Image Workflow from the Camera to the Web
When you take a image on a digital camera it is just the first step in the process to produce the final image. Not doing these basic steps is not doing justice to your photography.
- This is a very, very basic process that ALL digital images would benefit from when resizing images for the web.
- I use variations of the workflow including high pass filters, selection masks and layers for more localised control … the list goes on.
- I know 99% of you that do process your images will do it differently to me. This isn’t the only way, it isn’t even the right way, it’s just my way.
but first Calibrate your monitor
If you don’t calibrate your monitor how do you really know what your image looks like or what other photographers images look like? Are you selling prints? if you haven’t calibrated your monitor how do you know what they look like? Are you doing yourself, and your customers, a disservice?
The strip shows a range of greys from pure black to pure white. You should be able to see a clear difference between each shade of grey, ranging from pure black (left) and pure white (right).
Along the top of the strips are alternate patches of black and dark grey. If it looks solid black to you (look very carefully), your monitor’s brightness setting is too low. Increase it until you can just perceive the difference between the grey and the black squares.
Other viewing tips
Usually, set the contrast of your monitor to its maximum.
Reduce the room lighting and try to avoid reflections in the monitor.
If you are very serious about colour photography and selling your work then consider investing in one of the hardward based calibration systems available on the market. They aren’t cheap but they remove any doubt.
For calibrating the Apple iMac screens there is a tutorial on it which includes information on a free software calibration programme that is very useful.
I’ve recently added a visual workflow tutorial which maybe of interest to you.
If you shoot in jpeg mode then jump to Step 2 and at Step 6 save as a processed unsharpened aRGB 8bit TIFF processed master. I would highly recommend shooting in raw mode to maximise the quality of your images.
- Using your Raw conversion program adjust the White balance and exposure and export the image as a 16bit Adobe RGB (aRGB) TIFF file. This becomes my TIFF master. I always use the TIFF format as it doesn’t compress and destroy any detail in the image.
- If I need to use noise reduction I would do it now using something like Neat Image or Noise Ninja. I would not recommend applying noise reduction to every image. Yes, the programs reduce the visible noise but they also remove detail so apply it selectively.
- Crop, if needed. I prefer, if at all possible to get the final image in the camera. Cropping just throws away detail.
- Use levels and curves to finalise the tonal range and colouration.
- Check at 100% magnification for dust bunnies, remove them with the clone tool or healing brush.
- Save as an unsharpened aRGB 16bit TIFF processed master. Using the TIFF format prevents lose of quality as there is no compression used.
- The Raw file and the two TIFF files are now backed up on an external Raid protected network server.
- Convert the unsharpened file to sRGB 8bit mode. If you leave the image in aRGB mode and save the image the colours when uploaded will look very pale and washed out.
- Resize the image to 1000 pixels on the longest size. This is my preferred size as I use it on my website, it could be smaller.
- Final operation before the save is Sharpen using the Unsharp mask. I use Amount 100, Radius 0.2, Threshold 0 as my basic settings in Photoshop (PSP would be Radius 0.2, Strength 100%, Clipping 0). These settings apply a small amount of sharpening to the image which I then repeat until the image is as sharp as I need it. Doing the sharpening operation in one big step tends to degrade the image.
- Repeat step 10 a number of times viewing the image at 100% magnification until it looks slightly too sharp and then undo a couple of sharpening operations.
- Using the ‘Save for Web’ option I optimise the file size to 200kb and save the 8bit jpg file ready for upload. Others will use the ‘Save as jpeg’ which retains the EXIF data in the file.