Automation: a travel photog’s best friend.
Hi folks, first, just watch this video… it will make your mind mushy and give you the equivalent feeling of a warm bath for your brain.
Now that you are jello, lets talk about automation. First, lets review the three basic law of robotics:
- Robots will rise up one day, because there is no such thing as a free lunch.
- Rich people use robots the most.
- Robot stands for “Real Opossums Biting Orbital Tails”.
I actually don’t know anything about robotic science, but what I do know is that automation, is the key to getting things done as a travel photographer. It is not uncommon to go on a three-day trip and come back with hundreds of photos. Anyone that takes photos for a living will tell you that taking the taking of the picture only begins the work. The real-time consuming part is “processing” which is also known as “drinking a whole bottle of wine by yourself and getting a cramp in your hand using your Wacom tablet”.
So, to release you of some of that torture, and to give you some of your life back, there are some time saving tips you can employ when going through your photos.
TIP 1: use that plane ride wisely.
I look forward to an 18 hour flight because it’s time reserved for getting work done that doesn’t really produce anything. What do I mean? I mean going through all those photos to prepare them to actually be processed. That means batching all your photos, separating out the RAW from the JPGS, and then going through them to select which ones you actually want to process. I bring everything into Lightroom, and then arrow through them giving any possible good shots a 3 star rating. Then I go through again, and thin it out to 4 stars. Then I give them some basic metadata, an added step that will save you tons of time later on. I make sure they are geo-tagged, then I give them a category (food, place, people, nature, etc) Then I begin to process.
TIP 2: save styles.
You got style. Show it. This is an important step, and saves you ooooooodles of time (more o’s = more time). Most people take pictures of the same thing (there are only so many types of things a travel photographer can take a picture of) so I set base styles for each of those things. Food, places, nature, people. 4 things that might sound familiar from step 1. These wont be final tweaks, but give us a base to get us 90% there.
Food: I usually drop my yellows out of highlights (makes white dishes pop) lower the contrast, and boost the whites. This makes all food, no matter the dish, look appetizing.
Places: I generally like a more HDR look. I want to see in the shadows, and all the highlights, and let the details pop out and have reality get a bit hyper. So I’ll drop the contrast, the shadows and the highlights, and boost the clarity a bit.
Nature: to me, and this might be redundant, I like nature to look … natural. So I will desaturate the reds a bit, boost the greens, add a bit of luminance in the yellows, drop the clarity a hair, and drop the highlights a smidge. This gives you a nice, soft, look where the greenery will pop.
People: People I turn B&W cause it makes everyone look good. No (actually yes, but no) … people can give you the most variance; sometimes you want gritty black and white, high contrast, sometimes you want soft, glowing skin because you fell in love with someone on a park bench. in either case red is your enemy. Red makes skin look sick, and like you took the photo with a cameraphone from 1998. Drop its saturation down, and your half way there. Also drop your contrast a bit and raise the clarity. This will give you a nice sharpness to your subjects.
Now, because you took a sec to meta-tag your selects you can batch apply these settings. You just saved yourself a ton of work. These are meant to be global settings for generic retouching. A foundation to build your palace on. Now you go back through and make your final adjustments, getting those pictures just right.
Tip 3: batch process.
Seems like a no brainer but many people don’t take advantage of the batch process systems programs have available for you. In Lightroom I will batch out photos based on location, or category, depending on what I’m doing with them. For instance, if I’m writing about a city, and am planing on breaking down my article into categories like food, people, nightlife, I will batch out similar photos into folders with those names. Or I might batch out photos based on location and activity if it’s more of a travelog that I’m writing.
I will also batch process the photos to have a name like “serrini_peru_nightlife_2016_1206_img_1”. Long name? Hell yes. But no one said Fiorello Enrico La Guardia ever needed to be shortened and he was the greatest mayor of NYC ever. 4 years from now when you need to find that picture of Machas a la parmigiana you’re going to be able to. Trust.
Besides properly organizing them on your hard drive you can have them self publish to most photo sites on the internet. I usually have them automatically go to Flickr in a new album so they are stored on the infamous “cloud” immediately, which is not only a good way to back things up, but gives you the ability to grab them anywhere around the world. The best practice I found is to export full res to your local drive, then have the program export a web version with a watermark for upload. This step alone could save you hours of work.
If you need some more tips, here’s a great little video from my friends over at Adorama:
So that’s the skinny on saving time. Congrats on taking 5 minutes to read this and hopefully it saves you 5 years of collective busy work. No go get shooting.
Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.