Digital Photography Workflow

Latest Digital Photo Workflow

Following is the current workflow I’m using for the bulk of my digital imaging work. This workflow has been refined from over a decade of image processing, and uses the latest available software.

Raw/DNG Image Workflow, starting from the camera memory card:

  1. Ingestion: Copy files from CF card to computer, using Bridge scripts or Adobe Photo Downloader. During ingestion: a) Convert to DNG, b) Apply your custom metadata template, and c) Make a backup copy to a second hard drive.
  2. Initial Sorting: Browse the folder of new images in Adobe Bridge or iView. Apply keywords to images – assign at least one keyword for every file – and perform initial ranking (up to 2 stars on this round). Delete obvious rejects (optional based on disk space).
  3. Archive DNGs: Burn optical media archive of DNGs for offsite storage.
    Optional here – synchronize your backup of all working DNG files. If not now, synchronize at least every few days. Use a file backup utility with synchronization capability for this.
  4. Make Final Selections: In Bridge or iView, continue ranking, select the final set of files to be converted to master PSD.
  5. Convert DNG files to Photoshop PSD using Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. This conversion should include ALL necessary global image adjustments. Photoshop will mainly be used for fine-tuning the file: local adjustments, compositing and sharpening.
  6. Perform editing on individual PSDs (*see below). As they are completed, save flat PSDs. These flat files will become the new master files from which all derivative files are made. The original layered masters can be archived and moved offline as necessary; they would only be needed in the case of changes to the original edits.
  7. Using the flat files, make Print Master file and JPGs for the web and copyright registration.

Printing

  1. Using a soft-proofed Print Master file and a temporary Reference file, make adjustment layer groups for each paper type to be used.
  2. To print from Photoshop, flatten the Print Master with adjustments for the given paper visible, resize as necessary, and apply output sharpening. Print. If desired, save the resized print file for additional reproductions in the future.
  3. To print from Lightroom, first save a file with the adjustments visible for the desired printer and paper. This can be flat or layered, but flat files will be easier to work with in Lightroom.
  4. If adjustments are needed to the print settings, use the Print Master. If the changes required are of a creative nature, go back to the original Master PSD, and a new flat file will be needed.

Image editing within Photoshop:

  1. Apply capture sharpening (I recommend PhotoKit Sharpener from PixelGenius).
  2. Apply only local adjustments to the image – ideally, all global adjustments, including cropping, should have been done in the conversion from DNG, except for Photoshop-only techniques like Midtone Contrast. (use layers). If creative cropping is used in Photoshop, it’s a good idea to hide the pixels instead of permanently removing them.
  3. Make composites of multiple images at this stage.
  4. Apply retouching only after all compositing and sharpening is complete. Use one layer for all retouching.
  5. Save flat file.

How Does Lightroom Fit In?
For now, I’m mainly using Lightroom for some Developing, printing, web site generation and slide shows.

When released, Lightroom could replace/combine the need for iView, Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. However, this adds another $300 piece of software to the workflow. If you have already bought CS2 (or CS3), everything you need for the majority of image processing is included.

The main drawback to not using Lightroom will be the lack of a relational database (if you don’t already use another cataloging program).

I’m looking forward to seeing what other automation gets built into Bridge, especially given that it will be a version 2 product, whereas Lightroom v1 is bound to have some kinks.

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