flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Flickr, Rebooted

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.

Final Feelings

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:

Flickr Reboot Category

And here’s the link to my new Flickr albums page:

My Flickr Albums

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…. 

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atlanta botanical garden · flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Atlanta Botanical Garden Views (Set 3 of 3)

The gallery below contains the third of three sets of photos from the Atlanta Botanical Garden that I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO.

The first set in this series is here: Atlanta Botanical Garden Views (Set 1 of 3); and the second set is here: Atlanta Botanical Garden Views (Set 2 of 3).

Other photos from the Garden are here: Atlanta Botanical Garden category. The work I’ve been doing on my photography archives is documented here: Flickr Reboot.

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

atlanta botanical garden · flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Atlanta Botanical Garden Views (Set 2 of 3)

The gallery below contains the second of three sets of photos from the Atlanta Botanical Garden that I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO.

The first set in this series is here: Atlanta Botanical Garden Views (Set 1 of 3).

Other photos from the Garden are here: Atlanta Botanical Garden category. The work I’ve been doing to jazz-up my photography archives is documented here: Flickr Reboot.

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

atlanta botanical garden · flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Atlanta Botanical Garden Views (Set 1 of 3)

Hello! Below is a gallery containing the first of three sets of photos from the Atlanta Botanical Garden that I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO.

Other photos from the Garden are here: Atlanta Botanical Garden category. The work I’ve been doing to reprocess millions and billions of photos (possible exaggeration!) from my photography archives is documented here: Flickr Reboot.

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

atlanta botanical garden · flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Orchids Collection (Set 4 of 4)

The gallery below contains the fourth (and final!) set of orchid photos I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO to develop and enhance originals taken at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

I’ve been documenting the project and my workflow using this category: Flickr Reboot.

The previous sets of orchid photos for this project are here:

Orchids Collection (Set 1 of 4)

Orchids Collection (Set 2 of 4)

Orchids Collection (Set 3 of 4)

So what’s next?

I figured out a slightly awkward way to extract file names from Flickr albums, put them in a document to create a text list, then copy and paste the list into Lightroom to filter my photo library. By doing that, I found all 1200 original images and have them organized in Lightroom Collections which I’m consolidating by subject, culling to remove images that I don’t want to rework, and adding some newer photos I took but never processed or posted anywhere. To keep the project interesting, I think I’ll take on subjects of a different kind: photos of Oakland Cemetery (because of the art and architecture of the site, the research I’ve done on its history, and the stories I can tell) or Zoo Atlanta (because … animals!), so I’m going to jazz up a couple dozen examples from these two subjects then decide which one to dive into. Stay Tuned!

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Orchids Collection (Set 3 of 4)

The gallery below contains the third set of orchid photos I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO to develop and enhance originals taken at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

I’ve been documenting the project and my workflow using this category: Flickr Reboot.

The first set of orchid photos for this project is here: Orchids Collection (Set 1 of 4). The second set is here: Orchids Collection (Set 2 of 4).

Many of the photos in this set (and the fourth and final set I’ll post tomorrow) were taken in lower lighting than those in the previous two sets. I was able to compensate for the darker conditions (and additional grain in the photos) by softening and darkening the background with contrast filters in the Nik Collection Color Efex Pro tool, then increasing center brightness to emphasize the flowers as focal points. As a last step, I used Sharpener Pro — selecting specific sections of each flower using control points available in all the Nik tools — to accentuate detail.

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

atlanta botanical garden · flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Orchids Collection (Set 2 of 4)

The gallery below contains the second set of orchid photos I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO to develop and enhance originals taken at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

I’ve been documenting the project and my workflow using this category: Flickr Reboot.

The previous set of orchid photos for this project is here: Orchids Collection (Set 1 of 4).

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

atlanta botanical garden · flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Orchids Collection (Set 1 of 4)

Hello! Below is a gallery containing the first set of orchid photos I’ve completed for my Flickr Reboot project  — using Lightroom and the Nik Collection by DxO to develop and enhance originals taken at the Atlanta Botanical Garden over several years. I’m holding off on making a decision about reloading the photos to Flickr or hosting them somewhere else until I’ve finished several sets of different subjects, so I thought I would post what I’ve done so far here: the first 20 — of 80 — today and the rest throughout the week in three more blog posts.

