In-Computer Photo Workflow

A personal approach to handling and processing photographs post-photography

In his December 2021 talk Nigel outlines his own in-computer photo workflow, the steps through which he handles and processes his images post-photography. That talk is now on You Tube, and you can watch it right here. Just click on the image below to start.

From RAW file to finished Tiff

Downloading, captioning and keywording

My in-computer photo workflow makes use of three programmes: Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop and Capture One Pro. Using these I’m able to bring all my images from basic RAW files straight off the camera through to finished, optimised Tiff files ready for use and storage.

I start by downloading the images from my camera via Canon’s own EOS Utility software, with the camera plugged straight into the computer. The images are downloaded not to the computer’s internal hard drive but to an external hard drive, as this is where they will all be stored.

Once downloaded, I then view the images using Adobe Bridge. With this programme I caption and copyright all the images, and then I make a selection for those I intend to process. I do this by dragging each selected image into a separate folder that I call ‘Selection’. I don’t use Bridge’s star-rating system as I prefer to physically separate those I intend to process from those I don’t. They’re either in or out – there’s no grey area.

As a final step in this process I back up all the images to a second external hard drive, giving two copies of everything as an insurance.

In-computer photo workflow

Optimising and converting the RAW files

The next stage of my in-computer photo workflow is to process the selected RAW files in Capture One Pro. This programme is intended primarily as a RAW file processing software, though it can also be used to process both Tiff and Jpeg files. The programme also contains some databasing properties, though I use it purely as a RAW file processor.

I’m often asked why I use Capture One Pro rather than Adobe’s Camera Raw converter (embedded within Photoshop and Lightroom). For me, Capture One Pro works more smoothly and has a superior high dynamic range ability, reaching deep into both shadows and highlight areas to pull up otherwise lost detail.

Typical steps that I undertake in Capture One Pro include:

  • Application of len-specific image aberration corrections;
  • Adjustment to colour temperature, contrast and saturation;
  • Straightening of sloping horizons;
  • Keystoning (ie straightening converging parallels, especially in architectural photography);
  • Removal of the most visible of dirt spots;
  • Application of some sharpening, if needed;
  • Decreasing digital noise, most especially in long exposure or high ISO images.

The final step, once I’m satisfied with the image, is to use the Process option to generate 16-bit, 300 ppi Tiff files from the Raw, the former being saved to a folder on the computer’s internal hard drive.

In-computer photo workflow

Finishing off in Photoshop

The final stage of my in-computer photo workflow is to run the newly created Tiff files through Photoshop for some final tweaks. These consist most especially of removal of sensor dust spots and any distracting minor elements, such as litter.

The final image processing step is to convert the 16-bit files to 8-bit. Having the images in 16-bit mode is very useful during the image processing phase due to the very smooth colour gradations that can be generated in sky and water. However, once processing is finished it is better to convert to 8-bit. This both halves the file size and makes it possible to generate Jpeg files, a format that cannot be generated from 16-bit Tiff files, only from 8-bit.

With processing finished, I then generate low resolution (72 ppi) Jpeg files for possible internet use. The finished high resolution Tiff files are backed up to two external hard drives, and deleted from the computer’s internal hard drive.

With processing finished, it’s time for a coffee and a well-deserved break!

In-computer photo workflow

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Author: Nigel Hicks

Nigel Hicks is a highly experienced professional photographer and writer, based in Devon, southwest England, but frequently working around the world. He shoots for a range of clients and is a member of the National Geographic Image Collection. He has written over 20 books, covering travel, wildlife and photography subjects.