Okay, so we've been out for an hour or two merrily snapping away and we've got a camera full of award winning photographs we hope.
We get home and us digital shooters don't have to contain our excitement for too long. The moment of satisfaction or despair has arrived and we upload our work to the PC or laptop.
Several things become apparent at this stage. Firstly we realise there are a couple of hundred images to plough through and we are going to be kept 'amused' for hours.
Then we discover that the pic of the day that looked great on the camera's LCD is over-exposed,out of focus or simply doesn't work. The temptation we have now is to either spend ages tinkering with it or use it anyway and hope that others will see it as the great image you once hoped it was. Simple fact is that the first option will waste time and the second will put people off looking at our other work so neither option will be of any benefit to us. Delete the files and move on to the next shot.
My workflow method is as follows :
1. Run a slideshow of everything captured
Sometimes I'll let it run straight through but often I'll hover over the pause button to delete any obvious failures as I go along and other times I'll wait until the end and go back and delete them.
2. Repeat 1. as often as necessary
I will tend to repeat this exercise a few times, gradually weeding out all those that can't be salvaged or which I have better versions of if I've taken a series of pictures of the same subject.
3. Pick out the best
By now I've seen every image several times and know which ones are likely to be best when processed.
4. Process the RAW file
It's always best to work from the RAW file if you've got one - it contains the most information. Since I always shoot in colour and most (but not all) of my shots work best in black and white I'll make any exposure adjustments required and convert to monotone.
5. Fine Tuning
I have an old version of Photoshop and intend to get a copy of Lightroom in the future but for now I find the manufacturer's software adequate for my needs. In my case this is Olympus Viewer 2. Now, if I'm working in monotone, I'll try each of the B&W Filters to see how they look but usually these don't have much effect. Then it's just a case of tinkering. I'll probably start with a Gamma adjustment to bring out the mid-tones if they need it and then it's brightness, contrast and lightness and that's about me done. Of course, if it's a colour image, the saturation might require a tweak.
6. Zoom In and Check
As you go along you'll want to keep checking that you're not losing highlights to the dark side or blowing out areas you want to keep so I find it useful to zoom to full size and keep an eye on things. We may also want to try to adjust for any softness in the focus and my final stage, and only if the image is quite soft, is to use the Unsharp Mask to sharpen things up a bit.
7. Reviewing & Cropping
I don't subscribe to that rubbish about only ever using the image as it came out of the camera and neither should you - photographers have always trimmed and tweaked things in the darkroom; even and especially the greats. In our initial weeding out stage we should have removed any images where people or objects in the foreground or background have obviously spoilt the view of our main subject. Now we can look again to see how the shot might be improved. Check left, right, top and bottom and identify any obvious distractions such as people, cars or trees that will take the eye away from what you want to be the main focal point. At the same time, though, look for things that might create a natural frame such as pillars, window frames, flora etc. Now crop it if it needs it and leave it if it doesn't, being mindful not to take too much away or you'll only ever be able to print 6x4s. Personally, if I was going to remove more than half of the original image I'd probably just pass on that one altogether and would simply delete it at the first stage. Now, save the JPEG.
8. Save RAWs and Back Up
Once I've completed all the processing above and any cropping I leave my jpegs in the original folder and move all the remaining RAW files to a separate folder and back them up to an external hard drive.
Now I'm ready to release my pictures to flickr or 500px or wherever for critique and hope others get as much pleasure out of looking at them as I got from taking them and creating the final image.
I managed to get out a couple of times this week and here are a few of the shots that I might hand, or have handed, over to the critics. I'm reasonably satisfied with them but we all have different tastes and they might bomb under peer review. We'll see.