Post processing plays a big role in today’s contemporary photography. Photographers are expected to be familiar and knowledgeable with editing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom. It can be argued back and forth if this is right or wrong and whether such digital manipulation is ruining photography. But for me, I see it as a tool, just as the darkroom was a tool to manipulate images. Whether it is used subtlety or for major composites, I think it is definitely an important skill to know. As my photographic skills grew over the last few years, so did my thirst for better images. The more I images I have amassed, the more I realised it could be a messy affair if I didn’t catalogue my photo albums properly and it would be quite confusing and time-consuming when I needed to locate my file again. I realised the importance of organising my image albums from editing to archival process.
In this article, I share 5 tips that I do when I edit my images. This is not a tutorial in Photoshop, but a brief explanation of my workflow processes of how I organise and filter my images when I edit my images. Having a good structural workflow is a good practice.
#1 Naming your folder
Before importing my raw files, I would create a new folder album and strictly name it according to the date taken, followed by a name of the event. How you name your files is important. Naming your files methodically could be a lifesaver especially when you have amassed a lot of images from other shoots and you could quickly locate the album if you need to. I usually have the habit of retaining the original image files in my camera card until I’m done editing. Either that or I would back up the files in another hard disk just in case I accidentally cleared away my editing files.
#2 Grouping your images
After importing the raw files, I could create more new folders inside my root folder, such as “unpick” to filter out unwanted files, or a named folder if I am going to edit. If I have a large album with a few days worth of images of a single event, I would group these images into different folders before I start editing. If I have taken multiple images for exposure bracketing, panorama stitching, or time-lapse, I would also group them separately into folders. These new folders signify a new scene which I would work on later. I find it easier to cull bad images after grouping my images. I would place the culled images into the unwanted folder and clear them away later to free up more space.
Sometimes if I am rushing for time, I would cherry-pick images straight from the camera card. This reduces the additional time and process of transferring the entire album and filtering them again.
#3 Initial Filtration
What I want to do is to identify the images with the best potential. I would pick the best ones to edit so I can eliminate unnecessary post-processing time. Sometimes if I have two near-identical images, I would determine the best one to edit and discard the other into the “unpick” folder. I find that this method helpful for me as it trains me to be more critical of my image curation without the use of Lightroom’s 5-star system. After the first round of editing and filtration process is done, I would create two more new folders: “Raw” and “Workfile“. The Raw folder would contain the all the Camera Raw and the metadata files after editing and the workfile folder would contain all of my photoshop files.
#4 Reorganise before archiving
After editing, I would reorganise my root folder before I archive the entire edited album into my hard disk (copying over the original backup files), On my Computer, only the best image will be kept in jpeg form. I would discard the raw files and working files on my computer when I feel confident I don’t need them anymore. In case I need to edit them again, I would still be able to retrieve them from my hard disk.
#5 Develop tagging system
If you are a Mac user, you would be familiar with Mac’s colour tagging system. I would use coloured tags in Mac to sort out which folders are done and which requires attention. I would also use these coloured tags to pick the strongest images in my album and create “unwanted” folder to cull more bad images again. Alternatively, if I were editing in Windows, I would instead use renaming method to mark out my folders, such as “O” or “X” to signify which folder is done or to discard, etc.
In my workflow, I try to be as methodical and organised as I can in arranging my files for editing. There could be more ways to go about processing images and my workflow is just one approach which works for me. As time passes, I may even adopt new practices and refine my workflow further. If you can think of a more refined approach from my workflow which works for you, by all means!