Digital work-flow and why it matters
Taking pictures with a digital camera is really fun. But there is that big monster/hell waiting back home called the PC for all the post processing.
Some argue get everything right in Camera and the files are ready to be sent of friends/clients.
This assumes that everything is shot in JPEG and the camera makes the right guesses all the time.
I know that not everything will be right all the time. Just a few things that will go wrong every now and then :
Wrong White balance
Very big exposure difference between the subject and background,
All these things should be avoided when ever possible when taking the picture but they will happen (and can take for ever to fix)
I have been taking pictures for just over a year and I moved from a few 100 per month to a few 1,000 and that is with a much better keeper rate than before. All this made it important to review my work-flow to keep up and to be able to actually take pictures instead of managing them.
It was the ideal time to review everything and see where I could improve the process and be more efficient and maybe even get getter results.
I run on Linux so that limits the choices, to be open I actually setup and windows 7 vmware to validate the windows tools.
I won’t argue the benefits of Windows vs Mac vs Linux having worked with all 3 I knew what I needed to do and something where I spend time working not arguing with my OS about what I should do.
The Options available and considered where
Ufraw (which I was already using)
Capture One Pro
Before we go into every software lets have a look at my work flow:
if possible adjust fix lighting ( avoid high differences,….) (2014 update I now added a light meter and color checker passport, it is not possible for all shots like events or outdoors. but when possible it makes my life easier
Fix white balance (to correct color using expodisk or specific for style
Have a clean sensor and lenses
Import to PC using digikam and 2 USB3 Sandisk card readers to my SSD work drive
In the background Crashplan will take a copy to my local SAN pretty much real time(including bad pictures, there is also a cloud backup but that takes somewhat longer to complete, up to a few day’s)
My file structure is \lab folder\year\date_event on an SSD drive for performance
Preview in digikam
1 delete out of focus or bursts(only keep the best, the target is to delete 5 to 7pictures at this stage(this is getting harder)
Rank images with starts (5 portfolio potential, 4 Really good, 3 Good picture, 2 Good for non photographers, 1 what was I thinking here, lets try to recover it or shoot that could not be missing for the client.
Take a break
Review the Stars and remove redundant pictures
Review by 3rd party
Move to folder to be processed (either all or by orientation and processing target, …)
Now that we know that the pictures have to be processed it is time to look at the options
I know this one well it is the one I have been using for over a year and finishing my processing in Gimp.
It is rather basic and simple but ok for basic work. There is no way to apply styles or to replicate the same settings again.
I only tried to use it a few times, somehow I could not really get a long too well with it.
After Shot Pro
It is an interesting commercial software for Linux, the software is pretty good, Nice interface, but when the files are to be processed it does not really live up to the nice interface noting really bad but just not amazing. Limited gains of efficiencies of what I could try
This one was the big surprise it looks kind of like lightroom but seems to be not completely polished. There is an overwhelming list of plug ins available. Once over the initial complexity of the tool (like all the others just a bit more of it) the image corrections are happening and WOW.
Since I switched from UFRAW/GIMP to darktable/GIMP(or not) my images seem to be better if measured by the number of +1 they get on Google Plus. They have that crisper finish.
Adding Frames is a piece of cake.
I am however stumbling around the plug-ins for now. I like the way styles can easily be saved and applied.
This software is very, very fast but also eats a lot of ram in my case 3GB(it is ok that is the reason I got 48GB), not sure though on a small laptop on the road.
The 16 bit TIFF seems to have some issues and fails to open in Gimp.
Now the Windows crowd. They started with a handicap since it meant installing a Vmware(on the plus side that makes it very portable), I Installed windows 7 pro, 2CPU, 2Core, 8GB of RAM. All running on an SSD drive
I really wanted to like this software since everybody I know seems to be using it and I could not make any mistakes. Also there are ton’s of plug-ins available.
