A Unit Still Photographers Workflow requires efficiency. Injesting, backing-up, editing and delivering the work promptly, is key to the job.
Every Unit Photographers workflow is different and is constantly refined to suit the individual and then adjusted to integrate with the workflow of the productions Publicist/Photo Department.
Over the years I have adopted and then rejected various parts of the process, I have had changes suggested/requested/demanded.
At the time of writing this workflow is right for me but I am always open to, and on the look-out for, ways to refine it. I'm interested to hear suggestions or recommendations of apps that speed up what is a necessary, but frankly, the least favourite part of my job.
There are nine steps in my workflow sequence. the first four are completed after the days work, the remainder once I have the time within my schedule.
1. Download images to External Hard Drive. (cloud back-up initiated)
2. Rename images in Adobe Bridge.
3. Import images into Adobe Lightroom.
4. Format memory cards for the following day.
5. Initial edit, delete all rejected images (Out of focus, Eyes closed, multiples, etc)
6. Second edit, remove from Lightroom, don't delete.
7. Light bulk grade of remaining images.
8. Upload images to ShootProof.
9. Backup to Second External Hard Drive.
1. DOWNLOAD IMAGES TO EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
Once the day is done and I'm back in my office the first thing I do is create a single folder on my external hard drive which all the days images are copied to. Setting my cameras file naming protocol the way I do (more on this in step 4) allows me to consolidate images into that one folder without any chance of file name repetition.
The Folder is named thus. Folder Number_Production Name_Shoot Day_My Name_Date eg 4453_Bump2_D03_JP_15_12_21. If the production is split into Blocks then I will indicate the Block and the Shoot Day will be of that Block.
As soon as images are added to the Hard Drive my cloud Back-Up system initiates. I use Backblaze and have for the last 5 years. I've never had to rely on it but have downloaded a number of images to test the system and it works seamlessly.
I use 32mb memory cards. With the Fuji cameras and their APSC sized sensors I can store 635 RAW images per card, so 1270 in total per X-H1 camera. Three considerations here when originally choosing the size of the cards I use.
Firstly, I have very rarely shot more than two 32mb cards worth of images on a single camera in a day, but without fail, I shoot more than one.
Secondly, if a card does malfunction, and thank god one never has, then chances are it won't jeopardise the whole days work.
Thirdly cost, at $100 per card more expensive the 64gb cards were not an option for me at the time as I was purchasing multiple cards. In future I would look at the option of using 64gb cards and duplicating images to the camera's second slot for additional security.
2. RENAME IMAGES IN ADOBE BRIDGE
Having downloaded the days work onto the external Hard Drive I then open Adobe Bridge and begin the file re-naming process.
Each of my three cameras has a unique Base File Number, the last 4 digits of its serial number. See Fig 7, 8, 9 below. These are configured within the cameras menu and are as follows. XH-1 2668, XH-1 2822 and GFX-50s 0180. As each image is created it receives an additional 4 digit sequential number, starting at 0001 which is added to the Base File Number.
The resultant image files from XH-1 'A' would look like this 26680001, 26680002, 26680003 and so on. From XH-1 'B', 28220001, 28220002, 28220003 and from the GFX-50s 01800001, 01800002, 01800003.
There is a practical advantage to using the Camera Serial number as the Image File Name Stem. By doing so I know which camera shot what image so if there are any image issues I can isolate the camera that produced them.
Adobe Bridge is now open. Clicking on 'View' in the top menu I click 'Date Created' in the 'Sort' Sub Menu. This sorts all images based on the time of their exposure. Fig 1.
I then select the image thumbnails that I want to rename and open the 'Batch Rename' dialogue box. Fig 2.
If I am working on a feature film, it would select all of the images. With an episodic shoot I select only the images that relate to a particular scene and input that episode and scene number in the top Text Box, eg episode 2, scene 7 would read Ep2.07, see Fig 3, before clicking 'Rename'.
The process is completed for all scenes on the days callsheet from first to last.
I have set-up 4 dialogue boxes under the 'New Filenames' header.
