The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow


Lesson Info

Shooting Workflow: Set-up The Camera

Shooting workflow. Setting up the camera. First off the bat, everybody thinks of gear, everybody's, I'm kind of a gearhead, I'll admit. I've got the GAS syndrome, gear acquisition syndrome. I've got a hot spot sitting up here, so I haven't really held off too much on that. I wanna say this. The gear is less important than it's ever been, because every digital camera out there, even your iPhone, not that it's the pinnacle of photography, is a pretty amazing camera these days. I mean if you have a DSLR or a mirrorless camera these days, that's way better than film was, 35 millimeter film, back in the days. It's hard to go wrong with gear. So don't get too worried about the gear. In terms of setting up the camera. There's a list of stuff that I have, that I go through, before every single assignment. We're gonna run through a few of these, we're gonna go through every one of them. Check the camera's date and time. Because I fly all over the world to shoot stuff. Sometimes I forget to chan...

ge the date and time. I try to make sure that my cameras are synced up, date and time, and I shoot with multiple bodies, so I make sure that the bodies are synced up, so if I switch bodies, I can see all those images in a chronological order when I download them into the software, and it just gives you an idea. If I'm shooting at Jaws on the north shore of Maui, big wave surfing, I may wanna know that it was 8 o'clock when that sun hit the water on January 15, that way if I go back, I kind of have an idea of when the sun's gonna hit the water or stuff like that. It's a small thing, but it really helps. Setting the color space. And this may or may not matter, depending if you're shooting JPEGs or RAW. If you're shooting JPEGs it matters a lot. I always set mine to Adobe RGB. Your cameras by default will come in an sRGB color space. Here's an idea of what those are. So as you can see, sRGB on the left there is much smaller, so this whole thing just to explain. This is what we can see with our eyes, the color gamut, the bigger area of color. The triangle inside is the size of that color gamut specifically. So this is what Adobe RGB shows, this is what sRGB shows over there. So you can see that sRGB is probably 40% smaller than Adobe RGB. If you want the best image quality, then you want to record the most colors. In RAW, it doesn't matter, because you're selecting that after the fact, but I still just set it in the camera to make sure it's taken care of. File numbering set to continuous. This is a small little detail. Most cameras start at zero and go to 9,999, and then they start over at zero again. So if you don't set it, in Nikons you have to set it to continuous to make sure it recycles. On Canons, I'm not sure how it works, but it's just something that I do to make sure it's turning over at 9,999, and then it doesn't go back to zero every time I put a new card in and format it, 'cause that way, if I put a card in, and I do a shoot, and I fill up the card, and then I put a new card in, if it's not set to continuous, then you have the same file names, and if you overwrite those to the same folder, you're gonna overwrite images, so that's a key little thing that you may or may not have thought about, but you probably figured it out pretty quickly once you started shooting. Format all memory cards in the camera. One thing I recommend is never plugging this camera into to the computer to download images, because it's possible, it's not easy to do this, but it's possible to write software onto the camera, which would not be good for your camera. It's also just better for the memory cards, longevity wise, to format them in the camera, and not delete anything off the card when you're plugging it into the card in a memory card reader into the laptop. Hopefully that was clear. Simple little things. Other thing is cleaning the image sensor, which we're gonna do here shortly, and I'll talk more about that here in a bit, but testing focusing, accuracy, of all the lenses. This is more for DSLRs than it is for mirrorless cameras, 'cause mirrorless cameras are adjusting focus off the sensors, so they're more accurate. A little slower, but more accurate, depending on the camera. For DSLRs, because there is a mirror, and because it's using a whole different apparatus to adjust focus that's not necessarily on the sensor, if you set this camera down really hard, or if it gets really roughed up, or you handle it roughly, you can actually knock the autofocus out of alignment within the camera. That's really rare, but I do have a really close photography friend who shot a major assignment, huge money, won't name the camera, 'cause it could happen to any camera, and it was just a little bit off, and not a single picture was in focus. And so he had to, luckily he could reshoot the assignment, it wasn't like a one time thing. Ever since then, I was like, okay, before every