Sunday, July 26, 2009

Post Shoot Workflow ~ Part One of a Three Part Series

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | by John Thawley | in Software |

Due to the length of this entry, I've broken it down into three parts. Part 1 will deal with importing images into Aperture. I will address setting up a Project, adding preset Metadata and sorting / ranking images.

In Part 2, I will discuss some of the basic steps I use in processing or adjusting images intended for distribution. This will address Aperture's adjustment panel and using the basic adjustment tools.

In the final installment, Part 3, I will discuss applying keywords and the logical sequence I use to create a consistent and efficient process. To wrap things up, we'll talk about exporting images.

This workflow is based on a recent two-day shoot at the American Le Mans Series race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.As many of you are aware, between new technologies, improved work habits and the need to be organized, our workflow is continually evolving. We shoot more, we store more... and we store differently.

Recent additions and changes to my own needs have had an impact on how I manage my images during and immediately after a shoot. As a motorsports shooter, my needs might vary from yours, though at the end of the day, I think we're all in a similar situation.

The variables I face are typically a question of time... time as in deadlines. Sometimes there is someone who needs an image right away. And of course, clients want images / web galleries as soon as possible since fresh content is an important element of a race team's promotional efforts.

I thought for this journal entry, I'd walk you through a weekend of shooting and how I handle the images from start to finish. Of course, this is going to incorporate importing, file naming, sorting, ranking, post-processing and adjustments, keyword application and finally, transmitting.

My choice of software for managing my workflow is Apple's pro application, Aperture 2.My software choice is Aperture. Many of you might be using Lightroom and others may be using a "suite" of different applications made up through personal choice. While the implementation of my workflow might be specific to Aperture, I think the actual flow and process can be managed through other software packages. Aperture users will probably benefit from many of my shortcuts, though.

I start with importing my card(s) into my Aperture Library. I use two Lexar Firewire 800 card readers and have a 1TB LaCie portable Firewrire 800 external drive connected to my MacBook Pro. I choose a Managed Library.

First, in Aperture, under File / New Project - I create a new Project and name it after the event. In this case, Lime Rock. All cards for the weekend will be imported into the Lime Rock Project.

We're now ready to import.

Import Screen ready to import to ProjectUsing the Aperture Import pane, I select the the first card reader. In the Import Dialogue panel I choose;

Store Files: In the Aperture Library (managed)
Do not import duplicates: checked
Version Name: Custom Name with Index
Name Text: Thaw_
Apply to Master filenames box is checked.
Time Adjustment: None - My cameras are set to the Eastern US time. Since Lakeville, Connecticut and Lime Rock Park are also in the Eastern Standard Time Zone, I have no need to adjust the file times for this particular event.

Save time by setting up Presets for your constant Metadata like copyright and contact information.What the section above does is rename my files as Thaw_xxxxx.jpg and applies that name to the Master files. It stores it in the Aperture Library in the Lime Rock (event) Project.

In the bottom section of the Import Dialogue panel, we can decide what Metadata we want to add during the import process.

I have a Preset created that adds all my contact and copyright information. So, first, I select the Thawley preset. Then, I have a custom Metadata view created, also named Thawley. When I select that, my contact and copyright information remain, and I'm presented with a Caption window and a Keyword window.

Here I will add 2009 Northeast Grand Prix in the caption window and some "constant" keywords in the keyword window. In this case, I know every image will need the keywords American Le Mans and Lime Rock Park.

I'm now confident that all my images will be imported with my file numbering convention, my copyright and contact information, a generic caption and a couple of constant keywords.

All we need to do now is click on Import All.

I repeat this with the second card and card reader.

Once Aperture informs me the cards are imported I eject them from the readers. I do not delete the files at this time. I will reformat in the camera when I'm ready to use them the next time. That's my habit. You may choose something different... but whatever you do, make it a habit and do it the same EVERY TIME!

Now I have that set of images in Aperture. If I have the time, I begin going through them. For me, editing as soon as possible is more effective. I know what I just shot and I know what I'm looking for... good, bad or otherwise.

When I see an image that is good, I don't do anything... I'm going to keep it, but it doesn't need a rating.Using the grid view of thumbnails and with the filter pull-down dialogue set to Unrated or better, I will select the first thumbnail in the grid. I will hit the F key and bring it to a full window view. If the image is a complete miss, out of focus, over-exposed ... or otherwise a totally useless image, I'll hit Control Key + 9. This will mark the image with an X to denote it as a reject. You can just use the 9 key.... but by using Control Key + 9, you advance to the next image automatically. Since our sort filter is set to Unrated or greater, the rejected images will also leave the screen once they're marked as such.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but just to be clear, I do not delete files until the weekend project is complete. This is done by revealing all the X images in the Aperture browser, selecting all and using a hard delete. It's just faster and cleaner to do this way.

Aperture in full screen mode.Getting back to our sort and editing, when I see an image that is good, I don't give it any sort of rank... I'm going to keep it, but it doesn't need a rating. If it's an image I really like, I'll hit the 3 key giving the image 3 Stars. I can always demote it to a 2 star if I become ambivalent about it.

At this point, I'm still in full frame and using the arrow keys to navigate back and forth. I'm also using the Z key to zoom in and check the sharpness. You can use the loupe too... but for me, the Z is just as quick. (Tip: If you click your cursor arrow in the area you want to see, it will be centered on the screen when you hit Z).

When I give an image 3 stars, that means I like it. Since I shoot sports, I am shooting in 3-5 frame bursts. So... I'm going to go back and forth between images narrowing it down to the one I like the most. I won't delete the others, just mark the one I like.

Based on the time I have available, I might go ahead and do some adjustments to that image right then and there. I like doing this because everything is fresh in my mind... I know how I want the image to look. And chances are, there are going to be more images going forward that may have the same adjustments necessary. So, once I've got an image adjusted, I can use Aperture's "lift and stamp" tool to apply those adjustments to subsequent images. Even if they're not spot on, I can re-tweak them as I go.

In Part 2, I will discuss some of the basic steps I use in processing or adjusting images intended for distribution. This will address Aperture's adjustment panel and using the basic adjustment tools.