Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

-- Note: Our E-Booklets cover a much newer and updated content. --

 
Previous Chapter
 

Digital Outback Fine Art Photography Handbook

© Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller

 
 
11 The digital workflow / Archiving /Browsing
 
 
 

11.1 Preview Images

11.2 Principle Workflow Steps

11.3 Workflow and Printing

11.4 Archiving

11.5 Browsing Images

 
 
 

There is a lot of talk about the digital workflow but there is now real flow. Fine art photos often require very different treatment from photo to photo. But still we try to automate (Photoshop Actions) as many steps as possible.

This chapter will change a lot over time as tools improve and we learn new ways to work.

 
11.1 Preview Images
 

Even today where more useful RAW image browsers are available we first batch process all RAW files to low quality JPGs. This has the advantage that we can better judge the content (less the final quality) and also keep these JPGs with the RAW files on out backup CDs. In this case we can use an Image Browser and see the preview images even if the browser cannot read the RAW files.

Be aware that these preview images might not give you the right clue about the real quality. But you then know that the subject itself might be worth more work.

 
 
11.2 Principle Workflow Steps
 

The principle steps to perform (which does not yet define the order):

  • RAW conversion (linear / non linear)
  • Converting to the right color working space (in our case Adobe RGB)
  • Removing noise (sometimes multiple times during the workflow)
  • Remove moire or aliasing artifacts
  • Removing color cast (getting the right white balance)
  • Improving contrast
  • Improving saturation
  • Selective color corrections
  • Retouching (e.g. removing dust spots)
  • Perspective correction (see our tutorial)
  • Lens correction
  • Sharpening (also may be more than once)
 
As already mentioned you should stay in 16 bits/channel as long as possible.
 
The concrete workflow depends a lot on the camera you work with and also the RAW conversion SW you use. Let us show two example workflows with the Nikon D1x and the Canon D60
 
11.2.1 The sharpening dilemma
 
While in theory the sharpening should be always the last step we rarely follow this rule. The main reason is that is is hard to judge contrast without some sharpening applied. We also want to have some master files which we then use to get prints in different sizes. We want this master file to be reasonable sharp and upsize the file and might also then perform some final sharpening again. We are aware that this process might be not ideal but it seems to work so far.
 
 
 
11.2.2 A D1x workflow
 
  • Open the D1x RAW file in Bibble 3.0 (Bibble uses a pretty good generic profile for the D1x)
  • Use Bibble sharpening standard or low
  • use the Bibble WB tool to get a desired WB (this cannot be properly done with any RAW conversion SW which does not support color management - monitor and working space)
  • Save from Bibble as a 16bit TIFF file.
  • Open the file in Photoshop
  • Remove some aliasing artifacts with our Moire action (see in our Photoshop section)
  • Work on a possible color cast (using iCorrect)
  • Check and improve Levels
  • Use Curves to improve contrast if needed (S-Curve)
  • Use Curves to get brightness right
  • Improve sharpness with the PowerRetouche Sharpening plug-in
  • Convert to 8-bit
  • Save the file as TIF with some descriptive text added to the file number (no blanks please!)

Optional actions are:

  • Improving saturation
  • Selective color corrections
  • Retouching (e.g. removing dust spots)
  • Perspective correction (see our tutorial)
  • Lens correction
  • Use Contrast Masking if needed

 

 
11.2.3 A Canon D60 workflow
 
  • Convert the RAW file in linear mode either with the Canon SW, BreezeBrowser or YarcPlus
  • Open the resulting 16bit TIF with Photoshop
  • Use Fred Miranda's actions/profile for linear D60 files (with no sharpening)
  • Work on a possible color cast (using iCorrect)
  • Check and improve Levels
  • Use Curves to improve contrast if needed (S-Curve)
  • Use Curves to get brightness right
  • Improve sharpness with the PowerRetouche Sharpening plug-in
  • Convert to 8-bit
  • Save the file as TIF with some descriptive text added to the file number (no blanks please!)

Optional actions are:

  • Improving saturation
  • Selective color corrections
  • Retouching (e.g. removing dust spots)
  • Perspective correction (see our tutorial)
  • Lens correction
  • Use Contrast Masking if needed
 
11.3 Workflow and Printing
 

Although we will discuss printing in the next chapter you should be aware that printing will have a great influence on your workflow. Even the very best soft proof cannot show how your print will look like on fine art watercolor paper (this is what we settled with for our fine art prints).

You (and we too) have to learn to anticipate what it will look in print. Avoid strong contrast as it might only be possible to reproduce this contrast on glossy paper.

 
 
11.4 Archiving
 

We will add some more ideas to this topic later. But in between we think that share (and partly execute) the ideas of Michael Reichmann's article about "Archiving Images".

We also backup copies of the ready to print files for the different print sizes (currently postcard, 11x7.2", 15x10" and 20x13.3"). These copies only exist on hard disks as they can be recreated from the originals any time.

Here are the different forms we store master files (ready to print for sale):

  • Ready work result of the workflow process (8bit TIF)
  • Genuine Fractals STN file (to create different print size from)
  • Final resized print files in the different standard size (8 bit TIF)

 

11.4.1 Archiving tools
 
We don't really use archiving tools. Why that? How can we oversee the flood of images? OK if you make 50 good fine art photos a year we would get 1000 in 20 years. That is manageable.
 

There is one more severe problem. Sometimes the preview of an image did not show that you had a diamond in the raw. So we browse over many photos and sometimes find a surprise (could be also related to a change in taste and mostly to the use of new and improved tools).

If fine art printing is your main goal then you might get a long way without archiving software. If you target the stock photography market you probably need an archiving tool.

 
 
11.5 Browsing Images
 

Before Photoshop 7.0 came out an image browser was mandatory. But even now we often want to have multiple browsers open at the same time and Photoshop does not support this.

Our long time friend was and is ThumbsPlus (by Cerious SW). Unfortunately Thumbsplus is only available for PCs. Like other image browsers also Thumbsplus is a bit overloaded with functionality. But whenever we looked a other browsers we came back to ThumbsPlus as the best compromise.


Thumbsplus screen shot

Till version 4 the most annoying thing in all image browsers and also ThumbsPlus was the lack of support for monitor profiles. We hate to browse for images and preview them and get wrong colors. I cannot count how often we browsed through a set of photos and had to remember that we did not see the correct color (unfortunately the very same is true for the web). Now with version 5 ThumbsPlus supports the windows monitor profile and this make the viewing experience consistent.

We wanted to write a review about Thumbsplus for a long time now. The only reason we did not is the very rich functionality of this browser which is hard to capture in any review. Steve Sanders called Thumbsplus the Swiss Army knife of image browsing and manipulation. Important to know that Thumbsplus is easy to use despite the many features.

Whenever you buy an image browser ask for the support of monitor profiles.

 
 
 
References
 
 
 
 
 
© Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller
 
Previous Chapter
 
   

For Comments post in our News Group

2000-2007 Digital Outback Photo

//