Photo Selection and Other Findings on Editing

Photo Selection

As highlighted here, selection is a very important process and is a must for efficient editing. Nobody likes to spend weeks or even months to edit a pack of photos, so it’s essential to choose wise. Personally I do this by setting a target which is usually 10% of what I captured in the finished session.

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Of course this doesn’t mean one must be rigid. In many cases I can select slightly more pictures as from my experience there is a chance of discarding a few photos even after editing has begun. So it’s better to show some flexibility.

How do I select the photos?

Well, after I finish shooting and return home I create a folder on my computer. This contains a few child directories which aid me in the selection, namely:

  • All: here I copy all photos from the session (this is the point where the selection process starts)
  • Best: here I move the photos that I am going to edit
  • KeepNoEdit: here I move the photos that I am going to keep but not edit (or at least no extensive editing but rather a fast/minimal one)
  • Discarded: any photo I’m 100% sure I won’t edit or keep lands here
  • ToReview: here I move all photos that I will review later if I’m not sure it’s worth editing them or not. They will finally land in one of the first 3 folders.
  • Temp: a temporary folder where I move a group of pictures so I can have a better view of them when doing the selection.

I use ViewNXi for selecting the pictures as it has a nice explorer that helps me easily run through photos. It also has some limited editing features but I only use them in very few situations. I also use this software when I need to do some fast resizing of the pictures (e.g. before posting to this blog I decrease their resolution to a minimal one which is sufficient for web posting).

Bottom line: after I carefully review the pictures, all of them will finally arrive either in Best, Discarded or KeepNoEdit. If too many pictures were moved to Best, I do a final review and remove part of them until the count is more realistic. Maybe you think I exaggerate, yet remember that for editing a single photo I currently spend 20 minutes on average. Time is money!

When the selection process has ended I import the photos to edit into Lightroom and get to the actual processing work.

Editing Tips and Tricks

Let me share with you some findings regarding editing. In fact not all of them are directly related to editing but it’s important to know that paying attention to details when taking pictures and selecting them might help one save valuable time at post-processing.

So let’s start.

  1. I name the folder in which the final edited photos arrive using the date(s) when the pictures were taken. An example would be folder name 2016-04-05_Herastrau, meaning the pictures were taken in Herastrau Park (a beautiful park from Bucharest) on the 5th of April last year. In my opinion this is an efficient way of organising pictures as it allows photo directories to be sorted meaningfully. I apply the same when storing the RAW files I used for editing.
  2. Always be aware of the foreground when you shoot. The foreground should contain interesting elements that both enrich the picture and draw the viewer’s attention to the right spot (you know the classical example of the boat in the sunset). Better use a telephoto if foreground does not reach its purpose (I got amazing landscape pictures using my 70-300VC Tammy). An overloaded foreground might mean more work for removing the unwanted elements at editing.
  3. The background is also very important. It should not contain elements that draw attention from the subject. For this reason it is not a good idea to take pictures with insects that stand on the grass (better look for a bit taller plants). The fact that your lens blurs the background is not a good reason to ignore unwanted elements (they will not be ignored by viewer). So try to get a nice clean background.
  4. I like to pay attention to framing and composition. I have no issue cropping or tilting the picture at post-processing, however I am much happier when I don’t have to do it. I enjoy viewing an edited picture at its native resolution (24 Megapixels as shot by my D7100). Of course this applies to still subjects where you have the whole control.
  5. And because I mentioned resolution, no matter if I shoot RAW or JPEG I always use the highest resolution and the highest possible quality. It’s easier to convert to smaller dimensions than vice-versa and cards are continually becoming cheaper in price and larger in capacity. So why bother about storage space? Why sacrifice quality and size for a few extra Megabytes? Make the best out of your camera/cards and you won’t regret!
  6. Regarding cards, I always use high-quality ones. In my opinion the card is the most important component of the shooting system. The camera and lenses are replaceable. The tripod, flash and any other accessory are replaceable. However the lost data isn’t. So please do yourself a huge favor and use high-quality cards. My recommendation is SanDisk, but Lexar are also ok (used both types and had no complaint so far). Other than these two I wouldn’t touch anything. Better safe than sorry!
  7. Another advice regarding cards (even if you use high-quality ones): if one of them causes any error, no matter how small it is avoid using it again for taking photos. Throw it to the garbage can or only use it for non-critical tasks (e.g. copy files from one computer to the other – the word copy is bold-ed for a good reason). You’ll thank yourself for this decision!
  8. When marking a photo for editing also take into account how much you will spend processing it. Yes I know, this comes with experience. However if you conclude some complex editing is required (that inevitably will take much) then you would like to ask yourself if it’s really worth doing it. Is this picture so great that you would spend even hours editing it? If you are not sure about the answer, then probably the answer is NO.
  9. I always use neutral picture control when shooting RAW. This is because I use Lightroom which doesn’t “know” Nikon’s picture controls so the PC is irrelevant. When downloading to computer I like the picture to look as similar on screen as on the camera’s LCD. For the same reason I deactivate Active D-Lighting on my Nikon. If using Nikon software (like Capture NX-d), then you might want to put another picture control as this software “knows” about PCs.
  10. Don’t push editing beyond it’s limits. Better apply moderate settings than make colors look unnatural. After all, it’s photography, not painting. For example I rarely setup vibrance to more than 25 (out of 100) in Lightroom. Better put lower values and then step up in small increments if needed.
  11. Also take care when setting up the white balance for sunsets. Better use daylight WB (more natural) than using cloudy, getting stronger colours and ending up with a green-ish sky! Trust me, ‘been there done that.
  12. Never delete the RAW files used for editing. I repeat: NEVER delete them! There is a chance you’ll need ’em later (maybe you want to do some re-editing to some of them). Also the RAW is the best proof the photo is yours in case of a copyright infringement situation. Keep them in a safe place where only you can have access.
  13. When selecting photos for editing try to avoid keeping similar pictures in the Best folder. If two frames are similar then it makes no sense editing both of them. You’ll just end up increasing your editing time unnecessarily without bringing much value. If you upload both photos on a stock site, one of them will get rejected for similarity reasons (again, ‘been there done that). If you really want to keep both of them I suggest you edit only one while the other arrives in the KeepNoEdit folder. See an example of me wasting my time with editing similar photos:
  14. Joke! How do you know that you spent too much time editing pictures in a day? Well the answer is simple: when a fly lands on your LCD you try to remove it using Photoshop.

Sometimes we all need a break. Take care.


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