Photography 101: Your Workflow, Part I

Image courtesy of Boris Buschardt / Wild Places

In her Photography 101 tutorial, Leanne Cole introduced us to the basics of image editing, using tools in Adobe Photoshop. As we mentioned, you don’t have to pay for software to edit and process your images — there are free options out there like Pixlr and Picasa, as well as built-in tools on your Mac or editing and organizing tools for Windows, like Photo Gallery.

Today, we’re talking with photographers about their workflows: after a photo shoot, what do they do next? How does an image move from camera to blog? “Getting the shot” is just one part of the process. Whether you’re a professional photographer or a beginning photoblogger, you should have a process for uploading and displaying your images on your blog.

Let’s read how others do it, shall we?

The photographers

What tools do you use for editing?

Helen: I use Apple’s Aperture for organizing and basic editing. I’m a fan of the Nik Software Bundle, including Silver Efex Pro for black and white editing. I also enjoy Colour Efex Pro, but I tend to tone down some of these filters.

Ron: I use Adobe Lightroom for cataloging and post-processing images, including cropping. I then export the images to a folder on my desktop. This export process creates JPGs that are resized for my theme, Avid, and renamed (often with my post’s title). The images are then ready for upload into my dashboard, and added to a new post.

Image courtesy of Ron Mayhew

Image courtesy of Ron Mayhew

Heather: I primarily use Picasa and Adobe Photoshop Elements, as well as iPhone apps like Snapseed and Afterlight. I plan to move over to Lightroom in the near future.

Quick tip: In our last Photography 101 tutorial, Leanne taught us some tricks in Photoshop. Just above, Heather mentions Photoshop Elements. So, what’s the difference?

Photoshop is a pricey pro tool, used as the industry standard for digital image manipulation. It offers a wealth of options, many of them advanced. Think of Photoshop Elements as a “light” version — it’s made for consumers and hobbyists who don’t need as many features. You can compare both on the Adobe site.

Frank: I almost exclusively use Picasa. It’s easy to use and akin to the modern filter programs you’d find on a phone (instead of, say, Photoshop). I feel like perfectly edited, wildly surreal images have sort of become synonymous with what digital photography “should” be, which in my opinion moves the whole discipline more towards digital art than photography.

I think of my work as a very analog type of digital photography, in that most of my effects are accomplished in the shooting, not the editing. I use Picasa to provide the barest essentials in editing, like cropping, and as a fail-safe to adjust any lighting or other mistakes.

Quick tip: Think about your own photography, and what you’d like to achieve. Do you want to do basic edits, like the tasks Leanne introduced in her picture editing tutorial? Or are you interested in more complex manipulation and really experimenting with digital images? Consider all the options mentioned here.

Can you walk us through your process of selecting images for a post?

Ron: All of the images from a shoot are imported into Lightroom. Then, I copy images I might use in a post into a folder (Lightroom calls them “collections”). I eliminate the weaker images, and as the concept of the post takes shape in my mind, I remove more images. I usually cull three times to keep only the most relevant photos.

Heather: First, I download my pics into Picasa, click through them, and tag the ones I might want to use. I export my selections into a folder, and then go through it a few times to whittle it down to my final selection. Then, I edit my photos in Photoshop Elements. As I edit, I often realize I need to add photos to the group or remove some that aren’t good enough.

My Instagram photos are an exception — I edit these in my phone using apps. When I’m done, I email them to myself and download them into the folder with any other dSLR pics I’ve shortlisted for my post. (Many of my posts include a combination of dSLR and iPhone pics — the two types of photography often tell very different stories.)

Quick tip: We’ve tried many photo apps out there, from Hipstamatic to Camera+ to Nofinder. Some are free; some cost a few bucks. Experiment to find your favorite.

Boris: Selecting images is often a long and tedious process. On longer photography trips, I shoot around 5000 images. Normally, I delete around 4500 of them, which takes a few days. For my galleries, I try to select the best 50 images, which often takes weeks. I use Lightroom’s features to do this (using the direct comparison function and the star rating system, for example). I only shoot RAW, and to be able to judge an image and select the best, I must process nearly all the 500 images (and some of the deleted ones). The top 50 images should be technically perfect and have a high visual impact.

Selecting images for a blog post is a bit different than a gallery. I often choose images that illustrate or clarify a story, and accept images that aren’t technically perfect.

Quick tip: How do you display your images on your blog? Do you insert them into your posts? Do you use galleries or slideshows? If your theme supports a gallery-style home page, as seen on Boris’ site Wild Places, what photos belong in these collections? Think about how best to tell your stories visually, and what features you need to do so.

Helen: I try to be a mindful photographer and think before I release the shutter. I think about disk space, especially with larger file sizes (24MB). I publish my best shots. I always think about my featured image, and post complementary images that fit a theme. A photography blog is visual, so I keep my text quite short: perhaps a paragraph from a good book, a quote, or a little bit of detail from the shoot. Something that complements the images without giving away too much.

The home page of Helen's Journal, featured images and all.

The home page of Helen’s Journal, featured images and all.

How important is the order of your images in a post?

Boris: The order is important. I sort chronologically, or put certain places or topics together — like all beach or forest images first.

Madey: I post my favorite photos first, or the ones that give off “the vibe” for that post.

Ron: I order my final images in a Lightroom “collection” folder so my story flows as I intend. Sometimes, I change the order as I’m inserting them into the post in my dashboard.

Borge: I export a photo set from Lightroom with numbered file names (for example, 01-99) to get the images in the right order, and then upload them to

Quick tip: What’s an export preset? In software like Lightroom, you can streamline your workflow by creating and saving predetermined settings that you use over and over.

Heather: Order is important — each post tells a story, and as I edit I figure out how I’ll use the images to tell that story. I don’t like using galleries or slideshows; instead, I integrate my photos with the text so the words and photos work together.

As you begin to see, photographers develop their own own workflows and policies — specific processes that work for them. We’ll continue this discussion next week and talk more about the important tasks these photographers do before they hit “publish,” as well as ways they protect their work online.

For now, we hope you’ve learned something new about the post-shoot process, and encourage you to think about what methods and tools might work for you. 

Other posts in the Photography 101 series

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  1. Thank you for discussing ordering. Since we started our blog, we have included photos, trying to help tell the story. Moving blindly, I think we moved in the direction suggested above. Happy trails, Pat


  2. Imo (as are all Comments, of course), the PhotoShop work done on almost all shots involving water is so instantly identifiable as PhotoShop work that its entire purpose is negated.


  3. Interesting reading people’s different processes and preferences. I’m such a humble newbie. I shoot photos with a point shoot Nikon. After downloading, I edit photos in a super basic/fast way. These are the features I will adjust: crop, resize, exposure and colour balance. Then I will upload into blog post.

    I sometimes use slideshow but most times I embed into the post. I do consider my photos important enough to complete the “feel/spirit” of the blog post content and also to inform/educate/delight the reader. I have received compliments for my blog and I think it’s the photos that help complete the text of the post and provide some visual interest.


  4. thank you for the useful information, I’m fairly new to all this and still trying to learn. I’ve never heard of some of the things mentioned but now I can take the time to learn more about them all.


  5. For image-editing software do not overlook the free GIMP, very capable and runs on all platforms (Linux, Windows, Mac) — costs nothing and you get the code to boot.

    For free organization there’s digiKam, mainly a Linux KDE application, but apparently has a Windows version. Dunno how well it works.

    Many years happily using both.