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RAW memories Part 3: The imaging workflow - raw tiffs and jegs, and making sense of it all

Philip Smith
2 March 2011
Blog team: 
Philip Smith cuts through the competing claims of image management software and offers a simple workflow structure that you can use and adapt for your own situation.

It’s a while since I’ve been to New York. Walking around Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon I’m struck by the way it’s possible to hear voices and languages from all continents on the street – including, I’m pleased to say, Welsh. Plus the traffic noise and police sirens. Cacophony is the word.

Ah wah kworfee

In Central Park I stopped at a coffee stall and stood in line behind a very large cop from central casting. He looked around him and then yelled at the top of his voice – seemingly into thin air "Waah ting?". Hmmm, difficult here – do I act cool as if this happens every day, or run away from the mad person with the gun at his hip? Again – a huge shout, even louder, fills the winter air: "Waah ting?" Now I’m nervous. A third one – "Waah ting" - this time another voice – just as loud – from across the street – "Kworfee!" OK so now I fill in the missing vowels and consonants and it all falls into place: "Do you want anything?" our policeman in the queue had shouted to his friend across the way – "Coffee" he replies.

They understand each other and are able to cut through the noise and babble and communicate.

Image management - order out of chaos

A very nice story but what has this got to do with processing RAW images? Tenuous I know but this is about making sense of a noisy and confusing world. Every time we pick up a photography magazine we see adverts and editorials about the best image management software – buy me and you will be transformed overnight from a ‘now where did I put that one of the seed-head?’ to ‘ah number 014768- precisely’. What is often not discussed about digital imagery in general is that there is a big overhead that was much less demanding in the film days – organising your files. We call it ‘workflow'.

The thing is the right system is based on a few simple principles that you yourself understand and that you can use to make your software do what you need – rather than the other way round.

A simple framework

The key things to remember are:

1) Your RAW file is like a negative; treat it as such – leave it in the state it was created in the camera.

2) Key wording is essential for any photographer that uses the internet

3) You need a hires master file for print – and a lores master file for web use. 

Sample Workflow

So here is an example of a workflow- every photographer will have their own variant – but the basic principles will hold good.

1) Bring your files into the computer to organise them – trying to organise them on the flash card is very limited
2) Back up your RAW files in at least three locations on three different bits of media – e.g. hard disc, DVD.
3) Use your software to organise your images into folders with names that you can recognise – e.g. a location, a date, a commissioned shoot.
4) Keyword the files. This is essential if you are looking to sell your images through agencies – it enables your pictures to be found by search engines. Some people do this on the RAW file, some on the master Tiff. You can never have too few keywords.
5) Use Photoshop or similar automated Actions to create a Tiff master file.
6) Do your adjustments to your Tiff files like the ones discussed in the last blog.
7) Use Photoshop or similar automated Actions to create a Jpeg master file.

And that’s it. So long as you understand the underlying structure of your workflow it will always be easy for you to find what you want – don’t leave it to the software to organise it all for you.

Cut through the noise and get your cup of coffee.

- Philip -

NEXT TIME: The IGPOTY finalists and commended will have been announced – read the Blog to get an insight into the judging process – and some tips on how to being your image to the judge’s attention.

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