Friday, August 11, 2017

My Personal Workflow (and why I don't use Lightroom Mobile)

In This Issue

  • My personal workflow 
  • Why I don’t use Lightroom Mobile
  • Acid Test for Autofocus
  • Better High ISO .jpgs

My personal workflow

I get a lot of emails asking what my personal workflow is when it comes to processing hundreds of images from an event.  So here it is.

Standard Disclaimer: Just because I do it this way doesn't mean it's the best way or that it's the right way for you.  Just as there's no "best" way to configure your camera, there's no "best" way to process a ton of images.

Despite Adobe doing everything in their power to annoy me off their platform (slow software, can't do anything else while it starts, constantly changing UI behavior, subscription model, still not knowing how to handle rendering the workspace in Windows 10's high-resolution screen), I still use Lightroom for processing large batches of images, and Photoshop for tweaking images and doing special things that Lightroom can't do.

Because Lightroom is so very slow (not just for pre-rendering, but also for switching between adjacent pre-rendered images on my laptop), I also use a 3rd program called ACDSee which is one of the fastest .jpg viewers I've ever seen.  (I understand Photo Mechanic is in that league as well.)

So here's what I do, from the minute I get back to my desk to the minute I hit "upload to Google Photos" to share them with my clients:

1.     Offload the memory card using Sony's PlayMemories Home.  (Hey, don't judge me!)  This program automatically knows where to pull in movie files from the different obscure directories they're stored in (different formats are stored in different places.)
2.     Make a backup of the imported files, and turn the backup drives off when finished.  Experience has taught me to always have two copies of anything before I start work on it in case disaster strikes.
3.     Sort the photos by type, and move the RAW files to a separate directory, and the video files into yet another directory. 
a.     If your light is good and your exposure is right for that light, there's no great benefit to shooting RAW.  (Read below for what happens when your light isn't so good)
b.     I rarely ever touch more than 1% of the RAW files I shoot, so I keep them in a separate directory just in case.  That's true even if I'm shooting with high ISO – starting with the A6300, Sony's high-ISO noise reduction is very close to what I can do manually with PS or LR.  So this saves considerable processing time and import time in Lightroom.  I'll access the RAW files if I need to pull up some shadows or need to recover some highlights or do some other form of extreme manipulation. 
c.     I don't pull video files into Lightroom because LR will insist on re-rendering everything, even if nothing was done.  With 4K video clips that can cost me $10/month just in extra electricity (and I have solar!), and makes my computer work harder than it needs to.
4.     Fire up ACDSee and start to mark my favorite images.  500 times faster than culling them using Lightroom, and don't have to worry about bloating up the catalog as fast either.
5.     Move the culled images to a new directory.  This way if I ever stop using ACDSee I can still identify the favorite images I selected.
6.     Start up Lightroom and import the new culled directory.  (That process can take some time, so while they're importing I'll often log in to Facebook and marvel at all the confirmation bias.)
7.     Start Developing in Lightoom, further narrowing the selections as I go.
8.     If I have images that need special attention, I'll dig up the RAW files and process them separately in Photoshop.
9.     Export and Share everything via Google Photos.  Exceptionally good ones (usually less than 0.1% of what I shoot) get added to the stock image website.  

Wither Lightroom Mobile?

When Lightroom Mobile came out, I thought it was an interesting idea – essentially once you import the images you're only working on previews / thumbnails of the images, which should make culling and tweaking much faster than if you're working on the full-size RAW files.  (Plus, the idea of being able to quickly edit and tweak your backlog while riding an Uber was very appealing! J )

So I tried it on my wife's iPad.  Once.  I'll never do it again.  The iPad (and most other tablets) has a high-contrast screen, which means it will hide shadow details and blow out highlights that aren't actually blown out in your image.  How can you possibly make your images look their best on this platform, only to look at the finished product on your main computer screen and see something look completely different?  That was a deal killer for me.

The Next Seminar

The last Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminar for 2017 will be held in Tacoma, Washington at the end of the month!  It's getting pretty full, but there's still room for a few last-minute stragglers.  More info here.

Not going to be in Washington, but still want to benefit from the cut-through-all-the-technical-stuff-and-just-get-to-taking-"Wow!"-pictures-right-away approach?  View the seminars in the comfort of your home here.

