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 solo, though I will occasionally supplement using Mitrefinch tms solution for team management, when working with a team of photographers and/or covering a variety of shots and not wanting duplicates. Communication is always key there! 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?



Why I Use Photo Mechanic (Part 2)

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.10.06 PMYesterday I started a series of blog posts about why I use Photo Mechanic. I received several comments regarding this software; some were favorable and some were not. I understand that some people have a hard time changing or adding new software to their workflow. Others will not want to pay the money to add software to their repertoire. I am not trying to persuade you to follow my preferences; I am just sharing why I like Photo Mechanic so much.

The second reason I use Photo Mechanic is the speed in moving from viewing one photo to the next. This is where the Photo Mechanic’s speed really shows up. The ingest (or import) speed is faster than Lightroom but not incredibly faster in comparison. I do think every second counts, especially when I am up against a deadline. But side by side, moving through large files of photos to view them one after the other is really where Photo Mechanic outshines Lightroom by leaps and bounds!

Do a test for yourself. Open Lightroom and then open a photo in the Loupe view so the image fills the screen. Now scroll to the next few images one at a time. You will probably see the photo fill the image right away but you might see a little black box in the bottom, middle of the screen that reads, “Loading…” until the photo fully loads. This is the case especially when you are viewing RAW files. It just takes a while for the full-sized photos to fully load in Lightroom. Now do a test in the trial version of Photo Mechanic. Do you see a difference?

Tomorrow I will share my most favorite reason why I use Photo Mechanic. It is so helpful that I could never imagine not using this software to shoot another sporting event!


Why I Use Photo Mechanic (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.10.06 PMI was introduced to Lightroom several years ago and I still use Lightroom today. It is my preference for databasing my photographs and doing much of my photo editing and uploading galleries to my website. But something changed recently that introduced new software to my workflow.

I started shooting sports for a local daily newspaper, The Pocono Record. This new endeavor forced me to look at things differently in order to meet the stringent deadlines. One quick example: Friday night high school football games start at 7pm in my area and the deadline for photos to the newspaper is 9:15pm. The game is barely into the 3rd quarter in most cases by this time! Sorting through my photos and picking the ones to submit to the paper requires speed and efficiency.

I heard about Photo Mechanic and some of its speedy features, so I decided to check it out. I perused their website and decided to download a trial copy of the software for a month. After just one photo assignment, I was hooked!

The first reason I use Photo Mechanic is speed. This software doesn’t mess around. It allows me to quickly and efficiently sort through over a thousand images in short order. The speed of uploading my flash cards is much quicker than in Lightroom, and forwarding through image after image to preview them is much quicker, too! In reality, I read about this, but was hesitant to actually believe the hype. It wasn’t until I tried it myself that I realized the hype was right!

I will share my Photo Mechanic workflow in upcoming blog posts, but Part 1 of this series is clear: I use Photo Mechanic because of its speed. It is fast and it is efficient. Give it a try. Compare it to your preferred software and see if it makes any difference to you.


Being Efficient When You are Busy, Busy, Busy!

Just the other day I asked Siri, “Why am I so busy?” She quickly responded, “I don’t know. Frankly, I was wondering that myself!”

I am currently in the middle of a lot of photo shoots. Four days in a row with five photo shoots altogether! I’m not complaining; not in the least. I’m just busy, but good busy. During these stretches I sometimes find it hard to keep up with shooting, uploading the photos to my computer, editing them, creating galleries, charging batters, cleaning lenses, connecting with potential photo clients, and everything else. Busy, busy, busy!

Streamlining routine tasks is essential in busy times. I like to use the Energizer rechargeable NIMH batteries in the quick charger because they are charged in about 15 minutes or less! This saves a lot of time from the days when I had to charge batteries overnight. Now I can charge all 14 batteries while I am uploading photos from my compact flash cards to my Drobo.

Staying on top of these tasks is critical especially when photo shoots are so close together. Forget to empty a card and there will be no room for more photos during the next photo shoot that day. This is definitely not a time to be forgetful or fly by the seat of your pants! Good habits, predictable patterns, and a logical strategy all help to stay on top of everything in busy times.

Keywording is best done right away. Why wait to do it later when it might be forgotten? Some keywords can be entered automatically as we import them. Other more specific keywords have to be entered manually. Doing this right away makes it easier to remember the details of this shoot rather than relying on a spotty memory later on down the week or month. Stay on top of key wording and the rewards will be more than obvious down the road.

Editing photos is another key area in which to aim for efficiency. This, for me, includes locating the keepers, confirming or changing the proper white balance, and making any necessary minor edits to the photograph if needed or desired. The absolute best way to be efficient here is to get everything right in the camera. With some photo editors this is required, so it is a great goal to aim for from the beginning. It saves time, too.

What ways are you finding to be efficient in your photography?

Do It Now or Catch Up Later – Thoughts on Photo Workflow

Today as I was pondering what to blog about, I decided to go back over last year’s photographs. The thought in my mind was that since the high school baseball season starts very soon, I could do a preview utilizing an old photograph from last year. There was an immediate problem, however. I had not kept up with rating all my photos from the previous year!

I am fairly faithful with flagging photos in Lightroom because I can then easily create a collection of each photo shoot or at least go back easily and view the keepers from that shoot. But I also use ratings to keep track of the very best photos… some of the time. So here came today’s blog thought: Rate them now or you’ll have to catch up later.

This is true in so many areas of photo workflow. Keywords are a prime example. Do you enter keywords right after a shoot or do you delay this important step until some time later? What about metadata? Do you automatically have it entered on import or do you have to remember to do it later?

My ideal workflow looks something like this:

  1. Import all photos (metadata and some keywords are added automatically on import)
  2. Flag the keepers
  3. Add any additional specific keywords as needed (jersey #s for ball players, names, etc.)
  4. Color code any I plan on using for my blog, sharing on Google+, or any other use
  5. Edit any of the flagged photos as necessary
  6. Rate the best photos with 5 stars and the next of best with 4 stars
  7. Create a collection of this particular shoot for easy reference later
  8. Create a gallery of the keepers to share on my website

This is my ideal photo workflow that works well for me when I remember to do everything in this process.

What is your workflow? What works well for you? What do you struggle with?