The Workflow

PM screen
Photo Mechanic screen shot


Martin Stabler has a daily photo email that he has maintained for many years. Only recently has he begun to actually post a photo he shot that day, instead of posting from his archive, and he asked me for workflow advice. Here’s how it happens, after the shoot.

Every day I download to a computer, usually my laptop. I use Photo Mechanic as my ingest app ( This is a fabulous, fast app that doesn’t try to be more than what it’s good at, which is ingest and metadata. I aim all my ingests to a folder on the Desktop called Inbox. PM makes a dated folder and dumps your card contents there. What’s great is that it remembers what it’s already ingested, and it won’t download duplicates. I can shoot for days and not clear the card, and PM only grabs the new photos. 

I full screen and delete the bloopers, and star rate the possible candidates with a single star. I go for first impression. I’m not pixel peeping, it’s a quick hit, and I scan through the take quickly. It can be anywhere between a dozen to several hundred shots, and I rarely star more than a half dozen. Then I rename with a date code and sequence number (e.g., 20161026_034). That’s the permanent file name. In PM there’s a stationary function that applies metadata. I select all and attach that. The copyright info is permanent, but I write specific caption info for batches of photos. 

I then open up the folder in Bridge, select all, and open in Camera Raw. I have a general preset that’s automatically applied (color temp, exposure, white and black values, and camera profile), and then I batch edit groups of photos that are shot in the same light and exposure. Now I have a sense of what’s actually in the images. I’m of the opinion that batch processing is way faster in the Bridge/Photoshop workflow than it is in Lightroom, but that might just reflect the muscle memory I’ve built.

Back in Bridge I’ll select only the one star images, and cruise through those to mark the 2 star winners. They’ll only be 3 or 4 of those on a really good day. I’ll do some additional Camera Raw work on those, and open up the winner in Photoshop, which I use really just to save it as a jpg (2075 pixels wide, Quality at 5), to the Dropbox folder that has all the daily winners. I post from there. 

This all takes between 10 minutes to a half hour. 

Photography lives on screens now, and my raw processing has reflected that. I’m much more aggressive than I used to be. I often push my exposure slider way down, just to the edge of clipping, and then ramp up the whites until it looks good. This is really lovely in the low contrast overcast light we have much of the time, and when there’s histogram room to spare. In hard light I’m often doing the opposite, underexposing to protect the highlights, pulling up the shadow slider and cranking down the Highlight slider to just shy of it looking weird. You get your sky color back that way. Other than that, I don’t alter anything that’s in the frame. Virtually all the shots I post are uncropped. I’m taking full responsibility for how the camera framed the moment.