Lightroom workflow

When I first got started with Lightroom, I think it was version 4, I knew I needed to understand the whole Catalog system.  I didn't want to end up years down the road wishing I'd done something a different way and then spend days changing it all later.

So, here I am, almost 6 years into it, and I do things exactly as I learned how to do it day one, and I'm still very happy with my control and ability to find EVERY shoot I've ever done and bring it up with all included files.  Right now I have 26 terebytes of photos from over 1,000 shoots so it's pretty important to be able to navigate that mass.

Here is a video I did to explain the process.  Mine isn't the right way for everyone, but it's a great place to start.

Enjoy learning and I hope this helps.

What are the classes like?

I've been to many classes and workshops.  For the most part, they were all informative, interesting, and fun.  As someone who has taught classes most of my life, I watched the technique, cadence, and content of the classes and how the information was presented.  As a result, my workshops are no only filled with information I've learned in other classes, workshops, and videos, but the technique for presenting that information is the best of everything I've experienced.

My classes are fast paced, yet laid back at the same time.  I give you time to breath and take in what was just covered.  And I make sure all of your questions are answered...even if my answer is 'I have NO idea'.  That's rare, but I'm honest.

The 1on1 classes are 5 hours long.  This gives you plenty of time to ask questions, understand whats being presented, and we can cover a lot of ground.  1on1 classes are customized to what the student needs but most of the time we cover the same things.

The typical day (times may change)

8AM - 9AM

For the first hour we talk about lights.  You'll learn about Studio Strobes, Speedlights, and some versions of hot lights, or constant lights.  And you learn about the various ways to modify those lights to give us the fill, or mood, or contrast you want.  The studio has a very diverse set of lights to demonstrate almost every option.

We'll cover soft boxes, grids, beauty dishes, large and small lights, flash and continuous.  More important, I go over the 'zen' of positioning your lights.  Let me just say you won't walk away with a hand full of lighting schemes...you'll walk away with every possible combination that your mind's eye can come up with.  It's far simpler than you think.

During that first hour we also go over style and how important it is to develop your own style of work.  The first step to a style is the lighting.  The rest is in post production so we continue that topic in the last 2 hours some.

9AM - 12PM

The model will be arriving in studio and you'll get your camera out and ready to do some shooting.  For the next two hours you will be shooting most of the time.  Between sets I'll be explaining the lighting and why it's where it is.  We'll do some 'zen' learning between lighting changes so it's easier to understand how to light to get what we want.  Some would like us all to think it's some exact science and it's very much NOT.  It is, however, a lot of imagination and our mind's eye on what we want to see.

Models I use for Workshops (change occasionally)

There will be anywhere from 6-8 different lighting changes.  And you will have plenty of time to shoot the model in each and every light type.  By the way, the combination is so unlimited that every workshop probably sees different schemes that any previous one.  I make it up as we go along with your input on what you'd like and just how we would position lights to get that look.

There is a difference between two types of classes offered in lighting techniques and model poses.  In the regular workshop the lighting will cover lighting for head shots, fashion, pin up, boudoir, and other typical main stream types of photography.  The Fine Art Nudes workshop will have darker lighting and more 'art' style moody lighting.  The poses are more important in this class also, and just how you would compose fine art.

In both cases I'll be instructing the model to demonstrate how to take charge and get what you need from a set.  I will also step out of that role often and explain the how and why of working with a model.  The manner you speak with them, how to get them into the poses you want, and all of the intricate ways you will be interacting with them.  Both pros and first timers.

12PM-2PM

Now that we have a card full of wonderful images, it's time to gather around the computer and learn some techniques to start to create your style and workflow.

The class is based on Photoshop CC (6) and Lightroom CC (5) as well as a few of the popular filters.  We'll start with Lightroom and how to manage each shoot in such a way that you can move it, archive it, and at all times it's a complete package.  No more 'image not found' that you might see in Lightroom now.  I'll show you a workflow that is easy, manageable, and with a dozen terabytes of images, the ability to go to any shoot and bring up everything you did instantly.

I also show some of the editing features in Lightroom.  Some are easier to do than Photoshop.  Then we head into Photoshop and get down and dirty with some editing.  I'll show you how to readjust the lighting to refocus the viewer's eye, sharpen images, clean the skin, and make hair do far more than the image might show.  Plenty of tricks and tips, but nothing really more fancy than every day tools in Photoshops.  It's just how they are applied to make magic happen.

I don't keep anything a secret because I know that even if you tried to retouch an image I retouched before, they would come out totally different.  Your mine and your eye are the most important editing tool.  Your likes and dislikes will use the same tools I do and come up with totally different looks.  And, since that's YOU coming through, this will be your style!  Oh, it takes a while to get used to the tools but once you use them enough and apply them often enough to really know and 'feel' what they can do, your style will develop.

