Wednesday, July 16, 2008

4000 Images In The Workflow - How Do I Do It?

Good Morning Everybody,

Back in June, I wrote an article entitled, "So How Many Images Should You Shoot At A Wedding?" I typically shoot about 3000-4000 images on a regular wedding shoot, but before with the "Ziser, you must be crazy." comments, let me put that in perspective. We typically shoot the bigger events here in good ol' Cincy. I know, I'm a lucky guy with a very loyal and supportive client base. Celebrating my 30th year in business also helps, too. I'm also spend a great deal of my time not only shooting the action photographs but consistently looking for the reactions as well. Details, details and more details add significantly to my number of images.

I also know that the length of wedding ceremonies and receptions varies across the country and around the world as well. I've photographed, for example a smaller Baptist wedding with the reception in the church under-croft or an on-location wedding, at a park or on a beach with a very limited number of guests, under 75, and was wrapped shooting the event in just a few hours. I talk to photogs in New York City and throughout the East that describe marathon events that begin at noon and wrap at 1:00 a.m. the next morning.

For most of my weddings, the team, myself and two assistants meet at my studio one hour before we are scheduled to be on site. This gives us plenty of time to review the day 's schedule ahead of time, re-check and load the car with gear. Generally that's about 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. with us heading to the hotel where the guys and girls are getting ready arriving about an hour later. Our weddings typically run till 12:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. the next morning. And I am at the event until the band stops playing and is tearing down their equipment for the day. Hey gang, that's a lot of time that allows for a lot of shooting. I typically press the button on average once every 9 seconds for the duration of the wedding day shoot. You can do the quick math - that's 3500 - 4000 shots for the day with my assistant adding about 400-500 peripheral images to the mix.

So the big question - How do I work through those 3000-4000+ images? Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story...

Here's my workflow solution:

1. First I download the images and rename them. I download all the images to my desktop sorting the images, first my images then from my assistant's cards. I just picked up Delkin's Image Router with should substantially speed up the down load process. Next, I rename the images sequentially with my images first followed by my assistant's images. I use 1-4a Rename for the renaming process - good news here - it's freeware. I been using this software for years - it's fast, easy, and free. Hey, it it ain't broke don't fix it. I do this because it makes it easy to review my assistant or second shooter's work and to critique or fine tune where necessary for the next event.

2. Get those files backed up. After the renaming process is complete in a matter of minutes, I copy the files to the master image drive on our network. Now the images are in three locations - the un-erased flash cards, my desktop, and the second drive. We then make two DVD copies of all the images. They are back up to high quality Taiyo Yuden DVDs. One set is stored on site, the other is stored off premises. Once that is complete and the DVD's have been verified, the flash cards are wiped and ready for the next job and the "Desktop" set of images are deleted. At the end of each day the master drive is backed up. The images still reside in 4 locations - two hard drives and two sets of DVDs. I'm really a bit anal about the safety of the images.

3. Next bring them into Lightroom. The next step is to import everything into Lightroom with 1:1 previews turned on. Follow closely to this next part - I create a NEW catalogue file for each new job. Why, because Lightroom starts bogging down at about 30,000 images so after 8-10 jobs, I've got a problem. I still have the option of merging all the separate LRCATS into one big file, but have not chosen to do so yet for the reasons stated. But, I still prefer one LRCAT per job. Shooting RAW lately has truly been an "eye-opener" experience. I have yet to find a RAW file I like - wait, don't go spastic yet. What I mean is that I don't like the look of the RAW file in Lightroom - I think the images look kind of lifeless/dead and much too contrasty. Remember, I've been a JPEG shooter for years and my camera preferences have been giving me an outstanding set of images. My solution is to import the RAW files into Lightroom with a few Presets. I like the Contrast reduced a bit, the Fill Light increased slightly, and the exposure reduced just slightly. Once I get my final settings nailed down, as these still continue to be somewhat subjective, I'll post them on here on the blog.