Text Box 1. Production Name_ Shoot Day_ Episode and Scene Number_My Initials.
Text Box 2. Folder Number
Sequence Number Box 3. Sequence Starting Number
Text Box 4. File Type (RAF is the Fujifilm RAW File Type)
As each parameter is added or adjusted the new file name is previewed at the bottom of the Batch Rename Dialogue box
As you can see in Text Box 2 I'm up to Folder Number is 4453. This number represents the 4453rd image folder reaching back to Roll/Folder 0001 in 1989 shot at my first sons birth. In 1989 film was still king and each Roll/folder contained 36 negatives. I retained the Folder naming protocol even though these days each folder contains a days imagery which can amount to 1500 or more images, pre edit. Far more than the 36 frames from each roll of film shot on my various 35mm cameras. If you are interested you can read more about my journey to Unit Stills by following this link. John Platt Fujilove Dec 2017 article.
Fig 5. Original File Names and Fig 6. File names after Batch Rename
3. IMPORT IMAGES TO ADOBE LIGHTROOM
Now my images are all renamed correctly I import them into Adobe Lightroom.
As this is an article discussing workflow I won't be diving into an explanation of Lightroom's various modules. If you use it then you will understand the import process, if not then I'm sure you use an app that does the same thing.
I've always stuck with the Adobe Suite as it is the only system I'm aware of that has a mobile option where your selected images are uploaded to the cloud via 'Collections' and you can grade them on location, I use a 13" iPad Pro.
When you return to your desktop back at the office those edits are in place on your desktop version of Lightroom.
As the import process can take some time now set-up my cameras for the following day, charge and rotate batteries, format cards etc.
4. FORMAT MEMORY CARDS
This one is pretty simple, this is the step where I format my cards. I have enough cards to last me three average shooting days. As an additional layer of security I rotate my cards and only format them when they are rotated back into the cameras.
Below is a screenshot showing each of my cameras Base File Number as set up in the Cameras menu.
5. INITIAL EDIT
As the heading suggests this is the first edit step. I remove all the rubbish. Images that are out of focus, blurry, eyes closed etc. Anything that can't, or wouldn't be used. I delete these images from the Hard Drive as there is absolutely no point keeping them.
6. SECOND EDIT
In my second edit I go hard with the images, reducing the count to between 150-250. I remove the rejects from Lightroom but do not delete them from the Hard Drive.
7. BULK GRADE
In this step I will give all images a light grade, adjusting exposure, highlights and shadows. This is done using Lightroom's multi image 'Auto Sync' mode that allows the adjustment of multiple images at once.
8. UPLOAD IMAGE TO SHOOTPROOF
Up until a year or so ago the most efficient way I knew to get the selected images to the publicist was via a portable Hard Drive. It travelled between myself and the Publicist via the Production Runner every week or so.
That was until I discovered Shootproof.
Shootproof is an online gallery service that was developed primarily for wedding and Portrait photographers but has become an invaluable component of my workflow.
I upload the days imagery using the free Lightroom Plug-in. After the images have been uploaded I send an email to the publicist containing a download link. Once downloaded I remove the images from the Shootproof server.
The resolution of the uploaded images is adjustable via the Shootproof Plug-in Editor within Lightroom.
Clicking on the link allows the publicist to download a zip file containing the images without the requirement to open Shootproof.
Additionally I upload a selection of my favourite images to a private gallery within Shootproof that is made available to Production Principles via password. This gallery grows as the shoot progresses and is a very popular part of my process.
With the current Covid situation and our ability/choice to decentralise our workplace the option to deliver imagery this way is a huge advantage, if not essential.
NOTE: Image security is everyones concern. If a production has a process already in place for image delivery then of course, I go with that.
Shootproof is just another tool and to date it has been enthusiastically adopted by the productions I've been working on here in Australia. Like any tool though, it's not for everyone.
9. BACK-UP TO SECOND EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
The final step in my workflow is to back-up the days images to a second external Hard Drive. This gives me three copies, one on the Drive connected to my Desktop Computer, a second copy that is is stored away from my office and a third copy in the cloud.