I know that workflow is a tough cookie to crack whether you’re first getting started in digital photography or have been long vested in the craft.  This is a basic guide that takes thru a ‘day in the life’ of a Where to Willie image, from the camera all the way to a finished product.

Importing your Files

First things first, we need to get the files from the camera in to your photo management software.  For me, this software is Lightroom.  Not only does it meld seamlessly with Photoshop, Nik, OnOne, Photomatix, and others, it also has one of the best (in my opinion) RAW file developing algorithms out there.  Below, you’ll see the the main settings that we’ll start using.  (Note, the order and nomenclature in other programs might be slightly different, but you should have similar options even if you’re using other software)

lightroom import

A.)  Rename Files:  I rename all my files to a style that I’ll be able to use even if Lightroom goes away in the future.  All my files are named  YYYYMMDD_WTW_XXXX (where XXXX is the original file number). 

B.)  Develop Settings:  For me personally, I’ll leave this at none.  Some importers will auto apply settings, and that’s probably okay, it’s just something to be aware of.

C.)  Metadata:  Here you can add things such as keywords, copyright information, embedded location data, and much more.  I try and add as much information to the Metadata as possible, as this will (hopefully) stay with your images as long as they live.

D.) Into Subfolder: (Also known as file location)  I have found the best system to be a chronological one, broken into either specific trips or months or locations, all by date.  Here’s where you can tell the program where to log your files. That’s it here, let it chug away for a while, take a break, and come back to it.

Developing your Files

Developing in Lightroom

For many people and for many photos, Lightroom may be all the farther you’ll need to go to finish your images, or it might be just the right starting place to kick off your development process.  Below, you can see an example of an image that I finished off in Lightroom, taken on a stormy afternoon in central Colorado.  The lights danced off a far mountain top, and with a few adjustments I was able to bring back all the beauty of the original scene.

lightroom edit for complete

Developing for HDR

Many have heard the term HDR (short for High Dynamic Range), and I find it a great technique for bringing all the best out in a photo.  When getting started, you’ll want to apply some basic settings in your develop software to ensure the best results in HDR.  I have a preset that I can click to save time during the process.

lightroom edit for hdr

Be sure to sync your settings to all your bracketed photos.

lightroom edit sync

After you’ve got your files ready for HDRing, you can either Tonemap them or merge to a 32 Bit HDR.  I won’t go in to the details process here, but you can read about Tonemapping and 32 Bit HDR in their own full tutorials.

lightroom export hdr

Developing in Photoshop

Single RAW develop

There’s many times that you’ll need a little more than LR to finish of your photo.  In this case, there’s some darks in the front of the photo, highlights to take care of, and there’s also that pesky water drop in the photo below that I need to get rid of.   That’s not all going to happen in Lightroom (yet).   In the case of LR, right click, ‘Edit In’, ‘Edit in Adobe Photoshop.’

edit in PS

Developing Layers

There’s also many times when you’ll need to develop multiple files or multiple versions of the same file in PS.  In Lightroom, the way this happens is with a right click, then up to ‘Edit in’, and finally ‘Open as Layers in Photoshop.’  Check out the Image Blending tutorial for more information.

open as layers in PS

And this is what it will look like in PS when you have opened your multiple layers.  Now you can blend and merge all the photos to bring the best of each out in your final shot!  To learn more about masking and blending layers, check out my Advanced Blending Tutorial.

photoshop layers

That’s it really.  I’ll use one, two, or any combination of these techniques on any given photo.  There’s never been a cure all for a beautiful photo, because it there was, there wouldn’t be photographers.  Try different variations, and see what makes you happy.  If you have any questions, let me know.

Publish and Share

I almost forgot!  The best part of making art!  Sharing it with the world :D.  You can save to jpeg straight from photoshop, but I prefer to bring the image back in to LR first, for file management.   Once you’re back in LR, right click on the file, chose ‘Export -> Export’.

export to jpeg

 Then, the dialog box below will appear.

export dialog box

There’s a lot you can do for exporting your files.  You can tell Lightroom where to put the file, you can rename it to a cool title, you can tell LR what quality of file you want.  It’s all pretty self explanatory, but the big one to remember is, if you’re publishing your files to the web, make SURE you publish it in the sRGB color space, otherwise it could end up looking quite funky on some web browsers or other computers, and no one wants that.

Now, there we have it.  Go forth, make beautiful images, then share beautiful images.



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