There are likely as many workflows are there are photographersmaybe more! One of the wonderful things about Bridge, Camera Raw 3.0, and Photoshop CS2 is the incredible workflow flexibility that they offer. The price of this flexibility is, of course, complexity. There are multiple ways to accomplish almost any task, and it may not be obvious at first glance which way is optimal in a given situation.
In this chapter, I'll look at the different ways of accomplishing the basic workflow tasks and explain the implications of each. That's the tactical level. But to make a workflow, you also need strategy that tells you how and when to employ those tactics.
Even an individual photographer may need more than one workflow. There's a big difference between the workflow you need to follow when you're on a shoot, the client is looking over your shoulder, and you need to agree on the hero shots before you strike the lighting and move on, and the workflow you'd like to follow when you're reviewing personal work with no deadlines attached. These two scenarios represent extremes, and there are many points on the continuum that lies between them.
I can't build your workflow for you, since I don't know your specific needs, or your preferences. What I can do is introduce you to the components that address the different workflow tasks, and offer two key principles of workflow efficiency that can guide you in how to employ them.
Doing Things Once
When you apply metadata such as copyright, rights management, and keywords to your raw file, the metadata is automatically carried through to all the TIFFs, JPEGs, or PSDs that you derive from that raw file, so you only need to enter that metadata once.
By the same token, if you exploit the power of Camera Raw to its fullest, many of your images may need little or no work postconversion in Photoshop, so applying Camera Raw edits to your images is likewise something that can often be done only once.
A key strategy that helps you do things once, and once only, is to start with the general and proceed to the specific. Start with the things that can be done to the greatest number of images, and proceed to make increasingly more detailed treatments of ever-decreasing numbers of images, reserving the full treatmentcareful hand-editing in Camera Raw and Photoshop, applying image-specific keywords, and so onto those images that truly deserve the attention.
Do Things Automatically
Automation is a vital survival tool for simply dealing with the volumes of data a raw workflow entails. One of the great things about computers is that once you've told them how to do something, they can do that something over and over again. Photoshop actions are obvious automation features, but metadata templates and Camera Raw presets are automations too, albeit less obvious ones.
I rarely open an image from Camera Raw directly into Photoshop unless I'm stacking multiple renderings of the raw file into the same Photoshop image. Even then, I take advantage of the Option-Open shortcut that opens the images as copies so that I don't have to rename them manually in Photoshopthat too is an automation feature!
In the vast majority of cases, when I create converted images that Photoshop can open, I do so using either Batch or Image Processor, and I apply actions that do things like sharpening and creating adjustment layers so that when I do open the image in Photoshop, it's immediately ready for editing without my having to create layers first.
I'll discuss automation in more detail in Chapter 9, Exploiting Automation, but the workflow message is, if you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, they're good candidates for automation.
Once you've found a rhythm that works for you, stick to it. (Emergencies will happen, and sometimes circumstances will force you to deviate from established routine, but that's the exception rather than the rule.) Being methodical and sticking to a routine makes mistakes less likely, and allows you to focus on the important image decisions that only you can make.
For better or worse, computers always do exactly what you tell them to, even if that's jumping off a cliff. Established routines help ensure that you're telling the computer to do what you really want it to.