot rather than the artistic;
  • A computer failure during PP would result in the loss of all the images;
  • I have a large collection of images which can only be searched by date;
  • The selection and processing step is very time intensive.
Proposed workflow for portrait shoot
For a ‘commissioned’ shoot a more formal workflow is required to ensure that all the bases are covered. This needs to start with the location of a suitable setting and a chat with the model about the shoot and the poses that we might try.
As the choice of setting should hopefully give a reasonably consistent exposure it would be simplest to establish that with a few test shots. This should allow me to concentrate on the model and the artistic side of the shoot – with periodic re-checking if the style changes significantly e.g. from close-up to full-length, where more of the background will be visible. The test shots will also ensure that I have set the camera up appropriately
On import I will use the facilities of the RAW software (Olympus Studio) to automate file naming, and add keywords and copyright information. Finally I will back up all files to my external hard drive immediately after import.
The final proposed workflow is now:
  • Receive ‘commission’;
  • Identify location and model;
  • Select lens/lenses and other equipment for shoot;
  • Ensure I have a spare battery and memory card with me, and that camera is functioning and set as expected;
  • Arrive at location and discuss shoot with model;
  • Shoot test shots for exposure and to confirm set-up of camera;
  • Shoot – with occasional checking of technical features – but with key aim of achieving suitable artistic result;
  • Swap memory card during shoot to provide back-up against card fault;
  • Upload images to computer using batch naming and key-wording facilities of software (and recharge used batteries in parallel);
  • Back-up all photos to separate hard drive;
  • Structured edit to remove technical failures and identify top 5 (or so) shots;
  • Develop and PP;
  • Upload final shots to web gallery;
  • Clear/format memory cards.
Although this appears to have considerably more steps it feels better structured, seems likely to save time in the longer run and provides better insurance against equipment or photographer failure.
Review of workflow after shoot
The location for the shoot was the beach/dunes/dockside area in the local town of Silloth and the model was my daughter. After several days of light overcast conditions the day of the shoot was clear and sunny. I deliberately set a timescale of no more than 45 minutes for the shoot itself. In the time available (which I extended for  a few minutes ) I took 166 shots which will be used in Exercise 4: Editing
A short recce of the location before the shoot provided several ideas for settings and poses – clearly a helpful idea given the short time frame. This would be a useful addition to a ‘formal’ workflow if time is available.
As a result of the more contrasty light I had to review images rather more frequently than I had intended to ensure the exposures were reasonable. However I did not edit on-the-fly as it would have interrupted the flow of the shoot – a useful development over my previous workflow. I also did not change cards during the shoot as it was short and easily repeatable – however it still seems a sensible precaution for a longer shoot.
On returning home the discipline of immediately backing up took very little time. A hard copy back-up to DVD at the same time is probably also a sensible precaution in a professional workflow.
Overall the workflow appears effective and an improvement on my previous practise.
A quick search on Google turns up a huge number of items on digital workflow. I found the following useful in preparing for this particular exercise, but there are many more:
Digital Photography Workflow – Fine Art Photography: Michael Ezra
The Ideal Digital Photographer’s Workflow
Develop an Efficient Photography Workflow

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nigel

    Welcome to DPP and the OCA. I just had a (very quick) look at your book on Maryport - I really enjoyed! The colours are so vibrant and it makes you feel like it is so peaceful there.

    Looking forward to some more of your excellent photography!