4. Let the Edit begin. With the 1:1 previews, I can zip through the Edit process quite quickly marking my favs with a 1-Star rating. Why 1-Star, because my left index finger is real close to the number 1 key on the keyboard and it's easy, keyboarding-wise to make my selections this way. I'm an engineer by training so I put the clock on myself. I typically edit about 1000 images in 45 minutes. That means 3000-4000 images in under 3 hours. The next step takes about as long - it's the final image tweak in Lightroom. I know at this point of my work flow I get carried away sometimes with this part of the process. But heck, I'm still learning Lightroom and I like to "fiddle" with some of the images exploring the capabilities of the program just to see how I can improve them even further. If I was more disciplined in the phase of the workflow, I think I could complete the process in about 90 minutes. But for now it's about another 3 hour process. Now filter on 1-Star, select all the images, and create a Collection for the edited images. I'm editing down to approximately 1,200 images from 3,000 and 1,500/1,800 favorites from a 4,000 image shoot.

5. Pick some favorites and make them B&W. This is so easy to do in Lightroom, it's a "no-brainer" to pick about 50-70 images from the edited collection, create virtual copies, and change them to B&W for the client to get a nice preview. Hey, you can't sell it if you don't show it - right?

6. Final Sort and Export. The final step is to order the images within Lightroom. This is super simple to do in Lightroom. Once I complete this step, I select two of my favorite images, create duplicates of them and take them into Photoshop. There I create beginning title and an end title slides for the presentation. Back to Lightroom for the final sequencing, tweaks, and review and now I'm ready to export to High Resolution Jpegs. This is a simple matter of selecting one of my Export presets, adding custom text, adding a prefix to the original file name, and hitting OK. The Export folder now gets cut and pasted into the Client parent folder. I then upload the images to my web hosting service, MorePhotos, for the client's initial viewing. Although the export process and image upload take some time, it's all done in the background so it has little to no impact on the rest of the day's production clock.

Folks, that's about it. Total time from out of camera to great looking images on-line is about 6-7 hours. The upside of the added time spent in Lightroom means much less time spent in Photoshop once the client makes their final selection. That wraps my workflow discussion. I'll take you down the rest of the road - SalesFlow - in a future post. Stay tuned.


  1. David, Do you renumber the images that you show to have consecutive numbers? Thanks.

  2. Many thanks, David - great post, just what I had in mind when I suggested a "Coping with Quantity" topic a few weeks back. This is really useful. How much additional post-processing (time/effort) do those pictures that the client eventually selects get?

  3. Great write up David. It's great to read how someone handles this volume of photos. My volume is substantially lower for a days work usually 300-1200 photos depending on the subject. After reading this I'm looking forward to exploring some fine tuning to my workflow.

  4. Great post that shows yet another workflow.
    Do you rely in the Auto (exposure) feature of Lightroom? Don't you do any crop and WB adjustments? Getting these settings done individually gets me forever...!

  5. David, what projection software do you use (Lightroom, ProSelect) to show the clients their images? And how is that handled - music, slideshow, sequencing, grid...Thanks

  6. David, I would be interested in seeing what file naming nomenclature you use. Is there any particular reason you don't use the naming function in Lightroom?

    These kinds of post are very helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to post it.


  7. Thanks for the post! That gives me a lot more insight into how to refine my process.

    Quick question: Do you burn all the images to a CD for your clients or do they have to buy prints like everyone else?

  8. Very interesting post. I'm curious how many images you have after editing. In other words, if you start with 4000 images, how many of those end up being picks?

  9. Great post! Usually I do 300-700 shots on a single event. I develop Only 50-150 of them. I remove the rest, because from my experience I do not use them at all. They just keep place of my backups.

    Do you remove unused raw-images afterwards?

    Thank you,

  10. David
    This is your old student Chaim from Israel. Please post a comparision between an original jpg and a RAW converted to jpg through lightroom. I have the same issues you refer in your article and I would like to see your results.