Workflow Overview in Lightroom
Let's look at the overall workflow of how things happen for us. It begins in the camera, and those images are downloaded onto a computer. From that download, a backup is made on a RAID system, and a backup, again, of that, is made through an outside backup system like a cloud, or normally we have hard drives that are off the premises. Because, if something happens to your studio or your office, that's it, once those files are gone, they're gone. So you wanna be able to be a little bit safer about things, and place files not only in your working environment, but backups elsewhere, away from your working environment. And you can do that through a cloud based system, or you can do it like what we do, we have another RAID system, which is set up at home, and one, of course, is at the studio. Once the images are imported into our computer, a Lightroom catalog is created. And from that point on the editing happens inside Lightroom, and Lightroom becomes the central hub, of everything that we...
do. And from that point on, we have options: we can go into our JPEGs for album design, we can go in JPEGs for internet or web based, whether it's through galleries and so on and so on. We can then go into Photoshop, perhaps as PSDs to do a little bit more pixel based editing, we can go, then, from there in to fine art printing. But all along, what are we doing? We're backing up everything that we do in Lightroom, through that initial catalog, which lives on the main computer, is backed up. So all that work that you've done in creating all these beautiful catalogs and collections et cetera, et cetera, which we'll talk to in a minute, is constantly being backed up to another system. Okay, so the libraries, or the catalogs live on the main computer, a backup of that library or catalog lives on the backup system, and off-site as well. We're doing everything that we do, we do in triplicate. I know that some people think that, being a little anal about things, but at the end of the day, you lose a clients files because that's it, you're done, your reputation's finished, you will never work as a photographer again.
Yeah. Because, once that word spreads, it's like a rash, it goes real quick. So inside the actual, the working computer we have our Lightroom catalogs, and inside there all live just the Lightroom catalogs. The Lightroom catalogs sitting there, and then we of course, we link the files to our RAID system, so we're not clogging up the main computer, our files live somewhere else, so when we inport our files into Lightroom, we do it with Smart Previews, so that the files actually need to be connected to the computer, for us to be able to do our work. And sometimes I do take work at home on my laptop, and work on a catalog, which is awesome. It gives you that freedom. The problem is that once you have that freedom, you take advantage of it many more times than you should, and you start working at home more times than you should, and that's not a good thing. You really have to be strict in balancing that work-life kind of balance which is extremely important. The folder architecture for each job. We begin with our main raw folder where all the raw files get downloaded to. Inside of that, within that, of course, there is a trash folder, then there is a folder for your HR or high-resolution JPEGs, your folder for the color corrected PSDs if you're doing albums, or prints, et cetera, et cetera. So the idea, guys, is to be organized so you can easily access things as you need to, and you're not hunting around all these files everywhere, going where am I, what am I doing? And so on, and so on. The other really cool thing that we do, is color code our folders, you know, with the little tags. We have colors down at the bottom, relate to a stage of production, if you like, beginning with, if it's red and it's in a folder, that means files have been downloaded from camera, and no one has done anything with it. Orange means that the editing stage is there and it's being color corrected at the moment. Then we're going to yellow, color correct JPEGs uploaded to the web gallery, so it moves on to the next phase. Then green, if it needs an album design and they've purchased an album, or blue if they indeed need a fine art box and not an album. We spoke about it in the earlier session, where we always give a printed component to everything that we do. So if it's not blue, then it's definitely going to be green. Purple is for if the family wants to order more files and they've made an order, then we take it purple so we need to address that. And when it's gray we know that we've done everything, we've delivered the album, all the print, the clients picked up their USB stick, everyone's happy and it goes gray. And it's really then to be taken off the main server, and backed up or archived away.
That becomes really important, especially in our studio, for me. My wife does a lot of the back end sort of things, and if I need to look at something, she's not there, I can go in straight away and find what tag it's got, and see exactly where it's up to, if I need to do any work on it, or really if I just need to send it to Rocco, say he can do the work on it, but anyway.
