Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

March 2004

Question of the Month


What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

In a previous Question of the Month I explained my initial digital workflow, which I'll briefly repeat here -- to stress its importance. Those steps are as follows:

1. After capturing the images, I download my digital files to my laptop.
2. In either one of two programs (Capture 1 or Photoshop CS) I batch rename the RAW images. This is a change from what I wrote in my initial digital workflow, but it makes more sense to do it as soon as you have the images in the computer. By Batch Renaming I'm not renaming the entire lot with the same name if they are of different subjects. Let's consider a recent trip to Yellowstone as an example. At the end of the day I might have a diverse amount of subject, which I wouldn't to simply batch rename 'Yellowstone, Day 3.' Instead, I'll group all the elk as one batch, all the bison as another batch, etc.
3. I write the renamed RAW images to a CD or DVD, depending upon the number or the time I have available. CDs are faster, but DVDs hold more data, so its a toss-up there.
Technically, as I see it now, that will probably complete my initial digital workflow in the field. This will free up time that, previously, I've spent on my laptop editting the images further and converting them as TIFFs. I'd discourage anyone from doing that because your laptop's monitor, and the conditions in which you're using it, probably won't be as accurate or as conducive to accurate editing.

In the Lab, when I return home, my workflow continues ...

4. I import the DVD or CD into my desktop computer, importing the RAW images into a folder. I use a specific folder name like "New Yellowstone Images TO BE WORKED ON." This tells me where they're from (ie Yellowstone) and that they are RAW images that need to be converted to TIFFs and JPEGS files.
5. In Capture 1 (the raw workflow program I use, which is terrific) I then check the RAW files for critical sharpness by using the focus tab on Capture 1. Please note, you can also check critical sharpness in Photoshop CS by clicking on the image and opening the RAW conversion. However, this takes seconds, at least, to convert. Then one must zoom in on the area you wish to check for sharpness, and then canceling out to go on to the next image, or continue in RAW and converting to the TIFF file at that time. Doing so, it takes a bit of time (probably minutes) to do so before one can go on to the next image to check for sharpness. No thanks! At this point, all I want to do is edit for sharpness and I can do this in Capture 1. Images that are not sharp are deleted (a right click on the PC mouse), which doesn't really delete them but assigns a 'trashed' suffix to the file. Later, I delete these in Windows Explorer.
6. After editing for sharpness, I browse thru all the remaining images and flag the images I want to convert in my initial edit. I do this in order to select images that will be going to different files -- my own, and any one of a number of stock photo agencies. These I tag, CONTROL T, which is the same as Flaging in Photoshop CS.
7. I then select all tagged images and, again, in Capture 1, I process these raw files. Using the exposure tab I can do some color correction if necessary, tweak the exposure if necessary, and adjust Levels and Curves to make the perfect histogram before I convert to a Tiff file, or a jpeg if that would be my wish.
8. All these RAW images are now 'tweaked,' and to convert them I simply hit 'Develop' in Capture 1. The beauty of Capture 1, vs Photoshop CS, is Capture 1 will convert all the files sequentially IN THE BACKGROUND while you do your next project in Capture 1. So, if you have another file, you can start the process from step 4 and onward. So, if I were working on the bison folder in the 'New Yellowstone Images TO BE WORKED ON' folder, I could go on to the elk folder and start checking for sharpness while the bison are converting to TIFFs.
9. When I've finished one or more folders, I minimize Capture 1, or close out, and go to Windows Explorer. Assuming I've saved the TIFF images in the same folder as the RAW, I'd have a series of files that would look like this:

bison RAW 1
bison RAW 2
bison RAW 3
bison RAW3-1
bison RAW4
bison RAW 5
bison RAW5-1

