Friday, October 29, 2010

Ex 1: Your own workflow - 1

Workflow is a familiar subject to me, since picking up a digital camera it has become central to my photographic practice.  The primary reason for this is that when I started using a digital camera it was for a very specific and highly demanding purpose, underwater photography.  Diving is fundamentally a workflow driven activity, however, when 30m below the oceans surface, failure in workflow can have potentially very serious consequences, severe injury or death.  When learning to dive you are forced into an almost military discipline of checking and preparing equipment, carefully planning the dive and then following strict procedure underwater to conserve air and surface safely.  Although diving is, in reality, a very simple and relaxing activity, when things go wrong they happen quickly and unpredictably, only careful preparation can protect you.

Camera preparation and care fits naturally into this discipline.  Without very careful workflow underwater photography is not possible.  There have been a couple of occasions when I made small errors, in one case I lifted the camera to my eye for a first test shot at depth and found I had left the lens cap on, above water we all do this and the fix is simple, underwater you are now carrying several kilograms of extra ballast for the dive.  The workflow answer is simple, after assembling the camera take a test shot and look to see that focus is achieved and that both strobes fired, easy, but you must remember to do it.

Moving to the point of the exercise, I need to document my workflow.  Following is my usual workflow,

  1. Research the subject and locations.  Typically I use local maps and guide books to plan a route for taking photographs and then supplement that with web or book based research on the subject.
  2. Decide what camera to use for the shoot, portraiture calls for my 5D2, action sports for the 7D, candid street shooting, perhaps my smaller G11.
  3. Select the lenses to carry with me, typically no more than 3, if no special subject in mind then generally a mid-range zoom (24-105mm FF equivalent), a tele-zoom (70-200mm FF), and maybe a fast prime.  For the portraiture tomorrow I will add a 135mm f/2 prime as this is an excellent lens for shooting people outdoors.
  4. Consider what other equipment I might need: Flash guns, tripod, cleaning kit, remote shutter release, exposure meter, grey target, etc.
  5. Check memory cards (I have 3x8GB permanently in holsters on my camera strap - always empty and ready to go, but worth checking).
  6. Check camera battery and spare
  7. Clean the lenses if needed.
  8. Choose clothing carefully, depending on what I plan to do. If doing landscape am going to need warmer clothing that might be too hot if working a parade or crowd in a street style.
  9. Select camera bag, I have several.  Depends on the distance I am planning to walk and how much equipment I plan to carry.   A rucksack is great for long treks, but crap if needing to access whilst moving.  If it is raining I may choose a bag with a rain cover.
  10. Travel to the location by public transport if possible - I like to have the time to think and not have the hassle of what to do with a car - this is not a Green thing.
  11. On arriving at location, take a good walk around and then spend a few minutes visualizing the shots and trying to read the light
  12. Take a couple of test shots and check exposure on the monitor, adjust accordingly
  13. Shoot!
  14. On arriving home, the first thing I do is to fire up my PC and import the images into my Lightroom catalog.  I use Lightroom for almost all photo processing only using Photoshop at the very end of the workflow.  I have 4 x 1TB external USB drives, 1 for daily shoots, 1 for longer trips, the others as a second copy. I use Lightroom to keep a backup of all imported images on separate drives.  All images go into a folder with a meaningful name built from the date and subject, e.g. for tomorrow: "101030 Heidi in the Park"
  15. The next thing I do is unpack my camera bag and carefully put all equipment back into the cupboard it came from, doing any necessary cleaning or drying.
  16. Once the images are imported into Lightroom I then start the edit process.
  17. First of all I scan all the images and select a few better ones by adding them to a Quick Collection (a temporary virtual grouping).  I then save the Quick Collection as a normal Collection, again with a meaningful label.
  18. I then scan again and throw out any further rejects.
  19. The next step is to step through the individual images and "develop" the RAW files into something more usable.  I have only ever shot RAW and cannot imagine ever using JPG given the power of RAW.  Why shoot an 8bit per channel image when your camera is designed to shoot 14 bits.
  20. The actual process I use depends upon the images but I generally use the following workflow (I previously documented this bit for my PaP course, so this is just a copy):
    1. Automatic Lens Correction (most of my lenses are supported).
    2. Slight adjustments for perspective and distortion if needed
    3. Crop to output dimension - very subjective and depends upon the image and target media, screen, A4, 5x7, etc. 
    4. Set the White Balance either using the clicker or if I was smart using a pre-photographed grey target
    5. Add Sharpening - use 100% enlargement during this process
    6. Add Luminance or Color noise reduction - sharpening can create this, so best to do second
    7. Add Vibrance to richen the colours
    8. Either add Clarity or Contrast - for people clarity is better, otherwise I mostly use contrast
    9. Add Fill Light and Recovery to deal with shadows and highlights
    10. Adjust exposure and Blacks
    11. I use the spot removal tool for any sensor dirt
    12. I sometimes add a gradiant filter if the sky is very washed out - overdone this looks very fake, so I try not to use this often
  21. Although seeming complex this is a quick process, the more important images get further attention later in the process.  If in doubt I make virtual copies and try more than 1 development strategy
  22. I then go through again and remove any images that did not work well following the develop process
  23. Now that the images are as I want them, I do two separate exports, one to JPEG to add to the web, such as this blog and a second to 16 bit TIFF.  
  24. If I plan to print images they go into CS4 for printing, I do not like the printing interface in Lightroom. I understand CS4 and get the results I want
  25. The final act is to add the processed images into my blog or onto my web site
This is pretty much the same for all photography that I do, the differences brought by subject are nuances rather than massive changes.

