My Basic Photo Workflow Revisited


Your post production workflow – the steps you take after uploading your photos to your computer – is always a topic that is worth reviewing from time to time. As the technology, software, and your knowledge change, you will probably find that your workflow also changes.

About a year and a half ago, I posted an article that summarized my workflow. Looking back it, there are a few things that I have changed. In this post, I will describe the current steps I generally do. To see that article, CLICK HERE.

In this post, I describe what the basic steps are after I have uploaded my images to Photoshop Elements 14.

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Here is my current workflow that uses both the PSE 14 Organizer and its Photo Editor, with Photoshop CC added to the mix when needed. The description begins as soon as I have imported photos and videos into the PSE 14 Organizer.

  1. The first thing I do is tag my photos. If the subject matter is pretty fixed, this step takes only seconds.
    1. For example, on a typical weekend of watching my granddaughters’ softball and soccer games, I may find that come Sunday evening I have 500 images and several videos on my memory card. I already have the tag structure and tags defined. It’s just a matter of selecting the right images and dragging them over to the appropriate tags.
    2. If the input batch is from a trip or similar event or photo shoot, I will at least tag the images at the Category level, and then come back later to sub-divide them into Sub-Categories, and Keyword Tags.
  2. I use Events, Places, and to a much lesser extent People views – the tabs at the top of the screen.

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3. I next screen the images using the Full Screen View option (F11) in the Organizer.

I skip over any videos I have imported at this point.To cull out the best photos I use the Organizer’s Star Rating feature using:

1 = Delete

2 = Needs work, or is member of a burst, HDR, or panorama sequence.

3 = These will most likely be included into an Album for a slide show, or DVD I plan to make at some point. They may not always be the best photos in the world from a technical standpoint, but are needed to better tell the story. I will also give the best photo of a sequence 3 stars.

4 = These are pretty good for me, and probably are the ones that I will most likely end up printing.

5 = Rarely awarded at this stage

After Step 3, I still have many images that have not been rated. They will remain in my Catalog.

4. I now screen the video clips that were uploaded in the grid view. I double-click on the video file and play the video in the enlarged window that appears, rather than in the full screen mode.

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5. If I am interested in the location where the photos were taken, I will then use Places view to pin point on the map the photos and videos were taken.

My current camera can embed the GPS data into the image files, so while taking the photos I turn this feature on for at least a couple of shots. I do not leave it on all of the time, because it drains the battery significantly.

If I forget to do it, I will take a couple of shots with my iPhone, and use these photos to identify the location using Places.

If need be, like when I have shot only video, I will manually add the location of the photos using the Places view.

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6. At this point, I have finished the vast majority of my keyword tagging of my images. I then write the Keyword Tags and other metadata to the image files – File > Save Metadata to Files. If you do not do this, only those images that have been at least opened in the Editor will have the tagging and other metadata written to the file itself.

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7. I then delete all of the 1 star images/videos from the Catalog, as well as the hard drive.

8. Next comes editing those photos and videos that are either in a sequence (2 Stars) and those that have 3 or 4 Stars.

Since I shoot RAW, I will naturally do my initial editing using the ACR.

Normally, that is all the editing I need to do. I fact, that is my goal, for individual photos.

If I can do that, I do not need to save an edited version. My changes are recorded in a small .xmp file.

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9. To print the photo or make editing changes requiring, for example selections or layers, I will open the image in Elements’ Photo Editor.

Occasionally, I will send the RAW image directly to Photoshop CC’s ACR to take advantage of its added tools and/or Photoshop CC itself. However, this will require that a dupe (actually a Version Set) of the RAW file to be generated, which will take up additional disk drive space.

10. The final step of my basic workflow is to periodically do either a Full Backup or Incremental Backup of my Catalog and all of the media it contains (File > Backup Catalog).

This pretty much summarizes my basic workflow. Generally, after Step 9, I put together my photo projects, whatever they may be.

I would love to hear your thoughts and workflow steps that you use or in PSE or other programs.

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