The start was rather slow on the import and in general it seems rather slow. The interface is not really that easy, this being however the 4th or 5th tool I experiment with I find may way OK. I work on the same image to see how much I like the processing. It has a somewhat very familiar Lightroom touch to the pictures but not much better an definitely slower than darktable.
The next think is the lack of layer, the free plug-in won’t work because of the open GL support in Vmware. Also with all the plugins the price starts to climb rather high.
Memory usage was around 1.2GB
Capture One Pro
I have been looking at this for some time but it is outrageously expensive and seems very difficult to master. The recent price drops have brought it in line with Lightroom + Plugins. This being a professional software my hopes and expectations are very high.
The interface is very clean and seems logical (until you want to change brush size, zoom and move in the window) I am sure this can all be done but it is not obvious.
The color Correction are just totally amazing.
Spot Removal alone is worth the price of the software. I actually tend to abuse it on spots where I would not bother before it is that easy just select and Capture one does all the magic, and it does it extremely well
Skin color when compared to Lightroom are worlds apart. LR makes you feel like a cartoon (well not that bad but you get the idea)
Architecture correction another piece that works great. Ever had a building that is not really straight ?
No problem select the 2 vertical/horizontal rules align them to the walls/floors or ceiling that should be parallel. “Click OK” and it is complete, don’t like the result you can tweak this change
Memory usage was at around 1Gb most of the time spiking at 1.5
There are a few technical things I still don’t get. The shortcut keys don’t seem to be that easy
Definitely very fast for high volume processing.
My initial work-flow (pre 2013:
There are actually 3 different versions of my work-flow :
The free/ Facebook picture sharing
Digikam batch process
1. Color Auto-correct (at times this get very whacky)
2. Sharpen using the unsharpen
3.Resize to the promised jpeg, 85% quality
4.convert to to JPEG
5. add meta data
5.Save to target web folder for uploading
- Upload with WordPress Gallery plug-in or with filezilla
Medium Pictures that have some technical merit or show an important moment
Capture One Pro
Adjustments colors, …
Export as jpeg with a web specific recipe
More advanced editing
Local Adjustments in Capture One Pro
If required and only if there is no other way export to GIMP/elements/OneOne Perfect suite to fix things that could not be handled with the other tools
use the high res recipe
This is my final take on this selection. Keep in mind that it will probably not apply to you. I don’t use Windows very often, Have no investment in Light-room or Photoshop. I was also willing to change my whole work-flow process, Operating system and all to become more efficient in order to spend more time with my Family or go out shooting.
Before I make any recommendations. Go out here and test the software your self, check what works for you and your style. Also check how much you are willing to change.
I have split the recommendation into 3 levels
Casual Photographers(using linux): If you only care about your cat/car or last week family party. Darktable may look scary but I will provide probably more features than you will ever need. In some cases you may need gimp to fix a few things
Advanced Photographers (quality nerd) :darktable will work most of the things you need clearly local adjustments are the main thing missing(it will be coming) it should cover 90% of what you need the rest can be done in GIMP with some loss in quality
Professional and/or busy: At this stage photography is more than a hobby. You need(want) to process professional quality looking files as fast as possible. Have skin tones or architectural corrections done in seconds. Capture One is clearly the master. The images have just that special feel, however hard I try in darktalbe I can’t get it.
I told you what to do. But what will I do ?
For many reasons I love my Linux(opensuse), but windows is acceptable inside a VMWARE. I tried really hard to stay Linux and Opensource software only (there are a few lenses I still want to buy). At some point reality did set in. However hard I tried there are just a few things Capture One is just so fast, efficient, and really god at there is no real way around it.
Showing the end result from darktable and capture one (with the same time to not really master either) to my wife she agreed that the Capture one Picture had just that special thing and that give the time I save it is a very wise investment.
This is all about my sanity and being able to mange my day job and 1or 2 photo sessions every weekend.
Bottom line is also that I did streamline my whole process in many areas and now I can turnaround the pictures much faster and in a better quality than before.