It is also worth mentioning here that I am also trying to develop a better colour workflow, I routinely calibrate my camera and monitor and only print on paper for which I can obtain profiles for my printer.

Adapting this to an on location portrait shoot (versus studio), I would create the following simplified workflow:
  1. Decide upon location and agree with my subject that this is OK with him or her.
  2. Pack my camera bag with the following equipment: 5D2 Full Frame body, 24-70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.8, and 135mm f/2, speedlite 580EX, exposure meter, and colour/gray target.  I might also take a reflector if I have help on location.
  3. Discuss models clothing, as tomorrow will be an Autumnal shoot, the cloths should reflect this.
  4. Ensure that I have spare battery and sufficient full memory cards
  5. The location tomorrow will be the central park.  When we get there scout out good locations with either strong fall colour as a back drop or good negative space to ensure good bokah in the images
  6. Evaluate the light, if the sun is too strong opt for light shade, if not use the sun but add some fill flash.  
  7. Shoot a colour and grey target to calibrate the camera and ensure that I can preserve the skin tones in post processing.
  8. Shooting Parameters
    1. Prior to the shoot' ensure that the camera is set to RAW, focus is set to single shot, and drive is set to single shot
    2. During a portrait shoot I will set the camera to Aperture priority.
    3. Select an ISO that permits a shutter speed in excess of the reciprocal of the focal length, i.e. if using my 135mm, will will need to shoot faster than 1/135s.  
    4. Select auto white balance and adjust later in post processing.
    5. Whilst shooting I will vary the exposure metering depending on the situation, I use Matrix 90% of the time, but might move the spot or center weighted if the background is very bright.
    6. Alternatively I will use exposure compensation if conditions are rapidly varying
    7. Finally I will select a single focus point, the one that is over the models eyes, or focus on this point, hold down the shutter and recompose.
    8. After every few shots I review the histogram and image and adjust
  9. Take a series of shots that work from full body, through upper body, shoulder and head, and finally very closely framed head shots
  10. During the shooting share initial results and work with the model to get the shots she wants as well as what I want.
  11. For this outing, experiment with some less usual informal framings
  12. Move to a new and different location and work another set - probably repeat this 2 or 3 times
  13. On arriving home follow the editing workflow described above.
OK, tomorrow, we shall see whether my fiendish plan works or not!

No comments:

Post a Comment