This weeks photography tip is titled workflow, but it won’t cover the step by step instructions of what you should include in your workflow. There are many other valuable resources to discuss this depending on the products you use. Instead we will look at why it is important to have a digital workflow which works for you.
I started shooting digital two years ago, after I decided it was more practical then using film. It was at that time in late 2006 where the main switch from film to digital took place almost overnight as the technology and costs were at a point which let it happen for a lot of people. When I switched to digital, one of the first things I needed to do was determine a workflow which would work for me when handling the images created with my DSLR. Just around this time the first beta of Lightroom was made available and it was something I looked into to determine how it could work for me, instead of using Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw to process images in Photoshop. As I was new to the whole digital at this time I found Lightroom easier to learn than Bridge and Camera Raw. Based on this I attempted to learn this product on my own, but it wasn’t until last summer with some training I really understood the whole product and how to use it effectively. By putting off learning the product to the best of my ability I lost valuable time in my digital workflow process.
My example is just one of the many stories you will hear on why it is important to have a workflow process which works best for you, the value of time. You may want to follow an established professionals specific workflow, but you need to ask yourself how will it benefit me and improve my production. Everyone has their own steps they follow as they shoot in the field, go to the grocery store or many other things in everyday life as it is what suits them best. A digital workflow process is the same thing. The following bullet points are some things to consider when selecting and refining your workflow, which will be a ever changing process.
- Learn the primary product you will be using in your workflow. If this is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Photoshop or something else there are good classes out there to help you get started with the basics. Some of these classes will be at a local community college, photography or art school or from certified professionals. By investing in the initial training you will be able to hit the ground running in your workflow and know the primary process you will want to use.
- Don’t be afraid to hire a certified professional to help you refine your process as well as work on some images. These people have passed a test to become certified, but more so spend many hours in front of the computer working on the product and training others. Prior to hiring someone for one on one time, be sure it is the right person for you. There are times when it is difficult to work with an instructor or expert and it is not the fault of either party as the sync is just not in place.
- Make sure the product you are using can provide all of the functionality you will need. If you need to provide a TIFF file can you do so? Is it possible to do localized adjustments? Will you need to use channels in your editing? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself now instead of six hours prior to a deadline.
- Once you have learned the product continue to educate yourself on how to do more with the product. If you use Photoshop, there is always more available to learn. Most products have an 18 month lifecycle meaning there will be new features in upgrades you will learn as you use the product. Some photos or projects will force you to use these items which you haven’t utilized in the past.
- Stay current with the product you are using. Sometimes it is difficult to spend $200 to upgrade Photoshop or $100 for Lightroom/Aperture as it looks the same as before, but there are new features which you will use at some point. Also the learning tools available on the internet or bookstores will be for the current version. If photography is a business or serious hobby, you should have the tools you need to do the job correctly and more so efficiently. You wouldn’t cut corners on the equipment you need for a shoot or in the field, and you shouldn’t do so in your workflow as well.
- Join a professional organization if it exists for your product. The largest one out there is the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. NAPP provides members with tutorials, tips and tricks, discounts, a subscription to Photoshop User magazine and many other items which easily pay for the membership price. One of the benefits is 15% off Adobe products, but the main benefit is the wealth of information available online to members.
- Network with fellow photographers. Sometimes you have a simple question about how to do something in a product. If you know other photographers using the same product they can be a great resource where an e-mail, instant message or quick call will get you through the simple problem. Of course you need to be careful not to take too much of their time as well.
- Use licensed software. It is amazing at how many photographers complain about images of theirs being “stolen” because of the internet, but yet use pirated versions of software to avoid paying the cost. If you want to take a stand on copyright violations for your images, it only makes sense you respect the copyright of others whether it is software, music, movies, or anything else.
- Use what works best for you. Not everyone will use the same workflow, as there are many options available in the marketplace. Photographers have also developed their workflow process at various times and may be well entrenched in a particular approach. If you were an early adopter of digital you may use Photoshop/Bridge/Camera Raw versus a recent convert finding Lightroom being the best solution for them. Mac users may use Aperture, while that is not an option for PC users. Your best friend may try to have you convert, however the workflow which works best is the one you are comfortable using.
In Photoshop for some tasks you can do it in many different ways, which is the same for your digital workflow. The important step is to get the image you captured to match what you envisioned when you pressed the shutter release. With digital we now have stacks of hard drives on our desks and the need to have an efficient workflow process. This process will be fine tuned over time, but it should always be a process which works for you in order to bring efficency when processing your work.