Thursday, 2 October 2014

Managing Photographs: Software

So we were at the point where the trusty MacBook Pro was no longer trusty. And I had my iPhoto library on its hard drive. I managed to export all the files to a network drive - I think that's easier on the early version of iPhoto I had - and that took the time it took. Suddenly I had around 10,000 files to sort out. I know that this is almost how many a rookie professional wedding photographer takes on their first assignment, but I’m not a pro, so for me, 10,000 is a lot.

I experimented with using iPhoto on a new Mac Air with the iPhoto library on the network drive via wifi. Because, you know, I didn’t know any better.



Or you will tear your hair out waiting for iPhoto to fetch the files over your wi-fi network and make copies and do whatever else it does. Macs just don't do well over networks, especially with a Windows drives on the other end.

This is a shame, because for a simple person like me, whose idea of editing a photo is straightening out the unaccountable but consistent 0.5-2.0 degrees rightwards tilt in every photograph I have ever taken with a digital camera, iPhoto does a nice job with a minimum of fuss. Imports, creates events, lets me edit, and exports. All in a pretty interface. But it really wants its Library on the hard drive or maybe an external drive connected by Thunderbolt for preference (I haven't tried). Not on a network drive. What to do?

I was also reading pro photographers' blogs at the time, and one of them mentioned Irfan View.

Heck, yeah, Irfan View. Irfan View laughs at displaying 2,000 image directories it’s never seen before, creating thumbnails from any image format file faster in a blink, and then giving you all the bulk handling facilities you want and some you didn't know you couldn't live without. You have to see it in action to believe it. It's ridiculously robust and stable, and it's developed, seemingly, by a single man called Irfan Skiljan. It's free, though after a while, you really will want to donate. Along with Evernote and Dropbox, it's on all my (Windows) computers. So on a Mac that means WINE. Tried it. With Winebottler. That worked fine though I had to hack round the fact that Wine bottler wants the 433 version of the install exe, and the current download is 438. And suddenly I had Irfan View up, except... wait... I had more images than that in that folder. And that one. For some reason it will only show me 45 random images from a directory. Nothing on Google about this, which makes me think no-one else has used this on larger directories. So that's that option.

So Picasa. I know. Google. The Evil Empire. How can anything written - actually, acquired - by Google be good enough? By now I had learned not to do images over wifi, so I downloaded it and started slowly. And actually, it’s not bad. It’s better than that. It’s good enough for the job.

And that’s the point: for the job. moving away from iPhoto means I had to think about my “workflow”. "Workflow" is what replaced "developing and printing" when everyone went digital. In the Days of Film, photographers developed the negatives, made up contact sheets (analogue thumbnails), and then looked at each one through a loupe, and indicated the keepers with a flamboyant - and presumably removable - pencilled circle. These they printed full size - being professionals they wanted to keep the costs down. They kept the contact sheets and the negatives. All of them. Forever. Often un-marked in boxes, draws and faded brown envelopes that filled every inch of their tiny Manhatten apartments - the latter years of many famous photographers’ lives are a study in obsessive picture taking.

That’s kinda what happens now, but digitally. I return with a camera full of images that...

1. have to be copied onto my computer, which gives me a directory full of images most of which won't be worth keeping, so I have to...
2. delete the ones that make you say “Meh”...
3. and archive the rest after putting some rudimentary tagging on them. From those I choose the obvious goodies plus those that might work if cropped, processed and re-worked in whatever image editor I have... on those ones that could be tweaked...
5. add in tags and ownership details data to the image files for the spiders to crawl...
6. because in the end I’m going to publish them even if it’s only on this blog.

A real pro follows the same system, but better. And for money. To do all this, I need software to import the files from the camera and a library manager, which iPhoto and Picasa do, and an image editor. Lightroom is for advanced image processing, not library management, cropping, rotating and applying a few neat tricks. That’s what iPhoto and Picasa do.

Plus I’m cheap, and Picasa is free. Except for it’s Google’s way of paying for all that valuable information in my searches and e-mails and calendar. Because I’m the kinda person you really want to sell things to. Or I’m not, so the advertisers don’t waste their money advertising to me.

So that brings us to the culling and filtering process. The artistic vision thing. I’m not a pro, so the only client I have to keep happy is me. And this is another subject again.

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