Over the course of a few months I’ve been tweeting I was going to share my digital workflow. This of course serves as a brainstorm for me to perhaps tighten in a few bolts in the process and perhaps enlighten others in a different way. A photographer workflow is much like anyone’s morning routine on the way work. You wake up, you brush your teeth or perhaps eat first, then brush your teeth, and so forth and in what seems like a split second your keys are in your vehicle and you’re out the door onto a new day.
Well, my workflow is much like that. First, the tools I’m presently using to get from “A” to B.” A lot of specialized professional photographers shoot hundreds of images and then have to go through the process of culling them, keywording, labels, etc, nothing new here right, its the way of the photojournalist, its what they do. Well, its what regular photographers do as well. I make images, then have to go through the process of selecting the ones I want to edit and you the rest, not to mention I forget to label things, keyword, in short, a freaking nightmare sometimes. Herein lies the problem. As a preamble to this “software is usually developed to solve a problem or make a function better,” that’s the basic premise of software. Now, us, as members of this world are plague with impatience, we click on the browser and the page must load now, it has to load now, its why we pay for fast internet and so forth. Basically technology has helped us evolve into this kind of insatiable and impatient being. Well, I don’t see a problem with that, we want what we want right and time is money as they say or if not money, quality time with our loved ones. If its a new camera, let us say, the new Ricoh GR, then we want it now and can’t wait for the dealers to have their copies so we look elsewhere perhaps another country, Amazon and Ebay are always slave to our wants and needs and so it goes.
Parting from this premise, photographers have a common thread, and I believe all photographers probably will agree with me on this. We make images and we must see them as fast possible. We hate software to become the slave of our software, don’t we. Well, it doesn’t have to be like that, it should be other way around, we have to be the master of our software, our gear, our strobes, we’re in control, we’re the thinking being in this equation. Now lets fast forward to the process at hand.
Snap, chimp, snap, chimp, repeat that process a few times, get home, load card to the pc/laptop/card reader, click on Lightroom [or other photo asset management application], import photos, and now we wait. Notice the last word “wait.” Why must we wait? Should we passively just accept that’s just the way it is ― well nope, it doesn’t have to be that way, there are solutions to these kinds of problems, it has a name and its called Photo Mechanic 5 and its here to rescue you from Lightroom’s achilles heel(its weak point) ― importing images that just take to damn long.
If you’re a Lightroom user then you know full well what I’m talking about. Often times we come back with a few gigabytes of images ― 2,3, or 4 gigs and going through this process in Lightroom is flat out tedious and agonizing. Are you familiar with the phrase from your better half, “honey, let’s see the pictures you took of [fill in the blank].” Ouch, you I gotcha right and that’s usually when I say “babe, they’re loading, you know it takes a little bit of time, lets grab some lunch and come back to that later.” Gosh I hate this!
Folks, its about time you start treating yourself as a professional seriously. You buy cameras that are worth hundreds to thousands dollars – Ricoh GR, Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Fuji X, and I won’t even mention the “L” word. All those cameras and what about the lenses we acquire and after all that gear acquisition, we go ahead and sabotage our workflow by not getting the best software for our needs. Does that make any sense? I think not, right. Personally, Lightroom has become an application of stress and tension, not because I don’t know how to use it, that’s another story and I hope you’re not in that boat, but just culling through the images, selecting, labels, stars, keywording, and we haven’t even started to edit. Stress, stress, stress. Wouldn’t it be nice when you open up Lightroom and import a folder that your images are keyworded, labeled, starred, and all the crap images not even showing up. Now all of a sudden your creative juices are flowing and you can work in peace. Well, that’s what my workflow has become now, a transition from chaos of past to peacefulness of the present. Let me explain.
Photo Mechanic 5 is an application whose sole purpose is to cull and organize your images in lightning speed. Yes, you read correctly ― lightning speed. Once you ingest(import) your images into Photo Mechanic 5 you’ll in a wink of eye will be seeing your images in a large view and will be able to check for focus in a snap. Gone are the days of having to wait for a freaking preview to build in order to check focus. I’m writing this post because I feel like I’ve discovered the fountain of youth folks, I mean PM has been around for a while now and I’ve just discovered and incorporated into my workflow and I feel great, one happy customer.