the files, bison RAW3-1 and bison RAW4-1 would represent the TIFF conversions. I select both the RAW and the TIFF files for 3 and 5, and move these to a new folder, which I might call 'Bison RAWS and TIFFs.' This would be a subfolder in a super folder 'My Images,Yellowstone.' The remaining images, 1,2, and 4 remain in the 'New Yellowstone Images TO BE WORKED ON' folder and will remain there until I convert them and assign them to another folder. In my case, it might be to another stock agency.
10. So, right now, my converted TIFFs are in the superfolder, 'My Images, Yellowstone,' in the subfolder, 'Bison RAW and TIFF.'
11. In Photoshop CS, I then assign the ITPC metadata I wish to add, which for bison would include the common and scientific name, the location, and any behavior the animal may have been doing. I'll then assign any keywords I wish to attach to the file, also doing this in Photoshop CS.
12. If any further 'tweaking' needs to be done, I'll tweak the images in Photoshop CS. I'll look at each image via CS's file browser -- using the largest preview window I can, and if need be, I'll open the image and adjust color, curves, or whatever. In truth, with Capture 1, I usually do not have to do much.
13. I now make another new Folder, named 'Bison TIFFs' where I copy the TIFFS and drag only the TIFF files into the folder. I now have two copies of the TIFF, one in 'Bison RAWS and TIFFS' and one in 'Bison TIFFs.' The folder, 'Bison TIFFs' can now be written to a CD which I will be sure to name or dragged to the appropriate folder for an agency. I might name the CD Yellowstone Herbivores. The other folder, 'Bison RAWS and TIFFs,' is my final copy, and I'll drag that to a final folder which represents my archived image folder.

That finishes the image processing, but there's still the problem of retrieving images afterward. This can be an enormous problem if it is not tackled right away, at least if you have, or anticipate having, a huge image file. I know that I'll eventually have a gigantic digital image collection, so I wanted to assign as much meta data and keyword information as I can, so that later, when I'm looking for an image, meaningless image labels like 'bison bull 233' won't frustrate me.

In Photoshop CS I assign detailed descriptions in the DESCRIPTION section of the Metadata, and I put some effort into assigning Keywords to the images. To date, I have not found a fast way to do this -- I'm hoping someone cooks up a program that will assign Metadata and Keywords to images into images without using Photoshop. Photoshop does this slow -- if I'm doing several images it might take a minute or more for PS to write them all. This delay kills me!

To find images, I use another brilliant program, Extensis Portfolio 6. This program records a small JPEG image of every image you import into it, as well as the file name. If you wish, you can assign keywords or descriptions to the images in Portfolio 6, or to the CD or DVD that you're importing from, but I don't. The next version of Extensis is supposed to read the metadata and keywords in a Photoshop image, and perhaps, who knows, it might write the data into the images themselves! That would be great, because it'd have to be faster ... but I'm just speculating here.

To insert images into Portfolio 6, simply right click on the icon for the file, folder, CD, DVD, or Hard Drive, and in the drop down menu that appears there will be a prompt, 'Add to Portfolio ..." with a side arrow. If you click on the arrow, you'll have the option of adding that file or folder or CD's contents to a new catalog or to one already established. If we continue to follow the example I've been using, if I inserted the CD Yellowstone Herbivores, Portfolio 6 will copy all the files -- elk, bison, moose, pronghorn, or whatever other herbivores or file names I have on that CD.

In Portfolio 6, I can type in 'bison' and every image file with bison in it is selected and displayed on the screen. If the CD or DVD is in the computer's hard drive, Portfolio 6 opens it in Photoshop. If it is not, then Portfolio 6 will tell you WHERE THE IMAGE IS! So let's say I'm searching for bison and I type in that word. If it is not in the computer's HD or in the CD or DVD drive, Portfolio will prompt me, insert 'DVD 11 Yellowstone Wildlife Herbivores' where the bison image is located. I can then go to my DVD or CD binder, select DVD 11 and retreive the image.

Presently, I'm about to store all of my TIFFs onto a huge, mega-server. When I do, I'll simply start a new Portfolio 6 catalog that will list all the images on the server. As I add images, I'll create new folders and subfolders, and I'll periodically update these with Portfolio 6. In that way, as we look for images, using the visual JPEG file or by using keywords, we'll be able to quickly retreive the file.

I'll be saying a lot more about Portfolio 6 in the future, giving a more detailed description of how it works. Although there are other image retrieval programs out there, I believe Extensis Portfolio 6 is the most comprehensive. I know my search is over -- for software, and I now know how I'll find my images -- with Portfolio 6. Check out their website at

Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How would you meter these images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

 The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 How long will film be around?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

 What Film Lab do we use, and why?

What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites?

 How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?
 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?  What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?  Which binoculars do we just love to use?

How Easy is Whale Photography?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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