Give Your Work Some Flow Part 1

You've probably heard the term workflow being bandied about in photography circles but for those among you who are a little sketchy on the details let me introduce you to the basics of giving your photography work some flow.

What is it? Quite simply it's the steps involved in getting your photos from conception to finished product. Professional photographers (and experienced amateurs) will often have a well honed workflow that allows them to edit their photos quickly and efficiently.

Quick and efficient sounds good, but how do I make it happen? Glad you asked, this is something that doesn't happen instantly. You need to develop your own workflow, as you become a more experienced photographer you will most likely start to develop some sort of workflow naturally. To make it quick and efficient you need to think about it and give it a bit of structure.

Ok, so where do I start? With taking the photos. Decide if you want to shoot in RAW (if your camera gives you the option) or JPEG (and which size JPEG) and if you want to use manual or automatic settings. Making these choices doesn't mean that's what you have to do every time you take a photo just that those are the settings you will use most often. For example I nearly always shoot in RAW but if I find myself desperate for memory card space I will switch to JPEG to get it.

Awesome, got the photos now what? Get them on to your computer in an orderly (ish) manner. It's tempting to dump and run with digital cameras but be warned if that's your method you're pretty quickly going to have an overflowing hard drive (or ten). How you organise your photos depends on the programs you use for importing and editing and your own preferences. I personally keep it simple and import using a card reader direct to a folder labelled with date and rough location (e.g. 11/08/09 Volksgarten Playground) but programs like iPhoto will offer to organise for you and use fancy technology like geographic tagging and face recognition to make it uber-organised!

All organised, what's next? Get selective and back up. I create a new folder inside the dated folder and name it "potentials" then I drag in all the photos I think have potential. Anything the doesn't make the cut gets deleted. Next I back up the photos that did make the cut to an external hard drive (I have my computer set up to automatically back up so I never forget to do it, if you have software that can do this it's worth setting up). I recommend backing up (to an external hard drive, DVD, or online storage site) before you clear the memory card. Once everything is backed up you can move straight on to editing or, like me, you can do a bit more organisation first. I make a second folder marked "4/5 star shots" and drag in photos that look like the cream of the crop from that particular batch.

Culled and back up, are we done? Not yet. Next comes editing but that's a story for another day (check out part 2 coming soon).

Digital Black and White Photos

Sometimes a photo just looks better in black and white. You know, from time to time you'll be digitally rifling through a folder of photographs and there'll be one or two that just don't suit being in glorious technicolour. So what to do? Well here are a few tips:

1. Don't write the photo off just because it doesn't work in colour. It may look fantastic in black and white.

2. Don't just convert to greyscale or desaturate. This will most likely look boring and low contrast. Most programs (including free ones like Picasa) have some kind of  "filtered black and white" option (in Photoshop this is the channel mixers). This allows you to select a colour filter (some programs will have more choices than others) which will let you keep much more of the detail in your photo. Play around with the different filters and see which ones work best for your photo.

3. Play with the photo in colour first. Before you convert to black and white do any corrections e.g. red eye removal, exposure, contrast etc. while the photos still in colour.

4. Play more once it's black and white! Don't be afraid to make more corrections once you've converted it.You can always undo anything you regret!

5. Don't be afraid to try Auto Levels or Auto Contrast. If you don't like what they do you can always undo it and you may find it gives you the perfect photo without you having to mess around with levels or contrast yourself - that's not cheating so don't  make work for yourself!

If you want to go and shoot with black and white images in mind try these tips:

1. Shoot in colour! If you're shooting JPEGs shoot in colour, you'll have much more control over your image later than if you shoot in black and white mode. If you're shooting in RAW you can shoot in black and white mode because your camera will record all the information anyway.

2. Use a low ISO, as low as possible. Noise is more obvious in black and white photos and using the lowest ISO will help avoid very grainy photos.

3.  Pay attention to light. Light is very important in black and white photos because, obviously, you've got no colour. Try and look for light that will add texture and contrast to your image. Light coming from one direction is good for this because it will give shadows.

4. Practice! Like anything photography takes practice to improve. Set a challenge for yourself to produce a certain number of black and white photos over the next month, or decide to convert at least one photo from each shoot you do into black and white (you can always keep the colour shot too). Practice, practice, practice, and you'll get better even if you don't get perfect!

If you've got tips of your own for digital black and white photography let us know in the comments.

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