Next Time in Cameracraft

In the next issue I speak with concept and landscape photographer Steve Chong who uses the most underrated cameras in the business to produce eye-popping results.

So subscribe to Cameracraft already!  :-)

In the Pipeline
Olympus E-M1 II 
Sony Alpha 9

Let us know of your interest on either of these titles - send an email to Gary at Friedman Archives dot com .

Acid Test for Fast Autofocus

I've always considered Birds In Flight (BIF) to be the acid test of a camera's autofocus system – more so than just tracking an Olympic athlete, whose motion can be extrapolated and predicted to a certain degree.  Up until now Sony has never had a reputation for doing it as well as Nikon or Canon.  That changed with the new Sony A9, the first mirrorless camera that claims to be able to match the performance of the flagship bodies from the big boys.  (A technically difficult feat to perform!)

Since I'm working on a book on the A9, it's customary for me to put the camera through its paces.  My first attempt was on an uninhabited island off the coast of Scotland, where we were shooting puffins.  (See last month's blog post for some of the more successful shots from that outing.)

This first attempt was disastrous, since just about all of the in-flight shots I got were either out of focus, blurry, or both.  I blame this on myself for using unfamiliar equipment – the camera had arrived just days before I left on a one-month trip, and I hadn't had time to go through all the menus and configure everything just the way I wanted.  Later I discovered that I had two inappropriate settings that prevented usable BIF shots: The AF Track Sens(itivity) feature tells the camera how long to wait before trying to refocus in AF-C mode; it was set to the factory default of 3 (standard) when it should have been set to 5 (responsive).
The other inappropriate setting?  I was so focused on shooting the birds (and making sure I had underexposed enough) that I forgot to set the camera to a fast enough shutter speed.   These were shot at 1/250th of a second; fine for travel photography but should have been 1/2000th of a second for BIF.  D'oh!!
Once I returned home I tried it again, this time with the right settings, and what a difference!  Thousands of perfectly sharp pictures with what I calculated to be a 97% hit rate.  Keep in mind that any other camera can do BIF as well – the difference here is the hit rate, and not missing any shots because you're waiting for the camera to reassess and confirm focus.

Better High ISO Jpgs

Earlier in this blog post I mentioned that I hardly ever touch my RAW files anymore.  Here's a good example as to why.  Yesterday I took this low-light portrait at ISO 25,600 using the new Sony Alpha 9.  Of course I shot RAW + JPG, and here they both are (click on any image to view full-screen and download).

In the old days, the noise reduction algorithms for high-ISO .jpgs were so overzealous and watercolor-y (that's a word!) that these situations practically demanded that you shoot RAW and post-process later to control the noise.  Today the high-ISO .jpgs are so good that in order to see any difference at all you have to pixel peep:

The RAW is still better, but by a much narrower margin than just 5 years ago.  And when printed, these small differences pretty much go away. The time spent cleaning things up in RAW is rapidly getting to the point where it becomes wasteful. We live in amazing times.

Until next time...
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


  1. Enjoyable column!
    Question, Gary - I use ACDSee Pro Ultimate version 10 for sorting files and also for most post processing. There's a lot I like about it. Is there a reason you use Lightroom instead?

    1. Truth be told, I've grown a little too reliant on the adjustment brush. :-)

  2. Mmmmm, good one JAM, I'm in the same position and eagerly await Gary's comment.

  3. Thanks for those work flow tips, Gary. I also use ACDSee Ultimate Pro for file management and even for post processing. It is fast compared to almost anything else I've tried. I'm adding to your confirmation bias here whilst you've added to mine. ;-)

  4. Same for me, have been using using ACDSee for years and stopped using Adobe completely.

  5. Gary, maybe revisit the latest Pro Ultimate version of ACDSee... It's got lots of useful tools,... including brushes for various purposes :) Perhaps you could write a blog or article about ACDSee?

    1. Well, you certainly don't need my endorsement to use it! :-) But I'll definitely upgrade and try the tools out. LR may be powerful but it's frustratingly slow! That's the problem with software libraries written in high-level languages.