There are typically a few  'gasps' and 'OMGs' going on as I show the tricks I use.  How my studio looks 30 feet wide when it's really 15 for example.  Or how I get a tight spot light on the model when the image clearly didn't have that look.  How to give someone blue or green eyes in less than a second.  How to quickly dodge and burn to really bring the model off the flat page.

I honestly take 10-20 minutes on each of my edits.  Rarely more and often less depending on the image and what I end up doing with it.  This isn't magic, it's hours of doing this daily and loving it.

After the workshop

High speed idea of some retouching thechniques.

On going communications to help you remember what you learned is provided.  A closed group on Facebook and a passworded area on my website is open to all previous participants.  So, no worries that you are off and on your own after a class.  I'm always around to answer questions and re-explain something we might have covered.

The class is based on Photoshop CC (6) and Lightroom CC (5) as well as a few of the popular filters.  We'll start with Lightroom and how to manage each shoot in such a way that you can move it, archive it, and at all times it's a complete package.  No more 'image not found' that you might see in Lightroom now.  I'll show you a workflow that is easy, manageable, and with a dozen terabytes of images, the ability to go to any shoot and bring up everything you did instantly.

I also show some of the editing features in Lightroom.  Some are easier to do than Photoshop.  Then we head into Photoshop and get down and dirty with some editing.  I'll show you how to readjust the lighting to refocus the viewer's eye, sharpen images, clean the skin, and make hair do far more than the image might show.  Plenty of tricks and tips, but nothing really more fancy than every day tools in Photoshops.  It's just how they are applied to make magic happen.

I don't keep anything a secret because I know that even if you tried to retouch an image I retouched before, they would come out totally different.  Your mine and your eye are the most important editing tool.  Your likes and dislikes will use the same tools I do and come up with totally different looks.  And, since that's YOU coming through, this will be your style!  Oh, it takes a while to get used to the tools but once you use them enough and apply them often enough to really know and 'feel' what they can do, your style will develop.

The best part about my classes is that they are one-on-one.  It's just you and me kid.  Unless you want to use the buddy system and share the class with a friend.  That saves you some cash as well as having someone long who may remember things you don't and vice versa.

Ring light project

Most of the information about the ring light project is in the video.  I did forget to mention that the lights I used, LED, are 2700K so I had to set my white balance to manual and 2700 or the whole video would have been as orange as my shirt.

Always consider new ways to light a subject and have fun doing it!

As always, I'm open to any questions...just let me know below.

Dave


Backup...always!

One of my favorite sayings, that I made up myself from years of experience goes like this:

"Always remember to backup after every crash!"

Yep, that sick feeling is either the flu coming on or your computer telling you in the unfeeling tech verbiage, "What drive?  I don't see any drive here."

 Yeah, backup often or feel the pain!!

Yeah, backup often or feel the pain!!

As a photographer I take hundreds of images in every shoot.  And every shoot takes a lot of time for me, the model, or models, and any other staff.  And possibly special wardrobe or a long distance trip to get to the location.  Yeah, it's true what they say, the data is more valuable than the computer.  Especially tough today is the size of the images.  Each time I take a shot I use twice the storage space as my wife's 12meg hard drive back when we met.  (yeah, it's been a while)

So, here's what I have came up with for storage redundancy and the process for each shoot to keep it all organized and duplicated as I go along.

First, the camera.  I don't have one of the cameras that has dual cards.  If I was doing weddings or rocket launches, or anything else that just can't be done again, I'd have one of those cameras.  I'd call it imperative.  If not, I'd have a pocket full of 4gig cards and switch them out often so any one card could go bad and I'd still have most of the event.  Okay, maybe not for the rocket launch.

So, for me, the most vulnerable moment is when my entire shoot is on that one little SD card.  Freaky at times.  The very first thing I do is upload that to my computer.  Depending on just how important the shoot was, I then manually start up a back of my computer to the dedicated drive I backup to every night.  Yes, I do a nightly backup of my Macbook Pro Retina 1tb to an external 2tb USB3 drive.  I use a program called SuperDuper that makes not only a bootable backup, but it has a way to do smart backups where it only copies and delete files on the external drive so that it matches the main drive.  Much quicker and I'm not without a full backup at any time.  Rewriting over the old backup means, for a period in time, I have no backup.  Not good.  So I don't.

So, I like to edit my shoots on the internal 1tb solid state drive on my laptop.  Nice and fast and plenty of room for 10-20 shoots before I have to move them off for new shoots.

