Although image editing can be complex, some believe it pales in comparison to what can be involved with getting a good print, says Jon Canfield: "Along with choosing the right paper, printer profile, and printer settings to get the best possible image, you also have to deal with rendering intents." In this post, he explains rendering-intent options and how to choose the best one for your image.
In the second of two posts, Jon Canfield calls attention to some powerful advances in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3 that can help you fine-tune the look of your photographs. In this post, he shows how to use the sharpening tools in Lightroom 3 to give your images the appearance of cleaner edges and more detail. He says that sharpening in Lightroom 3 has been greatly improved over the previous versions.
In the first of two posts, Jon Canfield calls attention to some powerful advances in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3 that can help you fine-tune the look of your photographs. In this post, he shows how to reduce “digital noise”— those grainy-looking splotches that can appear on images that were shot at high ISO settings or were underexposed in the camera and lightened during processing. But be careful, he cautions. When using the controls in Lightroom 3 to reduce luminance noise and color noise, you can inadvertently introduce other unsightly artifacts into your image.
Many of us have huge collections of digital images. Some of us (myself not included) have been very good about organizing those images from the start. When I first started shooting digital and scanning negatives, I really didn’t consider the fact that at some point I’d be dealing with tens of thousands of images on my computer. Back in those early days, I had sleeves for negatives and slides, and would store them by type of image in folders.
Then came digital. The organizing system that made so much sense in an analog world didn’t play out on the computer. It was much harder to find an image in a directory with hundreds of similar shots than it was to hold up a sheet of slides for a quick look. Obviously, something had to change. I needed a plan to get organized and stay that way.
I use Adobe Lightroom for my cataloging and basic workflow, but the principles apply to almost any application you might use, such as Aperture, Bridge, Expression Media, or dedicated cataloging application. Here are some tips for getting and staying organized.
1. Determine your folder structure.
While everyone has different needs, there are some common ideas that will help you when it comes time to store your images on the computer. I store images in a date named structure. I set up a master folder for each year, and within that a folder for each month. The month folders have additional folders for the date the images were shot. So, the basic structure looks like this:
While this might not seem obvious, most software, including Lightroom lets you create a collection named anything you like, which brings us to tip number 2.
2. Use Collections or Groups to sort images.
Most of my work is landscape oriented, so I have collections based on the type of subject – mountains, flowers, water, sky, etc. Within these collections are sub collections, or groups, of images. As an example, for flowers I have collections for each type of flower I shoot. For mountains, I have subcollections of mountain ranges.These collections are just references to the actual images which are stored in my date folders.
3. If your software supports it, use keywords to automatically fill your collections.
Lightroom uses the concept of Smart Collections. A keyword or other metadata attribute will automatically place an image in the correct collection for me, making it less likely to forget to add the images. So, if I have an image of Mt. Rainier, the keywords mountain and Cascades will automatically place the image into the correct collection for me.
4. Decide on standard keywords.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will make it more difficult to find an image than inconsistent use of keywords. If you use boat one time, and ship another time, are you going to remember to look for both images? If so, you’re better than me.
One thing I’ve found that helps me out is to use the Controlled Vocabulary (www.controlledvocabulary.com). Not only does this give me a pre-built list of keywords, they are standard and accepted keywords that you’re likely to find used by editors and stock agencies when requesting images. You can’t sell them your work if you can’t find what they’re looking for!
5. Apply keywords during importing whenever possible.
If your memory card is full of similar subject matter this one is pretty easy. All of the applications you’re likely to use will support adding keywords during import, and if you assign them now, it’s more likely to be done. If you have several different subjects to import, you can always import the subset, applying the keywords for those, then import the next subset. The key here is to make sure they are keyworded. If you use the smart collection method like I do, when you’re done with your import the images will already be where they need to go.
6. Update existing images one folder at a time.
If, like me, you already have a few thousand images on the computer before you realized you didn’t do any organizing, don’t panic. Make it a point to work on one folder of images at a time, keywording a manageable subset of your images. Most applications will let you search for images that aren’t tagged, so even if you don’t have a folder organization, you can run this query (searching where keyword = blank), and work on as many images as you like.
7. Use the rating system.
Lightroom uses a star rating system with up to five stars for images. In my system, I use three stars for images I think are worth further editing and consideration for submission. Four stars are assigned to images I’ve submitted for stock or publication, and five stars are reserved for published or sold images.
8. Cull ruthlessly.
It’s easy to have an emotional attachment to our images, but that attachment is seldom shared by others. So, as difficult as it may be, evaluate your images with a critical eye. If the image isn’t your best, delete it. I make a point of reviewing every image I import, assigning ratings as I go along. If I see an image that isn’t worth keeping, it gets flagged for deleting by pressing the X key. If I’m not sure, I’ll give it a single star. Once I’ve made the initial pass, I’ll review the one star images, deciding if it’s worth keeping or deleting. When done, I filter on the X flag images and delete them immediately.
9. Back up your catalog.
You’ve spent hours cataloging and organizing your images. Do you really want to take a chance on that catalog becoming damaged? Lightroom and other applications will prompt you to back up your catalog file. Do it! The catalog files aren’t that big and it just isn’t worth the risk to pass on this.
10. Back up and archive your images.
Different from backing up your catalog, it’s also obvious that you need to back up your images. A regular backup scheme should be a part of your daily workflow. Let it run overnight and know that you’re safe in case of disaster.
Related to this is archiving your images. For this, you might archive to an external drive, or to optical media. One advantage to using the date system for folder naming is that you can easily group by year onto a set of discs or single drive that can then be stored offsite or on the shelf.