Processing and Archiving Your Digital Photos

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Andy
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Processing and Archiving Your Digital Photos

Postby Andy » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:12 am

Tim's thread about raw made me think about this. I wondered what folks do here for their "DAM" (digital image management).

I have developed a process which is probably not the most efficient, but seems to work for me (I should probably write it down somewhere :lol: ).

1. I always cature raw. My cameras have been Nikon and the native file is .nef. For those who don't already know this, every camera brand has its own proprietary raw file format. There has been a robust debate over the years over these proprietary formats and whether an "open" standard format should be adopted. Some years back, Adobe created one, which they say is open and standard (Adobe .dng, which I believe is an acronym for "digital negative group"). There is probably plenty of additional debate over even that fact. There are those who say the manufacturer's raw converters render "better" images than Adobe camera raw, or others.

In my case, since I use virtually all Adobe products (Lightroom for cataloging, Bridge, ACR and CS5 for conversion and post processing), I have found the .dng format to be convenient and work well for me).

2. So, I will generally convert to Adobe dng format.

3. In Bridge, I will do my initial "selects" deleting obviously "bad" images. Because it is easy and because I have learned (the hard way sometimes) that as technology advances, there are things I can go back and do, I save a lot more than I used to.

4. In Bridge, I then use the Batch Rename feature to name my files something meaningful. I put in the date and file number them consecutively (this is the one area I struggle a bit with, as I don't know a really good way to keep track of the last number used. My approach has been to find all the shots that have a similar name and rename them first). With the date and year in the filename, it is unlikely that there will be a duplicate file.

5. I used to have a complex structure for sorting by subject matter, but always found it hard to determine where images went, etc. A couple years back, I attended a John Shaw seminar and his method was so disarmingly simply that I almost smacked my forehead right in the seminar. I now use a variation on his method. I archive my images on two different 1T external drives. I organized folders very simply -- by year. I have my camera set to number the images consecutively and do not have it re-start each time I put a new card in.

6. I then import them into Lightroom. Once in Lightroom, I create "collections" by subject matter. This works well, because you can assign the same photo to as many different collections as you want. And, you can make subtopics within collections. You just highlight and block a series of images and drag them into the collection. Its pretty intuitive, and makes searching for an image really easy.

Normally, I try to do all these steps before I begin any post processing of any particular image (but sometimes, its kind of like Christmas, and you have to open some presents early :lol: ).

7. Usually, after I have done all of the above, I will look for images I will post on my website gallery. Once I have processed them and saved them as jpgs for web, I will again, archive them into Lightroom.

I would be interested in others' "DAM" processes.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .


Andy
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Moved from dng thread

Postby Andy » Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:13 am

Carol: "....so do you recommend I save as a TIFF, but then when putting on the web converting the TIFF to a jpeg, but also keep the TIFF as a saved file as well? Can you put a TIFF on the web? No, right?"

In my view, there is not any one "right way" to do this. So instead of telling you what you should do, I'll tell you what I do, and why. As you do, I always capture in raw format. I convert the file in ACR, and open it into PS. From here, it depends on my intended use. Some files, I may just open and do some "quick and dirty" adjustments to use, for example, as an illustration on a forum or on my blog. Those, I'll size down to desired size and save as jpg. However, if it is something I think I might print, or offer on my site as a print, I save it as a large tiff first. If I am going to put it on the web, I then resize, convert for web color space (another topic) and save as a jpeg. As Charles has pointed out here, digital memory is cheap. Sometimes a lot of work on an image, required to be redone, is dear!

So, yes, I save my archival "worked" copies as Tiff, and make a smaller jpg copy for web use. But you CAN put tiff format on the web. They are definitely recognized -- but generally because of their size, are slow to open and can be unwieldy.

Raw images are just digital information. They must be converted to a viewable format, of which there are several, including .jpg, .tif, .gif, .bmp, etc. There is also Adobe's proprietary .psd format. Tiff and Jpeg are two that were developed by public groups using the internet and have kind of become the preferred file format for photographers for many reasons. There are some major differences between them.

