Back in the film days, workflow was pretty easy. Shoot a roll of slides, send it in for processing, and then put the results on my light table and pick out the select few images to scan and print. With film, many creative decisions were made for you. Each film type had a particular look and feel to it; the color palettes and contrast responses varied between emulsions. With film, what you saw in the slide was pretty much what you got out of a scan. Moreover, with film, I shot far fewer images than I do now with digital. The tangible cost component of film shooting kept the number of images down for most casual shooters. Shoot a couple of 36-exposure rolls, pick the keepers, scan ’em and you’re done. Scanning slides was a tedious enough process that I really only chose the best images to scan.
Today, we shoot hundreds or even thousands of images with our DSLRs and high-capacity memory cards. Transferring these images to your computer only takes a few minutes, and there is no agonizing wait for film to return from the lab or the scanner to scan the slide/negative. That means we’re quickly filling up our hard drives with images that may have never even made it into a slide sleeve in the film days. Moreover, unless you shoot only JPEG, you are now the photo lab. Instead of choosing a film type to get a particular “look,” we have to process our own RAW files to achieve a desired result. The prospect of processing thousands of files is intimidating, to say the least.
If you shoot for your own personal pleasure, I’d like to recommend simplifying your workflow. Don’t put yourself into a position where you must process EVERY SINGLE FILE. Simply put, you don’t need to. Start by trying to get things right in your camera. Choose the right white balance and get the exposure right. Use camera settings that are appropriate for your subject– don’t shoot a portrait session using “VIVID” mode; you wouldn’t shoot a wedding with Velvia film, right? Once you’re back from your shoot. be picky. Choose the select few images that you really want to share, and only process those. Not only will you save time in post, but your friends and family will appreciate that you didn’t bombard them with every variant of every shot in a 100MB email bomb!
For more on my workflow and how I have integrated modern tools with Capture NX2, sign up for my NEF-Centric workflow workshop!