When you are a photographer, the vast amount of possibilities you have with post production can give you a headache sometimes. Starting from the tools you use to filters, exporting it in the right way and storing the files correctly. For a photographer it is crucial to find one’s style. Which doesn’t mean, you can only do one type of editing or one type of photography, but you should find one way that makes you happy taking pictures. This post should help you with some guideance.
1) The inspiration universe and where to look
I consider myself still as a beginner in photography as there are so many things I still wanna try out. Finding inspiration on photography is so easy. I just open my phone, hit the Instagram icon and go down the rabbit hole of completely amazing pictures. I love how many amazing photographers and talents are out there in this world. No account like the other. Some are professionals and go on insane trips and some are pure amateurs who shoot with low tech equipment (or just iPhones) and manage to blow my mind with their pictures. When I like a picture, the next steps are quite simple:
– I try to recreate the shooting setup in my head and add it to my inspiration board.
– Checking if I like the editing and if it would fit my style or what I can take from it.
– If the field is new (f.i. Longexposure or low light) I check Youtube for cool tutorials on how it is done.
– Comliment the photographer for his picture
Everything you need to know about photography is available on the internet, you just need to find the right sources. Here are some of my favorite tutorials and channels:
I bought some tutrials on wedding photography and retouching there.
Even if I am not a fulltime retoucher, I still learned so many useful tips on these tutorials. Creative live offers nearly everything.
A great blog with fantastic guides and tutorials about photography. One of my favorite tutorials there is from Elia Locardi – a landscape photographer who is location independent and travels the world together with his wife. Just type in his name on Youtube and you will find loads of great stuff – here he is speaking at Photokina. Elia is giving so many insights which I started adapting to my workflow in parts, you can do the same.
There is a wonderful documentary called Tales by Light – the episodes take you on short journeys with great photographers and it is easy to watch them while you are on the train or airport and have to kill some minutes.
A vast collection of everything. Check out their tutorials, especially their fundamentals. In my opinion it helps you so much more if you understand how your camera works, what it can do and what other options in photography there are even if you don’t use them. Mirrorless vs. DSLR, medium format and big format, crop factors and much more where just some topics I read, tested and discussed about with other photographers and it helped me so much to understand my own work better.
2) Equipment, Tools, Filters, Apps and what you should get
Photography is for everybody, litterly for everybody. And that is also why there is no correct answer on what to use and how to process for everybody. If you are an iPhoneographer, compact or mirrorless shooter or aspiring professional, you can do fantastic stuff with everything. One particular favorite example of mine is a friend who does fantastic topshots with his iPhone of places to eat – check this out. I still like to tell you my favorites when it comes to processing. But before we start, one thing:
SHOOT IN RAW!
RAW image format is a filetype like f.i. JPEG but gives you greater editing options. Important: please only shoot in RAW if you have processing equipement that supports RAW formats (like Lightroom and Photoshop). RAW simply means that your camera stores more digital information in the picture than you would have when shooting in for instance JPEG. It gives you a bigger file size and so much more options on what you can do with your pictures: Greater levels of brightness, correction of under- or overexposed photos, adjusting of white balance in post production, more detail and more fun. And file storage space is no issue in these days anymore. There are many theories on how you can shoot, but mine is: “Use the biggest RAW on your camera”.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC
Spoiler: they are actually really cheap to buy! Definitely the most powerful tools and for me a clear must when you love photography. The workflow is so easy and they two programms work perfectly together. Many people think they are expensive to purchase – well, they are not. There is a photography special, where you get both Photoshop and Lightroom for 12€ per month. So just skip that one pair of sneakers you wanted to buy and get the real stuff. You get automatic updates everytime and you even get Lightroom mobile as app for your phone (see below). Don’t be intimitated by the two programms, check my tips at the beginning on where to find great tutorials about how to use them. If you are a student still, you can even get the entire Adobe Creative Could CC for a really cheap price. Also get the NIK Collection from Google – a powerful tool to enhance your pictures even further and it is free!
Photo Mechanic 5
It is the fastest media browser I know and it saves me so much time. It has a simple function: browsing through your RAW pictures in super sonic speed and select the ones you like. Usually with Lightroom, the selection (even if you use Smart-Previews) takes ages. Photo Mechanic is amazing and totally worth the 150$ if you use it often as I do.
Lightroom mobile App
I currently use an iPhone 7 plus and with that Lightroom mobile. It not only gives you the capability to sync Lightroom catalogues from your laptop to your phone but also gives you the option to shoot RAW with your iPhone and switch between the two cameras. It creates a .DNG file which you can post process on the fly fantastically. If you then use some more Apps like VSCO, Darkroom, Snapseed, Obscura, or one of the other million photo editing apps, is your choice. When you get Adobe Lightroom, you also get some great Apps like Adobe Capture and Adobe Sketch.
Useful iPhone Apps
Check out these two apps for the perfect timing of your shoots:
Sun Seeker 3D – Check the orbit of the sun from your location, check when Golden hour comes and how the sun gets into the spot you are in augmented reality.
Sky View – (this is only for the Milky Way photographers) but it shows you any constellation at any point of time
Mac or Windows, Laptop or Desktop
The important thing is that your computer let’s you run the programs without you getting a nervous breakdown. But good news – we have run both Lightroom and Photoshop CC on a MacBook Air from 2012 and it totally worked fine. So it all comes up to you on how many pictures you want to edit in which time.
I just upgraded my equipment to the new MacBook Pro 15″ which has an outstanding performance (forget what they said about the dongle problems, the speed of USB-C is outstanding). If you are a Windows user, also great, use what you have. If you are thinking of buying a new computer, there is also a great time to buy the older version of the Macbook Pro.
