Image Workflow Overview
So what I want to cover with Workflow is everything from this basic file folder structure, so how you organize everything on your computer, and again, that's gonna be something that works for me. You may have your own system, that is great. But I like to keep everything a certain way. We're gonna cover raw conversion, so using Capture One, you know, some people use Camera Raw, some people use Lightroom. I happen to prefer Capture One. I'm gonna show you how I use Capture One to take the raw images and convert them into workable TIFFs, JPEGs, whatever you want, I use JPGs. And I'll show you how I do all that and what all I do in Capture One. We'll then cover basic retouching. By basic retouching, I mean just general blemish removal, stray hairs, things like that that happen on every shoot. Nothing that's that-, we're not gonna get into compositing or anything like that, but just your basic Photoshop that I do on every image for a general senior session. We will then get into color tonin...
g, and color toning is something that I love using AlienSkin Exposure for. That's a program that can either be used through Photoshop through the Filters tab, or as a standalone software. And we'll kinda show you how both of those are used, and how I use those to get specific looks within sets of images. So the first thing will be file folder structure. Within my computer, I like to keep everything simple and accessible, and that's because I have one employee who works for me, I've had other people in the past. I want it to be accessible to them, so if somebody calls and needs something, everybody's on the same page. It's something that makes sense. It's not like they're having to relearn a new language to figure out where everything is on the computer. And consistency is key. Whether it's client to client, senior to senior, or between business portraits, senior clients, family clients, anything else I might shoot, I want to keep the structure the same for every job. So that way, everybody knows where everything is. And when I'm searching through a computer or an old hard drive, I have a good idea of where to find things. How I do it is I have everything on external hard drives generally. Rarely do I have anything actually loaded on my computer. I use a whole bunch of external hard drives and then we do a little bit of a Cloud backup. We go through a lot of terabytes and hard drive space, but within each hard drive, the first, when you open it up, all you see is years. So it'd be 2017, 16, 15, etc. Within that is the job style, so for me, within each year is ad jobs, editorial jobs, seniors, anything else I might've shot. Even personal work, I put all of that into its own folder. Then I have the client name. Usually it's last name then first name, all as one, because just how I name everything in search. I have it so if it were Sarah Smith, it would be SmithSarah, so when I sort it alphabetically, it's always able to be found by Nicole, my studio manager, so she knows, I can go find it, I can type it in. And then within that folder for each client, I have all the raws, and I'd name everything just by the first letter. So for me it's R1 is their first session. If someone has a second session or there's multiple shoots, R2, R3, and so on. Then edit is everything that comes out or Capture One goes into another folder. And those are all, they're still basically raw. They haven't been through Photoshop yet. Those are all the files that have been processed. And then after that is the selects. Those are all the fully retouched, high-res images. Occasionally there'll be an additional folder within there where I put low-res, and that's so I can keep track of, you know, you don't want to accidentally send someone a low-res, when you meant to do a high-res, or even worse, if they didn't pay for a high-res and you're just sending them proofs, you don't want to accidentally send them the high-res files. So I try and keep everything organized that way. And then within each senior client folder, we also have a subfolder called Invoices. It's pretty obvious, that's where we keep all their information. Even, I forgot to mention this in an earlier segment about the pre-session consult, but we also have everybody fill out a questionnaire as part of the original email they get. That's even in there, so we can quick go back to their questionnaire because that's all their contact info, their preferred drink of choice, if we're trying to make that experience complete, sometimes we want to grab, you know, if they like, whatever it is they like, green tea or something, we can make sure we have something like that on hand for them. So all that information, everything's in those folders, so that way anybody who hops on my computer. I know in the past when I didn't have employees, I'd have to have my brother, like I was out of town, I'm like hey, grab my computer and I need this file emailed real quick. And it was even intuitive enough and made enough sense that he could, I could explain it to him over the phone just to grab something and send real quick. It wasn't like I was speaking in code where had to find something. So by keeping it consistent and year to year, I then know where everything's at, and all I have to do, a client from 2011 might email me and say, hey, can you send me, for some reason, this old photo? I know how to find it, and by keeping it consistent every year, I can even go back and figure out maybe in an old email something I need. So for me, file folder structure is really important to keep everything organized. And that way I know I'm not saving things just in random places, because sometimes, you wouldn't know that sometimes if you look at my desktop, but I try to keep everything cleaned up and ready to go. The next thing I want to talk about, we're gonna dive into the actual computer here, but I want to explain it all first. My raw file conversion is all done through Capture One, as I mentioned multiple times, that's what we were tethering to yesterday. The first step with any image in my computer is to open it up in Capture One. I do all my adjustments for exposure, white balance, and then highlight and shadows, basically