Jpeg is known as a "lossy" format. The reason for this is they have an aggressive file compression algorithm, that essentially compresses the file size down into a smaller file size that makes it much easier to "transport" over the web. But when its doing its compression thing, it also discards pixels it "thinks" aren't necessary. My technical knowledge doesn't go much further than that, so I cannot tell you why, but what is important is that it does throw away image data and more importantly, it does this EACH time you make any change to the jpeg file (you can open and close it as many times as you want without degradation, but if you make any change and get the "save changes?" command, it will again degrade).

So what? Well, what it means is that if you save an image, and then somewhere along the line, decide to re-work it, you will degrade it. Over time, it will become visually noticeable (especially for printing). And, if you have spent a lot of time "working" the image (think Waits River cloning of power lines, stop signs, etc.) even though you can go back to the original raw, thats a lot of duplicate work.

Tiff also has a compression algorithm. But it is said to be non-lossy, which means it compresses when you close it and uncompresses when you open it, but does not discard data. The penalty for that is that tiff files are huge, in comparison to jpeg.

One other thing to note: There is a very big difference in image size needs for web display and for other uses (print, primarily). Traditionally, a computer screen could not "use" the date from an image at a higher resolution than 72ppi (pixels per inch -- often expressed, technically incorrectly, as dpi). Modern monitors may be able to use marginally more. So purely for web use, there isn't much reason to make the file larger than the highest resolution the monitor can display. This makes the file smaller, more portable, and quicker to open. However, at 72ppi, when you convert this file to a print format, as the print gets larger, it will quickly break down. I think it was Heather Forcier, who corrected me about this once, and noted that for web display, the "resolution" really doesn't make any difference, only the pixel dimension does, for the size the image displays on the screen. So you can post a much larger resolution file on the web and it will display just fine.

However, consulting with my web folks, they still recommended resizing to 72ppi. Their reasoning is that at that low resolution cannot yield a decent size print if someone steals your image.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

abby
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Postby abby » Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:24 pm

Thanks so much Andy for taking the time to answer. It was great......easy to understand and very informative.
Much appreciated,
Carol

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Postby autzig » Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:03 pm

I use a cute little program called Flashpipe to transfer my photos from my CF card to my computer. The program will create directories by date or you can change the name to something else. It will also "develop" the files as jpgs and put them in a separate folder. If you shoot in raw plus jpg, you don't have to do that anymore.

Another thing about jpg is that you cannot save layers. That's one of the big reasons that I save edited photos as tifs. Jpgs are just too destructive, whether they come out of the camera as jpgs or are saved as jpgs.

Al

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Postby mmvt » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:08 am

I just got a new camera and have decided to take the RAW plunge!
I work only on Mac's so am looking for suggestions re: software. A lot of what i have read compares Adobe Lightroom 3 with Apples Aperture 3.... I do not want to tackle the full Photoshop at this point but am interested in hearing any opinions re Lightroom or Aperture.
Thanks for any ideas or opinions you are willing to share.

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Postby Andy » Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:18 pm

I am a Windows user (would love to switch to Apple just for the photo stuff, but just cannot justify the cost of separate systems and need the Windows for work). I just upgraded to Photoshop CS5. I continue to be impressed by the forward strides Adobe has made with its RAW file handling. The RAW converter that is part of PS is called Adobe Camera Raw. I understand that virtually all the features found in ACR are also in the newest version of Lightroom. It includes impressive ability to set white, black points and "neutral gray" points, adjust contrast, recover blown highlights, clone and retouch, straighten and crop and now even sharpen.

I have the earliest version of LightRoom and use it solely for cataloging my images. But sooner or later, I will have to upgrade. I have been recommending it for Windows users who don't want to make the full PS jump. I think it will be a much better photo editor than Elements.

