2 Jul 2013

First communion session part 3: Post-processing and printing preparation

This is third article about photographing of first communion. In previous posts I wrote about different aspects of preparation and actual shooting.
In this part I will share some thoughts about my approach to post processing and I'll show some techniques that I have used.

Make the candidate photos available for selection as soon as possible

I have shared the photos with my client very soon after the session. Purposely. The idea was to let the family enjoy the photos and to start making a final selection at the moment when the session is still fresh in the memory of participants. And it payed off. I got a number of good questions about some photos that I initially skipped from the selection. They were technically not very good, but were liked by the participants. 
It is worth noting how the photos were shared. I have used my account on 500px for this purpose. I just created a set, uploaded the photos, protected the set with a password and shared with the client. 

Having short time for processing of the photos forced me to make some tradeoffs during image post-processing. There is simply no time for advanced processing. And at this moment I learned how important is to get photos "right in the camera". The less cropping, retouching, exposure compensation required, the less time is spent behind the computer's monitor.

Communicate about expected number of pictures to be selected

From the beginning I have specified the number of pictures I would like to have in the final paper album. I have chosen initially this number to be 1/5 of the published photos. It was a good compromise between a final price and the content of the album. Another purpose of the limitation was of a more psychological nature. I wanted the family to choose the best photos. Since the number was limited, they was forced to think and choose the really best photos. 
To be honest I am not sure if it is the right approach when dealing with a real customer, but in this case it worked.
Later on I got a request to add some more photos, since they liked them a lot. Of course, I agreed.

Think about album's composition. Let review it.

At the end there will be a paper version of an album, and it would be nice if the album is built as a book telling a story. So the composition is as important as when taking a single photo. In this case the story is relatively simple: preparation for the ceremony, sceneries in church with a communion reception as a climax, then a number of family portraits after the ceremony.
I have shared my thoughts and initial versions of the album with my wife, who has a very good eye for compositions consisting of more pictures. It helped me a lot to make right choices of the images on the album pages.

Plan a review meeting with the customer

When album was ready in a digital form, I made an appointment with mother of the girl to show her the work and the final proposal. We identified some mistakes in the selection of the photos (just wrong numbers of the photos), agreed to add two pages to the album with two important photos, finalized the agreement on the actual price. I think that it was important for both parties: for her to increase confidence, for me to confirm that the job was done right.

Technicalities. Tools used. Techniques applied

For album creation I have used Adobe Lightroom 5.0, Nik Software suite, onOne Software 7.5 (and Photoshop). My choice was driven by the fact that Lightroom is my photo collection organizer of choice. Nik Software I have used primarily for its RAW presharpener tool (which is in my opinion way better than Lightroom's sharpen tool) and Viveza tool which allows for selective applying simple image adjustments (color cast, exposure, contrast) to the parts of the image. I have used onOne software to improve the portraits photos with their Perfect Portrait tool. This tool performs a really nice job in whitening the eyes and mouth and has a very nice algorithm to correct the skin tone.
Every now and then I used some presets of Color Efex Pro 4 (Nik) and Perfect Effects Pro 4 (onOne) to quickly achieve cool effects offered by the presets implemented by those applications.
Using the plugins I have noticed that it is more comfortable to work with them via Photoshop than directly in Lightroom. So I opened the image to be edited in Photoshop, then I applied tools that I wanted to use and finally saved the modified .PSD file. I found it more comfortable because of fact that Nik and onOne integrates with Photoshop by using layers (each tool application adds a new layer). Which gives extra possibilities since I can apply layer masks, layer effects and all other goodies of Photoshop.

Finally the book. I decided to use Blurb for printing, because of their good quality and integration with Lightroom. I found however the possibilities of book editing in Lightroom (even in version 5.0) somewhat limited: positioning of texts on the page is quite limited, it is not possible (at least to my best knowledge) to create frames in the Book module of Lightroom. I had to use external applications to provide a frame to a photo. It delayed the whole production process for sure. Let's hope it will get better in future versions of Lightroom.

In the last part of this cycle I will describe some learnings I have taken from the whole process.

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