The Complete Wedding Photography Workflow From Raw to Jpeg and everything inbetween
So yeah, let’s do this.
I’ve written this set of posts because not a day goes by when you don’t see someone tripping over their feet with workflow. Or worse still, a situation where a photographer hasn’t backed up their stuff and lost a whole wedding pre edit. It’s something I see sporadically on Facebook so hopefully the following content will not only give back to the community but also help avoid it happening in the future.
The Complete Wedding Photographers Raw to Jpeg Workflow:
This blog post covers the following –
- Copying in from your flash cards and testing the integrity of Raw files in a simple way
- Backup up ALL your raw wedding files to the cloud in under 8 hours
- How to quickly sort and cull your raws ready for processing
- How to rate your images in one single pass for culling, blogs and galleries
- How to label up the files for social media in one hit
- Lastly, what I feel is the best way to backup your files
What I won’t tell you is how to edit your work, that stuff is down to you but I believe this workflow is the best way to work, if you would like to share any tips from your own workflow then please, pop them in the comments below.
Hopefully this post will help you out in one way or another because we handle so many images per wedding an efficient workflow is essential to stay sane.
^ The only time you should see this is on a ZX Spectrum
Part 1: Importing the files.
Sometimes things go wrong at the very beginning. You import the images from your cards and they look fine when in fact they aren’t. This is because what you’re seeing is the Jpeg preview. Sure, you can go through all of the images one by one in Lightroom and slowly render them but if you want to check the integrity of the set in an elegant fashion the best way is to:
- Import the images to your computer.
- Open the folder in Lightroom
- If using multiple cams select all, sort by capture time, rename all to something like KandC.jpg
- Export them to a folder on your computer as – Compressed DNG, WITHOUT Jpeg preview at 4000 pixels across.
- Open the exported folder with the DNG’s in. Do all the thumbnails render ok? Good, because those are generated from the raw files.
- Once checked copy the first import of raw files that you know is good to your external drive. Voila! You have two full copies on seperate drives and one compressed version for the cloud.
How does this work then?
If you export the raws as DNG without the preview, once complete the only way the image can be previewed is from the universal DNG raw file data. Open that folder up and see all the images render glitch free. You know the files imported AOK. If not, you likely have an issue with the reader or cable connecting the two.
Why compressed though?
^ That’s why.
Backup tip – When I come home from a wedding I average over 140gb of files. But compressed as DNG these become 17gb. That’s a MASSIVE saving and one that will upload to the cloud overnight while you sleep. I use dropbox and have a seperate drive specifically for it. Uploading the full raws can take days and that’s not really a smart way to backup your files.
I use Dropbox for this which syncs the content of a folder on my computer to the cloud.
Further, I can claw back deleted files up to a month after. I put the compressed DNG’s on the Dropbox drive / folder and I’ve then three copies at home plus one on the cloud. Doing it this way is super useful if you’re shooting back to back weddings. You should never need these files unless you have a serious disaster on your hands so compression is ok in this case.
Bonus tip – Double the read speed when you get home by doing this (assuming you have multiple cards):
Part 2: Culling your files
Some photographers can pick a full set in two hours, others take all day but whatever you’re like the software required needs to be super duper fast and lag free. Enter PhotoMechanic.
I’ve tried lightroom, I tried Perfect Browse but the beautiful thing with Photo Mechanic is that you can allocate a shedload of ram to the task and it makes a big difference in speed.
^ It really is that fast.
Always select your keeper images by tagging them red. I used to use the star rating but stopped because sometimes my fat fingers meant a swathe of images were missed out of the selection. There’s nothing worse than delivering what you thought was everytihng only to be asked ‘Where’s the zimmer frame standoff between Grandma and aunty Ada’? by the bride and groom two weeks after delivery.
By highlighting them in red you can scroll through and see obvious gaps in your cull.
Part 3: Lightroom
This software is an absolute workforce but is buggy, slows down without logical reason yet is still my favourite by far for processing photos.
As already mentioned, I won’t tell you how to process your images but the workflow is as follows:
- Import all the images from the folder you used for Photomechanic
- Sort by colour tag
- Select and export all the non tagged images (the non keepers) and store them as compressed DNG, no preview and 3-4000px long to an external drive. (The same as your second set of full raws went to is fine).
- Delete the raws you just exported from their source folder. (You still have one set of originals untouched)
- Select all the remaining ones and remove the colour tag.
- Process as normal, but as you do, rate anything really nice as 5 stars, rate anything that needs external retouching as red again.
- Export the edits (keeepers) as UNCOMPRESSED DNG to the same external drive as your compressed raw files for long term storage.
- Export again but as Tiff for further processing
Why Tiff? I prefer a lossless and fast workflow. With Tiffs being uncompressed you don’t get a compression dialogue pop up every. single. time. in photoshop when working on them and there’s no delay in the thing closing. It annoys the heck out of me.
So to explain a few things about the above. This picture is confusing. There’s three hands here and I’m embarrased it’s the first album I ever bought.
