Inspired by this old post by my friend Eirik Solheim (great photographer and new media guru by the way), I'll try to describe how I deal with my photography, and hopefully improve the way I work along the way.
I used to shoot point-and-shoot for many many years. A bit over a year ago, around April 2008, I decided to get back to photography, an art I learned with my mom as a teenager. And as before, I am really interested in portraits and details, not really landscapes or group compositions.
I first bought a Canon 40D and a 50mm f/1.4 (great lens) in Paris at LeCirque (highly recommended shop, knowledgeable, and cheapest prices usually. Walking distance from my place helps :). I then got in San Francisco (much cheaper prices than Paris, at another great place, Calumet Photo) a telelens, a Canon EF 70-200mm L IS USM f/4 (great lens for daylight. the f/2.8 is more expensive, heavier, and I suppose only useful in low light) and a wide angle: a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM II (another great lens that I love). Later last year in Hong-Kong I got a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2, a fantastic lens for light portraits, with a great bokeh.
However, all those mid-range DSLRs have a 1.6x factor on lenses, hence I was longing for a full-frame body. I knew the Canon 5D was great, but 3 years old, and that an update should appear at some point soon. That's why I had not bought EF-S lenses, and only EF lenses, guaranteeing compatibility with future bodies, in the upper-range. Eventually, the Canon 5D Mark II came out late last year, and I got mine through a friend in Hong Kong in January 2009. Now I really have a 16mm to shoot with, and not a 16mmx1.6 = 25mm-ish.
Since, I've sold my nice 40D body to a friend of mine with the 50mm lens (that I miss. I might have to buy it again).
So rule of thumb #1: invest in lenses as much as you can, they will last 10-20 years (until an upgrade comes out: faster, better optics, etc.). Don't over invest in bodies, as their life-span is about 3-5 years.
I now travel with 2 Crumpler bags: a big one for my 3 lenses, laptop, cables, etc. and a smaller one that olds the camera and 1 lens for photo-shoots. I either take the wideangle with the telelens (day), or the wide-angle and my 85mm (low light at night, parties, etc.).
I always have 2 batteries (fully charged) with me, ie. one spare one, just in case (and it's been helpful on more than one occasion). Same for my 2 x 8GB CF cards. It allows me to keep shooting, while one is being emptied on a laptop for example, or just in case one is full. I tend to reformat each CF card before I sue it; although sometimes I forget to do so, and it's a pain :( (although easy to not import duplicates in Aperture - see later).
Now I seldom travel with my Manfretto 1,2m tripod. I should use it more often, especially for HDR photography (more on that later).
Of course, a mini-USB/USB cable is necessary to download the pix from
the camera to my laptop. I just broke the external card reader I had
I use a small external hard disk to store all my pictures, and I always travel with it. My laptop tends to be overcrowded and it's best to have external space for this. I backup every week my external traveling laptop and external hard disk to a desktop hard disk using SuperDuper. It's always a good idea to check the sanity of your external (laptop or desktop) hard disks with for example Disk Warrior or Drive genius, using a surface scan. One of my disks holding all my video footage crashed, hence I probably lost it all. Now I've becolme more cautious about backups, and will in the future probably keep 2 separate copies of everything.
I used to shoot RAW with the 40D, but the files are just way too big on my 5D mark II, hence I just shoot high-res JPEG now. That gives me 999 pix on my 8 GB CF card (vs. about 220 if I shot RAW). I might revisit this in the future.
2) Importing pix to my laptop
I attach in sequence, my external hard disk, and then my card reader or camera. Automatically OSX recognises (yes I use Macs...) them, and launches Aperture, my picture management software.
I then import all pix (and video) in the camera to a specific folder I call "in". I've created 6 smart folders (5*, 4*, 3*, 2*, 1*, no *) underneath it, so that I can easily tag my pix, the ones I like, dislike, likke more than others.
I do this in preview mode, meaning I have to wait usually for Aperture to calculate preview thumbs (takes a while!). This allows me to eliminate quickly all pictures I don't want to keep.
3) enhancing pictures
I used to immediately afterwards start working on Aperture with my pictures, working on cropping, orientaton, colors, highlights, shadows, etc.
I've found that a good part of this can be done with an external program. So I now export all remaining pictures to a temp folder on my desktop (DxO_input). I then run DxO Optics Pro on them, letting automatic settings correct chromatic and optical aberrations on my pictures, and let the output files go into a separate directory (DxO_output).
This might take a long while. I'm now working on 2 modes. Either I let my laptop do the work (takes a long time, so I keep this for small batches), or I copy the (DxO_input) directory to my desktop (MacPro QuadCore), and run the process there. This works better for hundreds of pictures. It might take the night sometimes. I then recopy DxO_output directory back to my laptop (I use a 1Gbps Ethernet connection at home to do so).
I then reimport the pictures back to Aperture to another directory (in_DxO). And that's where I start working with my pics (cropping, colors, etc.). Once done, I move the pictures to a specific folder, with a date and a description, ie 090830_someplace for example.
4) sharing pictures
Easily enough, that's when a quick drag n drop of the last folder into Flickr Uploader is done. I add either a destination set (not a collection), add tags, descriptions, etc. and upload everything to Flickr for you all to enjoy. This is a step not to be neglected, as I manually add tags + description + titles to each picture, and the appropriate Flickr rights (Family, Me only, Friends, everyone).
Coming up in an update to this post:
- usual enhancements I use
- how I do panoramic stiches
- HDR photography
And you? how do you manage your photography workflow? please comment and share your tips!
Fog coming over SFO. You clearly see the white mantel over the ocean, and the coastline. This is the one that covers San Francisco. It fade away as soon as you drive down the peninsula or go north after the Golden Gate.