December 8, 2009 at 11:48 pm (Camera Gear, Computers, Linux, Photography, Software) (, , , , , , , , , )

So I get lots of inquiries on flickr and other places where I post my pictures on how much ‘photoshopping’ (terrible verb by the way, Photoshop doesn’t exist on my chosen platform) I do if any, and people want to know what software I use and all that. So: rather than repeat myself every other day, I am just going to write a detailed account of my workflow here, and link folks who ask directly to it.

When it comes to hardware, it’s pretty simple. I built my photo editing and main desktop rig myself. A few main stats:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5200+
  • 4x 1GB 800 MHz DDR RAM for a total of 4096MB memory
  • 3x Hitachi HDP72505 500GB SATA HDD for a total of 1.5 terabytes of disk space

I have it running dual-head and have two identical Acer 20″ flat screen LCD monitors. As far as camera gear, I have a Nikon D40 body, and a Nikon D90 body. For more info on my camera gear please see the about page, there is more info on lenses and all that.

On the software side of things, I should mention that I don’t run Windows, no, not Mac either. I’m one of those crazy software hippies that use Linux. This has, of course, shaped my digital photographic workflow to a large extent, as most commercial software available to Windows and Mac users is not available to me. To be perfectly clear, I am just fine with that fact as I much prefer to use open source software if it is available.

So: say I’ve been out for a long hard day of shooting. I should mention here that I always shoot RAW format, in my case, producing Nikon’s ‘.nef’ files. Upon returning home the first thing I do is import all my files to my photo organizing software of choice: digikam. My directory structure goes like this -> ‘Raw Photos’ -> ‘year’ -> ‘month’ -> ‘day’. If I was shooting with both bodies, each will get its own directory suffixed with the body model. So pictures I shot on December 4, 2009 look like this:

My Albums/Raw Photos/2009/12/2009-12-04-D40/
My Albums/Raw Photos/2009/12/2009-12-04-D90/

I put the full date in the last directory name as the full path is not always visible, and I find the exact date to be useful information. I will immediately tag all photos in digikam with the geographic location of the shots, and with any other tags which may apply. Now I will begin with my inspection and culling of all the shots. I will ‘star’ any exceptional shots, and delete the obvious duds. All others, which make up the large majority, remain status-quo.

Next, after deleting the crap and identifying the pictures I wish to publish to flickr, I open my RAW editor, Raw Therapee. When I first started shooting RAW, I tried both Raw Therapee and UFRaw. Nothing wrong with UFRaw really, I just prefered Raw Therapee, so I standardized on it. You would do well to try both if you are looking for a RAW editor.

Raw Therapee screenshot

Above is a screenshot showing a typical view of Raw Therapee. Now as for actual editing, there’s a few things I do by default, and you can see from the capture on the left side that I have saved them as a preset called “Darren’s Default”. Basically it is only two things, and increase in contrast, and an increase in saturation (Raw Therapee calls this ‘color boost’). If the photo in question has some poorly exposed areas, I will try to lighten them using the ‘Highlights and Shadow’ tool in the ‘Exposure’ tab. Generally a small tweak here will lighten up the dark areas nicely. I find you don’t want to be too heavy-handed here, as it will make the photos a bit too tacky and HDRish. Yes, I have been guilty of this a few times. For some long exposures I will also do a white balance adjust at this point, for example, if street lights are creating an ugly orange/yellow cast on the photo.

That’s it for Raw Therapee. At this point I save the picture as a 16 bit TIFF file straight into the same directory in digikam that the RAW file came from.

So digikam has a few handy editing features built right in. At this point I will open the TIFF file for (lossless) editing. I use digikam to perform any black & white conversions and crops. I also use it to straighten the horizon if I flubbed it in camera. Obviously the previous steps only apply to a few photos. At this point however, almost every photo I take gets run through an unsharp mask. If the picture requires more drastic editing at this point such as cloning or selective desaturation (very few do) I would open the TIFF file with The Gimp at this point, and save back into digikam when finished.

So now I save each TIFF file I intend to publish to flickr as an 8-bit JPG to save on space and bandwidth. Here’s a screenshot of digikam, with the main window filtered to show only JPG files ready for upload to flickr:

digikam screenshot

So that’s about it. I use FlickrUploadr which is built right into digikam to upload my pics to flickr. This is also where they get resized to 1600px on the long side. I wish I didn’t have to do this but I was finding it took way to long to upload the original sizes. Perhaps if I ever get a superfast OC3 internet connection I may reconsider this 😉

To recap, the large majority of my shots, probably about 85% of them only have the following ‘photoshopping’ done to them:

  1. increase contrast
  2. increase saturation
  3. unsharp mask

That’s it!


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