A significant proportion of my photography is devoted to shooting and selling images for stock so I thought I’d share some of the setup and workflow I use to get from camera to final agency or client submission.
First Things First
Before I even start shooting, there are some basic things I do with camera settings to make life easier down the road:
- My cameras are set to use the Adobe RGB colourspace to take advantage of the wider gamut and to match the colour management settings in the rest of my processing.
- I use different file naming prefixes in each camera to maintain uniqueness in the numbering scheme and so I can easily tell from the filename which camera the image came from.
- The cameras are set to record my copyright information into the appropriate IPTC data field
- All image adjustment settings in the cameras are OFF except for Lens Distortion and Vignette Control which are set to automatically correct.
- I use relatively small 8 and 16 GB memory cards to minimize the risk of losing a large number of images in case of a corruption problem or if I lose one, and back them up to a portable storage device as I fill them.
Download and Organize
Ok, so I’m back from a trip or shoot with a few thousand images – what now? Time to get them all stored and organized in a useful manner. Here goes.
For image importing, viewing, sorting and organizing, I use ACDSee Pro. It’s fast, intuitive and has a layout that I’m used to and really like. It also has powerful, full featured editing capabilities although I prefer to do most of my editing in Photoshop. During the import process, I have ACDSee set to automatically rename the files to something meaningful related to the shoot and put them in an appropriately named folder. I also, during import, automatically add my business and contact information to the appropriate IPTC data field, and insert any common keywords such as subject or location. During import, images are also automatically copied to external backup drives as well as an online archive service provided by Carbonite.
Once I have all the images loaded, I make an initial pass through them, deleting any garbage ones, tagging the best ones and flagging sequences that may have been shot such as panoramas, HDR or focus stacked which I’ll process later. I then copy all the tagged and flagged images to a subdirectory to work on without fear of inadvertently altering an original.
Next is the most dreaded task in stock photography – keywording! The requirements for this vary somewhat by agency but, as a minimum, you’ll need to provide Title, Caption and Keywords for each image. Although it’s certainly possible to do this manually (and ACDSee supports batch processing of files), it can save a lot of time and give you more detailed and thorough results to use a keywording tool. Most of these work like an automated thesaurus which automatically generate related terms based on something you enter. I use Keyword Perfect. It took me a while to get the hang of its design and interface but I now rely on it exclusively.
We now have a folder of promising, fully keyworded images, ready for processing. First, we need to deal with the image sequences we previously flagged. The three types I have most often are: HDR, Panoramas and Focus Stacks and to combine these I use Photomatix Pro, Photoshop and Zerene Stacker respectively. Of course, these are certainly not the only tools or even necessarily the best – just the ones I use. Finally, each image is processed in Photoshop for any cropping, processing or adjustment (ACDSee allows you to open images in Photoshop to save time) and then saved back.
Flag, Upload and Wait
Since I deal with several agencies, I tag the images so I know which images get sent to which agency (they’re not always the same). I then FTP the files to each agency in a batch.
That’s it – now we just wait for the cheques to come in!