Establishing a Post-Processing Routine

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Having a post-processing routine is beneficial for many reasons, not the least of which is establishing consistency in the final proof of your photographs. I follow a fairly systematic approach when performing post-processing on a set of photographs – often times I’ll have a group of fifty photos or more from a photo shoot, and I need all the help I can get to organize and speed up the editing process. All of my post-processing begins in Adobe Bridge, and all of the examples used in this article are from version 2.1.1.9, which accompanied my copy of Adobe Photoshop CS3.

The first thing I do is open Bridge, then plug my card reader into my computer. When prompted, I choose a file nomenclature that includes the date and a key word about the subject of the photographs. Then, once the files are downloaded onto my hard drive, I do a quick scan through them all to immediately weed out those shots that I will be discarding (in a future article I will talk about setting up custom workspaces in Bridge to help speed your work along according to your editing preferences).

Adobe Bridge enables individual files to be “rated” (under the “Label” menu), and one of the ratings is “Reject”, which I use to indicate that I’m not even going to bother trying to salvage the shot (for example, if it’s hopelessly blurry or there’s no hope of rescue for the composition). I also use “Review” (indicated by the blue bar in the screen shot) if I’m undecided at the first pass whether or not I’m going to keep the shot and want to go back to it later. I use “To Do” (indicated by the purple bar) to indicate those shots that I am definitely going to keep and edit. Finally, for those shots that I am not only keeping, but also feel that no post-process editing is necessary (keeping it SOOC), I use the “5*”, or “Five Star” rating.

You’ll also notice in the bottom left hand corner of the screen shot in the “Filter” menu, that Bridge keeps a count of which files are labeled as what type. That way you can simply click on that label type in the menu and see only those files of a certain rating (or that are unrated, to be sure you didn’t miss any). That helps for a second pass when, for example, you’re going back through to assess the “Review” files.

I open each file in Camera Raw, make whatever adjustments are necessary to the exposure and whatnot, then open the file in Photoshop. After I finish editing the photograph, I save it as the maximum JPEG image quality possible (12 is maximum in CS3).

Once all of the photographs are edited, as a final step in Bridge, I append my own unique Metadata to all of the finished files (I will discuss developing customized metadata in an upcoming article). The metadata will appear in the EXIF data associated with the file, and is a great way to establish ownership of the photograph.

I then immediately upload the JPEG’s to my Flickr account (Flickr doesn’t allow uploads of RAW files). I save ALL of the original files (RAW versions, JPEG’s, and even the “Rejects”) on an external hard drive. Then, once a year, I order CD’s of all of my images from Flickr. In this way, I have multiple copies of all of my photographs.

So, there you have it, a very high level description of my “process”. Feel free to share your own post-processing routine and tips in the comments! I’ll follow up with the other topics I mentioned in the next couple of weeks.

Photo Credit: Laura Charon.

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