making sure all the highlights are not blown out and shadows are not too deep. I want to start with a flat image and we'll show you how I get there. That's all done in Capture One. There is a little bit of color toning you can do in Capture One as well. They have some pretty cool color toning capabilities. And then skin tone correction. A lot of times, what you can do in Capture One is you can actually select skin tones and adjust, and it finds them by color range. So we'll talk about that and we'll do a couple samples using that, and you can apply it to several images and things like that, so if you want to remove red or green or any other tones from skin, you can get a little more control. And then the last thing is exporting the files to workable files that I'll use in Photoshop and deliver to clients. The next thing we're gonna cover is basic Photoshop retouching, so anything from your basic cleanup blemish removal, under-eye darkness, lightening that up so it looks natural, and hair fixes. I don't do a whole lot in Photoshop. I'm not someone who's real heavy on retouching. So you'll see, what I do here on this screen is what I actually do for all the clients. And that's supposed to say patch tool, it says took, but you know, typo. With the patch tool and healing brush, that's how I remove all blemishes. So something as simple as a patch tool can go in and clean up what I need. I'm all about skin actually having texture and nobody looking like a porcelain doll or anything like that, so I try and keep all the texture still there, so I'm pretty careful about not overdoing the skin retouching. The last thing is clone stamp at 16% under the eyes. Don't ask me about the 16%, it's just, I like using random numbers in Photoshop for my percentages. So I like that I can brush at 16% and remove under-eye circles and things like that lightly and not overdoing it, you know, if you're at 80%, all of a sudden, people start to look inhuman when they just get too perfect. So I like to keep everything pretty well natural. And then the last thing is liquefy and freeze tool. I'll use this more for hair than for actual body composition and things like that, and I'll show you how I use liquefy and the freeze tool. And then the last thing I want to talk about is how I sharpen every image within Photoshop using the unsharp mask tool. So we'll go through that. After that, we'll get into color toning. This is where everything starts to get fun because the images take on that unique look. It's way more than just presets. A lot of people think of AlienSkin Exposure as a program that's just film-mimicking presets, and it's way more than that. There are so many different tabs and different controls within the software that you can change to make things your own. A lot of times people will use it for the first time and they'll just look at some of the filters and they're like, oh my gosh, these are way too intense. Well, they are, but there's so many things within those filters that you can change to tone them down, to make them fit your vision. And I'll talk about how I use AlienSkin, and how I use more than just the presets to make certain looks, and then how you can save those so you can use them over and over again and not have to do it every time. Because it is fully customizable. You can apply the filters to entire batches of images, or you can just save filters you really like. One thing that happens with AlienSkin is the first time you use it you can almost have an identity crisis as a photographer, and I think it's important as a photographer to have a color pallet that fits your work. So you want people to look at those photos and someone who might have never met you, or other photographers, to look and they know that's your photo. It might be the lighting, the posing, the content, the composition, but a big part of it is that color pallet, where you know, this photographer's photos are a little more warm, or they have more green or blue tones. Things like that. Well AlienSkin has so many choices that sometimes you can get a little too deep down the rabbit hole and start playing around too much and you lose your identity. That's where being able to save some of the ones you use consistently as presets within AlienSkin helps keep that, because I have certain ones that I use over and over again, and rarely now, unless I'm experimenting, do I venture outside of those. And we'll be venturing outside of them a lot today just to show you, but it's really easy to make it so it's quick. And then color filters, color and color channel saturation levels. Those are just some of the things you can play with within AlienSkin that let you alter the presets that are given. You can really change it up, and this will make a lot more sense once we open the software. And the last thing, similar to what you can do in Photoshop with a tone curve to add contrast, reduce contrast, you can do that all in AlienSkin within your shadows, midtones, and highlights, and the overall image. So it's pretty cool. It's more than just color toning. It really can change your images from something that's just the raw out of camera to something totally different. There's also overlays and other special effects. I don't use those often, but I do want to show you those within AlienSkin. Customizable grain settings. That's how you get that gritty feel to a lot of images that almost have a film quality. And layers and masking options. They just redid AlienSkin recently and they added layers. So you can stack filters on top of each other without having to do it in Photoshop. Pretty cool, it's definitely a time saver for me because I like to use multiple filters on one image. And what I mentioned before was favorites, and they also have a history tab in there that they didn't have before for anybody who used any of the versions prior to the current version. So again, that's Alien Exposure, and it's X2 is the newest one. I've had 'em all the way since, I think I started using AlienSkin back in 2008, so that's when it was, you know, there wasn't a lot of things you can do, there wasn't a whole lot of film presets, and now it's definitely evolved into something that's its own standalone software.