I have heard good things about Aperture. I guess you'll have to do a side by side comparison of features. Hopefully someone here will have some hands on experience with Aperture.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

mmvt
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Postby mmvt » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:22 pm

Thanks Andy!
the internet is filled with all sorts of lightroom vs. aperture debates so it would be great to hear from someone who has used both.
FYI: you can run windows on a Mac machine! When i made the 'jump' to Mac i added windows to my macbook and it worked just fine. I no longer need to do anything in windows so don't use that 'option' any more but it's nice for people who want to be able to use both operating systems.

brandtb

LR3 and other

Postby brandtb » Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:57 am

Second Andy on LR. I cannot make any stronger suggestion (I do not have all the superlatives...) on the technical end than taking the plunge and learning to use LR not only for the extraordinary database features which for me is indispensible now, but ALSO for the latest developing editing controls –which are of course the same as the latest ACR 6.2 release. I waited and waited and waited …and then finally got it…and the efficiency and productivity this has added to my photography workflow cannot be overstated. I collate, develop/edit RAW files et al, send to web, and print (and printing from LR is a DREAM, DREAM, DREAM) all from LR3 now. The only time I use PS now is for extended cloning, layer masking (because I don’t like polarizers), and panoramas.
(Note I use and have used only PC - because I use AutoCAD for work - and I never have any problems - and frankly I like the PC interface more, even though I learned how to use a computer using a Mac)
I would run, run, run and get LR. Luminous Landscape has a great new video tutorial(s) on how to use it - and it's VERY good, and Lynda.com as well has a number of video tutorials by different presenters - so you can choose which one you like best.

Andy
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Postby Andy » Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:33 am

Hmn. Brandt has convinced me ..... I need to look into upgrading my LR.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

brandtb

LR

Postby brandtb » Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:41 am

Yea Andy...if it was the printing feature alone...would be worth it. The thoughts of a gazillion dialog boxes coming up....just to print one image from PS - now a distant (but STILL horrifying) memory. Ha

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Postby BostonRott » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:12 am

Andy,

I'm surprised you don't use LR for the intial sort (and have it rename upon import). I use both LR2 and CS3 (and of course, shoot Nikon raw! :lol: ).

My typical workflow is to import into LR. If I want to keyword upon import (i.e. general things with a location name or perhaps kids' names), I import only one day at a time, enter appropriate keywords on the import dialog and away it goes.......renaming to Date my_initials sequence number, and popping in the keywords. If I don't care about keywording from the start (and plan to do it late on only the finished shots), I just do one big import.

I very quickly run through the photos at full size view ("E" key), using X for the deletes and P for the ones I like. The X'd files (black flag) are then deleted from disk. These are obvious deletes: motion blur, missed focus, totally blown/blocked areas, etc. I then work on the Picks, doing my rough work in LR2, and kicking over to CS3 for the final processing.

I like a LOT of control in my sharpening (using high pass, masking, and later some USM), and have felt that through LR2, LR's sharpening was awful, at best. I understand the new sharpening and noise reduction in LR3 are outstanding. I haven't yet upgraded, but hope to soon.

As to the non-selected photos.........sometimes I will go back and mass delete them (i.e. 6-8mos later) and sometimes I let them hang. I added a 1.5Tb drive to my PC, so that helps with storage. Having shot 2.5yrs of "picture a day", in NEF, I have a LOT of good-sized files. :lol: However, the 1.5Tb drive seems to not blink at what I've thrown at it.

I also back up to an external HD, and prefer the Seagate models (and never go above 500Gb). They have software that will back up which ever folders you wish (or ALL of them) nightly, you just tell it what hour o'the dark you wish it to do so. I never have to worry about "did I forget?" :D
Gretchen

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Postby Andy » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:58 am

Hi Gretchen: Glad you joined us here.

I have only the ORIGINAL version of LR. Not being independently wealthy (though my kids may not have figured that out yet :lol: ), I have to make choices about where my $ goes. I pay for a website, updating PS (too often these days, it seems), programs like photomatix, etc. Since Bridge does such a great job for my own personal workflow, I have relegated LR to simply an image-management tool -- after the fact.

