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Cascade on Latchmore Brook

There’s no real need for another description of a photographic workflow on the internet, and I don’t claim that I have the perfect answer, but this is what works for me.

First thing obviously is to get the images off the memory card – since the 20D doesn’t have mass storage device support, and a stupid directory structure to boot I use a card reader. I wrote a simple Python script to copy the RAW files to a date based directory tree. Since – due to memory card failure induced paranoia – I shoot RAW+JPEG, the JPEG files get copied to a parallel directory tree and then promptly forgotten about.

Then I open up the folder in Adobe Bridge, and tag all the images, and add some copyright metadata. At this point any real mistakes, obviously bad shots or white balance exposures and so on get binned. Then a few at a time I’ll open up the files in Adobe Camera Raw and have a first pass. Shots that show problems for the first time when viewed larger get discarded. For the remainder I usually adjust Clarity and Vibrance slightly and then tweak the tone curve. I might have a first run at cropping and straightening. Then I save all the files as 16-bit TIFF to a subfolder and that’s usually it for ACR.

I review the TIFFs and start to work on the strongest first in Photoshop. Usually this doesn’t involve more than cloning out dust spots, and further curve editing. I find the Curves tool in Photoshop, gives a better result than the one in ACR for fine tuning, and has a couple of extra tools that make it easier to use. Sometimes that it, other times I break out the Lens Correction tools to adjust for perspective, chromatic aberration and/or or distortion, and sometimes I’ll use a levels adjustment layer to do some regional enhancement.

Once I’m done I flatten any layers, drop to 8-bit and save as JPEG, again to a subfolder. After I’ve done a few I’ll again review them looking for the strongest image, and then upload to flickr using jUploadr. Job done.

Now some people may be wondering why Lightroom hasn’t appeared in this little article, and that’s a fair question. The first part of the answer is that I can’t afford both Lightroom and Photoshop, and I believe there are plenty of things I wouldn’t be able to do if I only had Lightroom, whereas Photoshop allows me to do pretty much anything, though maybe not as neatly. I did give Lightroom 2.0 a trial but, frankly, I found the shift in workflow a bit confusing and I wasn’t entirely sure what it was doing with my files. Also it ran pretty sluggishly on my PC which is these days a long way from the cutting edge. I came to the conclusion that apart from the much faster database system there’s no real bonus to Lightroom over Photoshop, since apart from the database Lightroom is basically just Adobe Camera Raw anyway, but imposes it’s own workflow, whereas Bridge allows me to work much more flexibly.

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