The workflow to get through the all 80 images remained similar to what I described in this post: Before and After: Flickr Reboot – Orchids, using mostly the same filters from the Nik Collection, though varying settings on individual filters depending on the color and focus characteristics of the original images. There are certainly some cases where I’m “pushing the pixels” quite a bit, especially since the original photos were taken as jpeg images rather than RAW, and sometimes in low light conditions. Still … I’m pretty satisfied with the results, and I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed jazzing them up.

I’ve added a Flickr Reboot category to this site, updated past posts about the project with this category, and will use it as I continue to work through the 1200 images. Progress is being made!

Select the first image to begin a slideshow …. thanks!

flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Before and After: Flickr Reboot – Orchids

For my Flickr Reboot project, I decided to start by working on photos I’d taken of orchids at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, thinking that the variety of colors, focal lengths, and scenes in these photos would help me explore the capabilities in Lightroom as well as the tools and filters available in the Nik Collection by DxO.

I first cropped and straightened the images in Lightroom, then removed any distracting spots as well as any artifacts created by dust on the camera sensor or lens. If I thought the image would be improved by darkening or softening its background elements, I used graduated or radial filters to make those alterations by decreasing exposure, clarity, and sharpness. For some of the images, I increased saturation on or shifted some of the colors (usually those in the blue, purple, and magenta ranges) just a bit, since I knew I might apply additional color, saturation, or contrast adjustments using the Nik Collection filters. Given that the focus and light characteristics of all the images was similar, I typically applied the same amount of sharpening and noise reduction to each one before moving on to continue processing with the Nik Collection.

The Collection includes a tool called DFine 2 that I used on each photo to further reduce noise, which the tool accomplishes by taking a few seconds to analyze the image and apply an automatic noise reduction. To this point in the workflow, everything was pretty straightforward and once the noise reduction was applied, I had a good idea whether to keep working on an image or move on to a different one. With several hundred to choose from, it seemed smart to be strict about culling those I thought might yield unsatisfactory results. Obviously, the rejects aren’t included in this blog post … 🙂 … although it might be fun to bring up a few examples of the “fails” and write about those too.

I spent most of my time adjusting the images using the filters in Color Efex Pro. It was a little intimidating at first to determine which ones would be most useful, since some of the filters are more aligned with technical improvements and others introduce creative effects. All of this is very subjective, of course, especially when there are so many choices and you can readily convert any photo to something completely different by selecting different filters. But since my goal was to improve the photos rather than significantly change their appearance — and after processing some and starting over several times — I ended out using certain filters frequently and in a similar sequence, like this:

White Neutralizer: This filter removed color cast from the photos, brightening and clarifying the whites and altering some color characteristics. Though I used it on every one, its effects are very evident on the first four, where white in the blooms is much more like “pure white” in the after-image. The filter also shifted purple to light blue, and the extent of that color change was easily adjusted with the filter’s settings.

Brilliance/Warmth: I used this filter to adjust color saturation and emphasize contrasts between colors, mostly to the foreground elements of individual images.

Darken/Lighten Center: This filter was a lot of fun. Its settings allowed me to brighten specific areas in the images while simultaneously darkening other areas. The filter lets you set your own image center with a point-and-click and define the size of the area to be brightened, so you can stab at an area of the image then decide how broadly you want to apply the effect. This one is most evident in the second to last photo, where I wanted to re-balance the lighting over the cluster of orchid blooms.

Tonal Contrast: While this wasn’t necessarily the only filter I used to alter contrast, I found that it did a good job of enhancing the distinction between foreground and background elements. Very evident in the last photo (though applicable to all), the effect of the filter was to increase the appearance of depth by further darkening and softening backgrounds beyond Lightroom graduated filters, giving the foreground elements more color, clarity, and presence.

As a last step, I ran all of the images through Nik’s Output Sharpener, mainly to apply sharpening, structural detail, or additional focus to specific parts of each image rather than the whole. I learned pretty quickly that I had to be careful about applying too much sharpening with this tool, and that it was most appropriate (since I had already globally sharpened the image in Lightroom) for selective sharpening.

I’ve added a “Nik Collection” category to this site; my previous posts exploring the software are here.

Over the weekend, I’ll be attending two webinars presented by DxO Labs: one providing an overview of all the tools in the Collection, and one about advanced features. I will take notes!

