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Post Production – Digital Workflow

Last Updated 15th August 2012

Capturing a photo is just the first step in a multi-level process called digital workflow. Every photographer follows a specific process or tasks in order for them to produce a printed material or photograph. It may differ from one photographer to another but these tasks includes transferring pictures from their camera; saving, cataloging, organizing, and ranking them; then editing, publishing, and archiving them. Many of these steps are provided to us by the software that comes with digital camera when we buy them. Some programs and software are available in the market that caters to one or all of the process in digital workflow. With advent of modern photography, a single program can handle all the post-production needs of an amateur or professional photographer. Examples of these programs are Apple’s Aperture and Adobe Lightroom.


The Digital Workflow

Step 1. Capturing the Image

This is step is the very basic process that includes setting up the correct parameters of your camera prior taking pictures. This step includes composing your image, checking camera (device) and environmental condition, choosing image size, adjusting color balance, exposure, depth of field, and other camera adjustments.

Step 2. Storing the Image

After capturing the image, you usually transfer them to a more stable and safer storage device like computer or other similar medium. Latest Image management software allows you to choose your saving method via online, offline, or portable storage options.

First thing you need to consider during this phase is how you want your photo to be processed. On your camera settings, you can choose whether you want your photo to be upfront jpeg format or RAW.

All of digital camera offers you to take photo as jpeg, the format mostly used for e-mail, online posting, and sharing in general. This format is low-to-medium quality. With the highest compression rate, this file formats are small and can easily be transferred through the internet and other devices like phones, laptops, etc.

RAW file, on the other hand, are mostly available on dSLRs. They do boast of the highest quality in digital file format. These files are so large that 1 raw file is roughly equivalent to 10-100 jpeg photos of the same dimension. The advantage of shooting RAW file is you have the option to further edit or enhance the photo without losing its quality. This is the file needed by professional photographers because they usually want the finest original file they can manipulate to produce the desired output.

TIFF file format are just like RAW files, like RAW, they are pretty large in size. This format is the most used by photo editors because it has a very good image quality and not as large as RAW files. TIFF is also known as lossless compression format, meaning it has all the qualities of the RAW file.

Color Depth

Understanding colour depth is quite complex, to simplify the term, colour depth is the number of colours that can be produced in a pixel. To calculate the number of colours that can be displayed, you raise the number 2 to the power of the number of bits used.

The table below will summarise the facts about colour depth between JPEG format and RAW format.

These colors are not exactly displayed by monitors, screens, printers, or any other devices. But they are very important when editing and adjusting the images to attain their final form.

Step 3. Cataloging The Image Files

In this stage, it allows you to organise the file based on a number of criteria. The metadata on the image is collected and presented in a tabular format for more organise collection of data and/or images.

Commercial software allows you to organise the photos according to some criteria or factors of the image. Good examples of these are Adobe Lightroom and DeepMeta for istockphotos.


Step 4. Editing the photo

The advantage of digital photography over the traditional film photography lies in your capability to further improve the quality of the photo by editing. You may improve an image by eliminating or minimising the flaws, adjusting its tone, contrast, brightness, and sharpness. In this stage you can manipulate the photo based on the need or purpose. You can make it smaller or bigger, crop it or introduce to some effects and special exposures.

Step 5. Sharing

In this stage, you photo can now be printed or posted (online) and basically can be distributed to everyone you wish.

Step 6. Archiving and Backing up the Photograph

One of the best advantages of digital photography over film is you can archive the photo without losing its quality. Back-up and archiving are two different things. When we use the term back up it is having a duplicate copy of what is original while archiving is storing or keeping the file in long periods. It may be practical to use an external hard drive dedicated to photos when archiving or use a dedicated online backup tool or website that offer such services.

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