Workflows: Taking and Processing Photos with the iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 takes great photos, that's no secret. I often find that I can snap a great photo of the scene even with my giant DSLR hanging around my neck. The iPhone 5 does take great photos right out of the camera but I've been using a few apps lately to take those good photos to the next level. Give these a try:

1. Camera+: I use this to snap a series of photos. I pick the best one and I save it out to my camera roll. I love the the light box feature which lets me scroll through a bunch of shots before saving it to my camera roll. Also the burst feature lets me take super fast photos of my fast moving kids. 

2. SnapSeed: Next I import the photo into SnapSeed and clean it up with an immense mount of filters and features. I'm going to write a separate post about SnapSeed because it's just that good. Then I either publish it right from here or I export it to my camera roll to be used in another app.

3. iPhoto: Then I import it into Apple's own mobile editing software iPhoto. It's great to use on the iPhone but even better to use on the iPad. I use this to remove blemishes or spots. My daughter had a piece of spinach on her face... delete!

I don't use all of these every time. And obviously I could use Camera+ for a lot of them, I could use SnapSeed for just about everything and the same goes for iPhoto. 

Can you tell the difference between these two photos? Guess which one is an iPhone photo. The other is a Nikon D800.

Give up? Keep scrolling down....

The second one is an iPhone photo.

Adobe Lightroom 4: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Adobe Lightroom 4

Photography is about capturing the moment. However, those moments can be improved later. Shooting in RAW format in your camera allows you almost limitless improvements using Adobe Lightroom, now on version 4. At first, this software may appear to be intimidating. It's designed for serious amateur and professional photographers, after all. (If all you want to do is crop or fix red eye, it's probably more than you need.) It also integrates with PhotoShop for even more complicated editing. If I'm not processing an HDR set of photos I'm likely using Trey Ratcliff's great Lightroom presets or some of my own.

Here are some tips for beginners.

1. Learn how to import your photos. Lightroom works on a database and workflow system - you have to import the photos before you can do anything with them. They're imported into the Lightroom Catalog, which will be the first thing you see when you open the program. On the left side of the bottom is an import button. You can either set a destination folder or just click "Add" to bring in all your photos in the folders they're already in. Make sure to use Copy to get files from a card.

2. If you're in a hurry, just use the Quick Develop function, especially if you're processing an entire batch of images. You can crop or adjust exposure on an entire folder of photos at once - so if all the pictures you took at that sporting event came out too light, you can fix them all, in one go, without worrying about numbers.

3. Use other people's presets. One very important thing newcomers to Lightroom can benefit from is free presets that more experienced users have made available. These allow you to set a ton of effects in just one click - they might not always work, but everything done in Lightroom can easily be redone. Again try Trey's presets, you won't be sorry. In fact I've used some of his presets to develop entire batches of baby photos I've taken. 

4. Be careful with your raw files. It's always best to convert to.dng, because Lightroom stores changes in the XMP file, not the image itself. This is fine until you send the photo to somebody else - they may not be able to see your edits. Use the import option to convert your files to.dng. Play around and see what works well for you. Mostly I keep everything in RAW and then I export as a high quality JPEG. So again, there are multiple ways that work. 

5. Don't move imported images except by using Lightroom. The temptation to just open the folders and move files around is very high - it's quicker, especially if you don't have the software running. However, if you do this, Lightroom will lose track of your files and not be able to open them.

Lightroom is a powerful tool with a great workflow, especially if you happen to take a lot of photos at a time. It can be intimidating, but once you know how to use it, it will save you a lot of time and aggravation. 

Lightroom Digital Workflow

Keeping track of photo files is a pain in the ass. But now with my new digital workflow I'm breathing a little easier.

I knew that if I wanted to get serious about photography this year I'd need to get disciplined about keeping all these files in order. RAW photos are massive files and storing them on my Retina Macbook Pro is a non starter given the small size of the hard drive. Not to mention just keeping all these files in some searchable order. So I came up with a system that's not perfect but it does have chunks of help from my friend Trey Ratcliff. He had some great suggestions about keeping family photos separate from my art photos.

To start I created some collections in Lightroom.

  • processing now
  • unprocessed art
  • unprocessed family
  • art keepers
  • family keepers

And I created a few Smart Collections

  • 5 Stars
  • 1 Star
  • picked complete photos

Once I had my collections complete I was able to begin importing the photos. During the import process I let the default settings automatically create sub folders based on the dates the photos were taken. This is really handy. 

In these dated subfolders it's not important that there are a few non-birthday pictures in a folder filled with those soccer photos because we're going to go through those folders anyway.

Here's where the hard work comes into play. Next I go through each photo in the folder and rate them one at a time using the starring system. Either I give the photo 5 stars for processing later or I leave it blank to sit on my hard drive for future use.  I'm not worried about storage since I'm keeping every photo backed up on my Drobo anyway  By tagging a photo with 5 stars I'm saying to myself, "Self, you like this photo enough to process it soon". 

Once I've starred a bunch of photos I hit shift-click to select all the 5 starred photos and move them to either 'unprocessed family' or 'unprocessed art' depending on the content. Then when I find photos I'd like to process I'll take those photos and drag them to 'processing now'. Then I'll delete them from 'unprocessed' folder because I'm now 'working' on them.

Once I've processed a photo I'll delete it from my 'processing now' folder and export it to a bunch of places. I export it to iPhoto where I keep my family folders and my folder of completed Lightroom edits. I also send my photos to a networked Drobo FS where my wife and I share family photo folders. So all the apple picking photos I shot this weekend are now sitting in our shared 'Family 2012' folder with a sub-folder called 'Apple Picking'.

I know this seems like a lot but it really isn't once you get the hang of it. It's much better than having no system at all!