Workflow – Part 3

Workflows as we discussed in Workflow – Part 2, is supposed to be a logical progression from start to finish. No worries if you do not understand the process outlined in Workflow – Part 2. While the principles will work in whatever project you apply them, the logic or thought process may not be yours. Allow me to give another perspective of this process so that you can break it down for yourself.

A workflow is “a process designed to stop detail loss; to produce the best quality product in the least possible amount of time.” This is my working definition of “workflow”; a dictionary definition gives this meaning: “progress of work: the progress or rate of progress of work done by a business, department, or person”. I have described this at the level of a personal project but will become business if you use it for your photography studio and departmental if your studio hires employees. See how quickly this expands?

Let the progression be your own, but be careful to include the details. In my experience working in the corporate world, one practice run on a workflow is good and two is better but three is wise. I have run it through on paper the first time, working out the major problems. The second time I run it through with friends, explaining to them the details: I ask for their questions, understanding and critiques. Third time through, I take a test product through my process making notes of snags and problems.

Make no mistake, by this time I am tired and ready to quit. This is the point at which you are closest to letting the workflow do your heavy lifting. You are doing a great job!

One of the best ways of making certain your workflow has everything you ought to have in your completed product is to write these details on paper. Documents are your friends!

Workflow – Part 2

Workflow is a process that details the first step to the last. Setting up a workflow will become an instinct to you, but until then let us catalog and learn the process of priorities. By priorities I mean, by completing the previous step you now have what is required to complete this step and have made available to yourself the tools for the next step.

Taking a small project using the same principles as photo processing will help us explain the process in as few words as possible.

To build a storage shed there must be some decisions made of the size and design. From these decisions an architectural blue print can be made. Now with the blue prints we can make a materials list and go shopping. Do you see the progression? Here is another way of looking at the process:

  1. Design and size
  2. Architectural drawings
  3. Materials list
  4. Materials shopping
  5. Ground breaking and construction

Each step when completed is setting up the success of the following step.

Starting with a new project, what are the signs of the first step?

  1. What is the first puzzle piece? First, set up your end product. How will it look? What are you providing; service or tangible product?
  2. What will you give with this service/product? What else should hold your attention in the phase of “material gathering”?
  3. How many practical steps can be made or planned to affect a clear understanding for everyone involved?

Something I have found invaluable in this process is having a scratch pad and new paper to record both ideas for consideration and decisions leading to the conclusion.

Take deep breath and relax. Things will start to fall into place on their own with these foundational questions answered. A challenge is not worth gray hair, unless you like the distinguished look. *Grin*

Enjoy.

Workflow

Workflow is a tool that promises to save you time, stress and money if used and delivers! Allow me to explain.

Say you just finished taking photos of your child’s birthday party and the camera is set down out-of-the-way until you can deal with downloading the pictures and do your minor edits. When do you pick it up again (to download the pictures or on your way to the next event)? Probably on your way to the next event, right? Perhaps I can give you some cheery news.

Cameras now being digital are made to be “plug and play” ready. That means that as soon as it is plugged into the computer the computer recognizes the camera and can do almost anything with the information for you by automatic protocol. This is not scary, just be aware of what goes on after key events.

Key events being the device having been plugged in to a computer (laptop or desktop); opening a program while the digital recording device is plugged in; etc.

Take a moment to read the owner’s manual for your camera or read an internet “how-to” on your software to help yourself better understand the tools given to you and ready for use at your finger tips.

Many digital camera manufacturers offer some basic programs that will download your photos automatically to a place on your computer hard drive. There are many other programs that also do this as a means of processing workflow and personal convenience. Take some time to look, read and make an inventory list of your tools to avoid working any harder than necessary.

Let automation take the work and stress out of your life by taking care of the small details for you.

If you have most of this available to you, try plugging your camera into your computer the next time you set it down after a shoot and let it work for you.

Revisiting “Darktable”

In a post last year, we discussed software packages for photography workflow and one of them is named “Darktable”.

I am always on the hunt for software and hardware that will give me optimal performance with minimal effort to help me through an intense product workflow. After looking into other software packages for my specific criterion, I came down to two options. Let me walk you through my list and then we will discuss the process to get here.

This is a list of basics that are crucial  to portrait, scenery and still life photography:

  1. Editing power for spot removal, elemental selection tools and layering work. This ability must either be a part of the software package or ability for integration with an editing program. [These things are important for manipulate and image without also misrepresenting anything within the photo.]
  2. RAW adjustment ability for exposure, white balance, contrast, color pushing and pulling, Tonal adjustments, etcetera.
  3. Cropping photos in batch files to certain common print sizes and digital device resolution.
  4. Quality assurance is a particularly important part. No customer wants a picture that is unfocused or has poor quality. So the program should accurately read and adjust the printing quality of a photo in dot per inch (DPI).
  5. Upload batches of files to personal web albums and other public albums on commercial websites or social media for advertising.
  6. Intuitive Workflow through the program is a great help while not “necessary”, is better to have functions and menus organized and accessible without multiple steps.

Software packages like Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture will not contain as powerful manipulation processes as Photoshop, GIMP or Corel Paintshop Professional. That is why I said it should at-least be capable of import/export integration with the manipulation software.

Now that I have explained my list of software package attributes I wanted, I will discuss Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture in our second blog post this Friday.

Post-Production Software – Part 3

Darktable – Non-Destructive, Data Protective, Photo Developmental Software

Design and Purpose: Darktable is designed to use the RAW Camera Data for dynamic photo editing without destroying the RAW Data. In doing so it provides some amazing capability for the photographer to use in post-production.

The purpose of a work flow program, such as Darktable, is to put the “final touches” on all photos in one album with minimal effort and time. For more personal touches on individual photos, there are presets to speed up those process. Creating your own presets is a great benefit considering each photographer has their own style and each uniquely set their camera settings. Presets will implement all effects on a photo that have been saved in the preset file.

Each Module that offers “presets” in the workflow will have a “preset” icon to access and use a different preset or make a new one! Hovering over items in the Darktable user interface will display a “mouse flag” with the name of the icons operation, such as “preset”. Review the Darktable website for more resources.

Capabilities: Non-destructive photo embellishments/editing, Complete workflow processing, Retouching tool, Water marking automation, Module presets, Film strip review and Customized panel of users favorite tools.

Strengths: Much of the Darktable program is able to be customized with the user’s specific information. Once a watermark is created it can be implemented into the software’s user interface by saving it in Darktable’s watermark specific folder. Please refer to Darktable’s user manual section 4.41. Darktable has good documentation on their website for most of the program.

Weaknesses: As with many start-up software builds there are problems in some areas. In my installation of Darktable I have not been able to create a HDR image, even though I follow a tutorial to the letter. Now, please understand this does not guarantee the problem to be a software problem! Even though my computer meets the system requirements for Darktable, I know that I am working a less than optimal set of hardware for peak performance. I write this as a program weakness so as to make you are aware, nothing is guaranteed to work out of the box. I am working with Darktable bug reporting team as I learn more about my system’s actions and the response from Darktable.

I have installed Darktable on a MacBook Pro, running Snow Leopard (still within the system requirements of Darktable’s build for Macintosh computers) and Darktable will not open. This bug has been reported by other Mac users and is currently being resolved.

I called Darktable a “start-up”, and I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. The newest version release of Darktable is 1.0 and for MAC osX 0.9.2. The programmers have done a great deal of hard work! Congratulations to them for their accomplishments! The fact being which they readily admit is there are going to be some hang-ups here and there. So as a network of users and programmers let us all work together to make the program better!