Boring but Very Important Work!

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The big snowstorm hit the northeast this Tuesday and I was able to spend some valuable time at my desktop computer. This is something I haven’t done in a while. You see, I use my laptop for much of my work at sporting events. I have the routine down pat. I can quickly go through over a thousand photos, find the best ones to send to my editor, and then get them off to him. I use a color label scheme in Photo Mechanic and it works very well for me.

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The problem is two months later when my editor wants a photo of a specific player. It doesn’t matter which game, just a usable image of this player. Well, there is no time to poke around through all my images to find that small selection of photos of this player to send to my editor. Panic can set in pretty quickly and no one wants to make an editor wait. Thankfully, captions and keywords are the answer!

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Do you faithfully enter keywords and captions into your images? I confess that this is boring but very important work. Down the road it will pay off beautifully. Here is another scenario. I sell wildlife postcards at the Elk Country Visitor Center. So I decide to find some new photos that I haven’t yet used to make new postcards. Thankfully, I created a keyword combination: “Potential Postcard.” Now all I have to do is go to my Smart Collection in Lightroom, which contains all these potential postcards, pick the ones I like, and send them out to be printed. Previously, I did not use these keywords and locating new postcards was a pain. Now I can do it quickly and efficiently.

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Inputting keywords and captions is boring work. I admit it. In fact, I avoided it way too frequently. I remember something my dad used to say when he retired: “Why do today what you can put off ’til tomorrow?” Well, that might work in retirement, but not for keywording and captioning. Do it soon or pay dearly later.

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I recently read John Shaw’s e-Book, “Organizing and Locating Your Images Using Adobe Lightroom” where he describes using a hierarchical keyword scheme. It works like this. Suppose I want to add a keyword word for the location of an image. It was shot in a specific school during a basketball game, which is in a town and a state, too. I could enter the appropriate state, town, school, and gymnasium names individually or I could use a hierarchical scheme like this: LOCATION: State > Town > School > Gymnasium. Then, after setting up the hierarchical system, I could simply add the specific Gymnasium keyword to the image and automatically the School, Town, and State are added as well. Beautiful! It’s simple, once set up, and very quick!

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I am all about speed. I have to be in order to meet deadlines, which sometimes happen even during a game in progress! But boring work done soon after a game can repay itself over and over. I do not like boring or repetitive work, but with my sports and wildlife photography I know the critical importance of this so called boring work. I am learning to be more efficient, but I am also learning the importance of keywording and captioning. Are you? By the way, these images are ones I found when setting up my hierarchical keyword scheme. I forgot I even had some of these photographs so I thought I would give them a little exposure.

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My Photo Mechanic Workflow

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.10.06 PMOver the past three blog posts, I shared why I use Photo Mechanic. So I thought it might be helpful to share how I actually use Photo Mechanic in my workflow.

First, I take the time well before each shoot to do some prep work. I create the rosters for each team in TextEdit. Any text editor will work. The creation of this roster file is easy. I give it a header say: //Pleasant Valley Football Roster 2013  Then I create the shortcuts starting with the team name. The format is the shortcut first, a tab, and then the full name. So it looks like this:
pv     Pleasant Valley
p1     Player Name1
p2     Player Name2 …etc.

I save this text file, open Photo Mechanic, go to the menu and select: Edit, Settings, and Set Code Replacements. This brings up a dialog box and all I have to to do is add the new shortcut file I made in TextEdit. I do this for both teams and have my shortcuts ready to go!

The second prep item is to setup the ingest and IPTC information including folder name and filename. I actually use a short folder and filename such as FB131115, which stands for Football and the date of the game with the year, month, and day. Then I add a custom suffix that includes the time each photo was captured. It looks like this: {iptchour24}-{iptcminute}-{iptcsecond} The reason I do this is because I use two cameras during a game. One is on a monopod attached to my 200-400mm lens and the other is over my shoulder with an R-Strap attached to my 70-200mm lens. When I ingest the photos into Photo Mechanic, they are sorted by filename and placed in the exact order I captured them according to the timestamp.

