Felipe’s Post-Processing Quick/Basic Workflow

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Hello!!

Today, I finally get to do something I’ve been wanting to do for ages: a quick post-processing workflow for aviation photos.

First of all, this post isn’t meant to be a 400 level course on how to Lightroom, nor Lightroom 101, and it does not cover advanced editing techniques, but, it does show a workflow that works for maybe 80-90% of my aviation photos. I am assuming that you know the basics of Lightroom, or have asked Google/Reddit/YouTube/Me.

There are some advanced functions like auto renaming of images, re-numbering them, changing prefixes… I don’t use any of them. All but one of my cameras have unique prefixes, so I have no need to batch rename the images to avoid filename conflicts.

Basic thing I’d like people to know: If you use Lightroom to edit the RAW files, then Lightroom also needs to be used to move RAW files to an external drive, another folder, etc. or it will freak out and lose changes. I learned that lesson a while back, and even though I plan on writing about my full workflow later on (covering topics such as where I store photos, catalog techniques, more detailed edits to reduce noise, jaggies, etc), I do want to share this basic bit of knowledge with those who haven’t read fully about how Lightroom handles files.

What I’m using

  • Lightroom CC 2017
  • Photoshop CC2017
  • Macbook Pro, 2010 and 2012, running either El Capitan or Sierra, Core i7, 4GB RAM

LIGHTROOM

Remember what I said about using Lightroom to move files? well, I don’t use that from the beginning. Even though Lightroom can import from the memory card, rename files, and do more magic, I’ve always manually imported to the computer, thus I handle that part myself.

Once the files have been transferred to my computer, I add them to Lightroom.

1. macOS allows drag and drop: I select the files I want to import (or all of the day’s shots) and drag and drop them to the Lightroom icon on the dock. Alternatively, opening the Import Photos and Video dialog is the other way to do it, however, this requires to manually browse the folders and look for the files. This is something I don’t know how to do using Windows.

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2. There are multiple ways to add files to Lightroom, convert/copy to DNG and add, copy to the folder specified in Lightroom, move to a specified folder, or, add. Add simply adds the photos to the catalog and keeps them in the current location, this is the option I use.

The import window displays all the photos in the folder, and allows to manually select and unselect which files are to be added. Once I have selected them, I click Import.

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3. Once the photos are imported, I go to the one I want to edit, and open it in the Develop module. The Develop module is where all the changes are made. First thing I do is scroll down to Lens Corrections, and check both Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections. The CA removal is automatic, unlike in Adobe Camera Raw which requires manual inputs. As for lens corrections, LR automatically selects the lens profile to use, although some lenses are not supported, and some lenses cannot be auto-selected (not sure why), and thus require manual selection.

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4. Once that’s done, I scroll up and open up the crop and angle tool, and I change the angle, using the grid to level the photo. The bubble level icon allows the use of a line to set as the line to level, however, I find the tool a little hard to use, as it offers much less precision than the one in Photoshop.

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5. After leveling, I crop the photo, dragging the photo corners and using the mouse to place the rectangle where I want it. The parts that will be left out are masked in a darker color. The Navigator pane on the left also has a thumbnail, which is very useful to check if the photo is centered or not.

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6. After cropping, I make adjustments to the photo. In this case, I use the histogram as a guide, and move the Exposure (shifts the whole histogram), Whites (shifts the right side), Blacks (shifts the left side) sliders. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any flat lines on either end of the histogram, instead, the “mountain” should stretch to the edge of the histogram window. I do not touch the shadows/highlights, as that tends to produce haloes, leading to overprocessed rejections on most websites.

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7. At this point, the Lightroom side of photo editing is done. I click the P key to select the photo as “pick”, and head back to the Library module. In the library module, I add tags/keywords to the photo, in the keywording section.

I keep a text file with lines of tags, I copy the set of tags I want and paste it here, and I also type the registration number as a tag.

I rarely use the tags for internal purposes, however, the keywords get exported with the photo, and Flickr (and some other sites) recognize those tags, saving me time later. Also means that as soon as I upload the photo, people will get to it if they’re looking for that specific tag.

 

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8. After tagging, I go down to Metadata, where I edit the title (sometimes), caption, and copyright info. The information here is also recognized by Flickr and other sites, so this saves me time when uploading. In the caption box I also put in flight information (if I have it) and anything that might be relevant. The caption box is displayed by Jetphotos as part of the EXIF, so that comes in handy.

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9. At this point, I’m ready to export to JPG. I export my photos to the same folder where the originals are kept, and I do select the option to create a subfolder, keep the quality at 100, and resize to 1200px on the long edge. I hit the export button and wait for Lightroom to finish. If I’m exporting too many images I just leave the computer and go make some coffee or take a shower or something like that.

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PHOTOSHOP

After the export process is done, I open the exported jpeg in Photoshop. At this point, most changes have been made and it’s just a matter of some final adjustments. I make these adjustments in Photoshop as I feel that I have more control over the fine details using layers, the eraser tool, and the magic wand (of which I will cover when I write about the full workflow).

10. Next, the unsharp mask. I use 50% amount, radius of 0.3px and threshold of 0. While these values are often trial and error, I stole them from Alevik’s all-jpeg workflow. Usually two passes of USM applied to the whole image suffice. Sometimes it is necessary to make fine adjustments, however, those are the adjustments I said I wouldn’t cover here.

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11. After USM, I check the levels (histogram). As you can see, there are no flat horizontal lines at either end, so I exit the histogram without making changes.

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12. And I’m done. I hit Save As. Leave the folder as is, and change the filename to “Original_MonthDay_Reg.jpg”. For example, if the original is IMG_4248.jpg, I change it to IMG_4248_Jan08_N610WN. Set the quality to 12, and export.

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And that’s it. The image is now ready.

 

This tutorial covers the basics I need most of the time. This is a good starting point for many people and for 80-90% of photos. The remaining shots need more things like a dust spot check/clone, color cast adjustment, fine tuning the sharpness and noise reduction, or other small changes. Those I plan on covering later with the full workflow.

This method is what I use for Airliners (100 something photos accepted) and Jetphotos (almost 6000), and it’s changed and evolved over the course of 6.5 years. At that time Lightroom was relatively young, and I can tell you that Lightroom 2017 is quite different to Lightroom 3.0 (what we had until 2012).

Finally, let me know below if you have any comments or questions and I’ll be glad to answer those.

 

 

 

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