Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back to RAW

A recent comment by Kayla Lamoureaux got me thinking about the file format of my digital images. She shoots in RAW because she wants to be able to make up for the fact that she isn't a fabulous photographer and RAW gives her more flexibility with her final product. She has just started using LightRoom to organize her files, which I am not ready to do ($200 for the software) so I started looking for ways to put RAW back into my workflow.

When I started getting into digital scrapping more and more I made the decision to shoot in JPEG only. I was finding my workflow to be interrupted by having to convert to JPEG from RAW. It was also slower to shoot in RAW as the camera had to write the larger file to the memory card. JPEGs are universal, but they are lossy. This means that the files are compressed with every save and data is lost  from the file. This bothers me. Having read about the minimal effect of this compression on the quality of photos as viewed by the average person, I decided I didn't want the take the time to convert to JPEG before I scrapped my photos. I also learned that you could edit JPEGs from inside Camera Raw, Adobe's Raw file processor that comes with Photoshop Elements. This made the decision to stay with JPEG easier as I like the flexibility that application offers.

The RAW files are huge. They slow down the camera. They take up storage space on my memory card and on my computer and external hard drive. Not all browsers read them, including VISTA, and Facebook only reads jpeg.

As I have been getting my digital Library of Memories up and running and defining my workflow, I have found that I am rethinking and understanding why RAW might be the better choice. Both my Panasonic Lumix FZ-18 and my Nikon D60 shoot in RAW, so going back is not that hard in terms of taking the pictures. My perception is that the RAW files are giving me more opportunity to improve the quality of my photos. That is also what I hear the experts say about it. I need to find out for myself because the RAW files do require an additional step in my workflow, and one that is potentially quite time consuming.

Here's my assignment:
I recently shot pictures at Weirs Beach in RAW. I discovered that in the RAW format the blown out areas are highlighted within Camera Raw allowing me to make sure I correct that to recover details lost. I am going to take the same picture and convert it to JPEG and edit the RAW file and the JPEG file to see if I can see any big difference. I do need to consider what might be coming in the future. Perhaps there will be software to preserve the JPEGs or to fix the artifacts (what's left behind when pixels are lost), but I don't know about that now. I will post the results of my little experiment right here. Meanwhile go to this video by Scott Kelby and see if you think shooting in RAW is the better choice.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Defining My Digital Workflow, Part 1

Goals for what I want to do with pictures:

  1. Scrapbook my favorites to document the everyday, the special, and the insightful.
  2. Share with others on Flickr,, and Facebook
  3. Print some for frames.
  4. Add to digital frame.

Steps in the process from taking the photos to final product.
As I write this I am using pictures taken yesterday at Wiers Beach. I took about 50 pictures.
  1. Take pictures, lots of pictures, lots and lots of pictures. Shooting in RAW??
  2. Upload to computer using PSE7 Organizer. Files loaded into folder for date: One folder for each month within a year. Format file name "yyyy mm dd". Add copyright info in upload screen.
  3. Keywording, Captioning, and Rating:
    1. Geotag Batch while in small import folder. (Where?)
    2. Tag for Places We Go/Things We Do-any tags that can be generalized (What?)
    3. Find Faces for Tagging (Who?)-this won't get all of them, but it's a start
    4. Move through deleting and captioning photos. Checking basic keywords, tag for edits (if a certain effect is in mind), apply star rating
      1. 1-star: Might Scrapbook or have some caption
      2. 2-star: Great Images that represent the event
      3. 3-star: Gotta Scrapbook-The BEST
    5. Write metadata to files. (Do this while you are still in the new batch window or else select batch and write. Otherwise, it will write metadata for ALL files.)
    6. Show "To Be Deleted" and delete those.
    7. Backup to Maxtor. (Maxtor will backup automatically any day that I upload. Make sure to do so before I log off. The files are backed up initially. The original versions are kept in the "History" folder. The current version of the files is in the folder labeled "C" or "D" drive. Once metadata or edits have been made those will be saved in the current folder.)
The last two steps I need to work out:
    1. Before any sharing can happen I have to convert files from RAW to JPEG.
    2. Upload 2-stars and higher to Flickr-even without any edits-just to get that backup. Any edits can be made later.
I can't upload RAW files to Flickr. When I open them in Camera Raw and edit them, I am saving them as dng - another incompatible file type. Maybe I just export them. I don't know I have to figure this out. RAW definitely gives me more flexibility with the photos and helps me to make up for the fact that I make mistakes as a beginning photographer. 

More work to go!

These are the basic steps for setting up my Library of Memories. Now I have to work backwards by date and/or in 15-minute batches practicing applying these steps. Next I will define my inspiration workflow which will outline how to share these photos.