When I download a new shoot I use Lightroom and create a new catalog for that shoot.  That creates a new folder too so everything is nice and neat.  BUT, I use a feature in Lightroom Import that allows me to download to two different locations at the same time!  Yes, this is exceedingly handy!!  So, I download to my local drive and at the same time it goes to my NAS (Network Accessible Server) if I'm at home, or to a 1tb external USB3 drive if I'm away from home.  So, I automatically have the shoot in two places from the point the download is finished.

Whew!

If I'm at a hotel room I make sure I place the external drive somewhere else in the room if I leave so a theft of my laptop doesn't mean I lost my shoot.  I'm still going to be pissed...just slightly less so.

My NAS is a Synology 4 drive system with four 4tb drives giving me a little over 10b of storage space.  It's connected to my network and I can access it from anywhere in the world or any computer I have, including my iPad and iPhone.  Very cool indeed.

So, since it's not connected to any specific computer it simply becomes a drive like Dropbox.  I can save to it, download from it, and it's a safe place to put shoots.

Ahhh, you probably did the math and 4x4 is 16TB, not 10TB. Well, this is something called RAID where the drive magically does something with the data so that any one drive can fail totally and I haven't lost anything.  I can even eject the bad drive, replace it with a new drive, without ever turning the system off or telling it anything.  It's actually very cool little bit of technology.  This is where my last couple years of shoots live until such time as I have wrung them out of any great shots and I move them to a single external drive for long term storage.  This makes the shoots vulnerable to loss if the drive fails, but by this time it's not nearly as important.

The only drawback to a network storage device is that I can't bring up a Lightroom catalog from a network device.  If I want to work on an older shoot I have to drag it to my desktop, do my edits, then drag it back over the old one.  It's well worth the peace of mind to have it so well stored and available to all of my machines.

Consider your storage situation. A few hundred dollars might prevent the flu like symptoms in the event of the inevitable disk crash.  All disks fail...it's just a matter of when.

Fine art - my perspective (Part1)

The human form I'll start by clearing up the basics.  Fine art nudes is an art form.  It has nothing to do with sex, exhibitionism, or voyeurism.  It does not degrade, sensationalize, or prey upon any gender.  The confusion comes from those that use the term 'fine art' as a gateway to shoot what is very obviously not art at all.  I've met people who can ramble on for a while about the fine lines and subtle tones of an art piece and I've met people who look at the same piece, tilt their head and say 'cute'.  Everyone sees art differently and in my experience it's not something you learn.  You either like it, love it, or don't see it.  I have never seen a 'face palm' with a shocked expression and exclamation of "NOW I SEE IT!"

Me

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For as long as I can remember, I've always loved the graceful clean lines formed by the human body.  Whether it is that of a soft beautiful female or a muscle filled shot of a male.  All shapes, sizes, and ages.  More recently very fit females have come to have the best of both soft lines as well as shadow from evident muscles.  All beautiful, especially in the right light.

I'm sure there was a time in my life that I was taught to consider any form of nakedness as inappropriate.  That is not a natural reaction, we are taught that nakedness is a sin somehow.  Later in life, as we start to rebel, question, and venture out with our minds, and especially when we discover art, we then discover the beauty of the human body.  And that it is not inappropriate to view them as the forms of art that they are.

I'm fortunate to have a very understanding and loving wife who understands my need to create.  She trusts that models will be treated with respect and that the only goal is the finished project.  That trust, from a partner, is important yet rare.  I will discuss that in another installment of this series.

The introduction

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IMG_9946-Edit-Edit

When a model contacts me about creating some art I, of course, browse through  his or her images.  My mind immediately starts considering the options of what poses and lighting would work best for their body shape and attributes.  I begin to imagine what the end result may be based on past experience as well as my ever present checklist of images I'd like to create.

I'll chat a bit to make sure the model understands the art we will create will involve nudity.  I always feel a little creepy in that part of the conversation because of that early teaching that nudity is inappropriate and here I am talking to someone I've likely never met about shedding their clothes for my camera.

It is ultimately important that they are fully comfortable with what we will be doing.  Most often I've found the promise of what may be created is a strong motivation to many to push themselves beyond their normal boundaries.  And, to date, everyone has been very pleased with our results.

Parts 2 and 3 In the next installments I will cover the trust issues of significant others in your life if you want to shoot fine art and just how a professional shoot works with nudity.

