Photo Banter: Actions and Batch-Processing

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by notelliot, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. notelliot

    notelliot TPF Noob!

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    So, as per usual, I had a revelation as I was trying to go to bed.

    I approach making a photo like I approach writing. Every image is different. Even hundreds of photos from a 3 hour studio shoot, I look at them all individually. I edit them all individually, and they all have a sort of "sub-style" that sometimes I can't even put a finger on.

    I can't use actions, it takes away the emotional and true value in my photos. I've never used the same process in shooting - I've actually told clients that I won't recreate something that I've already done and lost business doing that (before you remind me that client satisfaction is key, understand that this is not just my job, it's my life. Got to be happy with what I do, regardless of the ups and downs. And when I say recreate, I mean same location/backdrop, lighting setup, etc). I can't go into a project with a mindset I had in the past. It's not that I'm unable to, I just can't bring myself to reproduce something. It all has to be fresh.

    This came up with a friend/colleague the other day when I noticed him watermarking images one at a time, and asked "isn't that a pain in the ass.. to watermark 100 images one-by-one?" and he said that each photo has a different 'meaning' (for lack of a better term), so you can't just slap a stamp on it and move on - it has to fit and it has to work. At the same time, he was advocating the use of actions and batch-processing, to which I explained my opposition. He uses them because it saves time - no argument there. But how much more important is an extra hour, or 6 extra hours gained by batching? How much more important is a subtle, unique quality over gaining more time to work?

    I hope I'm getting my point across - I feel like I could write 10k words on this easily - but I can't make you all suffer that long.

    What are your thoughts on this?
    Do you use actions - yours or others'? If yes to others' actions - why?
    Batch process?
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2008
  2. snaremop

    snaremop TPF Noob!

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    I use my own actions... I see what you mean about making every image it's own retouching job. But logistically, what's wrong on using actions on multiple photos, if you would just do the same things manually anyway. It saves time/effort.
     
  3. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    If the shoe fits, wear it. If consistency is required over attempting to make each piece its own, then actions are far more preferable (also the alt key, I love that key). Sometimes the result of a previous action can be better than the hand-tuned version that took an hour. Does your client need 10,000 images in a few weeks? You might have to sacrifice some unique vision.

    That being said (and not like I have any clients or anything), I use actions to automate non-creative things. For instance I have one that changes modes, duplicates layers, adds another layer then selects one particular layer and a specific channel. Just speeds up getting to some of the changes I like to get to. Sometimes I'll batch these over a bazillion files just so they're ready for me to edit (though you generally do lose the channel selection).

    I don't 'do' third-party actions. I'd rather understand how the effects were created. I imagine I might someday if I found some really spectacular ones, though. I've yet to find any that 'wow' me.

    I'll sometimes batch things to a specific format or size constraint, but that's about it.
     
  4. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Usually no, but for something as mundane as watermarking an image I do use an action simply because from the onset I chose a watermark which can look identical in every image without being out of place. Batch processing makes that easier.

    But if something is non-repetitive then you can't make an action out of it.
     
  5. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There are a lot of actions I use that save time without interfering with creativity. Watermarking is one (though I rarely watermark).

    Another one is batch WB setting. Some people shoot in RAW and set WB to auto and have at it. Not a bad thing, and if you have 500-600 portrait shots in the same location and lighting colour (not light direction or strength, just same colour), it becomes a 1 click solution to a 2-3 minute per picture issue, and that saves a LOT of time.

    Pre-printing sharpening... if you know that the settings to print off a batch take roughly 30-60 seconds to do per pic and it is the same set of moves/clicks over and over, it is simply foolish to not take advantage of actions in this case.

    Cripes my carpal tunnel hurts a lot and anything I can do to lessen or alleviate it, I will... and actions are one great way to save a lot of useless work without hurting creativity or originality... lol

    I want to address the thought of not redoing a few shoots becuase of creative reasons. Noble, and points in the direction of your photography... however, as a business I definately think refusing work just becuase you were there and did something similar before is not a wise attitude. The economy is not great and unless you are hiding from us here the fact that you are independantly wealthy, there comes a line that the intrinsic feelings of being an "artiste" need to be balanced with reality... you are in business to make money. If not, why are you selling in the first place?

    Also, I go to one place in particular several times a year to practice, play and let loose the artist in me a little (St Joseph's Oratory in Montreal). Not only do I find it *impossible* to recreate a shot identically, there is a great challenge inside to always try and improve on what I previously did that drives me. I look for different angles, positions and with people, different poses or lighting. It is difficult to make 2 pictures the same even if you try... add to it the mindset of wanting changes and improvements... it is like being there for the first time again, even after doing it 10 or more times over the course of years.

    This is an attitude that you as a professional should have. The advantage is that you still find something new and fresh within each session and at least are not throwing away money on what I feel is because of a childish state of mind ("oh, I've done that once before, so no need for me to ever do that again, it is against the artistic needs within me").

    Please, I am not trying to be insulting, just trying to show you what it looks like from a different perspective. :)

    Of course, if you feel very strongly about it, do continue to do exactly as you are. Whatever makes you happy while being behind that lens is (almost) all that matters.
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Well, if you had a deadline it could be very important. If you save 6 hours batch processing hundreds of images where it works, then you can spend that 6 hours on individual processing images that need it.

    Let's rephrase your question: But how much more important is an extra hour, or 6 extra hours gained by dropping film off for automated processing and printing? How much more important is a subtle, unique quality created by working by hand in the traditional darkroom over gaining more time to work?

    I'm with you in general. I think taking control of each photo individually is the way to go if that image is the only one in question. On the other hand, if I have to hand print 300 photos it's going to take me a few months.

