A few days ago, I deleted 1,200 old photos from Flickr – as the last step in the Flickr Reboot project that I started back in July. I had originally thought I would reprocess and recreate 800 to 1,000 images, but ended out at 2,000 — building new Flickr albums that included many of the originals plus about 1,000 photos from my archives, to which I added photos taken this year that fit well in the albums.
I had expected this project to continue through the middle of 2019, but a couple of discoveries moved it along at a faster pace than I anticipated, enabling me to pour on some speed:
First, I figured out that by sorting the photos by capture time in Lightroom, I could often copy adjustments from one photo to a group where the original exposure characteristics were similar, then tweak settings on individual photos in that group, rather than starting from scratch. There were even some settings – sharpness and noise reduction, for example – that I was able to apply across dozens of photos simultaneously and achieve the results I was looking for. With those basic settings applied and tweaked, I could then focus on changes that required more time – such as spot removal, healing, and color adjustments like those I described here: Before and After: Exposing Hidden Autumn.
Second, I got in the habit of creating recipes in Nik Collection Color Efex – the Nik Collection tool I spent the most time with – for photos of similar subject matter, so I could then work on as many as twenty photos as a batch. Like copying settings in Lightroom, these recipes enabled me to apply changes more quickly to a group of photos, then focus on image-specific changes like adjusting colors, lighting, contrast, and any additional sharpening or detail enhancements. While I didn’t keep track of the time I spent overall, there were days I was able to get through as many as 100 photos and make a serious dent in producing results. It’s been a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of learning, but it’s also been the most fun I’ve had at a computer in ages.
Fun Finding Photos
When taking on a project like this, I always try to find ways to streamline parts of it, to “automate” some tasks to help eliminate the cognitive overload associated with task-starting and task-switching. The question I try to answer is this: which steps can I reduce to checklist items and just repeat them every time, without having to think about much more than execution. Other than the two time-savers I described above – that were only partly repeatable – organizing the work with a series of identical steps helped push things along.
A big hurdle I faced was this: how do I find the images from Flickr in my Lightroom catalog of 15,000 photos? I needed the original image files for this project, since the Flickr versions were smaller in size and had been created with Lightroom adjustments no longer in my catalog.
At first, I was simply displaying the Flickr albums in a browser, then typing the file names in Lightroom to search for the photos … very time consuming and, honestly, so mind-numbing I felt like I might abandon the whole project. But I figured out how to do this instead: I displayed the album on Flickr, copied the entire web page, then pasted the whole page into Microsoft Excel as plain text. By manipulating the rows of data a bit, I could extract the file names and create a string of names that I could then paste into Lightroom’s search box. Once I found the photos using this trick, I created a collection in Lightroom containing the photos from each Flickr album. This worked for all but one album – where I had renamed the photos before posting them on Flickr – and worked well enough that I took a couple weeks to find all the photos and put them in corresponding collections in Lightroom before moving forward with the project. The collections looked like this:
With the collections created, I went through all my photos and added related images to each one, images that I had never done anything with but were taken more recently and were of the same subjects. That’s how I ended out with 1,000 newer photos to process and upload to Flickr. I hadn’t intended to do that when defining the project, but I kept remembering that I had more recent images of some of the subjects; and it proved its worth to me in terms of building albums with a mix of older and newer photos in each one.
Fun Fixing Photos
And then … I started working through the photos, one collection at a time, repeating the steps for 2,000 iterations. It went something like this:
- I cropped each photo to a 16:9 ratio. I had decided early on that I would do this because I now tend to take photographs with the camera set to 16:9, wanted to create a consistent look that would blend well with future photos, and found that using that crop factor typically created an image with better focus on the subject without losing key detail.
- I processed each photo in Lightroom, straightening some images, adjusting exposure, enhancing colors, applying sharpening and a wee bit of noise reduction, and using spot removal or healing to eliminate distracting elements.
- Once I was satisfied with the results in Lightroom, I moved on to the Nik Collection, where I first ran each photo through Dfine to remove any additional noise. The value of this step proved itself very quickly, especially with closeup and macro photos, where Dfine smoothed the appearance of soft backgrounds and improved the image for the next step.
- I used Color Efex Pro to make substantial changes to each image, though generally those enhancements affected color saturation and intensity, contrast, and detail. For many images, I used one of the filters that lets you brighten the primary subject and darken the background to direct the viewers eye to the subject and also create a high-definition or 3D look for some of the photos.
- The last step! Almost! I ran every photo through Nik’s Output Sharpener to put some subtle sharpening on each one or to enhance detail on parts of a subject. One of Nik’s powerful features – control points, available in all the tools – lets you choose a circular area of the image by color and apply effects very selectively – enabling, for example, increased sharpness on a portion of the main subject without adding sharpening throughout the entire image.