READ PART 2

Style is the key to success

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In any profession that has a creative element, the only road to success is having a style of your own.  Without it, you are like the 98% that have no style and compete strictly on price and quantity. Although this is true with many professions we'll talk about photography...naturally. First let me qualify the term success.  To some it's a comfortable living (or lavish) from the income of selling your art or services.  To some it's the feeling of being creative.  Where money isn't the driving force.  Of course, both are admirable excuses to getting out of bed and making things happen today.

Those with no style will tell you things like, "I like to get it perfect in the camera.", or "I never retouch my photos".  What they are really saying is, "I don't want a unique style, that takes work and a lot of learning."   They are usually the same people who compete at the low end of the pricing scale because their work looks exactly like everyone else's.  The only reason they sell their product is because it's cheaper than the next guys.

So, what is this thing called STYLE and were can I buy some.

Yeah, sorry, that's just not going to happen.  First, you really do need to get away from thinking your camera has the ability to make a perfect picture.  I do know a few unique wedding photographers who have some amazing glass and know exactly how to get a fairly perfect shot pretty often.  But, they take those same shots day after day.  And they still warm them up, crop them, or do some other things to make them 'theirs'.

Figure it's going to take a year or more for your style to develop.  That will include a lot of 'out of box' experiences.  You need to venture into the world of Lightroom and Photoshop and have a good computer system to let you work without a lot of updates and delays.  And a comfortable chair.  Some good music.  Turn off your Facebook and be ready to focus.  There are plenty of great videos on how to do pretty much everything with any program.  In Adobe's case their site has plenty and you can subscribe to Lynda.com for very well made and detailed videos on everything.  Creative Live is also a wonderful source for learning.

With all this learning you'll be doing you might be asking yourself, how does THIS give me a style of my own.  If I'm learning all the same things as everyone else how does that make me unique and give me...my style?  This is the interesting part.  It's a bit like walking into a kitchen full of every kind of food.  If you go to make a meat loaf the chances are very good that your meat loaf will taste very different than the last 10 people who made one.  Same ingredients.  But different results.  Here is where the YOU comes into the mix and creates a style.

Once you learn dodge and burn, layers, masking, building your own actions, and probably hundreds of other little nuances of Photoshop and Lightroom, you will start mixing them and applying them the way YOU love the look.  You will learn just how much contrast or blend of color you like and after a while you will do the same thing to the next and the next and the next.  Without specifically working on building your style you are doing just that.  No two people will do exactly the same things to any given picture and the results may or may not look close in the end.  They will never look identical.  Ever.

Don't think you are done.  Once you have a style and if it's one that sells, you may even build that into an action so it's one button to adjust that shot the way you love it.  And for many, that is the end.  They won't go farther because, well, they have found their success in the popularity of THAT style that is uniquely theirs.  From a business stand point this is fine.  Some famous greeting card artists and photographers like Andy Silvers and Ansel Adams have very specific styles that I can point to and tell you who did it.  That made them a nice living.

Those of us who see the success as what we can create art wise will probably never stop tweaking with our style by learning more all the time.  Just like how every friend and experience changes our personality just a bit and how we see life, every new thing you learn on your camera, or a software package will change, ever so slightly, your style.

Style is good.  Style is something you can't buy.  Style takes a long time to create.  Style will be who you are and no one can take that away from you.  If you want people to point at your work and that, 'Hey, that's a shot by (insert name here)!' then you'll be glad you took the time to develop your style.

Enjoy life...even that will reflect in your style!

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What's the point to a point and shoot?

I visited a wonderful photographer in California a few months ago. Gregory Moore. We had a nice dinner and as we walked along the evening streets chatting about photography (imagine that) he kept pulling out his little point and shoot and clicked off shots of walls, town streets, store fronts, and anything that caught his eye. I've loved his work because of his subdued lighting.  Especially when it's obviously a location shot.  Well, not really a location shot.  I think he often does a shot in the studio and lights it impeccably.  Then in post he adds one or more backgrounds in and then uses yet another set of amazing skills to blend them so perfectly that I can't really tell that it might not be on location.  Then again, I've been with him on a location shoot where he used even more of the same background to add more flavor and emotion to a shot.

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Canon_PowerShot_S120_1000471

So, there is still a good reason to have a good P&S in your pocket at all times when wondering around.  Just the other day I was walking the mall and there was a wall between stores that was seemingly out of place.  Beautiful wood or different colors.  Now I have it as a possible backdrop in a future shot.  And it's mine, I don't have to pay anyone for the right to use it.

Speaking of rights, I always make sure there isn't any 'prior art' in a shot.  There was a photographer that took a picture that was published and in the background, blurred out by the DOF, was some graffitti.  Now, the graffitti wasn't legal but the tagger who created it sued the photographer for $10,000 and won.

