Need help with photoshop workflow
January 13, 2008 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm a photoshop newbie. I recently came back from vacation and have close to 1500 pictures on my harddrive. It's overwhelming just thinking about filtering, organizing, and editing the pictures. What is you guys' workflow when it comes to managing and editing large amount of pictures. I don't want to edit all of them. I just want to pick out the ones I like and edit those but there are just way too many pictures to go through.
posted by willy_dilly to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
For such amounts one pass is not enough. Usually I end up doing 3 passes to start with, and come back at least 20 times over the next few months to pick out specifics. The first 3 passes are for (1) delete obviously bad ones (too dark, blurry, doesn't show anything). (2) is for picking out the "greats", rate them as 4-5 and move on. (3) is for picking out the "maybes" and deleting some more - ratings here are assigned as 3s to what is a maybe, and 1-2 for poor maybes.

The next 20 passes are to compile galleries/shows for whatever purpose: website, friends, family, myself. And, more deletion of poor ones.

It always helps to tag for those later 20 passes. I do tagging during (3), when I have more of an awareness of how the photos are laid out.

For vacations, themes (people/places/architecture/things) are helpful tags, and days (day 1, 2, etc) are helpful too, for coming back.
posted by olya at 2:45 PM on January 13, 2008

I've found that Google's Picasa is great for organizing photos. You can easily browse and sort photos, and it has some common photo editing features (red eye, cropping, etc.). It can serve as an initial triage, after which the especially important photos can be moved to Photoshop.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:54 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Skim through them quickly, outright delete the ones that are obviously crap. Look at the shots which are just multiple angles of the same picture, choose one you like most, delete the rest. Go through the remainder, crop as desired, and some basic adjustments. BY that point you should only have a couple of hundred, look at the thumbnails and pick-out the ones that stand-out.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:55 PM on January 13, 2008

I don't use Photoshop to do the bulk of the work - I use Aperture, but Adobe's Lightroom would be good for the initial sorting and tagging. I'm sure there are other consumer photo managers out there that would be equally good.

Anyway, my workflow is this:

0- Shoot a crap-ton and dump the whole card to a new Project. I only look at the LCD for the pictures I have to get - I *rarely* edit in-camera.

1- First Pass after the dump, I mark the crap rejected. In Aperture, that's hotkey 9. Basically, I throw away everything that doesn't pass the sniff test, as long as it's something I don't *need* to salvage in some way.

2- Second Pass, mark each with a rating. (0-5 in Aperture)

3- Third Pass, color, exposure, contrast, cropping and straightening.

4- Fourth Pass, I'll do keywords.

5- Sort and cull the 0-1 or 0-2 stars

6- Upload or deliver.
posted by tomierna at 2:55 PM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

I second Picasa. I use it to organize and do basic adjustments, and then fire up Photoshop for the few real "keepers."
posted by Krrrlson at 3:01 PM on January 13, 2008

I use Adobe Bridge to go through mine; for that many photos (which is about the number I take in a day, sometimes) it takes me about a week to get through all of them, in several passes. First pass is to get rid of the obviously poor and unsalvageable ones (where the subject is cut off/obstructed, it's blurry, etc). I rate this as 1 star. Next pass is to cut down on duplicate photos; since I do a lot of burst shooting at something like an airshow, there are a lot of basically duplicate photos. I try to pick the one of the group that's best and rate the others as 2 stars. The third pass is to go back and eliminate the ones I just don't like that much, whether because of composition or just because I have a bunch of other photos like it (from other bursts, perhaps). These are also rated as 2 stars. A fourth pass, usually some time after the third, is basically the same, but I rate the keepers as 3 stars. Fifth pass is editing and a last chance to change my mind about some of them.

Somewhere along the way I start tagging; every photo gets tagged, regardless of its rating, so I could do tagging first but sometimes it's just nice to absorb the whole collection first. This is done before editing, though, so that the metadata gets copied along to the derivative JPEG files (I shoot RAW in the camera). I tag based on location, subject(s), and in some cases action (what's happening in the photo).
posted by Godbert at 3:10 PM on January 13, 2008

Gunna throw my hat in the ring for Lightroom here. The photo management side of it is great, and i would agree with the above suggestions for tagging, and then multiple passes to weed out the best shots.

Lightroom also allows really easy editing on the fly, to make your photos even better. The combination of both the management and easy editing (better than picasa, but not as detailed as Photoshop) really fits in well with my workflow.
posted by chromatist at 4:42 PM on January 13, 2008

I use iPhoto (which doesn't help if you're not on a Mac). If I have a bunch of photos, I do this:
1. Upload everything into iPhoto.
2. Start a slide show with a short interval and assign ratings to everything as I go.
3. Anything rated 1 or 2 gets trashed. Photos rated 3 get trashed if they're near-duplicates of something else.
4. Assign titles and tags, and if I'm adventurous, descriptions. Touch up the ones that need it.
posted by adamrice at 4:49 PM on January 13, 2008

This recently happened to me; I came back from a four day holiday with around 1400 pictures. I've cut that down to around 500, and I'm going to hopefully cut it down to half that today!