Do you ever, the question is, you never delete raw images? Do you?
I don't, okay, that's not true. I do delete raw images. Let's say, usually I'll save, I'll hang onto the raws for at least a year or two, but if I'm trying to clear up space, but in this day and age, hard drive space isn't something that is overly expensive. The raw files are the true original, the digital negatives if you will, so I do like to hang onto those, especially for larger jobs or for personal work, where, my retouching tastes have changed over time. Even as recently as a couple months ago, I went back through my website, and there were a couple images that I really loved the mood and content of the images, but they might've been something from five, six years ago, and my tastes have changed, and the process in which I retouched, so I kinda want to change up the color pallet of those images, and if you're only working with non-raw files, you can't go all the way back to Capture One. Even the capabilities of Capture One itself have changed, and how, with shadow and highlight recovery and all that type of thing, so I like to have the ability in work I really care about to be able to go back and reopen those through the raw file and adjust and start over. So I do hang onto certain raw files, but over years, like previous senior clients and things like that, from years past, I'll delete those just to save room. But again, a lot of things are going on external drives and those get put into the archives, so not only am I saving 'em, I'm hardly ever even looking at them again, so I'm not too worried.
Okay, great. This question had come in earlier. This was from PhotoJim who said that, is wondering if, when you are photographing, are you leaving extra room for cropping to an 8 by 10 format, an 11 by 14 format, just because, are those common sizes that people want? So how do you go from shoot to what you think you're gonna crop to?
Yeah, that is a good question. I generally don't think about the final crop as in thinking about an 8 by 10 crop, or a square crop, or anything like that while I'm actually shooting. I'm more paying attention to in the moment of getting the composition I want in camera. If things do need to be cropped on the back end to 8 by 10s, sometimes you just have to sacrifice and lose things and pick your battles. So I'm not too worried about cropping in camera as much as I am about just shooting and getting the composition I want while we're actually taking the pictures. I don't think of it too much. And another thing about that is, people ask, do you leave room on the sides if you're gonna use a canvas, to wrap around the edges? I actually don't wrap my canvases, the image around the edge. I have it end at the frame, and the edges and top and bottom of my canvases are either black or white depending on the overall tone of the image.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see people out there making maybe when they're new, when it comes to toning, images that just don't look quite right.
Yeah, I'd say some of the bigger mistakes that I see consistently are people who just overdo it. A lot of times, less is more. And I'm definitely guilty of that too, especially when I look at some of my early on work. Some of the technical aspects might not have been there with the lighting, so it might get a little sloppy on the front end, so then I try and overcorrect it in Photoshop, and when I look at those images now, it's kind of something that I think, ooh, I'm glad I figured that out down the road. But that just comes with the whole learning curve and experience of figuring out how to do things more efficiently, how to do things more technically correct. But I'd say the biggest thing I see with beginners is people who just overdo it. So sometimes, step back. And there'll be times where I'm editing and it gets a little late at night and you start to get sleepy, and I'll reopen those images the next morning and I think, okay, let's dial that back a little bit, I don't know what I was doing at the point, but yeah, I'd say less is more sometimes.