With Lightroom, of course, you export photos after developing them, so I created a folder structure on my computer that mirrored the collections I had built inside the application:
Because I was using some of the photos in my blog posts, and would ultimately upload them to Flickr, I exported the photos as 920 pixels on the short edge — one third of the maximum pixel dimensions for a full-sized image coming out of my camera — rather than full size. This resizing produced satisfactory detail for blog posts and Flickr without the additional storage space required for full size. I have an Office 365 subscription, and I exported the photos to OneDrive so I’d have an instant backup, and so that I could easily review the photos using a mobile device (an iPad), which in some cases helped me find flaws I just didn’t see on the computer monitor.
Fun Flinging Photos onto Flickr
I didn’t upload any of the photos to Flickr until I had completed them all. Before uploading, I changed the existing Flickr photos to private so they weren’t publicly visible and renamed all the old albums to keep them separate from the new ones. I hadn’t uploaded to Flickr in a long time and my ancient memories of the experience weren’t pleasant – but it worked better than I remembered, and over a couple of days loaded all the photos, put them in new albums (named to match my Lightroom collections and computer/OneDrive folders), and created three collections to group the albums.
So that, as they say, is that! With Flickr rebooted and the old photos deleted, I plan to continue using it and adding new photos – some featured here, some not – even if I build a portfolio site at some point. You will see more references and links to Flickr here also – there are still stories and histories to be told – and I like the slideshow/carousel function WordPress provides and will continue using that to display photos with my blog posts.
After spending so much time over the past six months experimenting with Lightroom and with the Nik Collection, here’s one thing I learned: what we call “post-processing” is both an extension of working with the camera and simultaneously a way of learning more about the camera and how to use it better – not just technically but also aesthetically. The continuum from taking a picture to working with the image is perhaps best understood from this starting point: There is no such thing as an unprocessed photo, and there never has been.
Even if you skip back over the most recent technological history of photography-as-digital to the film era – not so long ago! – it’s apparent that every photographer had plenty of choices at their disposal that would affect their photographic output, everything from choices of cameras and lenses to ISO ratings for films to variations in color and saturation produced by films from different manufacturers. Even the type of paper chosen when you developed film affected the final look of the images. In the digital era, it’s no coincidence that imaging software uses terms in their workflows that hark back to the previous eras’ choices, including the emulation of different types of film that used to be available, or terms like dodge and burn, or the imitation of techniques a photographer might use to introduce things like blur or motion into otherwise static images. The darkroom — along with many other technical and physical characteristics of photography — has been encapsulated in tools like Lightroom.
As important to me, though, has been the learning associated with developing workflows that blend technology with creativity, learning that I can expand on as I continue to use these tools. Back in July when I started this project, I was intimidated by all the choices available; I no longer feel intimidated and have a much better sense of which options to choose to obtain certain results. All of this also satisfies, for me, a restless learning and technological itch that I’ve always felt but can now use to produce images that let me play with cameras, lenses, composition, color, and light. And play, you know, is The Thing.
To wrap up….
Here’s a link to all my previous blog posts about the project:
And here’s the link to my new Flickr albums page:
If you are on Flickr and follow me, I will greatly appreciate that and will follow you back.
Thanks for reading! Longest blog-post ever!
Bye for now….
December is here! To celebrate, I assembled two galleries of some of my favorite photographs of Christmas decorations.
The second gallery below contains photos of the decorations around my house.
The first gallery contains photos I took at the home of some friends, who have more Holiday Whatnots than most Christmas stores.
I’m working on some new photos that I’ll be posting throughout the month; these are photos from my archives — reimagined for my Flickr Reboot project. Like the decorations, the photos have held up well and benefitted greatly from a bit of time spent enhancing their content, lights, and colors.
Select any image to begin a slideshow; thanks for taking a look!
“Photographs led me to cameras, and over the years the camera became an object I could think with. I could think about light and shadow, about composing the frame, and about what it meant to live in a certain way, to make decisions at many levels, and to document the world.” — from the essay “Salvaged Photographs” by Glorianna Davenport in Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, edited by Sherry Turkle
One of the reasons I’ve always liked photography – and why I’m often drawn to closeup or macro photography – is that viewing the world through a camera creates an opportunity to focus on sights that might otherwise remain unseen. Looking through the camera restricts my view to what fits within the frame, letting distractions fall away, and that remains true if I zoom in or out, or pan horizontally or vertically: what I see through the lens becomes what I choose to see at that moment, and most of what’s outside the frame slides from awareness as I make those choices. I might add to or subtract from that view by manipulating the camera or the lens; but when I take the photo, I’ve selected something that’s captured my interest, or struck me as aesthetically pleasing, or has frozen an instant of time that seems to matter subjectively.
After taking the shots, what I do with them now includes a set of additional (and for me, recently learned) choices that give me the chance to further refine the images toward this deceptively simple idea: this is what I saw and this is what I want to show you.