In Lightroom, an amazing program which never fails to amaze.

1. Import photos to YEAR\MONTH\DAY. Convert to DNG, and name file eg 01Jan2008_IMGXXXX.DNG. Apply copyright metadata.
2. Go through entire shoot and flag all the obviously bad photos as rejects (hit 'x' to do so)
3. Delete rejects.
4. Using survey mode ('n') select similar groups (e.g. five slightly different shots of a subject). I force myself to whittle the selection down to 2. Then use compare mode ('c') to do a 100% comparison of focus, sharpness, colour, etc.
5. Voila, the winning picture. I edit this now or later. When I finish editing it I flag it as a pick ('p').
6. I'm not convinced that tagging is worthwhile. It seems like it takes far too much effort for little gain. As is the somewhat anal 5 star approach; a photo is either worth keeping, or it is not. Don't waste your time as a photographer with anything less than good work.

Sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed at step 2 I group all similar shots, sometimes spread-out through a shoot, into a stack. That way when I'm doing the initial sweep there is less risk of sheer boredom effecting my judgement.

If you're serious about photography, invest in a good solution like light-room; it handles everything from DAM (Digital asset management) to editing, to slideshows, web stuff and printing. It's completely changed my workflow, and I can't imagine photography without it. From what I've heard, based on recent trade-shows, Aperture isn't doing too well.

If you need further help or advice, please send me a mefimail.
posted by oxford blue at 6:31 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I cannot praise Lightroom too highly. I find that the combination of shooting in RAW and using Lightroom to manage (and edit) my photo catalog has improved my photos a zillion percent.

I don't have any great tips on screening the full 1500 photos--I generally take that in 5 days' of vacation, too. I have been on two-week trips after which the thought of sorting 3000+ photos is too daunting even to begin.

But what I do now is just take a laptop with LR with me. I find it is much easier (and fun) to sort 200+ pictures a night than 1500+ at the end of the week. I also like that importing to the laptop gives me peace of mind that the photos are backed up (I don't delete from the cards after I import).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:41 PM on January 13, 2008

I'll third Picasa. I don't use Picasa for photo editing, but I use it to tag and organize photos and videos. It's so much easier to go through them all and tag them with Picasa than any other application I've seen.

I like the date suggestion offered above on renaming, but I wouldn't recommend the date syntax suggested. In the example given (01Jan2008) it would sort by day, then month (alphabetized), then year. So you'd have the following bizarre sort:

Instead I'd suggest a method that I like to use, where dates are always properly sorted. I use all numbers, so the alphabetizing doesn't get in the way, and I do it by YYYYMMDD. The above example would in turn sort like the following, and in an appropriate manner:

You see the glaring difference? Anyway, just thought I'd add my 2 cents on that.
posted by magnoliasouth at 9:39 PM on January 13, 2008

Oops. I'm very bad about submitting before my thought is complete.

I meant to also say that I tag photos needing touch ups with the keyword 'tofix'. This way I can easily pick out the ones I need to work on as time allows. If you want to be specific you can even add what needs fixing too. The great part about tagging is that the possibilities are endless.
posted by magnoliasouth at 9:42 PM on January 13, 2008

Not necessary magnoliasouth; each image is stored in its year month day folder within the external harddrive, and within Lightroom.

It probably comes down to individual preference; I find I can mentally decode 01Feb2007 a hell of a lot quicker than 20070201, which for the first ten seconds just looks like meaningless numbers.

Admiral Haddock idea is excellent, and it's partially what I did. My CF card is only 4GB so at the end of each day I'd download the pictures from the camera onto my MacBook (using Lightroom) freeing up space for the next days shooting. This let me know if I needed to reshoot anything, plus it was fun sitting with friends and going over the days events with a nice glass of wine.

If at all possible process as you so you don't have to take care of a massive lump.
posted by oxford blue at 10:10 PM on January 13, 2008

1500 photos is quite manageable, I can take that amount in one evening if I'm covering an event such as a festival.
I often have to send the chosen finished post-processed photos the same evening to my agency, so I've worked out quite a speedy workflow.
I use IrfanView to batch process all the photos to 400 pixels on the longest side, and put them in a seperate folder. IrfanView is amazingly fast at doing this. It's also the quickest viewer by far, so I then use IrfanView to go through all the newly reduced files once so I can get a feel for which ones are the best. I then go through them again, opening any that stand out in Photoshop and save these in another folder. End of process!
I've tried other professional workflows, but this is by far the quickest way for me.
posted by BobsterLobster at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2008

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