But that’s not important right now.
The reason why you export the compressed DNG’s is that the long game here is to always keep the raw files in one form. I find it hard to delete my raw files, even the non-keepers and as a result keep the compressed ones too. So long after the couple have their photos I’ve a legacy copy of the non keeper / cutting room floor raws as compressed DNG and these sit alongside full sized uncompressed versions of their delivered raws as DNG. Also, no xmp files are nessessary because the adjustments are carried witing the DNG and they end up being a slightly smaller file.
And yes, you do already have them compressed elsewhere but these are different. They’re sorted / selected / culled. That way you keep everything. The non keepers files roll in at about 5gb in total. And that’s nothing really.
It’s important to rate them as you edit them. Because that rating sits with the DNGs forever and carries through to the tiffs, through retouching / action application and exporting to Jpeg. (You’ll see why this is important further down)
Part 4: Retouching
Maybe you do this, maybe you don’t, but this is my retouching flow.
- Import the tiffs into Lightroom.
- Sort by colour.
- Find your selected red tagged images, right click each one or as a group and edit in photoshop.
- Edit the file, save the file, remove the red tag in lightroom. You always know where you are with the edits this way.
- You are now ready to export to Jpeg.
Also, for those of you using VSCO or any other presets it’s often better to apply the presets now rather than on raw files. The reason is that some of the editing you do to a file can be cancelled out by the preset. But tiff’s are edited and all the sliders are effectively zeroed out. You get a consistent adjustment across all the edits as a result.
Part 5: Exporting
So you have these Tiffs….
- Your final selection of awesome wedding photos are now in Lightroom, ready for export.
- In Library mode, select all the images and move to the metadata side.
- In the title section type your website url
- In the description section type the name of the couple and venue
- Then export to Jpeg – and you’re done.
Part 6: The unexpected social media time saver
If you followed the above, mainly the star rating and metadata renaming you’ll of saved yourself loads of time and energy even though it’s an extra step.
- Take your colour tiffs and select the 5 star versions.
- Export those to a new folder.
- You no longer need the other tiffs so you can discard them and after delivering the images to the couple, delete all but the DNG set of Raws.
What you now have is a folder of your best images from the wedding you just edited. You can now losslessly edit them to really make them sparkle for your website. Once you’ve done this there are certain things to keep in mind depending where you are publishing the photos. Next we’ll cover Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, G+ and WordPress.
Also note, these same star ratings are with your uncompressed but edited DNG’s. As your style evolves you will now be able to go back to the original files, reset and edit them again, removing that white vignette you thought was cool three years ago.
So you have your sparkly highlight photos:
- Import into lightroom.
- Export these at 50% jpeg, 2048px across the long edge into a folder marked Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and G+. Ideally watermarked but don’t go too crazy, don’t let your ego destroy a photo.
- For wordpress you need to select all the images and again head to the metadata section. You see, the title tag is what is used by wordpress as an alt tag. So in here place your target words for SEO and bulk save to metadata. Having a url there serves no purpose.
- In the description section remove everything because if you don’t, wordpress will show what is written under every single image as a caption and it looks rubbish.
- Export at 50% with or without a watermark depending on what you do with wordpress and pick your own sizing.
- You can do the same for galleries too.
- Lastly, export all the tiffs as full resolution jpegs so you always have those to hand.
About the above. I trust 50% export quality as despite the high compression it creates resiliant, quality files. When you upload a compressed jpeg to the web you just don’t really know if it’s going to be compressed further by your blog or a third party. It’s why I’m not a fan of JPEGmini. It’s touted everywhere but I feel it’s unnessesary. Sure, in 2006 maybe. But 2017 with 4G everywhere and free flowing data, much less so and it will compress files to the point of cracking. You risk losing more than you gain as a result.
By putting the url of your website in the title you should now see it appear as a clickable link when the image goes to facebook and more importantly, if you have an online gallery for sharing and you allow downloads this should carry over too. It’s a great way to get your name out. It doesn’t always work but it’s great when it does a in, when a couple does an 800 photo dump to 600 of their friends.
Best of all, using this workflow you’ve not just edited your photos but you’ve also selected all your images for your web presence and social media. The only thing I do next is back up all my drives to a Drobo 5D on a weekly basis using Goodsync. I don’t have it on all the time as it’s fairly noisy. Once a week is fine because everything else is so backed up already.
And that’s it!
If you like the above and feel it’ll be helpful to others please feel free to share it. I also offer mentoring if you’d like help in any other areas (see my menu option above) .
Comments are open to say hello and for any questions, if you have your own workflow tips drop them into the comments for others.photomechanic review, editing, lightroom tips, how to select wedding images, speed up lightroom, picking wedding photos for editing, fast workflow, raw vs dng, jpeg vs raw, images sizes for social media, wedding photography, how to publish images to social media quickly, backing up images, wedding photography workflow, dropbox, complete wedding workflow, jpegmini review, photomechanic