I struggled for a few years with this concept, using Thumbs Plus and then another program developed by a member or the NPN forums. I tried a couple different "organization methods." All seemed logical -- but also were unwieldy and work-intensive.

Then I attended a John Shaw seminar and it was a bit like the scales falling off Paul's eyes on the Road to Damascus (no, thats not a Dean Martin/Bing Crosby movie). He made it so simple. The camera already has a numbering system. I now have my camera set to consecutively number and in Bridge, I rename to a number sequence (as set by the camera, adding only the date shot, and a 3-digit sequence number at the end). I archive by year only.

That's where I use LR. I don't use keywording anymore. Too much work and too difficult to keep track of. Instead, I have "collections" in LR and simply drag and drop the images to the collection(s) appropriate. This allows me to search adequately for my needs.

I need to look at an upgrade to current LR in 2011 when the budget allows. You are correct that the current ver. of LR as well as CS5 (worth the price of the upgrade!!!) ver of ACR (6.0) have really improved the sharpening. I do my intitial image sharpening now in ACR. I usually still need to do final image sharpening for output and do that in PS. Have used USM. However, the pundits are now saying that the CS5 Smart Sharpen is a better tool. I am experimenting with it. I have used Bruce Fraser's sharpening mask methods over the years and am not sure how the smart sharpen fits with that.

If the New LR has time saving steps, I will certainly consider it in my workflow -- when I get it.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

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One more thing ....

Postby Andy » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:59 am

Gretchen: While I don't use it myself, I have been recommending LR to photographers who don't want to spend $1000 on PS. I think it is close to a stand-alone photographers program now. Don't think I'll give up my PS security blanket soon, though. :lol:
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

BostonRott
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Postby BostonRott » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:44 am

Hahaha, I hear you!!! That's why I skipped the CS4 upgrade, and haven't done LR3 yet (or gone to CS5). I started with LR2, and that's where I still am. :D My CS3 was an insane $199 upgrade from Elements 5.

I think even as early as CS3, there were debates about smart sharpening being better than USM, and I'm not at all surprised that it would far outshine USM with the advances they seem to have made.

I don't think I could ever abandon PS, I'm too addicted to layers, opacities, and being able to make uber-fine adjustments to my changes. That said, I do enjoy the ease of LR, and the ability to "one-click upload" to Facebook or Pbase (and they also have Smugmug and Flickr plugins too). I don't have to keep duplicate NEF/JPG copies on my PC.......it just works from my final NEF (or PSD if I've done PS work) and uploads a JPG version, at specified size and rez, to the web.

My folder structure is also by year, and actually, then sorted to month and date: year / month / xx LR does all the creation of folders and putting files into folders for me. I just resurrected my London trip from 2007....it had been backed up and removed from the HD b/c of lack of space. With the 1.5Tb drive, I now have plenty of space, so I put it back on. Just put the CD into the drive, and LR did the rest: made folders, sorted by date, and renamed in sequential order. The only reason I have my folders going down to individual days is b/c of my previous "Picture a day" project. :D
Gretchen

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Re: One more thing ....

Postby deaner1971 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:22 am

Andy wrote:Gretchen: While I don't use it myself, I have been recommending LR to photographers who don't want to spend $1000 on PS. I think it is close to a stand-alone photographers program now. Don't think I'll give up my PS security blanket soon, though. :lol:


Well, I was just researching my options and I am really glad that I decided to look here. Should have thought earlier that this was the perfect place to go to see what other landscape loving photographers thought.

I am exactly in the space you mentioned, Andy. I feel like I want to move beyond Elements but don't feel that I am at a place yet that justifies CS5. As a Windows user Aperture isn't an option and I was debating LR.

It looks like LR is what you fine folks would recommend to someone looking to move up but not quite ready to invest in CS5 so looks like my next big set of purchases will be a new A580 and LR3.

Thanks all for the great perspective.



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