How do I store my files?
It has never been cheaper to get your files stored fast and easy than today. Most important thing for file storage for me are following:
– Big storage –> so you don’t have to buy new stuff every 3 month
– Fast storage –> you don’t want any external harddrive with USB 2.0 –> I use only USB-C devices so I can even edit 8K Material from RED on my laptop
– Portable storage –> get something tiny for on the road with out external power source and something big for at home
– Back-up –> make sure you back-up your files every other week. External harddrives might not last forever, so it is good to have a spare partition on a different files storage and even better if it is in a different physical location.
What file storage should I buy?
It is difficult to keep up-to-date with all the storage products, but please find my favorites below:
My newest edition and best travel companion is the SSD USB-C drive from G-Technology. It is a bit spendy but delivers wonderful performance.
The normal edition (not SSD) ist also fantasic – click here or here.
TRAVEL: They do fantastic external hard drives and have a special product line “Porsche Design”. I currently have this version for travelling: LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive with 2 TB (170€), the 4TB version is about 250€. They are especially cool because they are super slim and have both USB 3.0 and USB-C which I can use on my new MacBook.
HOME: A back-up version for at home you can use either the LaCie Porsche Design Desktop Drive with 4TB (210€) or preferably 8TB (330€). It has an external power source which can sit on your desk and you use it as a back-up for your mobile disk. Or you go for the olderversion which is still great with 4TB for 140€ (I own 2 of these).
OUTDOOR: For all outdoor freaks, LaCie also offers rugged external drives which are a bit more robust. Check out their versions here.
Western Digital – WD
TRAVEL: I really also like the WD’s new sortiment of MyPassport as you get 1 TB for 70€ (!) how crazy is that? And 4TB for 145€. And they come in different colors and with USB 3.0.
HOME: MyBook new with 3TB to 16TB for 99€ – 329€
RAID: I have use the MyBook Pro up until now as it is a RAID with 2TB – 4TB which gives you a back-up on the go. And it has a built in Thunderbolt cable which I love. They are 349€ – But maybe wait, I think they will update them soon too.
SD, CF, C-Fast, Mini-SD, Micro-SD – and what you really need
Your whole work in photography relies on a small plastic card where the fotos are stored in your camera. That’s why you should get a good one and spend those 10€ more. My best favorite options are these:
San Disk Extreme Pro SD Cards – get at least 32 GB (they are 24€) and even better a 64GB if you go on long trips. They have a writing speed of 95 MB/s which also let’s you take multiple pictures in a row. Get a new one every 6 – 12 month, depending on how much you shoot.
For all you professionals, there is also a version with 300 MB/s – which is great if you film 4K or have a big sensor and alot of data. I currently use a combination of the 300 MB/s SD-Card and 160 MB/s CF-Card because I have two slots in my camera and I do a immediate back-up.
If you want to have your edited pictures with everywhere to showcase or back-up for your on-the-go Instagram posts, you wanna look into cloud storage. Here are some options:
A beautiful way of showing off your pictures to your friends or showcase the gallery to the lovely couple you just shot. It offers 3GB of storage for free and has loads of different options how you can design your galleries.
Incredibly easy and free storage for your pics, beautiful galleries in no time.
The all time favorite if you want to story more than just photos.
You should be able to find your file fast at any time. I use this way of how I name my files for quite a while now and it works fine for me.
Level 1 – I have one folder for each year (2015, 2016, 2017 etc.)
Level 2 – each subfolder is named this way – JJJJMMDD_Shooting_name_location (f.i. 20170201_Couple_Shooting_LakeFuschl)
Level 3 – within these folders I have 3 sub folders named:
01_RAW – all raw pictures from this shoot
02_SELECTS – all pictures I selected with Photo Mechanic go in there before I import it to Lightroom
03_EXPORT – all exported files from Lightroom go in here
04_LR – for every new shooting I make a new Lightroom catalogue
When I export the pictures in JPEG, there are two versions for each picture – WEB and HQ. Which simply means I export a web size file with maximum 76% (at 150 dpi and perfect for web galeries and Instagram) and a high quality version with up to 5 MB (350 dpi) so it can be printed well. The nice thing about this workflow is, that you do the export twice at the same session and you don’t have to go back again and export it at a later time. Add-on: Setup the file structure once and just copy your basis folder once.
Post production workflow – filters and presets and how to do it.
A preset helps you to maintain a consistent look of your portfolio or within a shooting itself.
Since Instagram started this hype, everyone knows how to apply filters on mobile pictures. There are many great ways you can get presets for Lightroom and almost no end of them all. My usual workflow is, that I use up to 5 different presets for different situations (f.i. Landscape, urban, portrait, long exposure and weddings).
Step 1) I rate all the pictures from the shoot I like with 1 star in Photo Mechanic. My favorites get 2 stars.
Step 2) I decide for one filter for the shoot and apply it to all pictures.
Step 3) I adjust white balance, exposure, sharpening, detail correction for every single picture.
Step 4) I go into Photoshop for special pictures to enhance even more.
Step 5) Exporting the files twice as mentioned before.
Great sources for presets are:
VSCO – an insane amount of different options for good prices.
Tribe Photo Co. – from moody to awesome
RNI – Really nice imagery – great options.
AOV – Art of visuals gives something more prone to lanscape photographers
Wedding – I love Julia und Gil, Vicky Baumann and Sascha Kraemer’s sets.
Looking back on the time I just spent on writing everything which came to my mind, I still have so many things I would love to talk about, but I will do that in different posts for sure.
Please note that all of what I have written is simply my opinion and is based on my experience. No company paid me anything to mention them.
Would love to hear your thoughts.