assignment, I'm gonna at least take a few pictures wide open at F1. or F2.8 or whatever the widest aperture on the lens is to make sure that the camera is focusing accurately. And that's a pretty big thing. We'll talk about that as well. In terms of auto-focus calibration, for DSLRs, you wouldn't do this for a mirrorless camera, especially these high resolution cameras like the D850, or the D810 or the Canon 5DSR, I use something called LensAlign, which comes with a software called Focus Tune, and basically you stick your camera on one tripod, and your Focus Tune thing, which looks like this, onto another tripod, and you level them, and then you focus on the little chart here on the left side of this. And then you find out if you're back focused or front focused with that lens, and you do it for every single lens. So this took me, the first time I did it, like half a day. It's not super fast. And the software will actually rack focus all over the place and find whatever the best place is for the best, most accurate focus point, and then it'll adjust the fine tune settings in the camera. My Nikons here have this built into the camera too, that I can just set it up, and it will actually do it in-camera. So that's another option, depending on which camera you have. But when these high resolution cameras, what you may not realize is the sensor is probably the flattest thing in the world that's ever been created by human beings, because it has to be one to two atoms flat, so that's incredibly flat, on a very microscopic scale. And because of that, there's no fudge factor like there was with film, 'cause there was a thickness with film back in the old days. So if your auto-focus goes off, it's only such tiny nanometers, more than nanometers, 10 to the negative 12, 10 to the negative 16, can take your auto-focus out of whack. The future is mirrorless cameras, and that's a good thing, because they're more accurate. We just need to get the auto-focus speeds up like the Sony 89 does a great job with this. Small issue, but just something to know about. There's also another software called Reikan FoCal, which is very good as well, it's out of the UK. So play around with those if you're having issues with your auto-focus, and you have a DSLR, good thing to know about. Setting the white balance. Early on, Nikon's white balance was okay, but it wasn't as good as Canon's, so I had to do custom white balance settings all the time, especially towards sunset and early sunrise. Nikon has certainly caught up to Canon right now, it's very good with auto-white balance. But if you're doing a portrait, like we're gonna do here in a second, and you want super accurate skin tones as a starting point, then setting a custom white balance in-camera is a very good way to get that, and there's several different ways you can do it. We'll talk about those here. But something that most people, maybe if you're not a pro, you probably don't think about that. But if you're trying to get really accurate skin tones for portraiture, that's a big deal, or if you're shooting in a studio with products, where this shirt or whatever bottle you're photographing has to be identical color to the actual bottle for the client all the way through to the print, this becomes a major issue. The other thing is, make sure your auto-focus is set up correctly. And what I mean by that, not adjusting the fine tuning, but just set it to the right mode. If you're shooting action, continuous auto-focus, if you're shooting a portrait, for a Nikon that would be single-point auto-focus, whatever your camera settings are. These are things I check fairly often during the shoot, as well. Pretty basic. So setting up preset white balance. I've got a little, where's my white balance disk here? I've got a couple different ways. I use this little balance, or it's called Lastolite White Balance Disk. I also have a Passport ColorChecker with me that I use as well, and that's just a card that has a whole bunch of colors on it, then I can then click on the gray square to get a custom white balance. And I'll show you those two right here. So this is the disk, which folds out kind of like the thing that goes in the windshield of your car. These are only about 30-40 bucks. The ColorChecker Passport often comes with some of the color monitor calibration devices, or you can buy it on its own. And you can actually make custom camera profiles with it in LightRoom very easily. So it's definitely a more advanced tool. We can talk about that a little bit more here in a bit. Here's showing it, you can select one of several gray patches, either that one or the one to the right of it. It'll give you a custom setting. Set camera to RAW or RAW plus JPEG. Depends on what you're doing, and I'm not here to bash JPEGs. JPEGs are just a compressed form of an image, so in some settings, they work great. For photo journalists who don't necessarily, if they're just printing for the newspaper, maybe they don't want RAWs. But if you're trying to get the best