Archive for June, 2010

Digital Asset Management

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Several years ago, just out of Photography school I realized that I needed a solid workflow that would allow me to effectively work with images and their accompanying metadata in a fast, methodical, and proficient manner. Because if I didn’t have one, with thousands of images produced a year, things would get really messy, really fast. Essentially, it’s all about organization- from capture to transfer to storage to editing to distribution. Enter The DAM Book by Peter Krogh, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and Photoshelter. In addition, Thom Hogan recently penned his thoughts on digital asset management workflow.

Megapickles, gigsabites, copywight, backdowns, colorspacedout, namefiles, and metawhat?

Peter Krogh wrote the book on this stuff. Literally. He’s in his second edition already, as is usual with books involved in the digital imaging industry as things move fast. He too, realized early on that it’s imperative for each photographer to adopt a stringent yet flexible method of organizing, storing, and backing up digital media. Your method doesn’t have to mirror Peter’s method, but as long as it works for you, and that your data is safely backed up and can be located easily at a moments notice. If you take what you need and apply the principals, you’ll be far better off for it and starting off on the right foot.

But first, the camera side of things.

Make sure you set your filenaming option to continuous. This way each image has it’s own individual name (in batches of 9,999 as there are four digits). So each time you turn the camera on, if your last shot was DSC_5439.NEF then your very next file will be DSC_5440.NEF. This will help alleviate some initial pain in the transfer process when you are dumping images into hard drive as you won’t have ten DSC_0001.NEF’s laying around confusing you and trying to overwrite each other. (As an aside- fun fact if you’re a Nikon shooter DSC stands for Digital Still Camera). Second, I make sure my Date/Time/Time Zone is set correctly. If you forget to do this when say, Daylight Saving Time kicks in/out you do have the option of shifting it to the proper time in Lightroom (Select all images affected, go to Metadata -> Edit Capture Time). Also, if you are using a GPS Geotagging device (such as the Nikon GP-1), it will also embed the Universal Time Code (UTC) into the image metadata.

Also, with the correct Time and Date, if you shoot with more than one camera body as I sometimes do, then things will play nice when you group all the images from the shoot together and sort by capture time. Most camera bodies nowadays also allow you to add Copyright data automatically to each image captured, but this is something I do on import into Lightroom so don’t bother.

The memory cards once full are then turned over and stored with the label side face down in the camera bag/pouch so that I know it’s been used and needs to be downloaded/imported. Once it has been and I’ve backed it up, I format it in the camera so it’s fresh and set to go again. Think of formatting this way: Say your memory card is a warehouse, and your picture/video files are boxes inside. If you just delete an image or video it’s like having a worker pick up the box and walk out and throw it in the dumpster outside. Gone. If you select “Delete All” from your menu you are having a team of workers come in and remove all the boxes and trash them in the dumpster outside. Most people stop there thinking their card is now free to use again. Well, yes and no. What you should do is format it, as it’s like having the custodian come in and sweep/wax the floors to get rid of any debris. With no debris sitting around the card is truly “clean” and refreshed for use again. It will help protect against errant read/write errors that’s the bane of computer users. (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve recovered other peoples corrupt memory cards…). If you are in the unfortunate situation of having a bum card with important images on it (or accidentally erased/formatted your card), fear not as you can download free data recovery software through a Google search.

Note: I shoot in 12/14bit RAW, and as such don’t really set my color space in the camera (it’s done in Lightroom at the Export stage).

Folder Structure

Once the shoot is complete I will manually create a new folder in the year of capture. So a shoot on Feb 3rd 2008 about Ottawa’s Annual Winterlude Festival will be copied to a folder structure like this: Drive Letter/My Pictures/2008/2008-02-03 Winterlude/2008-02-03 Winterlude RAW. That way I know exactly when the pictures where taken and what the pictures are about.

As usual, consistency is key. As soon as I start deviating from this file folder hierarchy things will get hard to find in a hurry.

Lightroom Editing

With the images sitting in their respective RAW file folder, I’ll launch Lightroom and Import the images. At this stage I’ll apply a Copyright Metadata Preset (one created for each year), and any relevant global Keywords (usually City, Province/State, Country, Continent, etc.). Also, notice how the Lightroom Folder Structure is a spinning image of the Hard Drive folder structure.

Everything is then brought in and I’ll quickly skim through the images to delete missfocusses/bad exposures etc. using the X key (flagging as rejected). Then it’s Photo->Delete Rejected Photos to get rid of them. I’ll then convert the remaining images to Adobe’s .DNG (Digital Negative file format) from .NEF and render 1:1 Previews if there’s time.

