Reworking my workflow

For years I had a pretty consistent workflow from taking pictures to posting. However, within the course of a month I've changed practically every step. Why would I do such a thing? I can tell you it wasn't change for change sake, since I'm usually pretty set in my ways, both in photography and computing.

To give some context, my previous workflow was:

  1. Take the pictures.
  2. Hook up cable and import to Expression Media (previously iView Media Pro).
  3. Run exiftool to fix how ISO is represented in the EXIF headers (Canon encodes the numbers instead of giving actual ISO values).
  4. Tell Expression Media to rescan the images to pick up the new EXIF values.
  5. Move the photos into new folders based on date.
  6. Pick out photos to work on, copying them into Adobe Bridge.
  7. Open the photos into Adobe Camera Raw, do some processing (normally fix white balance), then open each as a smart object in Photoshop.
  8. Do my normal edits: correct perspective, straighten pincushion/barrel distortion, apply curve fixes, crop, etc.
  9. Save all those edits as a smart object, then resize the result and apply export sharpening.
  10. Export the image.
  11. Upload.

There were a couple pain points in there, mostly if I accidentally moved the images to Bridge instead of copying before I had any backups (I've only lost a few originals because of that).

When I got the new camera, I knew there would be many things which I would need to change. The version of Bridge/Photoshop I have won't handle my camera's RAW files (the latest does), but I could use the software supplied with my camera to export to JPEG or TIFF. While I'd lose the extra information in RAW, it wouldn't be worse than what I was doing before. The other thing is Expression Media also wouldn't handle the RAW files.

I settled on switching to Apple Aperture, which took care of steps 2 through 5 (it can automatically save to date-based folders). I also got a new laptop, which means I can use the SD slot instead of plugging in a cable. I'm now using Aperture to process the photos, taking care of steps 6 through 9 (the camera automatically corrects for pincushion/barrel distortion). The only thing I'm missing is if I need to do perspective adjustments (I have a copy of Acorn which I can use for that), panoramas (I already had a copy of DoubleTake), and all the other Photoshop mojo. I've spent a lot of time learning Photoshop and like to think I've gotten pretty proficient, but until I want to clean up some old scans, I'll probably be fine without it. Hopefully Acorn will do the job there, too.

I also use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, but not often. I'll need to decide how to do a holiday card, since I've relied on all of the mentioned Adobe tools in the past to do that. I may be able to use Acorn, but InDesign was really great with text. Perhaps Pages (part of Apple's iWork suite)? Guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

So that takes care of the current workflow, but how about all of my old images? For the images from my last couple cameras, they had enough EXIF information so all I needed to do was export Expression Media's metadata (caption, etc.) to the images, rename Headline metadata to Title (using exiftool), then import into Aperture. For the older cameras and things I've scanned I save the timestamps on the files (which I've previously set by hand), export the metadata, then reset the timestamps. After that, the Aperture import does the rest.

But wait, there's more! Aperture also makes it easy to geotag and tag faces, so I've been doing that too. Expression Media could geotag, but it was pretty laborious (start from a whole world view, zoom and pan repeatedly until I got to the right location, then set the location). My phone automatically geotags, but not my camera, so I have an application on the phone which will create  a GPS track file, which I can import into Aperture. So the workflow is now:

  1. Turn on GPS logging on my phone.
  2. Take the pictures.
  3. Put SD card into laptop, importing into Aperture.
  4. Export GPS track from phone to laptop (over WiFi), then import track into Aperture, which will assign photos to locations based on time.
  5. Tag faces.
  6. Pick photos to work on, making adjustments
  7. If exporting to Facebook, click to upload. Otherwise, export as JPEGs.
  8. Upload.

Needless to say, I'm much happier with this workflow. Also, I'm shooting many more frames now than before (anywhere from 3x to 10x), but I'm still able to go through the whole process much more quickly. I find myself concentrating on what's going on with the camera, which is a good thing, of course.