Optimizing Your Work Flow

We have just past the midpoint of 2012; it has been an exciting, busy, fun and sometimes exhausting year. Having said that, the best part is yet to come!  This year I have traveled from Abu Dhabi to California, and Madrid to Minneapolis and have lost count of the images that I have shot.

Although I started to work on this blog post on the plane returning from Madrid last month, I am in a better late than never mode and it feels just a bit incongruent to be a month late and still writing about workflow.  While I would love to apply these techniques to the piles on my desk and elsewhere, I will concentrate on how to shoot an event and most efficiently identify which images you want to keep and distribute.

I do substantially all of my work in Photo Mechanic (www.camerabits.com) and Lightroom 4.

First I transfer the images from the card directly into a folder on my hard drive, without the use of either Photo Mechanic or Lightroom.  This takes the least time! There is one exception, which I will go into later.

Once I have everything transferred all of the images to the folder I open a new contact sheet in Photo Mechanic. Below is the screen shot of the contact sheet from the 2012 Madrid Men’s ITU Race.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, I have rules. Rule #3 is Never Let Them See the Bad Stuff! Let’s face it; in shooting endurance sports, there is lots of bad stuff. While a shot may have tack sharp focus, it may be at the low point of a runner’s stride or some other athlete may have crossed into the frame or as you are panning, you have inadvertently ended up with the Porta-Potties in the background. While my shot percentage is pretty high, there are always a bunch of shots that I just don’t like.

When I have the luxury of working back at my place,  I use what I can ‘two –handed’ editing! If I am working at my desk, I have a 30” monitor.

First I open the contact sheet in Photo Mechanic, and then I double click on the first image. In my left hand I use a mouse with a scroll wheel, I keep my right hand on the 10 keypad on my keyboard.  In this way, I can quickly scroll through images and tag the each image that I like. Actually for my first pass, I go as quickly as possible and if the image is in focus and doesn’t suck, I tag it with a number 3.  In Photo Mechanic, tagging with a number 3, highlights the image with an orange tag in the lower right hand corner.

My goal with my first pass is to get rid of images that I am not interested in and to do it quickly.  After I have gone through my entire contact sheet, I hide the tagged images and delete the rest. To give you an idea of how quickly I can go, in February I shot three days of High School Alpine ski racing and shot approximately 4,000 images each day and I was able to complete my first pass of the images in about an hour each day. Many of the images are good solid shots, but based on my experience the skier’s position may have been poor or there may have been something distracting that had come into the background.

A couple of the key elements that makes this process so fast is that, you can scroll through the images in Photo Mechanic very, very quickly. For all of the wonderful things that can be done in Lightroom 4, this is not one of them.

In addition, instead of deleting images one at a time, they can be deleted as a group, saving the time that your computer needs to delete an individual image from the hard drive.

Here is how the contact sheet looks after I have deleted all of the tagged images. Indeed, I actually do delete them, gone forever. If I don’t like it now, the odds are I will not like it later either.

After another pass or two of the images, I get it down to my final file set.

If you are using more than one camera, I also always time sync the cameras. This is a quick and easy process. Although I have set the time on my cameras as closely as possible, I still shoot an image of a timing app on my iPhone or iPad.  Then in Photo Mechanic, I can go to the Tools menu and use Adjust Capture Time and Dates.

Still using Photo Mechanic, I sort the files in order of Capture Time and then Rename them, using an alphanumeric sequence what will specifically identify the event and the image.  For the Minnesota Sectional High School Ski Race, I used ALPSEC12 and then the number sequence related to the section number, for example, Section 4 were numbered beginning with 4001. Similar to giving each image a unique name and number, be sure that you also give each folder / subfolder a unique name.  If you shoot races as I do, and within an event folder which will contain many subfolders with the various things that I have shot over the weekend; instead of labeling a subfolder Race Day, I am more specific and use Race Day LTF12. Otherwise when you import into Lightroom, you will have trouble identifying the difference between the folders.

It is only after I have my final, or near final image set and have renamed the images do I import them into Lightroom.

As I mentioned above, there is one major exception to transferring images directly from the card to my hard drive. Frequently, I have events where I need to get a couple images out immediately for either a Press Release or website posting. In this situation, I will Protect selected images in the camera.  Although I always tell people never trust the back of the camera, it is much easier to protect 100 shots and than to take the time to download 1,000 shots.

Using Photo Mechanic, you can download only the protected images, quickly pick out a few images, often with someone from the event standing over my shoulder and get them selected, post processed and exported very quickly.

2 thoughts on “Optimizing Your Work Flow

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