After the shoot, I place my two flash cards in card readers and have Photo Mechanic ingest them simultaneously. This is another nice feature of Photo Mechanic! Even as the photos are ingesting, I can start looking through the photos to find the best ones to send to my editor. To do this, I use the color coding feature. Unfortunately, Adobe Lightroom does not recognize the selected checkmarks from Photo Mechanic, but it does recognize the color codes! You can choose any colors you want. I use Green for my selects, Blue for photos to send to the editor, and purple for photos that will be sent for a photo gallery. I first go through all the photos in the preview mode and press 3 for the select photos, marking them green. I have the preferences set up so that when I do press 3, the preview mode automatically advances to the next photo. Otherwise, I just press the right arrow. I advance through the entire shoot in this way.

Then, I select only the selects by pressing Option(Alt) and clicking on the green color tab in the lower right corner of the screen of the Contact Sheet in Photo Mechanic. This displays only the photos I marked with the green label. Now, I go through them again, pressing 4 for the very best ones I want to send to my editor for possible publication. This marks them with a blue color. Then I go through each one of these to create captions for each one. This is where Photo Mechanic really shines!

Writing the caption is easy. I first click on the Info button in the Contact Sheet to bring up the photo’s IPTC info dialog box. Then, in the caption box, I start writing my caption. Let’s say that Pleasant Valley’s running back, #28, whose name I may not even know, is the main subject of a photo running into daylight through a hole made by the offensive line. I simply press \p28\ and his name appears in the caption box! Voila! Isn’t that awesome! This is really handy and a time-saving process for me. There are times when I can’t quite see the player’s full number, so I may have to go back through the series of photos captured at this time to make sure I have the correct number. But this one feature makes Photo Mechanic my goto software for what I do on every sports shoot!

Once all the captions are written, I need to submit them to my editor either via DropBox or FTP. I select the photos to send and then right click and choose Save Selected Photos As. This allows me to save the photos in the size and resolution of my preference. Once they are saved, I send them to my editor and I am almost done.

I then go back to the select (green) photos and select the ones I want to submit for an online gallery at the newspaper by pressing 5 and marking them as purple. I give them a more general caption such as, Pocono Mountain West v. Pleasant Valley November 15, 2013. Then I save them and send them to my editor.

When I get home, I import all the photos into Lightroom. The color codes are maintained, so I flag all these photos and then create Collections for the selects and the photo gallery. I also create a Collection for any photos that were published.

This is my current workflow with Photo Mechanic and Lightroom. It works really well for me. It is fast and efficient, and allows me to quickly sift through all my photos and send the best ones to my editor for publication. Pretty sweet!

 

Why I Use Photo Mechanic (Part 3)

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.10.06 PMWorking as a freelance stringer for a newspaper requires me to quickly sort through all the photographs of an event, pick the photos to submit to the editors, and write captions for each one. This can all be done in Lightroom and other software packages, but not nearly as easily and quickly as in Photo Mechanic. Code Replacements in Photo Mechanic is the primary reason I use this software on every sports shoot.

Here is an example: I am working through the select photos to submit to my editor and the deadline is fast-approaching. I need to write captions quickly and accurately to meet my deadline. Code Replacements allow me to use a shortcut, which includes the number of the players jersey, to include the players full name. Other shortcuts are also available, such as the team name, location, and any other metadata I choose to include in the caption. So to specifically describe this example, I come across a photo I need to write a caption for and include the players’ names. I simply use Code Replacements by pressing \code#\. It’s that simple and it’s incredibly quick! My code simply includes an initial or two of the team, say “P” for Pleasant Valley, and then the player #. So with 4 simple keystrokes I have the player’s name accurately and efficiently placed into my caption. “\P#\. This is especially helpful for the visiting teams whose players I do not know. Using the jersey numbers to help create my captions is awesome!

I do have to upload the roster for each team prior to the game, but this is easily accomplished. I absolutely love Code Replacements. They make my job much more manageable. I can provide accurate and quick captions for the photos I submit to my editors. What’s not to like?