image quality out of this camera that you bought and spent a truckload of money on, you probably wanna be shooting RAW. I will say that if I wasn't a professional photographer, and I had a 40-50 hour a week job, and kids or whatever, I may not shoot RAW, 'cause I don't wanna sit there and work up all those images. Maybe I would sometimes, maybe I wouldn't other times. So, I understand the reasoning to go either way. But if you've never shot RAW, I would at least say shoot RAW plus JPEG, so you'd have the option down the road. And then all the other settings, like setting your ISO to whatever setting it needs to be at for the scene, if you're shooting in automatic mode, exposure compensation, ISO settings, sharpening, this, that, whatever, long exposure noise reduction, there's all kinds of other settings in the camera that I check from now and then. They're not absolutely critical. ISO's the big one. But that's kind of the basic, that's the gist of it. Do we have any questions at this point? RAW and JPEG, if I've got a very constant situation, like a studio situation, and I know the lighting's gonna be tack on, is there any reason to go to RAW? If you're gonna print that image giant, which probably isn't gonna happen, then maybe. I know some studio portrait photographers, doing a portrait house that's having people come in to have their portrait taken, and they don't shoot RAWs, because they make prints immediately afterwards, and they can set the sharpening in the camera, so that the print's gonna be great, no matter what size they print it, or very good, and they know their lighting, they've got their color temperature down, they have everything dialed in, JPEG works great. The one thing with JPEG that we'll talk about is it's a cooked potato. Whereas a RAW is an uncooked potato. I can make potatoes au gratin, mashed potatoes, any variety of potatoes with that RAW, you're getting that baked potato, it's not becoming french fries or anything else, it's a baked potato. So your exposure has to be right on or close, your white balance has to be dead on, and if you mess some of those up, and start adjusting sliders in LightRoom, you're gonna start tearing up your JPEG pretty massively, really quickly. So depends on how accurate you are. Yeah I used to cover my mistakes, that's why I shoot RAW. There you go, exactly. Which, these are very forgiving. Yes, also, I'd like if you can clarify a little bit about the LensAlign thing that you mentioned. I use a Sony A7 so I don't know how can I... You don't need it for those, so they're actually measuring. For the Sony cameras that are mirrorless, it's very rare that I've seen them be off on the auto-focus because they're actually measuring it on the sensor itself. So there's not this issue like there is in DSLRs, which is a major plus for mirrorless cameras. It's not just the Sonys, it's Fuji, it's Olympus, it's whoever's doesn't have a mirror, then you can do focus on the sensor. I've got a couple from the internet, if you don't mind, from Eric. "Is there more initial need for a focus calibration "when using third party lenses?" Not necessarily. It's kind of random. The thing is, I'm not picking on Nikon here, 'cause I love them, but this is manufactured separately from this. It doesn't matter if this is third party or not, these are not mated and paired at the factory, 'cause even if you buy them together, they're not mated and paired. If you're shooting a 12 or 16 megapixel camera, you may never see auto-focus errors. What happens when we get up to 36, 42, 46, 50 megapixel cameras, is when you zoom in, you start seeing all kinds of issues happening that don't happen on lower resolution cameras, because it's just enough resolution to show that issue. Focusers, you probably can see if it's off massively. I think on my D810, this lens in particular, 8514, I had to do like a negative 12 focus adjustment. It's got a scale from plus 20 to negative 20, so a negative 12 was a pretty huge focus adjustment. And especially, if you're shooting F8, it doesn't matter, 'cause everything's in focus. But if you're shooting wide opened at F1.4 or F2. or whatever your fastest aperture on your lens is, it matters a lot, because at F1.4, we're talking an eyelash is in focus, or a little bit more than an eyelash, so that's very narrow depth of field for that lens. And before we move on, one quick clarification. Would you mind reiterating for Katie Rickman the name of that British website you mentioned? Reikan FoCal, I think it's R-E-I-K-A-N, and the F-O-C-A-L. Perfect, thank you. And I've used the other one, which I can't remember now, LensAlign, for a long time, and actually the ReiKan FoCal is, I think, a little bit better than LensAlign, from what I've heard, but now that Nikon has it built into their camera, I don't need anything. I can just stand here and put it on a tripod and focus on something, and do it in the camera, which is very convenient. I think Nikon's the only one that's got that built into their cameras so far.

