From initial digital capture to the final hardcopy book and backup. How to select the top images from scratch to creation of a hardcover photo-book. The full journey in eleven steps. Using following applications and services: www.dpreview.com, Lenshero or Snapsort, Adobe Lightroom, Loadlater, Flickr, Dopiaza, Blurb, Bulkr.
I started taking photos rather late at the age of 19. First few month with a analog Minolta which my dad did not use any more. In 1999 I soon purchased my first digital Sony Cybershot camera. Since then my fascination for taking still images has not let go. Nowadays I have figured a pretty smart way of processing my photos. Compared to my past process with JPG, file explorer and Photoshop… Like most digital photographer today one of the biggest challenge is to chose the best images from the growing amount of output. For long time I’ve been wondering and trying to understand what would be the best way to achieve this.
General photography recommendations
The heavier the photography equipment the better theoretical output you can get… If you do you heavy photography equipment such as high quality photography lenses or photography body’s then you should take your photo in RAW mode only. If your device allows you to do so then use it. Because you will get the best possible quality and will have the most flexible processing. Anything other would be like driving the latest Ferrari but only with the first gear. Totally stupid. Similar to the analog photography process then you will have to take some time for every photo before you can export it. I strongly recommend to start reading the Digital Photography “Bible” www.dpreview.com (established November 1998) or any other camera review site. Before buying any device do your homework and start a research on Google and specifically if you are looking for a new lens have a look at Lenshero or Snapsort to compare Cameras. The best advice I can give is to go out there and start taking the damn photos!
Start – photographic processes
First thing I do when I’m back home from shooting, is to copy the RAW image files from the SD and CompactFlash discs to my notebook directly to the Solid-State-Drive (SSD). I wait with reformatting the SecureDigital (SD) and CompactFlash (CF) memory cards until I’ve created a second backup of the images. You never know… I have lost many photos in the past because not having enough backup data. Better one backup to much than one missing :-)
Second thing I will do is to start re-charging all the batteries. Depending on how many different cameras I take out it can be that I have up to four different battery formats to re-charge. This will not take a lot of time but I’v learned that I’d better do this ASAP.
Step 1 – Importing RAW to Adobe Lightroom
When coping the RAW files to the SSD is completed, this can take a while with 50GB of data, I will start with the selection step1 directly within Adobe Lightroom. Alternative to Lightroom would be Apples Aperture. It also took me some time to figure out how to work with this specific tool, but now I have to admit it’s brilliantly efficient, compared to the same process with Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom is a application designed to manage large quantities of digital images and doing post production work. It was initially named “Shadowland” and created by Mark Hamburg, a veteran Adobe Photoshop developer. He began a the on 2002 and finally 2006 public Macintosh-only public beta was released.
Back to the step1. I will view every image ordered chronologically oldest image first. While checking every image I will give different flagging. Numbers 1-6 depending on how good I rate the image and a “X” for delete or a “P” for pick to rate all of the images. This process may take a few hours when having more than 8000 captured images – this frequently happens for wedding events. The goal is to kill a minimum of 50% of the material. I change the order view to show the picks and below them I will see all of the images which have received the “X” flagging which means direct deletion.
Step 2 – Adobe Lightroom image rating
Consists of ordering the material with the number rating 1-6 and again kill 50% all of the “1” and “2” for sure!
Step 3 – Further image rating
Consist of flagging the images in 5 color groups. Each color has another meaning. For example red = emotional. Yellow = portrait, green = nature, etc. Here you could start tagging the images but I don’t use this LR feature because I use the tagging in a later and more public step.
Step 4 – More rating
Now we have a strong selection with different criteria stars from 6-3 (the other have been deleted) and the color flagging. Step4 consist of creating a final selection solely giving the number 6.
Step 5 – Adobe Lightroom processing
Now a go and have a more detailed view on every image which is flagged with the number six. This means I decide if the image needs any kind of adjustment, re cropping , changing the contrast or creating a Black and white image. I have to admit that this step also takes a good amount of time because I just love it when images look dramatic!
Step 7 – Export RAW to JPG file from Lightroom
Next step7 is the physical creation of JPG files out of the RAW data image files. Adobe Lightroom does a great job here even with personal watermark (to ensure that any other person stealing your images has some additional work if they want to sell your images as their own) or dynamical image data like time taken, camera model, lens mm, aperture, etc. This process is really CPU demanding so its the perfect time for a nice coffee or tea break until all selected images have been exported to high definition JPG files.
Step 8 – LoadLater
Step8 here we start with the social crowd sourcing part of the process and I will upload my previously exported files to www.loadlater.com (@mattmendick) a free web based uploader that uploads images to my Flickr stream. If you don’t know flicker I like to explain it as the facebook for photos. Initially Flickr was part of a early web game with the creative name of “game neverending”. The game never made it but Flickr became quite a succes and Flickr got aquired by Yahoo! in early 2005. Back to loadlater – which is a great kept secret, until today. It’s a scheduling service that manages the automatic publishing of each uploaded image on another specific time and day. Now maybe you are asking yourself, why is he not just uploading all of his image selection in one time? This would be so much easier than having to pre-select a publishing time and day additionally to a specific image title, description, tags (keywords) and a own set and public groups…
The idea behind this is simple. Visibility. You will not achieve the same amount of views and actions such as comments, favorites or group invitation if you upload many images at the same time. Imagine visually the constant news feed. Its like a never ending “Mississippi/ amazonas” river of information. In our specific example the informations are images but its exactly the same principle. It’s quite hard to get visibility for one image within if this great newsfeed. So I break my image selection into many unique image publications. Normally every day a new image sometimes two new images per day one early in the morning and the next one late in the afternoon. This technique will ensure that I maximize the visibility if each photo. OK – now you may think that so far it’s understood but why should anybody want to have a maximum of visibility? Well my point of view is that or I keep my images private and they stay on my notebook locally or I decide to share them with the universe and then I want to be assured that they get seen. Also because of the next step.
Step 9 – Flickr Interestingness and Dopiaza
Step9 from here on most work will be done directly be crow source which means in my case by users viewing my images. The images will not only get a number of views but also favorites and comments. Then there is the Flickr explore which some images get after a secret algorithm of Flickr. Photos get chosen magically and receive better exposure (visibility) on the daily explore page within Flickr. So all of those values will affect my images. I use a external tool (@dopiaza) which works with the Flickr API to extract all those values and create albums within a specific time range which where chosen the most interning images on Flickr. Of course you have to keep in mind that anybody can rate, comment or like your image but this is also on the other hand very practical because it gives me a totally other point of view to finally select which are my best images from the last 12 month.
Step 10 – Blurb hardcover photobook
Step10 Because after 12 month I create a final selection directly on Flickr with the help of all the ratings. I create a new album every year and then using another service called blurb.com I design my own hardcopy photobook which I like to call my real world backup.
Step 11 – Back-up with Bulkr
Now that we have the hardcover photobook I always give the advice to create a other, additional back-up. This one I do because of my paranoia of Flickr shutting down one day or kicking me out because they can do so. This has happened to another Flickr photographer (@bindermichi) a while ago, read the full story here.
So I found a nice piece application called BULKR (created by @clipyourphotos) which downloads all of my Flickr photos in original size back to my local notebook where I save the data on a external hard disc.