i’ve officially retired all of my windows computers, and with that went my old workflow. my old workflow was very nikon centric, consisting of nikon transfer to get the files off the CF card and do the basic copyright tagging, followed by view nx to sort, rank, and pick the ones i wanted to process, and finally processing and the raw conversion and the bulk of the editing was done in capture nx. over the years of using it, i’ve found that capture nx was capable of doing the bulk of the heavy lifting for processing my nikon RAW files. if i wanted to do any further processing or experimentation, that would be a TIFF export to photoshop. otherwise, export to jpeg from capture nx for print, web, and/or e-mail.
my workflow has served me well for a few years now. i typically don’t do a heck of a lot of processing to my images, so even though the user interface took a little to get used to, capture nx did a great job for what i needed. basic exposure corrections, white balance adjustments, minor touchups, softening, sharpening, that sort of thing. it’s capable of reading and using some of the camera presets, which is also pretty nice, although i didn’t use it that often. i don’t use any plugins from third-parties, but do have some actions that i created to do some of my most common tasks.
when it came to my new workflow, i wanted to keep capture nx as my primary editing tool. the last few releases have improved the stability of the application on snow leopard, although the same can’t be said for nikon transfer and view nx; both of those still crash a lot, even after multiple reinstalls and updates. but the time has come to pick a new application to streamline and manage the images coming in to the workflow.
i know of some basic requirements for my new image management software:
- import images from CF cards in to manageable albums
- add copyright and other attributes during import
- preserve EXIF data
- ability to rank and sort images
- basic edits and previews; export basic edits for web
- easy integration in to other editing software, specifically capture nx
the two heavyweight contenders in the image management ring are apple’s aperture and adobe’s lightroom. a quick search of the internet clearly identifies the two different (very opinionated) camps, but overall the tools seem very similar in terms of what they do and either looks like it would work for what i’m looking for, so i’m guessing it will come down to a few key pieces of functionality and a bunch of subtle difference and “nice to have” features.
i decided to try aperture first, and downloaded the 30 day trial. i had some shoots i wanted to do over the weekend, so i was able to jump right in.
last night’s exercise was a combination of importing existing folders and working with some images from a CF card.Â first, i imported existing folders and images. because i know i am going to try lightroom later and because i want the ability to edit the RAW file with capture NX without having to export from aperture, i imported references to the original files instead of having them imported in to the aperture library. next, i imported some images from a CF card. for this one, i was able to do a few different things from my list. i was able to import to a specific folder on the file system instead of in to the aperture library, and i was able to add my copyright information during the import, as well, another item from my wish list. i could have also renamed the files during this process, but i went ahead and just kept the file names from the camera.the interface for the import process felt very intuitive, and provided the options i needed in what felt like a very natural flow.
with my images now in aperture, i focused on the ones that i imported from the CF card; about 20 in total. these were new images from a set i did of my son, so i wanted to use them to get a sense of how the workflow would feel with images that i had not previously viewed or processed. i shot these images with the intention of converting them to black and white, and i knew i would be cropping in closer than the frame. with that in mind, i went through the process of rating each of the images, identifying the ones i wanted to process further. one of the nice features in aperture for this is being able to do a side-by-side comparison of multiple images, which is really helpful when a few shots look nearly identical. i used the loupe tool to zoom in on different segments of the images to identify the subtle differences and was able to better rank the different images.
next i worked with some of the adjustments available in aperture. i could do this in the side-by-side comparison view, as well, which was nice. i converted one of the images to black and white and adjusted some of the channels in the monochrome mixer, which gave me a pretty good idea of what the final image could look like. i was then able to “life” the adjustments i made to the first image and stamp them on to the other image to get my second image converted with the same settings as the first. with very similar images and lighting, this could be very useful to add another easy layer of comparison between images, especially in this sort of case where maybe one image looks better in color but another looks better in black and white. Â i could then mass apply the stamp to a number of images; for example, converting the batch to the same black and white settings; and then export those adjusted images as proofs or in a slideshow for a client.
one thing that will take a little adjusting to will be the way aperture managed the adjustments. i’m used to these sorts of adjustments, even the nondestructive ones, being applied to the image in the image list. in aperture, it shows the original and the adjusted image as two separate images in the list. i can see where having multiple versions of the same image in the photo list can start to get messy if i did changes to a batch of images in an album. there may be a way for that to be better managed, which i’ll hopefully find as i work with it a little more.
the ends results were pretty positive. the shots from friday night required some additional processing in capture nx, but aperture allowed me to figure out which shots i wanted to process, and i was able to process this image in capture nx. i exported the processed file to a jpeg, and imported that in to aperture, and then used aperture to export the flickr version of the image.
there is a plug-in available to watch a folder and automatically import new files in to aperture, but it didn’t work the way i had hoped. ideally, i’d like to export to a subfolder in my “processed” folder and have it shot up in a specific album in aperture based on the folder name, but it lumps everything together in one folder. i read a tutorial that talked about better ways to manage the exported files, so i’ll try those tips a little later, but just importing the final jpeg wasn’t very painful.
i shot another 50 or so images tonight as part of a backlit series. again, it was very easy to import the images from the CF card and then compare and rate the images to figure out which ones i wanted to process. for these images, i was able to do most of the processing i needed to within aperture. i played around with the levels, exposure, and the “enhance” sliders, and was pleased with the results.
day one of the trial is complete.