11.23.2016

Workflow from last night's shoot.


I shot on three different cameras last night. I was testing the limits of the RX10iii and keeping the A7Rii + 70-200mm f4.0G close at hand to shoot vital group shots that are so popular for theater marketing. Then I filled in around the edges with the Sony a6300 and its companion, the 18-105mm G lens. The photographing was a straightforward as I could make it. I shot raw not so much for post shooting color correction but in order to lift the shadows and have fine control over the noise reduction settings. As usual, I shot too much but I have been working on "speed-editing" so the final count for post processed files was a little over 500, which meant I had achieved a 3-to-1 reduction in files shot versus files finished out. 

I've been getting more mercenary as the size of the raw files continues to grown. I flagged all the images I think are best, select the flagged images in Lightroom and then inverse the selection and throw away all the non-flagged photographs. And when I say "throw away" I mean that when the little box comes up and asks me if I just want to "remove" the images from the catalog or if I really mean I want to delete them from the hard drive I summon up my courage and dump them. It's actually a nice feeling to see the file folders shrink in size. 

After I ingest everything into Lightroom and do my edit (which means "keep or throw") I then go to the files that survived and start to post process ( which means to color correct, enhance, crop, sharpen, etc.).
I work from the top down in the menu system. I start with color, move on to exposure then onto shadow and highlight protection and so on. I shoot a bit on the dark side so I'm generally adding +35 to +50 to each file. In situations where my main subject is in spotlight and the rest of the cast or background is darker I routinely pull the shadow slider up to 50-70% to get some detail in there. There is a certain balance between the exposure setting and the shadow and highlight settings. If I have time I work the relationships a bit to find an optimized combination. 

I shoot in single frame burst of 10-12 shots without changing camera settings so if I like a series of images I need only work the first one diligently and then the rest are sync'd to the first file. 

Moving further down the menu we get to sharpening and noise reduction. Depending on the lens in use I might need no sharpening and usually just a small amount if I do need to add some. I like big percentages as small radii. I'm equally conservative with noise reduction because I want to see detail everywhere. +20 is generally the sweet spot for images shot just above the ISO comfort level (for instance, ISO 4,000 for the A7Rii or ISO 1250 for the RX10iii...). 

Once I get everything applied the way I want it I select all the files and output them into a folder as low compression (92%) Jpegs and I fix the image size at 6000 pixels wide for the theater. Too much bigger and it slows everything down, too much smaller and I get nervous about posters and print magazines. I do have a close working relationship with the in-house art director so if she is making huge lobby posters I'll go back to the files and output her selections at the full file size. 

Once I have all the images output they get uploaded to Smugmug.com. Today's upload of Jpegs was just under 6GB. Once they are on Smugmug I set the gallery controls accordingly. With the Theater I want to make sure everyone on the marketing team has access to what they need so I make the files individually downloadable if the person has the password. In this way they can share the gallery with the actors and crew but have control over what ultimately gets downloaded. Smugmug makes it easy for me to select an entire gallery and send downloadable (and expiring) links to clients who need access to all the high res files. Doing this saves me the cost of a memory stick and a trip in the car. 

With a non-profit client like Zach Theatre social media can really make or break goals for ticket sales so we allow the principal actors access to the images for Facebook and Twitter, etc. We might lose some individual sales but actors generally don't have much budget to buy production stills and if we didn't allow social media use we might win the battle (short term, small income) but lose the war (sustaining productions with marketing allowing us all to continue to work together and get paid). 

Uploading to Smugmug also gives me one more place to archive files. At $150 a year for unlimited storage, and convenient retrieval as well as display, the service is a bargain. I have the files on at least one hard drive and generally write them also to a DVD (I know, old school). Then I send along a bill and I'm done. Just thought I'd share my process. Everyone has a different way of doing this work.



RX10iii at near full lens extension.