Workflow and a Glass of Wine

May 23, 2018

The other day I was looking back through my archives for some sample images for an article I was writing. As I flipped through old photos, I started thinking about my workflow and about how I select images. It is amazing what you find when you re-visit old shoots. For the most part, I usually find photos not worthy of the star ratings I gave them! But occasionally I locate a photo, which for some reason or another, I rejected when I culled my pictures during the first pass. To try and sort through my photos accurately and efficiently, I have a workflow I follow. It isn’t foolproof, and may not work for everybody, but I’ll share it with you today. The secret is time and a good glass of red wine!

What Was I Thinking?

The most important part of my workflow is giving myself time between shooting and editing. If I cull and edit images right away, I am usually way too emotionally attached to the day. When this happens, I cannot be impartial about my selections. I find I tend to choose way too many keepers in that situation. I know from experience, that if I take 500 photos on an outing, I shouldn’t have more than three to ten keepers. And of those, no more than one or two are worthy of a five-star rating. Any more selections than that and I’m not being ruthless enough!

During my first attempt at culling, I don’t spend more than a second or two deciding if an image is worth revisiting. The first pass is a process to eliminate blatant losers, not winners. I can usually omit 50-70% of my pictures right away. This part of my workflow is important; I don’t look back over my selects for at least a few days. Or, if I’m under a deadline, I’ll revisit them after a glass of wine. Time and wine allow me to re-visit my narrowed down selections with a much more critical eye! You may be laughing, but it is amazing how much clearer I see after a nice glass of Merlot! Of the remaining images, I narrow it down to between 10% and 20% to edit. But I’m not done culling yet! After I’ve finished editing, and another break (and here I mean break, not wine), I go through my edited images one more time. On this last cull, I am much more selective. In the end, a keeper rate of around 1% is pretty typical.

Crank that Clarity Slider!

Yes, on occasion, I’ve been guilty of over-processing! Maybe I can blame that on the wine! Looking through images on Instagram and Facebook, I see way too many photographs where the maker has cranked the clarity or contrast sliders, sometimes both! Unless you are trying to create some strong special effect, you do not need to move these sliders more than a couple of notches. To avoid over-processing, I like to carry out my editing in stages. I will do the first edit, then walk away from my computer for at least two or three days, preferably a week. When I go back, I frequently find I’ve been a little heavy handed with the sliders, and I dial back my edits a bit.

My workflow doesn’t involve spending more than a few minutes editing an image. I currently use Lightroom, but like many disillusioned Adobe users, I’m looking for a replacement! On rare occasions, or if I will be printing a photograph, I will take it into Photoshop for some finishing touches and some final sharpening.

Now that I’m shooting exclusively with Fuji, I find that the jpegs straight out of the camera are beautiful. I rarely need to touch my raw files now! Less editing means more time shooting!

Diamonds in the Rough

Every so often, when I go through my archives, I find an image that I missed during my first pass. With post-processing software getting better and better, it is often feasible to process photos that were not possible to edit before. Images that are way over or underexposed, or that have a wide dynamic range may benefit from editing with new software versions. Now don’t get too excited here. A photo that is poorly composed, out of focus, or has no interest will not benefit from any post-processing miracles! But every once in a while, it might be worth taking a trip down memory lane to look for those diamonds in the rough that you passed over the first time.

I’ll leave you with a few images I found when I was looking through some neglected folders. These images were all shot with my old Fujifilm X100T at the start of my street photography journey. Enjoy, and cheers (quite literally this time) until next week.