My current workflow.
Equipment needed checklist. Camera (obviously) & lens.Biggest decision, depending on what I intend to shoot, is which lens to attach , and also how many others to take along with me. Unless I have an “assistant“ (AKA as hubby) my bag can get very heavy and if at all possible I prefer to travel light. Also changing a lens outdoors can be a problem, but not so much for a portraiture session indoors. I always make sure my 2 battery packs are charged, I have a battery grip attached to my camera and this usually has enough power to last for several days. I also take along 6 spare AA batteries which fit the grip just in case — a belt and braces approach! Empty memory cards x at least 3 . Again depending on my subject matter I consider if I will need my tripod. Its heavy but very stable—– essential for certain shooting situations——I have a love/hate relationship with it! I do not like using a tripod but it is impossible not to use sometimes. Cable release if using my tripod. Will I need a filter? All my lenses have a UV filter on. In addition I have a 9 stop ND filter and a circular polariser .Fingerless gloves——an essential in cold weather and kept in my camera bag all year round–the British weather in so unpredictable !!!
Camera settings & Shooting . I shoot Raw and have my camera set to record the largest file size which is about 15 megapixels . If at all possible I try to use ISO 100 or ISO 200 but increase if needed. As I use Raw I leave the WB on auto and correct the WB in Lightroom. I prefer to use manual camera settings but very occasionally will use AV or TV priority. The highlight clipping warning is always on. I use SRGB colour space. I have the automatic image review turned off but I do check the histogram of individual images– if time allows during the shoot– and will take a series of bracketed shots if I feel this is necessary, but this is not always possible. Shooting Raw has the advantage that exposure can be corrected later but if possible I like to achieve this in-camera. If any “horrors” are very obvious I will delete them at this stage from the memory card. Metering and motor drive depend on the circumstances during the shoot.
Post shoot. Create a folder on my computer and upload all the Raw images on my memory card onto my computer with a file name straight into Lightroom which catalogues them. I also back up the images to a separate hard drive at the same time. I now add keywords and tags, more may be added later as I process the images. Review the images and delete any that are unusable. I take my time during this process , any that are technically bad go immediately. I then scrutinise again to check facial expressions, compositions etc and delete any I feel are not suitable.( I could return to these if needed as they have already been backed up to another hard drive.) Process the images. Depending on what they are going to be used for will influence how much time I spend on each individual image. General family occasions and holiday “snaps” get quickly done and are exported as jpegs, a few are uploaded to Flickr to share via the internet, all are uploaded to Photobox and prints ordered. All jpeg images are then also saved on my external hard drive. College work and any images I want to print myself A4 or A3 size on my Epson printer will be exported to Photoshop as a 16 bit Tiff file touched up and saved as a Tiff file. These are printed and also backed up onto my external hard drive, additionally I will create a small jpeg file to upload to Flickr. Lighroom catalogue is backed up once a week.
Exercise 1: Your own workflow 1
Camera + 50mm F1.4 prime lens—my favourite portrait lens. Tripod. Cable release. Formatted empty memory card & fully charged batteries Black velvet backdrop + one other backdrop if time allows.
Camera settings: Manual settings will adjust as needed. Raw . ISO 250 .One shot auto focus drive mode, auto WB . Will decide on meter during the shoot. Highlight clipping warning on. SRGB.
Lighting conditions: I want soft but bright diffused light (sun with cloud cover )therefore will need to wait for the right weather conditions. I adore Jane Bown's black and white portraiture work--she only uses available light , never artificial.
Location & shoot: Will be at my home , a 45-60 minute session , using available daylight outdoors & a simple background . I aim to take close up, head & shoulders , torso , & full length compositions.
Post shoot: As described in my current workflow above BUT I will need to streamline this process as the brief of the exercise is to edit down to just one or two final selected images to fully process.
Assessment: Shoot. I took perhaps 50 images in the time limit I set myself. I did not plan to review the images during the shoot (except to check quickly for highlight clipping) but found I needed to as I knew I had released the shutter a couple of times when my mum had shut her eyes! These were deleted immediately leaving 43. The time limit helped me concentrate more on the task in hand, without this limit I might just have continued taking more and more, but not necessarily better. On reflection though I perhaps need to slow down more , take more time between shots ,carefully observing my subject, take even less shots. I was after specific poses and facial expressions and gave my mum specific instructions during the shoot. These did not always go to plan and I had to take several shots in quick succession to ensure I got the expression I wanted. A major problem was her lack of mobility, she is quite unsteady sometimes on her feet and if I asked her to lean back or turn away she became disorientated–I did not fancy a trip to the local A&E department ! So on a practical level some of my ideas were unworkable, using a fixed focal length lens meant I had to physically move the tripod to recompose as she was unable to move back and forth, this was quite a nuisance and something I had not considered. I took a couple of very close up images by taking the camera off the tripod. When using a plain black background spot metering will help prevent the main subject being overexposed ,but I had failed to change my camera setting from partial to spot, therefore my subject was overexposed in the first couple of images, which again were deleted straight away when I checked for highlight clipping. I really should have set this BEFORE I started the shoot and is something I really must get into the habit of doing before setting out. During the shoot, as I was having difficulty obtaining a range of compositions ,I took some unplanned photographs of her hands, which hopefully add variety. The stupidest thing I did , and I still can’t believe I actually did it , I forgot to attach my cable release to the camera and found it in my camera bag at the end of the shoot !!! I find a cable release invaluable , once I have composed through the viewfinder I can then stand up and direct or just simply observe my subject closely as I shoot. It was on my list, I have no idea why I forgot to use it, it was in my bag along with my chosen lens in the kitchen, all my other equipment was left upstairs. Whether it has made any difference to the final outcome I will never know , but I will make sure I do not forget it again.
With 20 images left, of which some were very similar, my criteria now was to choose the best out of each near duplicate . This was more difficult as each had its merits, however I rejected a further 6. At this stage and left with 14 I looked very carefully at mum's facial expression and body language, these are so important in portraiture. Finally, out of a total of 43 images, I whittled them down to just 7.
Of these 7 I finally processed 4 from which I would choose my final 2 when fully processed (I found it really hard to just limit my choice at this stage to 1or 2 images) . I created a virtual copy of each and converted all the images to black and white. Custom WB . Exposure was fine . Clarity was increased. Adjusted tone curve increasing lights and darkening darks----- I want my lights light & darks dark, with a strong contrast. LR camera calibration adjusted as I felt necessary, usually neutral but for my favourite final image I used the portrait setting. I increased the green and red saturation very slightly , and decreased the blue. I love mono images and enjoy tweaking the colour settings to see how it alters the depth of the tones and textures.
At this point my workflow becomes a bit chaotic. I use LR version 2 but have just bought a new iMac and will be moving from a PC to a Mac for the next part of the course so this will change. At the moment I edit the image as a 16 bit Tiff , I do not do too much processing here , mainly just levels adjustment, I save this without sharpening. I then open up the file again and convert to an eight bit file and save this version as a small size jpeg for web use. Finally I then open up the original 16 bit Tiff again , sharpen for print using the unsharp mask set at 160% 1.5 radius 20 threshold. and save as a new Tiff in a PS version set. Rather a cumbersome approach. I will be using LR 3 with my new Mac and this can send jpeg files from LR straight to Flickr so I hope I will be only creating 1 Tiff file in future. I am doubling my workflow at the moment !!!
Both images: F5.6 1/80 ISO 250 @ 50mm