Here’s a very practical post today. It’s my basic process for selecting and developing images. On a typical project I’ll shoot somewhere between 500 and 1000 frames. Some of those are multiple shots that need to be stitched together, others are reject shots that didn’t work out. The aim is to filter this massive “data set” down to 20 to 100 keepers. Along the way I also need to make some standard corrections like alignment, perspective, lens correction and sharpening. There’s a couple runs through the set to give them ratings like 1 star or 2 stars and finally there’s post production adjustments which I’ll call personal style, which include exposure, dodging and burning, contrast etc, colour filters etc. The overall process takes about as much time as taking the shots themselves, which is about a day per shoot, and for a highly developed image like this one then each individual image can take an extra half day.
The software I’m using to do this is predominantly Lightroom, but you could also use Google’s free software Picasa for many of these steps.
Import images into a Lightroom catalog and tag them with architects name, city, project etc. Add them to a collection folder so you can keep track of them.
2. Sharpen the image set
I apply sharpening to the entire image set from the start. I’m not a sharpening expert, but for architecture I normally start off with a sharpening value of 50. When I go through the set if I find images that are over sharpened then I pull it back. I find this is faster than applying sharpening to each individual image. Doing it first also means that images for things like panoramas already have sharpening applied.
3. Stitch together any panorama shots
I take a fair few panorama images using a tilt shift lens. This normally involves stitching together 3 images into one. I flag each of the final panorama images so it stands out in the set.
4. Merge any HDR / blending images together
I don’t actually use HDR, but I do blend multiple images for things like over blown windows. This process is similar to panoramas in the sense that I need to collate these multiple images before I can assess them. Because of the time involved in this step though, I often skip images that I don’t think will make the cut and only come back to them if i’m missing a particular shot. I flag any of these combined images too. (If you didn’t want to flag the images you could also tag an image with a colour. whatever works for you to keep things ordered. Now that I think about it, that’s probably not a bad idea because, as an example, you could colour all panoramas blue and all HDR’s red)
5. First round selection of images
It’s only once I’ve done these basic adjustments that I actually start selecting and refining images. I do this in a two step process. This first selection is not so much about selecting the best images, but removing the unacceptable ones. So it’s a process of elimination. I never, ever delete images though. They are too important. I don’t use the reject tool in Lightroom at all. To grade the images I use Lightroom’s star ratings, which range from zero to five. Zero being the lowest and 5 being the highest. All the images start off at a zero rating. In this first selection I give any potentially acceptable images a rating of two. Why two and not one? Because when I do the second round selection it’s easier to bump one image down a level then it is to bump 350 images up one. By the end of this first round selection I should be down to around 150 to 300 images.
And that’s it for part one, more coming soon.
If you have a different process please share it by leaving a comment below. This is a bit of a rough draft of a process i do intuitively, so it would be great to know how other people are working.