I assembled the gallery of images below from those I’ve been working on for my Flickr Reboot project; they were all taken at Point Au Roche Interpretive Center or near the city of Plattsburgh in northern New York. While I’ve been posting quite a few similar images (see Autumn Close Up: A Photo Gallery), I set these aside for a couple of reasons. First, as I was reviewing my archived photos, I had flagged every one of these (and quite a few others) to be deleted. Second, I didn’t actually delete any of them and decided to take another look once I got more experience with the tools I was learning, to see what I might do with them even though I originally thought they should be deleted. Other than being on the chopping block for a while, these images had something else in common: they were all hidden bits of autumn, subjects tucked away behind tree trunks, barely visible among shrubs, or nearly buried under fallen logs. Because they were all so hidden – and it was an overcast day as well – the exposures were pretty poor and most of the original images were very dark. I remember crawling on the ground at times to get some of these shots and was disappointed that they ended out being so badly exposed, but I kept them anyway from some vague notion that one day I would figure out what, if anything, to do with them.
With the help of new skills, I wanted to find out if I could recover each of these well enough to create an acceptable image, and simultaneously learn more about how to think about image post-processing. It can be quite a challenge to convey the thought process involved in work like this – words fail and the images help resolve the ambiguity – yet here are a few things, technically and otherwise, that I think I’ve learned:
The first gallery below includes my final versions of these seventeen images. The second gallery shows the before and after versions of each one, where hopefully you can see by comparison how I’ve used some of the ideas described above.
More soon; thanks for reading and taking a look!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted a series of photos that I called “Single Frames: Autumn Close Up” — individual fall images paired with some reasonably relevant quotations, including a few “gothic” quotes as the days got shorter and darker and closed in on Halloween. I had originally picked out several dozen photos for this series, but I decided to stop at twenty and use the remaining photos a little differently in an upcoming blog post.
I’m working on that new post now; it will include additional autumn photos and some notes on reprocessing those photos with Lightroom and the Nik Collection. It will take me a few days to wrap that post up and prep the photos that go with it, so I thought in the meantime I’d assemble the “Single Frames: Autumn Close Up” images in a single gallery, which you can see below. I had started including all the quotes with the photos, but couldn’t find a good way to do that without creating a 20-foot long blog post.
If you’d like to see the original photos in this series with their quotations, I’ve tagged all twenty posts so they can be viewed together, here: Single Frames: Autumn Close Up.
They look kinda nice as a group like this; select the first image in the gallery to begin a slideshow.
Thanks for reading and taking a look!
“Most of the plants have gone to seed; berries are ripe; autumn tints begin to kindle and burn over meadow and grove, and a soft mellow haze in the morning sunbeams heralds the approach of Indian summer.”
“The grand color glow — the autumnal jubilee of ripe leaves — was past prime, but, freshened by the rain, was still making a fine show….”
“The forests we so admired in summer seem still more beautiful and sublime in this mellow autumn light.”
“The fir woods are delightful sauntering-grounds at any time of year, but most so in autumn. Then the noble trees are hushed in the hazy light, and drip with balsam; the cones are ripe, and the seeds, with their ample purple wings, mottle the air like flocks of butterflies; while deer feeding in the flowery openings between the groves, and birds and squirrels in the branches, make a pleasant stir which enriches the deep, brooding calm of the wilderness, and gives a peculiar impressiveness to every tree.”
From the (very dark, extra-super-creepy, not for the squeamish, perfectly chilling for the day before Halloween but best not read at night) novel Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates:
“My name is Q__ P__ & I am thirty-one years old, three months. Height five feet ten, weight one hundred forty-seven pounds…. Distinguishing features: none….”
“I see my probation officer Mr. T__ alternate Thursdays 10 A.M., downtown Mt. Vernon. My therapist Dr. E__ Mondays 4 P.M., University Medical Center. Group therapy with Dr. B__ is Tuesdays 7 P.M. I am not doing well, I think…. I know they are writing reports. But I am not allowed to see. If one of these was a woman I would do better, I feel. They believe you, they are not always watching you. EYE CONTACT HAS BEEN MY DOWNFALL….”
“Mon. 4:00 P.M.-4:50 P.M. Mt. Vernon Medical Center on the other side of the campus, in good weather I walk & in bad weather drive…. Dr. E__ says ‘Well, Quentin. This brisk autumn air is a tonic isn’t it. After our long hot summer.’ There is a double meaning in this I know…. [It] is awkward in Dr. E__’s office. I sit across from his desk & stare at the floor. Or at my hands I have scrubbed. RAISINEYES’ wristwatch on my left arm & its bronze face secret where I watch the tiny numerals flashing bronze. & around my right wrist my solitary memento of SQUIRREL. Dr. E__ asks do I have any dreams to speak of today. There is a flurry of leaves against the window behind him & the sky is darkening so early….”