I've had a few requests for information about my wedding workflow, so here goes. I can usually get color corrected images from a wedding onto the web within 12 hours of starting this process: 6 hours of my time to cull, 6 hours to color correct, plus 1 hour of computer processing time/upload time. When I started doing this it took a LOT longer, perhaps 20 hours: you get a lot faster with practice and experience. The better you are at shooting good exposures the less time it'll take. If you do printed proofs just use the JPGs produced by step 7, let the lab worry about downsizing.
- Intel 2600K, 16GB RAM, three hard drives, two SSDs Windows 10 64 bit beta (self built)
- Transcend USB 3 card reader.
- Transcend 16GB 300X cards.
- Fast Picture Viewer (incredibly fast culling)
- Adobe CS6 Bridge/Photoshop
- Photographers shopping cart (few people buy prints any more)
- FileZilla ftp client - http://filezilla.sourceforge.net
- This backup software
- Synchronise the times of each camera with your PC clock using EOS viewer (or whatever Canon software replaced it) BEFORE each wedding. This is ESSENTIAL. With Nikon you use Nikon Transfer.
- Shoot RAW (please don't turn this into a JPG/RAW thread, I won't answer queries about this. This is what I do and it works for me).
- Since I started shooting with manual exposure my post processing time has decreased. I still use Av mode and partial metering for situations where the lighting changes more rapidly than I can meter manually. Sometimes I just use the histogram instead of the light meter. I never focus manually.
Philosophy: I used to use this to make proofs, reasonable quality, not fully finished. That means another pass later to do final correction. I've found this inefficient, so I now do full color correction in this workflow. I correct everything to color, then apply my sepia preset to some images.
I do a first pass in Fast Picture Viewer to do the initial cull, then I do a pass in Bridge to color correct. I do a second pass in Bridge with the thumbnails small as anything not quite right stands out better that way.
1) Copy each card to a subfolder of the customers event folder on my hard drive. Manually check image counts and that file sizes aren't zero (I had that problem once with a dodgy card reader). The CS4 Bridge download function is faulty, it only downloads some of the images, don't use it. Once verified copy all images to root of customers folder.
2) Point bridge at the folder and give it some time to create thumbnails. Wait until after the images have all copied else thumbnail generation sometimes goes weird.
3) Check to see all images are present. You can check using image numbers or visually, preferably both ways.
4) Change the bridge sort order to by date modified and visually check the images are in the correct order. If they're not change the sort order to by date. I never remember which one actually works. If they're still not you didn't do the pre-shooting stuff listed above. Sort them manually.
5) Use the bridge batch rename function to rename your images to something meaningful to you. I use a combination of the customer initials and initially a 4 digit number. This way I can sort by filename during processing, which is faster/more reliable than sorting by date, especially once psd files are created (though I don't make many of them).
6) Close Bridge and start Fast Picture Viewer and cull the images.
- Hit the keys 1-5 to indicate how good the image is. My system is 1=unusable for a technical reason, 2=duplicate image or not worth showing, 3=good image, 4=image that will probably go into an album, 5=image that will go into my portfolio. You can use any system you like.
- Label the images if something needs to be done. eg I might have labels "photoshop work required", "apply a special effect later", etc.
- I cull my assistant/second shooters images separately, by putting them into a different folder. I find this speeds things up heaps, for both the culling pass and the color correction pass.
7) Open bridge and use the filter panel to select images as follows. Images I rated 1* are deleted immediately, images I rated 2* are kept in case I need to do a head transplant or eye transplant (ie swap eyes/heads between pics). I rate duplicate images 2* and I rate quickly so I keep the dupes just in case I choose a blurry one or something. Customers aren't told I do this, one saw them once and they want copies of every image, usually I explain why they don't need them but on occasion i've given them out.
8) Now I do color correction. This means I can make albums, prints, and a high res CD from the JPGs, I generate now without having to go back to the RAW image. Color temp presets can be helpful, but I usually adjust from the preset. I often use the highlight recovery and fill light sliders to reduce the extreme bright and dark patches of the image, as it's to much dynamic range for print (to my eye). Using too much of the highlight reduction tool turns white to grey, I find the shadow highlight tool with highlights set to 10/10 more effective, but I only do this for images going in an album.