I know I don’t use Photo Mechanic 5 to its full potential, I mean, I’m no Scott Kelby shooting professional football games, and having to cull images and send them to the wire as they say, but you know what, I value my time and effort as a photographer and recognize when software can work for me and not against me and creating a more “zen” like environment in which my creativity can run wild and that my friends its worth money.
For some time now I’ve been a card reader other than the regular usb ports of my various computers (thanks for Jared Platt from Creative Live for the tip). With Photo Mechanic 5 you have the option importing more than one SD/CF card at a time. Isn’t this great? Super key for wedding, event, and regular photographers alike, its one of my favorite features and I’m just scratching the surface. Command G ( on a Mac), brings up the Ingest Menu and where I select the location of the folders that I create. For me, this is where my Lightroom folder lives and holds all my images. If it a Ricoh GR folder then I use my regular naming template ― Ricoh GR “XXXXXX” where X is whatever I feel like calling the event. I know my photography folders are named according to the camera that I use for the shoot. If its Fuji, then something similar like ― Fuji XE1 “XXXXX” and so forth. This is something I’ve been meaning to change to a more chronological order with dates but for reason I’m stuck on this. Now that I’m using Photo Mechanic 5 almost on a daily basis then I’ll take advantage of the Ingest Screen you can also setup templates for naming your folders as well.
Prior to hitting the Ingest button, Photo Mechanic 5, has an extensive menu feature to catalog your cards with keywords, copyright, location, and every single meta option you can imagine and the ability to setup templates which I use to speed my process. I’m talking about copyright here, I have one for the Ricoh GR and the Fuji XE1. Ingesting is done and PM swallowed the 2 cards at warp speed. After this ,I’m immediately brought to a view where I can peruse all my shots → the contact sheet view. Well, actually as they ingest I can view them live in real time but I usually just wait for them to finish since the process is super quick anyway and leaves Lightroom in the dust. If PM would be an animal I would say its definitely a cheetah and Lightroom, meh, a not so fast cat but still powerful. Now on the contact sheet view you can peruse all your images, click and zoom into various settings I have mine at 100%, cull, perhaps use a color tag or a star tag which both are embedded and move into Lightroom when you import that folder.
Here’s my current system for the last few months I’ve been using Photo Mechanic 5 ready.
- Go for a shoot
- Dump either 1 or 2 SD cards into my card reader
- Run Photomechanics 5
- Command G brings up the Ingest Menu, name folder, apply meta data template based on camera, hit enter
- Automatically PM brings me to the Contact Sheet Menu
- Begin to the cull the images based on a number of factors some objective and some very subjective
- The ones that make the cut I will use the Command T to tag them, which is nothing more than a check mark that gets added to the image which you can later sort by
- Those that make the cut will get a color tag or maybe even a star rating, by the way, these colors and ratings move with the image and are read by Lightroom upon import of the folder
- Sort by untagged, select all, and delete those photos
- And now I’m left with those that are tagged have a color and possibly a star rating. My color rating are blue for a possible BW or Color image, I’m decided, Yellow is color, and Green is for BW
- Close the Photomechanics application ( I just do but you don’t have to) and run Lightroom and import the previously named folder, it will import into LR super fast because the images are already on your computer and not on a removable memory.
Now I’m Lightroom and I have ZERO stress, I no longer have to cull images, I already did that, meta data and keywords are applied, and I even have a colors to guide me as to what I may potentially end up doing to image. C’mon what else do you want, it can’t process the images for you but this is pretty darn cool. Now Lightroom is a haven for me, a relaxing place where I can now view in tranquility and apply my processing at ease. So with that said folks, go try out Photo Mechanic 5 here and treat yourself to a piece of awesomeness because they sure don’t make them like these anymore [apps].