File Naming

One of the key things in image management is filenaming. I use Lightrooms Filename Presets to apply a Template that I created to each image file to change it from DSC_1234.DNG to HARR_20080203_Winterlude_0001.DNG Again, this naming schema was designed around recommended conventions from Peter Krogh. At a glance I can tell who the photographer was (HARR short for Harrison), when the image was shot, what the image is about, and it has a unique identifier number. Also, as an additional bonus, when sorted by Name in a finder window all the images are sequential as the program uses the Time Shot metadata to organize the images and apply the unique identifier #.

Star Rating

I’ll then go through in the loupe view mode and Star rate the images. Here is an area I took Peters advice quite to heart: reserve your rating stars.

Here’s how star ratings are broken down for me:
0 Stars (10,974 images currently hold this rating): The image isn’t bad enough to be deleted, but nothing noteworthy. I might just keep it for a visual record of the scene.
1 Stars (2,887 images hold this rating): The image is the best of the “family/personal” images.
2 Stars (1,333 images hold this rating): The image is sellable for stock imagery.
3 Stars (78 images hold this rating): Best portfolio work.
4 Stars (0 hold this rating): My select favourites of the portfolio work.
5 Stars (0 hold this rating): Reserved for “best of career” / award winning images.

Once the cream has risen to the top I will edit the worthwhile, and leave the rest as they are. At this stage I will add the remaining relevant keywords, and jump on over to the Develop module for straightening/cropping/dust spot removal/white balance/exposure/color saturation etc. The image(s) may also jump over to Adobe Photoshop (as a 16bit tiff file) for more advanced retouching like Panaroma Merge, HDR, blemish removal, etc and then with a quick File>Save they get re-ingested and stacked with the original into Lightrooms Database.

At this point I will do a backup of all the photos and Lightroom archive to an external USB Hard Drive (which gets backed up weekly with an off-site backup HD). This is accomplished by using a very inexpensive and very useful program called Second Copy.

Once the heavy lifting is done the images are then exported to my Photoshelter online image archive account either by using PS’s Desktop Uploader:

or using Pact Softwares Photoshelter Archive Uploader Lightroom Plugin:

The back-end Photoshelter Archive Browser is broken down into a similar folder structure that I am using on my computer, except it only drills down to the Year->Month level. For example all images shot in February 2008 are stored in “2008 – 02 Feb” inside the 2008 folder. Again, everything flows logically into one of these folders and can be found at a moments notice.

The image is then priced with a pricing profile (ie. rights managed or personal use licenses), marked publically viewable, and then copied to a gallery.

Photoshelter will automatically add a semi-transparent watermark I’ve pre-uploaded and place it in the lower right hand corner of the displayed image file. No need to upload watermarked versions, as they are generated on-the-fly for display use only. The service will also use the IPTC metadata about the image file to populate the Page Title, Caption, Image Size, Copyright Data, and Keywords fields amongst the webpage. Sweet. The image is now ready for licensing by clicking the “Add to Cart (Price/Buy)” button and selecting the desired usage.

The result of all this effort can be seen here.

Photoshelter RSS Gallery Widget

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

A new addition you may have noticed on the righthand sidebar of the blog is the Photoshelter RSS Gallery widget. This was made possible by Nature and Travel Photographer Johan of NiO Photography. It pulls images from a Photoshelter Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed and displays the thumbnails in this handy dandy widget (complete with image links). I have been testing it out for him before the final release and I have to say it’s been a pleasure working with him due to his knowledgable and timely responses. This handy little widget allows the user to set a bunch of options to their liking, including background color, border colour and thickness, number of thumbs to display, sqaure or rectangular thumb, title and text options, and more! The image thumbnail links to the appropriate image gallery and includes the description/caption iptc metadata. Look for the final public release it in the next month or two from Johan to improve the functionality of your webpage!

As previously mentioned on this blog, Johan was also the designer of the useful dual blog/photo archive search widget. Kudos!

New York City Stock Photos

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Early last month I travelled down to New York City for the first time, and came back with some great images for the stock collection. It was just as loud, busy, dirty, and amazing as I thought it would be, with the scale of the city simply being staggering. Of course, had to do the touristy thing and capture some of the most iconic landmarks:

Statue of Liberty

New York City Skyline

Ellis Island

Empire State Building

Rockefeller Plaza

Radio City Music Hall

Trump Tower

Times Square

New York Subway

Subway Pride

Choir Donation

Police Barriers

Ghostbusters Firehouse

Before leaving the Big Apple, being a Ghostbusters fan means stopping by Hook & Ladder 8 firestation at 14 N. Moore Street New York, NY 10013 due to it being used for the exterior shots for the Ghostbusters 1&2 (1984/1989) film franchise.

To see what’s inside the building visit the New York City Stock Images Gallery!