So we've got the couple's names with their master folder. The first two jobs are being edited at the moment. The third and fourth have just been downloaded. Those weddings and nothings been done to them yet. Steven and Lauren, the last one, of course, has been not only downloaded, but edited, but there's also some fine art prints coming, or that need to be addressed, so we need to look at the order as to where everything is. We're gonna keep on talking about this all day. It's about being organized. And it's about understanding the destination, and how we're gonna get there. Let's look at image editing through Lightroom. As photographers, we need to do one thing, and that is be true to your vision. It's not about the number of effects you can apply to an image. There's a lot of plug-ins you can get now. Lightroom, Photoshop, there's just so many. And people are just pressing buttons endlessly, to create different things, and at the end they're not really enhancing the image, they're destroying the image, they don't know where to stop. It's about having that creative choice. In the days of shooting film, we made that creative choice before we actually loaded the film into the camera. Whether we loaded black and white, whether we loaded a high-speed color film because we love the pastel nature of what we were shooting, that was the creative decision. And you pretty much stuck with it right through. Guess what, we're very efficient, cause there wasn't any variable that could be thrown in at us, to say oh, we can do it in a million different ways. That really doesn't need to change. We can still be true to our vision, we can develop a specific look that we like and stick to it. Later on, in sessions to come, we'll talk about albums, and when you look at our albums, it's not about the effects, it's about a consistent look, and it's about more about the imagery, than the seduction of the effect of what you can do in post-production. So post-production enhances, it doesn't really take away from what that original intent of the image was. So there are important questions that we ask ourselves when we edit an image. And they're very simple questions. The first and foremost is what color do we want to make the image? Number two is how bright or how dark do we want to make the image? How soft or how hard we want the image to be, now that usually refers to contrast. How colorful, or how sharp? The answers to all these questions are in Lightroom, and they're here. Ta da! Ready for us. Ta da! (laughs) What color refers to your color temperature, how warm or how cool we want to make the images. How bright, of course, is our exposure. That exposure slider up and down. But if you nailed your exposure correctly, that adjustment is very minor. How hard an image is, really refers to contrast. How colorful-saturation. How sharp, we start looking at things like clarity, and so on and so on. This is it folks, it's not rocket science. This is where all your answers are. Beyond that, we start looking a little bit later on on how we turn images through Lightroom, which is very very important. But once again, we're there to enhance, we're not there to take away from the initial intent, of what the image is. Another ugly word that creeps up all the time, even when we use Lightroom is color management. Well, Adobe have done it really easy for us, because Lightroom uses a single RGB workspace to carry out all of it's image calculations, and it's automatically set up the minute you open Lightroom. It's very similar and close to the ProPhoto RGB color-space, which is huge! Much, much more color than what the eye can see. And which, actually was originally developed by KodaK. And it uses a gamma of one which enables it to match the native one gamma of raw camera files, so it's nice and easy, the minute we bring images into Lightroom, they're color managed for us, they look amazing, the contrast should match what you shot in camera, and yeah the world's a very happy place, in the world of workflow. We're also working with a native bit depth of sixteen bits per channel, which is able to process 65,536 levels of information. Once again we go back to non-destructive editing. If we start then, a lot of people like to edit eight bit JPEGs in Photoshop, not recommended. Because the minute you start editing an eight bit JPEG, you only have 256 levels of information from a pure black to a pure white. That means that when you try to darken things and you run this beautiful gradient through the sky and so on, you get a thing called banding, or artifacting. Those lines, the answer to that question as to why this happens is, there's just not enough information in an eight bit JPEG to be able to render a full gradation from a shadow through to a highlight. So if we are going to do something extensive in Photoshop we need to then think about working in 16 bit. But Lightroom, if we do adjustments into Lightroom we don't have to think about that. The other thing that we need to set up before we jump into Lightroom is our viewing conditions of our monitor. Because, colors around you effect your color perception. What does that mean? If we're in a tungsten lit environment, the human eye has this amazing ability to just color correct that automatically for us. We don't see a yellow cast, we just see a normal environment. If we were to shoot that on a daylight balance in the camera, then that would be yellow. So the eye automatically has put cyan blue into our vision to be able to correct that, the minute we then have a tungsten lit environment, and we start looking at our computer monitors, we start to bring through this error of cyan blue, which we're not even aware of. You gotta make your viewing area as neutral as possible. Your lighting should be set at D50, or 5,000 Kelvin. You can get proper daylight tubes, which are available on sale from all over the place. And daylight tubing, which is fantastic. Or Solex globes, which are 4,800 Kelvin balanced, to give you a nice neutral environment. One of the other things that we do in our retouching environment, is we paint it all the walls white, and the wall that sits immediately behind the monitor, is 50 percent gray, mid-gray. Doesn't look very exciting, doesn't need to be very exciting, but it serves a very useful purpose. The minute you look at that it neutralizes everything for you. You're looking at a mid-gray, which is ideal. So you're not getting these errors of color creeping in through your work. Let's get on to monitor calibration, which is extremely important. We calibrate all monitors to a standard, and it's an ISO 3664 Standard calibration. Our brightness should be no less than 100 candela per meter squared. Usually should be, most monitors depending on the brightness of your environment are gonna sit at about 120. Now white point is D65 or 6,500 Kelvin. Now gamma is set to 2.2 or native. Now, all of these parameters can be set in your software of your color management photospectrometer, that you use to read your screen. Yeah, we use the X-Rod products, which are really cool, they also measure the ambient color temperature, the ambient level of illumination, and adjusts the screen accordingly, which is pretty awesome. So far so good. Now let's talk about this other thing, called image sharpening, image sharpening, there's a lot of misconceptions out there about when to sharpen and why do we need to sharpen. There's a couple of differences. There's a difference between capture sharpening, and output sharpening. Capture sharpening happens at the time of capture, and by that I mean when your images are imported into Lightroom. And output sharpening happens when you output to a device. Now I can tell you now that not all imaging programs are actually the same, some raw image processing programs apply sharpening in stealth mode, giving the impression that they're all processing somewhat sharper than everybody else is. Lightroom does not do this. The good people at Adobe give you the option of how sharp you want to make your images. So input sharpening really is
I like the stealth mode.
