I knew going in that the Tour for Kika project was going to generate a lot of images. For the past ten days I've been working my way through the shoot, discovering some surprises I missed in my machine gun nightly edits and pushing the limits of my software and hardware, not to mention my eyesight.
Twenty four days of shooting in the Netherlands, Belgium and France netted 23,344 RAW images that consumed about 650 GB of disk space. My MacBook Pro's 500 GB internal drive wasn't large enough and I needed redundancy, so I took two 500 GB external G Drives and a 1 TB notebook drive along for nightly backups. My basic workflow was to copy images from my cards to the first of the 500 GB G Drives (till it was full) and make a second copy on the 1TB drive. With two copies of the images safely on disk, I'd catalog the images in Adobe Lightroom, make a quick selection and export web resolution comps for the Kika site. Provided our hotel had an internet connection I'd upload those images to drop.io, a service which hosts my client files and which I prefer over ftp. With that done, I'd clear the cards, turn out the lights and get a few hours of sleep before doing it all again the next day.
Daily totals ranged from a low of 600 images to a high of 1200. I like to think I shoot with some discretion and look for the decisive moment but when it comes to action the 1D MKIV's frame rate (10 fps), even when exercised in short bursts, really adds up
There was no time to make final editing decisions on the road. Post and pre-stage transfers made sure of that. So with the entire shoot and Lightroom catalog safely transferred to my home desktop it's been interesting to see a consistent pattern of keepers and selects emerge. I've dedicated an external eSATA drive to the collection ($120 for a 2TB drive and $45 for the enclosure) but to avoid archiving thousands of superfluous images and their alternatives I decided to do one comprehensive edit.
Using 1000 as a daily average, I've consistently kept 250 and deleted 750; one out of four. Many of the images discarded are from high-speed sequences, and there's little point in saving eight frames of a particular rider or grouping when one or two will do. Regardless of whether they are sharp or not, I keep only the best. Within the 250 keepers, only half (125) are given a star rating; meaning my selects are one out of eight or 12.5%.
Next week I'll begin layout of the Kika book, which at approximately 100 pages, will accommodate at most 200 of the 3000 selects distilled from all stages. Long odds indeed, less than 1% (.6% to be exact) will make that cut.
And the refinement doesn't stop there. As it stands there are perhaps two or three standout images for me. The best of the best, two or three frames out of 23,344. These are the images that inspire me to shoot and improve. Ultimately these rare images are my personal measure of my work.
Sean asked about my Lightroom workflow. I've included a basic overview below.
On import I apply my basic meta data template (copyright etc) and a preset with minimal sharpening, noise reduction and clarity. This time I decided to get a lot more disciplined about deleting images, in the past I merely concerned myself with rating the images I liked, but now that I’m shooting all the time I can’t necessarily afford to archive thousands of rejects. More important than the wasted archive space, is the noise factor when it comes to searching for images later.
So I move through the shoot hitting X on the keyboard to flag (reject) the ones I’ll throw away, and rating the selects (one or two stars). During that process I try to stay in Develop mode, only moving to the Library to add keywords on the rated images. I don’t like Lightroom’s quick edit panel at all, so unfortunately I can’t do both steps in one mode. Lightroom really needs to lose that quick edit panel or give us the option of using the one with sliders from Develop. Scott Kelby had a post about features he’d like to see in v4.0 and that one was on the list.
Rating the images and choosing which ones to reject often involve applying a development preset, tweaking those settings then applying that treatment to each subsequent image or batch applying it via the sync button. I make use of keyboard shortcuts to copy/paste the current setting to the keyboard (shift + C / shift + v) or apply the setting from the previous image (control + alt + v). This “styled” evaluation of many images consumes a lot of time. Given the changes in body position and bike angle on almost every shot it’s not always easy to pick a clear winner without that extra work.
When I’ve processed all the images in a folder, I go to the Library and find all the rejects and delete them. Next step is to update all the meta data to the sidecar XMP files. I have turned off the preference to auto save this data, and make it a manual step at this juncture. Cmd + S. I may look at moving to the DNG format to avoid the extra XMP files floating around, but both solutions are preferable to having that valuable data reside exclusively inside the Lightroom catalog file.