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Mastering the Photo Editing Workflow

written by: Caroline Thompson•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/23/2011

Editing images is time consuming and can consume a large part of a photographer's time if they do not have an efficient system for processing images. Master the photo editing workflow with the following list.

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    Image Editing Workflow

    Professional photographers constantly strive to make the image editing process more efficient. The more time spent editing images means the less time spent shooting for clients. This lowers the profitability of a photographer. Here is a basic system for an efficient photo editing workflow.

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    Workflow Management for Bulk Images

    Photographers can shoot hundreds of images for a single sitting or shoot. The less time spent per image the more clients a photographer can have. Workflow management can be broken down into different stages. The stages are mostly dependent upon the image editing programs the photographer uses in the studio.

    1. Download - Images have to be transferred from the camera to photo editing software. Depending on the image editing program, images can be imported directly to an application right from the card. This is the most efficient choice.
    2. Image Editing - Before specific image edits can be performed, all the images need to be reviewed for misfires and unusable images and then the images need to be renamed and numbered.
    3. Selection - The bulk images need to be narrowed down to ones that will be used. After the choice has been made, select all the images that were not chosen and put in a separate folder for archiving. (This is for studios that shoot for multiple projects.)
    4. Raw Conversion - Convert all raw files. This step is only for photographers not using image-editing programs that convert from RAW for viewing. This is not the most efficient procedure. You will have to make edits for all images by opening and correcting for color and tone by using this method.
    5. Clean Up - For photographers using image editing software that works with RAW images, make all minor clean up and enhancements. Simple white balancing, contrast and image editing can be done at this point.
    6. Save Corrected Images - Select the corrected images and save them to a folder on the computer.
    7. Break Here -The uncorrected images can be edited using the photo editing workflow in the following section. Skip the beginning steps and start with number 4 for the remainder of the images.
    8. Save Images - After completing the workflow for individual images, save all the images to the same folder used for the other images.
    9. Re-Size Images - Resize images using actions. The fastest way to resize is to create a droplet on the desktop for standard sizes used by the studio. Just drag the folder onto the droplet and it will automatically resize all the images in the folder. Another way is to batch process the images from the same folder using actions. This sizes all your images automatically. This is a real time saver.

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    Workflow Management for Individual Images

    This section is a stand-alone section for individual image editing workflow.

    1. Download - This is the same as the above section on bulk images.
    2. Image Editing - This is the same as above section on bulk images.
    3. Raw Conversion - If the image is in RAW format, it will need to be converted. Open the image in a photo-editing program that handles RAW conversion and correct for white balance, exposure, contrast, brightness, hue and saturation.
    4. Clean Up - Clone out any spots and clean up all parts of the image.
    5. Correct White Balance - Using the Info Palette, check the numbers on your color balance. Make any corrections using Curves.
    6. Correct Contrast - Make any corrections to contrast and brightness using Curves.
    7. Manipulations - Here is where you can make manipulations such as whitening teeth, overlays, skin softening and other changes in the overall appearance of the image. This needs to be done after all color and tonal corrections.
    8. Flatten The Layers - Flatten all layers.
    9. Sharpen The Image - Sharpen the image using the Unsharp Mask Filter in the Channels Palette. This is always the last edit on the image before resizing.
    10. Resize - Crop the image to the size needed.
    11. Save - Save the image.

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    Digital workflow management is important for efficiency, but also it is necessary to have the proper workflow to make the best image edits. If the image is not edited using a logical workflow, the image could be compromised. If the image is sharpened or cropped before other corrections the image will not have the same quality if this is not done in the proper order. The same with whitening teeth or other edits regarding color if they are done before all color adjustments have been made. It is important to determine the photo editing programs to use and plan out the workflow management system. This will make the best use of the photo editing software and the image. The bottom line is to always get the highest quality image.