The stealth mode, yeah. Oh no we haven't applied any sharpening, yes we have but no one really knows about it, because our program's better. So input sharpening is to correct for the lack of sharpness in the image. Cause, really all digital files are inherently soft, and need to have some form of sharpening. And output sharpening is always done at the end prior to making a print. There's no need to be, have these huge hang-ups on sharpening, sharpening is really really simple, and we'll go through it in a minute. The idea is not to over-sharpen, less is more. And there's no magic number to sharpening, it's visual. You can see from a print, or from your monitor, when enough is enough. You hear a lot of blogs out there, I sharpen to this much and it has to be at, yeah no. It's just, it's a visual thing.
Is that important, then, to render your preview as well?
Yeah it is, absolutely, absolutely important. So we need to also now configure our external editor, for Lightroom. So every time we go from Lightroom into Photoshop, our file format will be PSD, the color space of, will be Adobe RGB 1998, and the bit depth will be sixteen bits, so I'm working always in sixteen bits if I go into Photoshop. Resolution is really irrelevant, 360 because, if I'm printing on my Epson printer I'm doing fine art printing, the native resolution is 360, so I'll print at 360. Very very important. Now with color, let's talk about color a little bit more, because this is really really important to get your head around before we get too far into things. The Adobe RGB's color space is huge, it's bigger, again, than what the eye can see, not as big as ProPhoto RGB, which is massive, but from our wedding work Adobe RGB is a perfect color space to work in. A lot of people work in this other color space, called SRGB, or otherwise known as Satanic RGB. (laughs) That's the way it happens. Why is it Satanic? It is a hell of a lot smaller than our Adobe RGB counterpart. Yeah? Which is not a bad thing, because SRGB is the color space for all web-based viewing, so it's good, we need to sometimes export into SRGB, but the problem lies where we start to do extensive editing in Photoshop, through an SRGB image where color and subtle tones are very very important, and then we realize we don't have that information. And no, changing it back to Adobe RGB, once you've changed it into SRGB, doesn't miraculously bring that information back.
Ta da! It does not, not happen, does not happen like that. So that's a little bit of theory on the importance of setting up. We'll jump into Lightroom now, and we're gonna look at a real-life example. And the first thing we'll do is we'll look at import, and then go into doing a same day slide show, and then editing and creating collections and so on, and then some basic color correcting, which is important. Let me just get out of this. Awesome.
And Chrisy is there any, anything that we can answer at this point?
Yeah absolutely, absolutely. So going to the screen calibration since you were just talking about it, we have a few people asking about Apple screens, retina screens, do you use the same tools for calibrating those, do they need to be calibrated the same?
They definitely need to be calibrated.
Yeah, we use EIZO monitors, which is self-calibrating screens. But they're about four times the price of an Apple screen, but display a five rater gamut, and subtlety of tonal range, which means that for all the color critical stuff that we do with fine art printing, you just need to be able to see those subtleties when you're doing soft proofing. Apple screens aren't bad, especially for wedding work, because as long as you can color correct, and have files looking great on a screen that is beautifully color managed, you'll get great results from your album manufacturer or even a print. But when we start talking about high-end, well then there's a huge difference between just working on a retina, and working on something like an EIZO.
Which is much more expensive.
But yeah, they definitely need to be calibrated.
Still need to be calibrated.