Digital Photo Workflow
I have taken thousands of pictures with the two digital cameras I have owned in the past 5 years. I purchased my first camera in 2002 and quickly began learning how best to take pictures. The camera was a Canon G2 and I learned about and began using the RAW file format when taking pictures. I then acquired the Canon S3 IS but it unfortunately didn’t have a RAW file format, so I quickly learned to make do with taking pictures in the JPEG format.
Although my file format has changed I still like to tweak my pictures. I do this because I am not the greatest of photographers so I like to make some quick edits to my pictures. In this post I will provide an overview of the workflow I use to make my pictures ready for printing.
I have my camera setup up differently than most people. You don’t have to setup your camera the same way as mine to use the workflow, but I thought I’d mention this here because it will make your pictures look different.
- Set the white balance.
I always try to set the white balance before taking pictures. You can use a gray card if you wish or one of the preset values. For outdoor pictures on a cloudy day or if the pictures are mainly in shade I usually select the “Cloud” setting. For sunny days I will usually use the gray card. When using the flash indoors, I simply select the “Flash” setting.
- Decrease the contrast.
All cameras may not allow you to do this, but since mine does I usually decrease this to the lowest setting. I will increase the contrast in my photo editor near the end of my workflow.
- Decrease the sharpening.
Digital cameras usually apply sharpening to all the images. I decrease this also as I have much more control over the sharpening in my photo editor.
I have listed the changes I make to my pictures in-camera, but it is up to you on whether you want to implement them. I do recommend you at least try to change the white balance (unless you are confortable with using the automatic setting).
Photo Editing Workflow
Once you have all your pictures on the camera it is time to edit them using the workflow. Before you use the workflow, you must first ensure that you have downloaded them to your computer and have them organized as you wish. I provided tips on this in my post titled How to Organzie Your Digital Photos.
This is the workflow that I use:
- Make a copy of the picture.
I always edit a copy of the picture so I don’t accidently damage the original. This way I can always start over if I don’t like my changes. In Photoshop, I would actually make a copy of the background layer in work on the copy.
- Crop the picture.
If you are going to be printing the picture at a specific size then you may want to crop the picture. Digital photos aren’t usually the same size as regular print so you will need to do some cropping.
- Examine and perform an colour corrections.
At this point take a look at the image. Is there a slight color cast to picture? If there is then correct the colour cast to until you are happy with the look of the picture.
- Increase the contrast.
Since I don’t have my camera increase the contrast of the image, I have my photo editor do it. You can increase the contrast of an image many different ways, so choose the way that you are comfortable with.
- Sharpen the photo.
Sharpening the photo should be the last editing step in a workflow. Try not to over sharpen the photo as you may get light coloured halos through your picture.
- Convert to a colour profile.
This step is optional if you shoot JPEGs as they use the sRGB colour profile. If you use RAW photos and one of the larger profiles such as Adobe RGB (1998) then you may want to convert to the sRGB profile. I personally convert to the profile of the printer that will print my photos, and have had great success with doing this.
- Save the photo.
Now you must save your picture to a location on your hard drive that is different than your original. Save the image as a JPEG with as minimal compression as possible. This will provide a larger file, but will provide a better quality photo.
That is my entire workflow, at least a brief overview. I tried to keep it general so you can use this workflow with any photo editor.
In this post I have explained the setting I use in my camera as well as the workflow I use to make my photos. There are many different workflows on the Internet and some provide step-by-step instructions for a specific photo editor. In the end, you will probably come up with your own workflow that works for you.