Select the first image below to slideshow through the before and after versions; thanks for reading and taking a look!

flickr reboot · lightroom · nik collection · photography

Before and After: Flickr Reboot Edition

I have about 1200 photos on Flickr, distributed in 32 albums, that have been on the site for between five and ten years. Given all the things I’ve been learning about Lightroom, workflows, and the Nik Collection over the past few months, I look at them and … and, what? It’s not that I don’t like them now (although that’s true in some cases) and I’m not overly concerned about flaws – technical or otherwise – in the photos, but I see them differently because I feel like they could be so much better. I’ve had this idea stuck in my head over the past few days that I might like to pull them all down, re-process each one, and either replace them on Flickr or put them somewhere else. I no longer have any of the original adjustments I made, but do have all the images, so would be “starting from scratch” with each one.

When I learned about the photography site SmugMug buying Flickr earlier this year, I had no idea what SmugMug was, other than that I had heard of it occasionally but hadn’t looked into it. That acquisition got my attention, so I learned a little more about SmugMug and attended several webinars a few months ago, tutorials about how to set up a site on SmugMug, customize it, and showcase photography. Like Flickr, SmugMug features photographers at all levels of experience, and though I don’t yet have an account, I’ve explored it enough to feel like it’s similar to Flickr from a customer profile perspective, in terms of photo-sharing and engagement, and in terms of content, with a wide variety of advanced capabilities you can use in the future. There were two things I learned that I liked a lot: the way you can organize photos and treat them as public or private galleries; and the ability to create and customize your own site by building it largely from drag-and-drop content blocks (conceptually similar to the WordPress Gutenberg editor that will become available later this year). It’s fair to say that those webinars influenced me to think about my older work on Flickr and what, if anything, I might want to do with it.

In my former life as an IT Business Analyst, I was often involved in working with teams to define new projects, estimate effort, and develop timelines, so I tend to think of activities like this in project management terms. If I play around with the Flickr reboot idea from that point of view, it looks something like this:

  • Starting with 1200 photos to rework, my first assumption is that I’ll apply the 80/20 rule and eliminate 20% of the images for one reason or another, most likely for insufficient detail, composition I don’t like, or lack of focus that can’t be corrected. So I’ll end out with 960 photos to rework rather than 1200.
  • I estimate I’ll spend less than an hour on each one, with some taking just a few minutes and some taking longer because I decide to do something more creative with certain ones. So I’ll estimate 30 minutes per photo, or 480 hours to get through them all.
  • There’s overhead to consider, mostly around finding the photos in Lightroom, setting up collections or sets to keep the work organized, and figuring out the best way to store them before uploading. I’ll add 10% for overhead to the 480 hours, which gets me to 528 hours.
  • Since I haven’t decided whether to put them back on Flickr or do something else, let’s add another 10% for uploading somewhere, so now we’re at 580 hours. Because I’m not sure if 50-60 hours is enough time to upload 960 photos, I’ll include some buffer at the end for this variable.
  • I’ll add another 10% for things I’ll need to learn along the way – including the probability that I would move the photos to SmugMug and have to learn how to set up a site – and a little bit of buffer, so now we’re at 638 hours. Round numbers are nice, so let’s go with 640 hours.
  • Ah, well, now we’ve got ourselves a 640-hour project. If I spent the equivalent of five “workdays” – 40 hours a week – on this, it would take four months from start-to-finish. But that’s not realistic, mostly because I wouldn’t want to do it. Let’s say instead that I’ll spend no more than two days a week, or 16 hours, which makes the duration 40 weeks, or 10 months … meaning that if I started now, I wouldn’t finish until sometime in the middle of 2019. Yikes!

    The value of doing this – at least, the way I think about it – is the learning experience itself: committing to re-processing nearly a thousand photos with content that I’m familiar with that has personal meaning to me surely will help me grow my skills. I would also likely tell a few blog-post stories about them along the way – especially about those I took when I was working on getting my history degree – and would want to write about what I learn as the work progresses.

    There is no real downside, other than the time it would take that couldn’t be used for something else – like taking new photos! One thing I needed to consider was whether or not I’d find that the results were worth the time I invested, so I’ve experimented with ten of the photos that are on Flickr now to see what I might come up with. The experiment results are shown below – before and after versions of the ten I selected. The only thing I did to both the before and after versions was apply the same cropping so they’re easier to compare. I don’t necessarily think the after versions are final, but I was really surprised to see what a big difference I could make with a few adjustments to each photo.

    Thanks for reading and taking a look … and Stay Tuned!