John Shaw Nature and Digital Photography Seminars (cont.)

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By Steve Russell

Last week I reviewed the first day of the John Shaw seminar I attended recently. Today, I’ll review the second day.

The second day of the seminar was largely about workflow management using Adobe Lightroom 3. John stressed that what he was going to present was what works for him. It’s how he does it and each photographer will have to decide what works best for them. John uses a very organized, common-sense approach to photography workflow management. In fact, I’ve already started adopting some of his approaches.

I’ve been asked before why workflow management is so important in the digital era. Try thinking about it this way. Everyone that has a box of old photos, negatives and/or slides stashed away someplace, raise your hand. To be honest, I have multiple boxes of all three. If I want to find an old photo of my mother I don’t even know which box to look in first. I admit, I’m not very organized in that area but I’ve promised myself I won’t turn all my hard drives into electronic versions of those boxes.

If you have two or three hundred images stored someplace on a hard drive, it isn’t difficult to find what you want. However, because digital memory is so inexpensive, we tend to take more photos than we did when film was the only alternative. If this describes your approach to photography, what happens when you have 10,000 images or 100,000 or more? How do you find that photo of your dog when it was a puppy and chewing on your spouse’s favorite pair of shoes? It’s not the only reason, but being able to find your images is one of the key reasons why workflow management is so important.

I’m not going into every detail of how John organizes his images; you should go to one of his seminars or go to his website and purchase his ebooks on the subject.

There is one part that I want to stress. Settle on a file naming convention that works for you and rename your files to prevent ever having duplicate file names. The naming convention should also make it easier to find an image when you want it.

Why is this important and why isn’t the file name that’s assigned by the camera sufficient? Because even though your camera applies a unique file name to each image when it’s captured, the camera’s numbering system only goes up to 9,999. After that the numbering restarts at 0001. About a year ago I pointed this out to a friend and her response was that she’d never take 10,000 photos. She called me a couple of weeks ago and said that she now had approximately 9,500 images and wanted to ask me what she should do. Do yourself a favor and don’t get into this situation. Additionally, if you have more than one camera body, each body will record the same sequence of file names which will create duplicate file names without taking 10,000 photos.

Before I attended the seminar the only organizing I did with my images was to store them by date which happened automatically when they were loaded onto my computer. I had been advised to develop a more detailed file naming convention to make it easier to locate images and was close to deciding on one approach. When John described the approach he uses it was so close to what I’d been considering that it gave me the confidence to go ahead and implement it while employing a couple of tweaks that I learned in the seminar.

110306_SRP7D_-_MG_6956 Tricolor Heron 1
110306_SRP7D_-_MG_6956 Tricolor Heron 1

110326_SRP5D_-_MG_0160 Iris
110326_SRP5D_-_MG_0160 Iris

If you look at the file names for these two images you should see the following:

1. The first part of the file name is the date in a YYMMDD format. Why a two digit year instead of 4 digits? Because I wasn’t around in 1911 and I won’t be around in 2111 so I don’t have to worry about the year repeating. Why a 2 digit month and day, e.g. 110306? Because if I were to use 1136, the computer would sort the months in the this manner, 1, 10, 11, 12, 2,3….

2. The special text I’ve inserted indicates the camera body used. SRP7D is Steve Russell Photography with my Canon EOS 7D. SRP5D is with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. With this approach I can add camera bodies and still be able to avoid duplicate numbers.

3. The last group of numbers is what the camera “assigns” when the photo is taken.

In case you’re asking, I don’t sit down and rename every image file. I’ve set up a file naming template in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 and Lightroom automatically renames the files when I download them to my hard drive.

Another subject that John discussed was color space. When I purchased my first DSLR, the 7D, the person at the store told me I should set the color space on sRGB. Then another photographer told me to set it on Adobe RGB. John Shaw used a great analogy to explain why you should set your camera on Pro Photo RGB where I set mine. He said to think of the settings as a box of crayons. sRGB is the 8 crayon box, Adobe RGB is the 64 crayon box and Pro Photo RGB is the 256 crayon box. Pro Photo RGB gives you all the colors available to work with. If you want to send an image file to a commercial photo printing company that only accepts sRGB files, you can make that adjustment in Photoshop when you save it to the media you’re sending to the printing company.

My overall impression was that the two-day seminar was well worth the time and money I invested in it. I took away a ton of useful information. I’m already using some of it and whether I use the rest of it or not, at least I am aware of approaches that are different than what I’m currently doing.

How do you find out about John’s seminars? I stumbled across an ad for the seminars in an Outdoor Photography magazine. You can also go to the Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris website and find the schedule there. If you want a good learning weekend, I suggest you seriously consider attending one of these seminars.

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  • Anonymous

    Testing the comments…