Setting up a practical and efficient workflow with your photography feels like a daunting part of your business. Internationally recognized photographer Michael Clark introduces you to techniques to allow you more time to shoot the images you want. His workflow philosophy is that you must first know how you are going to edit the image in post production to know how you need to shoot it.

In this class Michael teaches:

  • Best practices for a shooting workflow from setting up your camera to histograms and exposure
  • How to clean the sensor on your DSLR camera
  • Color management workflow including your work environment and monitor calibration
  • An overview of Lightroom® and multiple ways to speed up your workflow including file folder and batch naming as well as metadata and archival processes
  • Techniques to finalizing your images in Photoshop® with basic adjustments and retouching
  • Making fine art prints, choosing your printer, paper, understanding ICC profiles, and much more!

Michael covers everything you need to know in order to streamline your post production workflow in Lightroom® and Photoshop® and best practices for printing your art at home. Digital photography is far more complicated than shooting film ever was. Knowing the best practices for a digital workflow will make you a better photographer.


Class Introduction
Shooting Workflow: Set-up The Camera
Shooting Workflow: Histograms and Exposure
Shooting Workflow: Sensor Cleaning
Overview of Color Management
Color Management: Monitor
Color Management: Workspace
Color Management: Monitor Calibration
Color Management: Do I Need This?
Introduction to Lightroom®
Download & Import Images With Lightroom®
Lightroom® Preferences
Six Ways to Speed-up Lightroom®
To DNG or Not to DNG?
A Logical Editing Process in Lightroom®
File & Folder Naming in Lightroom®
Batch Renaming in Lightroom®
Entering Metadata in Lightroom®
Managing Images in Lightroom®
Introduction to the Develop Module in Lightroom®
Lightroom® Develop Module
Sharpening, Chromatic Aberration & Vignetting in Lightroom®
Graduated Filters & Spot Tool in Lightroom®
Converting images to Black & White in Lightroom®
Creating Panoramas in Lightroom
Creating HDR Images in Lightroom®
Lightroom® to Photoshop® Workflow
Export Images to Photoshop®
Finalizing Images in Photoshop®: Basic Adjustments
Finalizing Images in Photoshop®: Retouching
Finalizing Images in Photoshop®: Saving Master Files
Make Fine Art Prints: The Cost
Make Fine Art Prints: Ink Jet Printers
Make Fine Art Prints: Ink Jet Papers
Make Fine Art Prints: Understand ICC Profiles
Make Fine Art Prints: Sharpen Image
Printing From Photoshop®
Printing From Lightroom®
Compare Monitor to Physical Prints
Printing Black & White Image
Extended Workflow: Back Up Images
Extended Workflow: Storage Options
Extended Workflow: Archiving Images
Submitting images to Clients
Prepping Images for Social Media
Alternative Workflows
Final Q&A


  • Michael is a true professional and readily explains all of the nitty gritty issues of a photographer's digital workflow, including important things like Color Management, Lightroom workflows, Printing, and more. He is eager to answer your questions and has a thorough knowledge (after all, he worked with the original engineers at Adobe and wrote a book on it) and passion that he loves to share. He can get way deep into the subject, which I found fascinating. You can tell Michael has great experience in teaching and also likes to learn from his students. He is very authentic, honest, and direct. I highly recommend this class, and look forward to another one of Michael's courses in the future!
  • This is an excellent course. It reinforced what I already knew and enhanced my spotty skills with new knowledge. I really like Michael's explanation of saving the document for print and web and the importance of doing these differently. Using the histogram to show this was terrific. Each session there is some valuable gem.
  • A fantastic course to give you a complete view of the full process of photography. Michael is an awesome instructor, very organized! A clear mind, and an approachable instructor always willing to answer your questions! A must for all photographers!