    Use the tools and techniques that work well for you. Just because something works well for someone else doesn't mean it's the best option for your work, and vice versa. Different tools and techniques may be suited better or worse for different projects.

    I use automation where it helps me, and avoid it where it doesn't.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2008
  7. notelliot

    notelliot TPF Noob!

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    Something like WB actions I really disagree with. It would take a lot less time to set the proper WB in-camera, and not have to worry about it again. That's how I would do it, anyway... get the photo as close to your end result in-camera, and there's less post work to do later on.

    I agree with you here, and at the same time, I don't. I just can't do it. BUT I have learned that you can't just say "Nope, ain't gonna do it". If a client likes a previous project and is bent on having theirs the same, I offer a compromise - but even then, it's not going to be the same. And like I said earlier, when I say the same, I mean identical to something I previously did. The client should realize that they also need that individuality rather than, "oh hey, that's cool, I want it too" - it helps their own branding in most cases. If they don't like that, well.. tough. I'm a child that way and it may very well ruin me. ;)
    And for the record, I've never refused work - just to work a certain way. Which was definitely a poor decision, and a mistake that I've learned from.

    Possibly, but if a client comes to me and says "I need x amount of photos by the end of the week" I'd let them know that they're not going to get the same results as I would normally produce. Again, I would would compromise - fewer photos at a much higher standard, rather than a handful of 'okay' photos.

    Luckily, I don't shoot film. I should have mentioned that.


    I'm glad I made this thread. Both of you have made some very good points, which will probably result in a few changes in my workflow. I wasn't necessarily looking for ways to improve it, but there are many ways in which I can.
    I didn't realize how posh I was coming across - I'm really not as elite as this thread probably made me seem. :lol:

    I thank you both - really.


    note: I'm doing a pretty poor job of multi-tasking this morning, so I'm not counting on this reply to make perfect sense.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2008
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I hear this a lot, but I don't think people have really thought it through. You're telling me you can set an in-camera custom wb faster than I can use an eye dropper and/or slider bar in PS? Let's see you set a custom wb in 2 sec. :) I bet you're still scrolling through menus to find the feature, or digging out the gray card.

    My point mentioning film is that automation has been an option in the creation of photographs since the beginning of the 20th century, and plenty of highly accomplished photographers have taken advantage of it in their success.

    There are always compromises that have to be made, and you have made many without thinking much about them. If ultimate quality is the goal then what are you doing shooting digital? Shouldn't you be using an ultra-large format film camera? Roll film is a compromise; it might be better to individually process each exposure rather than 12 or 36 at a time. Using lens hoods often results in better color and contrast. Prime lenses are almost always sharper than zooms, etc... The list can go on and on.

    I'm not advocating blind batch processing. Even if I batch process I still review the results. I also encourage people to study up on the fundamentals of digital processing so that they can write their own actions. I'm amazed at what people will pay for a set of pre-made actions that are all just variations of very basic processing techniques.

    I think it's too much of a generalization to suggest that automation is always a bad thing or results in inferior work. It may be so in your case, but they next guy may be producing spectacular work with the camera on green square, and all the auto-processing turned on. I agree that in many instances more effort usually translates into better results, but there are always exceptions. In the end the photos are going to be judged by how they look as a finished product or piece. No one but a photo geek will care much how they are created.

    We all have ways of doing things that we think are the right way. Usually we feel this way because our experience has shown us they work well for us. The only mistake is in assuming that our techniques will always work just as well for everyone else.
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with what Matt is saying here.

    I did a shoot yesterday. I shot in RAW and didn't give WB a second thought. After uploading the images and tagging the keepers, I applied the same WB and tint settings to the whole batch of image...in just a few seconds. I still went back and looked closely at each one to adjust other things but I didn't worry about WB.

    As for actions...I use them mostly to automate things that I find my self repeating, rather than as a creative crutch. Although, I have one or two 'creative actions' that I use, but I consider them a starting point and tweak the image further to fit my vision for the image I'm working on.
     
  10. notelliot

    notelliot TPF Noob!

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    Shall we dual, good sir :greenpbl:. I've honestly never used a custom WB or preset, I just dial in the degrees kelvin. When you're working with strobes, the WB stays pretty much the same. I usually use ~5200K to start, and adjust if needed when I'm checking histos.
    But, that's just how I like to do it:

    Couldn't agree more. I wasn't trying to sway others into my way of working, I was just wondering how everyone else did.
     
  11. jlykins

    jlykins TPF Noob!

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    Did a rather large wedding recently that I shot over 300 formals. Exact same place, same lighting, just different people and configurations. I created an action to do my levels, and curves. I went through and double checked all the photos before print, but they all turned out great. It saved me hours. I too am in the mindset that you should try to get it right in camera, but at the same time if I do need to adjust WB, I'll use an action. To each his own I guess. do what works for you.
     
  12. sabbath999

    sabbath999 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well, since I only use Photoshop once in a blue moon you can safely assume I don't use actions...

    I personally dislike the look of most of the common "senior portrait" actions anyway... There are a lot of "pros" who sell their "I own 250 actions and can use them" pictures as talent.

    Actions are not talent. Grunge effects are not creativity. The ability to focus a camera and fix the lighting in Photoshop may make a photographer able to sell pictures to seniors, but it doesn't mean they are actually any good.

    I really, REALLY dislike most of the work done by the "pros" around here largely because they take pictures that are schlock and then slap a bunch of actions on them to make them "trendy" and "edgy".

    Then again, I am not trying to make any money off my photography... so there's that.
     

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