Photo processing workflow for non-photographers.
January 1, 2011 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Help setting up a mostly-automated digital photo processing workflow for non-photographers.

This previous Ask comes closest to what I'm trying to do but isn't quite right, likewise these (1, 2, 3) don't quite get to what I need.

Tools available: Macbook Pro, Photoshop CS5, Aperture 3.1, Lightroom 3.2, iPhoto, Picasa.

We take a lot of pictures, (mostly of our baby these days) but we're not photographers and I'd like to set up some kind of automated system to do some pre-processing of the photos before we get involved.

We're using a Panasonic GF1, mostly on auto shutter/aperture and shooting RAW.

Ideally the process would go something like this: connect the camera to the computer, originals are dumped into a directory and deleted from the card, then copied to another directory where they are auto-rotated and exposure, color, and contrast are auto-corrected, then renamed based on the date they were shot.

I've fooled around with Automator and know my way around Python and Applescript if that matters.
posted by dolface to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Import them into Aperture, let it manage the photos in the library. Aperture lets you delete the contents of a card after import. In Aperture, I use an organizational system like this:

--New Years
-Non-Event Photos
--Euro Trip 2010

That's just a small portion of my photos, but it's how I organize them. You'll want to come up with some other way if this won't work for you.

Next, I rate all of my images. Most DAM software does a 1-5 star thing, I just use 1, 3 and 5. I reject anything not a 1 start. I personally don't delete rejects, since hard drive space is stupidly cheap, but others do. 5 stars is an awesome photo, one that I will later print 11x17. 3 stars is a photo I really like and might print small. 1 star is a photo that came out well, but isn't worth printing but will make its way to flickr.

Now that you've cut down the photos to deal with (but still have them all in case you need them and they're organized), you'll want to tag each photo with the appropriate keywords (e.g., flowers, bridge, landscape, soccer, etc) and probably take advantage of the faces feature. (Alternatively, the keywords can also be used to track who is in what photo if you don't like faces.) This will let you easily respond to your mom asking "hey, remember that photo of Uncle Bobby from last summer, I'd really like a copy" since you just search for photos of Uncle Bobby taken between 5/2010 and 8/2010. One could write a book on appropriate hierarchal keywording practices.

Next, it's time to start cropping, adjusting color, etc. Don't make a copy of your photos. I'm not sure why you mention this but the number one reason of using non-destructive DAM software. Your masters (that's Aperture's term, I'm sure Lightroom uses a different term) will always be there untouched. You could just let Aperture auto pilot all the image adjustments, but why?

To automate this a bit, you can create adjustment presets (pre-bundled series of adjustments, e.g., make 100 degrees kelvin warmer, devignette and some moderate noise reduction) and even apply these presets upon import.

For serious editing (beyond levels, highlight and shadow recovery, noise reduction [use noise ninja with a profile for your camera], cropping, rotating, etc) you'll want to open the image in PS. PS is useful for things like removing Aunt Sally entirely from the photo or advanced work with layers. Given where you're starting, I'd be surprised if you used PS much at all in the first month. Since PS operates outside of Aperture's non-destructive environment, Aperture automatically makes a copy of the image as edited by Photoshop and keeps it next to the original in your Library. (I think by default they get stacked, very useful.)

You mentioned automating things, I'm not sure specifically what you'd like to automate. Your computer cannot really tell what is a 5 star photo and what is a reject (though there are programs out there to detect whether or not a particular part of a photo is in focus, but how would it know which part you want in focus?). Your computer can auto pilot through the color balance and contrast and all that nonsense, but you're talking about using some professional level tools that aren't exactly cheap, it's pretty expected that you'll want to control each part of the process.

Lastly, if you give in and let Aperture (or Lightroom) manage your photos, I'm not sure why you care what the file names are. You don't interact with the file itself through the filesystem any more. It's abstracted away, so you can spend time editing your photos and not worrying about file names. Besides, all your metadata (EXIF and IPTC) will really help you find what you want. If you use iTunes and let it manage your library, you haven't given any thought as to where the file is saved or what the name is; you just copy the album to your ipod by dragging it in iTunes and you stop worry about all that nonsense. Same idea.

But you wouldn't be the first and you won't be the last person who wants to rename photos on import based upon the embedded EXIF date and time, so both Aperture and Lightroom allow you to rename based on numerous patterns upon import. If there's some really bizarre naming scheme you'd like that they just don't do, call out to exiftool as part of an Automator script which would copy the photos to /tmp renaming them according to whatever system you think is awesome based on whatever metadata you choose, then import, then delete. But I'm not sure why you care what the file name is.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:05 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Aperture 3 would offer everything you requested in pretty much one step, directly upon import. Look into the options available to you in the import panel. (Here's a little overview.) You can specify an automatic backup location, and it'll dump a copy of everything to a secondary directory. And you can create exposure and editing presets -- even just auto presets -- to be applied upon import. You can also create different naming conventions, and then instruct Aperture to rename the master filenames (the files on your drive), the version filenames (the nondestructive names displayed in the software), or both upon import. And if you're feeling extra crafty, you can even run AppleScripts during the import process.
posted by Hankins at 7:34 PM on January 1, 2011

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