- By experience i've found that I don't want the histogram to quite touch the right hand side, else my prints come back brighter than I prefer. Exception is when the main subject isn't the brightest part of the image. I've done a whole bunch of 6x4" test prints with my lab with different brightnesses and color temps, and have discovered that what I see on my calibrated screen isn't quite what I get back, so I recommend doing similar tests. Take 2-3 images, bracket the white balance by -2000, -1000, 1000, and 2000, and for brightness by -1.5, -1, -.5, .5, 1, 1.5, and anything else you want to try.
- I have presets defined for B&W images & sepia. To make a B&W preset for this open any RAW image, drag saturation to -100, then tweak the sliders in the calibration tab to make the image look bettter. Hit the right arrow thingy, hit save settings subset, and tick the boxes you want to tick. I have a half dozen different presets, including one that resets all settings except the main tab ones. For prints I take the color photo into photoshop and use the channel mixer. In CS4 use the B&W checkbox, and split toning, both highlights and shadows set to orange with saturation of 10-15%
- Image is straightened if it needs it (shortcut key is A)
- I do a bit of clone tool type work in the ACR tool too (shortcut key is B). I think it's called blemish removal or something.
- A few images are taken into photoshop and played with, the result saved as a PSD in the same directoy as the RAW images. The RAW I worked from is moved to a subdirectory called "RAW Processed" (or something like that). This is so when I batch the directory I don't get two copies of the same file.
9) The order of using the sliders is important. Exposure comes first, in conjunction with blacks - they control the left and right hand edges of the histogram, and stretch the histogram as necessary. Highlight recovery comes in there somewhere too. The brightness comes next, it shifts the center of the histogram. Only then can color temperature be accurately set - of course you need a calibrated monitor. Once this is done you can start playing with contrast, and vibrance/saturation, or do your B&W/Sepia conversions.
10) Renumber all the keepers for the customer so they're sequential. This is important, if you don't do it the customer wants to see the "missing" images.
11) Any required photoshop work is done at this point. Mostly I do eye swaps, head swaps, basic things like that. I save the edited files as PSD files, in the Adobe RGB color space, mostly because my album company wants Adobe RGB. Most people should use sRgb. Once the edits are done I keep the psd files in the image directory, and I move the RAW files to a "Processed" subdirectory so I keep the RAWs in case I need them in future.
12) Once all images are rated I filter for 3 star or better images, select them all, right click and choose "open in bridge". I then hit select all, set sRgb, hit save, choose the proofs folder, set quality to ten, and hit go. This can take 10-30 minutes depending on the number of images (down from 1-2 hours with my old PC). The PSD files need to be done using image processor.
13) I pour myself a rum, relax, and let the computer do its thing. Wait until this finished before going onto the next step.
14) Here are the folders I typically deliver. Images are just in these folders, no division for parts of the day.
- High res color (from step 12)
- Low res color (which are watermarked, using Photoshop Batch and actions). 900px saved with save for web / high preset / srgb.
- High res sepia (a second export from Bridge, with a sepia preset). Not all images are given sepia, often prep, ceremony, parts of portrait shoot, dancing.
- Low res sepia (which are watermarked, using Photoshop Batch and actions)
- High res special effects (exported from Bridge)
- Low res special effects (which are watermarked, using Photoshop Batch and actions)
15) The generated jpg images are uploaded to my website, after creating the gallery in the shopping cart. 500 proofs are about 30MB. I use FileZilla since it can upload a number of files at the same time, which speeds things up hugely because of latency and how ftp works. I don't always do this any more because image sales are basically zero. I put some on Facebook for people to see though, watermarked.
16) The images created in step 7 are used to create a DVD slide show of proofs, using Proshow Gold. Very simple show, bit of royalty free music, default transition, "\f" as the caption to put the filename onto each image.