PSE7 Organizer vs. Picasa, For Me

Let me define a workflow:

Messing around with Picasa. Now I know how to create a collage to post pictures to my blog or to facebook. I like that I have this option. It just adds some variety, don't ya think? 

My big dilemma lately has been to figure out if Photoshop Elements 7 Organizer or Picasa would be the better choice for organizing my photos.  I have about five months of photos sorted and tagged in PSE. The problem is that the tags don't transfer from Picasa into PSE as keyword tags. The tags are written to the metadata, but they aren't searchable inside PSE. Other fields in the metadata are searchable except for the IPTC field in which tags are stored. That is a problem.

From inside Picasa I can search the tags created in PSE as long as I have written the tags to the metadata-a separate, and oft time-consuming, step. I have put more photos into Picasa to use the face recognition feature, but the name tags are also not written to the metadata. I have to go to each person's album and add the name tag separately. So weird. But future editions of Picasa will probably change that. Picasa's geotagging feature is easy to use and I can do that and have the latitude and longitude added to the metadata and PSE's is also easy enough. 

I just downloaded Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to manipulate the metadata. I haven't figured out if I can search the metadata, but I can add a "Photographed by" field and the names of actual locations in addition to the lat/long info. That would be something I might want to search for later. Apparently metadata is the way to go in terms of sorting your photos. It is automatically included with each file (in most applications or web-apps) and is the way professional photographers organize their photos. Applications have been designed to make manipulating the metadata easier for the amateur, but since the explosion of digital photography programmers have not agreed to an industry standard on how to store tags and other information important to photographers. I can only hope that the coming year will bring change in this.

As I define my workflow I am using tools that I learned about in the Library of Memories class at Big Picture ScrapbookingKayla Lamoureaux's videos in class have been very helpful. I have consulted the forums looking for others who also are trying to figure out which program is best for them. The bottom line is that the program I choose has to fit my preferences and my habits and just feel good to me. I started using the organizer in PSE5. It crashed my computer so I moved to Picasa, 2 I think. When I upgraded to PSE7 I decided that since I spent the money on the software, I might as well use the whole package. It bothers me that it does get bogged down sometimes and is slow to respond. For example, I hate the way the delete file works. If I am looking through a series of thumbnail-sized photos and I delete one in the middle of the collection, I am returned to the top of that date. I have created a separate "To Be Deleted" tag to work around this, but that is still a separate scroll to it. I wonder if I can configure the tags differently. When working with a lot of tags it is very cumbersome scrolling up and down. In Picasa it's a little easier to do the tagging. I can't manipulate any of the files from within Picasa if I want to also use PSE7, because PSE7 would lose track of the files and then that's a whole other bother reconnecting and deleting. Tagging in PSE7 does make more sense though. The tags are organized hierarchical and that makes it easier to find what I want.

I've gone off and done a little more research and figured out that I can use PSE7 to upload to Flickr from inside the program. That is very useful. I even have my Facebook account and my blog linked. I want to be able to easily upload photos and layouts to my blog and to my Facebook status. I can only share PUBLIC photos so I have to decide if that's going to work. I don't really like the idea of posting pictures of my kids for the world to see, but since so many people are doing that what is the real issue there. I won't post other people's kids though. There is a problem though because the photos are not stored on my Facebook and I don't know how to direct people from my wall to Flickr and my blog. There's got to be a button or something.

I figured that out. I put my photostream on my Profile page. Not perfect, but at least my photos don't have to be in two places for people to see. Now, do I remove my pics from Facebook? Hmmm?

Next step, how to use Flickr with my blogger. Gonna go find out now.

I have been thinking about using Flickr as my online backup. For $25 a year you get unlimited storage. That seems like a really good deal. Now I subscribe to Scrapbook Trends for $9 a month. If I cancel that I will be able to get unlimited Flickr storage and a subscription to Adobe Photoshop Elements Techniques for less money. I think I will do that Monday.

Meanwhile, I took my folders of photos off Picasa. (Since Picasa is a browser application it works directly with the files on the computer. That's why it's very quick. PSE Organizer is a catalog, which is separate from the files, but has its own organizational structure. I have to manipulate my photo files from inside PSE so the organizer will not lose track of them.) I had read that it was very confusing to try to organize your photos using more than one application. I agree with this. I will continue to use Picasa to do quick collages though and to keep track of all my digital supplies and layouts. I will set it to scan those folders. I can also use the face recognition to help me figure who is in my layouts. 

This has definitely helped me think through some things as I try to implement my own Library of Memories workflow. I am posting separately about my workflow now that I have committed to using PSE7 Organizer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Originally uploaded by croppersister
I love this strange photo of Gracie. I had to recomposed and frame it in PSE, then did some magic to enhance the colors and texture using a tutorial I subscribe to in itunes called Alibony Photoshop Elements Tips. Just keep loving this stuff!