The first thought is, why not just use my cell phone?  And I have before.  But, having a camera that has enough lens to capture some good light, has a nice ISO range, and in the case of the camera I'm looking at, the Canon S120, the low fStop of f1.8 will make evening pictures rock.  But, most important, is to get one with at least 12mp and RAW so the image can be manipulated a LOT after the fact.  This is also the difference between the $100 camera and the $450 camera.  But, worth it.  Pick whatever you like but so some serious research to make sure you find what you like and it has good reviews.  Sony seems to lead the pack but it's a close call these days.  Canon is hot on their heels and I didn't see anyone talking about Nikon at all.  Which is odd because Nikon was hyping their P&S cameras in ads not long ago claiming that if you had their P&S you didn't need a photographer.  Yeah, that impressed me too...really?

So, work on those masking skills in Photoshop and start building up that background library.

Tight depth of field in the studio

After getting the Canon 85mm f1.2 lens for my 6D I found it hard to use in the studio.  Of course, outdoors I have more control over the camera because I can increase the speed enough to cut the light back and use the beautiful narrow depth of field that the lens affords me.  But in the studio the modeling lights were not bright enough and the flash was ALMOST to much light with the flashes set at their lowest settings.

To get that same beautiful DOF in the studio I needed to cut the light back.  So, I added a Tiffen 72mm Variable Neutral Density filter in front of the lens.  This is a 2-8 fStop filter so I can adjust it for just about anything in the studio.  At f2 it gave me the example shot below.  Notice how fast the DOF dropped off because I was at f1.2 on the lens but blocked the light by 2 fStops balancing it all out well with a flash.  The flash was still low but not at the lowest setting.  This allows me the options to have multipal flashes at different levels to create the moods I want yet still go to f1.2 if I so desire.

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Of course, the first 30 shots were pretty much out of focus because I was getting a feel for it.  I've found that I can't use the center focus point on the eyes and then re-frame each shot like I normally do.  I actually have to move the focus point in the camera to be about where the eyes are in whatever frame I want to have.  One at the far end for a full body shot for example and then i can still focus on the eyes.  This, of course, is only important under f2 or so.

If I needed to do autofocus but wanted to crank the filter to a much darker setting I would hold the filter ring and turn it to wide open so I could focus and then just before taking the shot I'd rotate the filter to the darker setting.  The results were a very warm and creamy set of shots.  These examples came from a 2 hour shoot with Michelle were I never changed the camera from f1.2 the whole night and we caught some wonderful shots.

Here is a second example of the beauty of using lower fStops in the studio.

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I doubt I'm the first photographer to come to the conclusion that the ND filter can be handy this way...heck, I may be the last one to figure it out.  But, I'd never seen anyone talk about using one in studio so I wanted to share my experiance.  I'm not sure my ND filter will be coming off my 85mm f1.2 anytime soon.

Canon 6D wifi feature...

I've used the 6D for studio shooting a few times now and it's light, simple to use, and I'm very happy with the quality.  The 7D now feels like a tank. Up until yesterday I had the 6D connecting through the studio wifi router as an infrastructure connection.  That meant no direct connection between it and the iPad I wanted to use to show the pictures.  I found later that this added a delay between a quick unfocused version of the preview and a clear version to replace it.  Sometimes up to 20 seconds.  Not good.  And, this doesn't allow for location viewing on the iPad since I'd be away from the router.

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So, I changed to the peer-to-peer option that set up the 6D as an access point that the iPad could directly connect to.  This eliminated any delay of the preview image.  And, as we shot on location I could hand the iPad to the model to look them over to get an idea of how her posing was and what I was getting.

Other than forgetting the iPad on the ground and walking off leaving this bright pink (don't ask) fully loaded iPad in a busy park, we got some good use from this feature.  Oh, and there are plenty of honest people around.  I figure 100 people walked right past it and left it sitting right there.  Good heart workout without having to run!

On the drive home the model went through the whole shoot and deleted some obviously bad shots.  That also removes them from the card in the camera so be careful letting people use that feature.  It can be turned off.  She also stared the ones she liked and this is very handy since those stars are added to the meta data on the camera because when I imported those shots into Lightroom they had the stars set.  I can see myself looking through shoots this way and trimming the fat before an import.

One thing to note is that I found it was easier to have the camera and iPad set to stay on all the time...or at least the camera since it's the access point.  If the camera isn't on, the iPad or iPhone can't see the pictures.  The battery in the 6D seems to handle that just fine.  It last as long as my 5D or 7D, even with wifi turned on.

This wifi feature has turned out to be as useful as I'd hoped.  It's certainly becoming a standard way of shooting for me already.