  6. Gary,
    As an amateur photographer being lost in this vast field of photography it is sooooo refreshing having someone giving out easy to read and to understand information - thank you!!!

  7. Hi Gary. Firstly, thanks for all you've brought to the Sony camera community for the past 10 years.

    Due to ill health my vast collection - in numerical and physical size :) - of birding gear was reduced to a Sony RX10 Mk III - 600mm zoom effective with less than 600 grams of camera to lug around.I've learn't to trust the high ISO and so get much better shots than when I first started using the camera and in many cases more 'hits' than with my old heavy gear. However, BIF remains problematic.

    I know you love your little brother of my camera, any tips for using the RX10 to improve BIF? I cannot find a menu setting like that one you allude to for the A9.

    PS, while you're looking at ACDESee, have a look at DXO. It's now the only tool I use 99.88% of the time, the balance being CS4.

  8. The biggest problem with the RX-10 III is they're using contrast-detect AF with a 600mm lens - a disastrous combination when trying to shoot something fleeting like BIF. I predicted in my Oct 2016 blog that the newer version will have the guts of the RX-100 V, and when that happens THAT is what you should be using for birding. As long as they include the ability to zoom in or out as you shoot in AF-C mode, that camera should be a winner.

  9. Hi Gary

    Thanks for another extremely interesting newsletter, full of little gems as always.

    I have a Sony A77Mii and have had your invaluable book since day one, learning all the time from it.

    I am, however, considering selling my A77ii gear and moving to the Olympus E-M1 M2 because, at nearly 70 I am now finding the A77ii + lenses just a little too heavy and bulky. I prefer a crop camera but just cannot work with the tiny Sony a6500.

    I am happy to hear that you are nearly finished writing your book for the Olympus E-M1 M2 and just wondered if you had any thoughts or advice regarding my proposed change.

    Thanks for all your great work and advice.


    1. Hi, Keith. You can't buy a bad camera nowadays, and the Olympus is certainly a winner. Just give yourself extra time to learn the new user interface, which is always a challenge when switching brands.

    2. Thanks Gary. Looking forward to your E-M1 M2 book being available.

  10. Hi Gary
    Did you do an article about the APS-C VS Sony Full frame ? A6500 vs A7RII with the same lens and camera settings? I tried searching for but couldn't find it. Thanks Mike

    1. I've done better than that!

  11. There are so many versions of ACDsee that my head is spinning... which one do you recommend and will it support RAW from my Sony and Canon

  12. The "best" most complete version is the one described as "Ultimate". This version gives you what the other versions have plus the ability to work in layers. Here's the link:

    The other versions are ones that have less capability as you go down in price. If you're working with RAW files, the Ultimate version is the one I'd recommend.

    You can get free trials here:

    Product comparisons are here:

    They have a contact number listed on their site; you can inquire about RAW support in that way. Or use their online chat. They also have lots of tutorial videos. Plus there's a community forum you can get to from their website.

  13. ACDSee Ultimate 10 works with Sony ARW files from both the A65V and A77M2. Since I don't have a Canon, I can't say for sure about it. You can check the ACDSee site for the latest list of supported RAW formats.

  14. I shoot in RAW with the Olympus EM1 Mkll and catalogue and PP with ACDSee Ultimate 10. Both are great products..... I've been an ACDSee user since version 2, which was free in those days!

  15. Hello Gary, what would you recommend for a MacBook Pro?? As far as I can see ADCsee is only for Windows!? I am not at all happy with Apple's Photos - very unstable for large photo libraries. Thanks for the great work - I bought a Sony A6500 based on your articles and love it.

    1. I can't provide any Mac-specific answers with any modicum of authority. Can anyone help?

  16. Hello Gary, I use to take images using RAW files mode. Is correct to do this? or maybe only is necessary if the light is not good?

    1. If you're going to be doing any sort of extreme manipulation, then RAW is essential. Or if the dynamic range of the scene is wider than what a .jpg can capture, then RAW is the only way to go. But if your light is good and you nail the exposure in-camera, then the need for extreme manipulation should go away in which case .jpg is fine. But storage is cheap and RAW is great insurance against something going wrong. That's why I shoot RAW+JPG exclusively, even though I hardly ever end up using the RAW files.