17) Backups: until I have my images stored offsite on another hard drive I keep the cards with me at all times. I mirror my hard drive onto an external hard drive, which I keep in a secure location OUTSIDE of the building I work in. If it's in the same place a fire can destroy everything. I only delete the images from your cards once the offsite backups have been done. I've never lost an image, and I doubt I ever will. See the backups section below.
18) The album is predesigned using PhotoJunction remix, the customer see this when they come to see their images (a slide show of about 100 images set to music, on my 40" LCD TV with a nice surround sound system). This is a sales tool. The basic steps of working with PJ are:
- Export my 4* and 5* images into an "album" subdirectory
- Create the PJ project, import the images, categorise into parts of the day
- Design album
- Export as PSD files
- Sharpen and retouch
- Send to album supplier
For more on album design visit wedding album design tutorial.
Also see how to photograph wedding receptions.
My commercial images are all on one drive. I have a root folder called "photos", under that I have folders for Weddings and Portraits. Under Each of those folders I have the year, then under each year I have the client name. This would have to be altered if I did multiple jobs for one customer, but so far it's fine.
My RAW files go into the root directory. Subdirectories include:
- Album files
- Rejected Images
- Web proofs
All the folder names are shortened. I have a template folder structure which has things like templates for DVD labels, etc, which I copy into each customer folder.
Backups are critical. My philosophy with backups is to have one copy of the images for as little time as possible, and to have at least one copy offsite ASAP. Even after I copy the cards to my PC I put the cards back into a case which goes into my car, which is away from my house. The next day I run an offsite backup.
Hard drives are the only practical backup mechanism at the moment, DVDs and even blu ray are too small and too much hassle, and cloud backup isn't yet economic or fast enough given our data volumes. Note that I use HGST hard drives, as they're currently rated the most reliable by far.
NB: see my backup software review here. I use different software to back up compressible files, AOMEI Backup. The link says why.
I like to have as few hard drives as possible, mostly for simplicity of organisation. If a drive fills up I buy a new one 2-3 times larger, copy the data onto it, and put the old one into a drawer as an extra backup. Currently my PC has the follow disks inside it:
- System drive (120GB Samsung 840 pro SSD)
- 4TB HGST RAID Mirror (ReFS / storage spaces)
- Media drive (2TB)
- ACR/Bridge cache/scratch/swap (SSD, 120GB, mostly empty)
My offsite drives are as follows:
- Offsite mirror (5TB HGST Hard Drive, RsFS). Backs up all my internal drives, personal and commercial data.
- A mirror of my archive drive. The difference is I convert the images to DNG for this copy, just to hedge my bets. I also keep jpeg versions of the files, and any psd files.
- I have another copy of my archive drive in a second offsite location. Just to be safe.
I back up my image and other large files using Cobian Backup, with no compression so it's essentially mirroring. The difference is if a file changes on the source disk it creates a new version, rather than overwriting. This is critical to me. I back up to this main backup after every significant event. Files aren't put into one big, proprietry compressed file, they're individually downloadable from the disk. This reduces the risk of corruption. Cobian backup does do incremental backups, but when you compress them it's VERY slow, and because it's individual files it's less compression and the restore isn't quite as easy.
My smaller files (documents, receipts, etc) get backed up with AOMEI Backuper Free. This does compress all the images into one image file, and I do this incremental again. More about the backup software with reviews here.
I have a drive that stays near my house as well, so I can easily copy files out to it immediately after a wedding.
My archiving process is manual, I do it once or twice a year. I archive manually, using Teracopy to verify writes to the disk.
I use CrashPlan to back up rapidly changing files online (album designs, financial information, contracts, etc, but not images as they're too large IMHO). I have the free version of Mozy but I've found it unreliable.
If you need a color calibration system the Colorvision Spyder Express 4 is effective and reasonably priced.
I have lots of information available via FAQs i've written, there's a list here.
That's it I think. I'm happy to answer questions or hear comments and suggestions to improve my workflow. I'm happy with the workflow and can't see anything that needs improving. Snarky comments or flames will be ignored if i'm in a good mood, if i'm in a bad mood i'll call you names and insult your mother
Hopefully this helps some of you out If you'd like to see some of my photos check out my website, Wellington Wedding Photography.