With the advent of digital photography we have gained enormous freedoms and abilities to do things that anyone familiar with film and chemical darkrooms would have found almost impossible to imagine even after a long night in the pub.

It is funny to think that there will probably be many people reading this who have never loaded a roll of film into a camera, have never actually concerned themselves with what sort of film to buy, what ASA or ISO actually means and so on. Who have never had to drop film off for developing and had that agonising wait for a week until it gets back and you can eagerly pore over the prints to see if you in fact shot what you thought you shot!

So many things will slip by the wayside now: an old trick of mine, for example, when shooting a lot of film was to tear the first half inch or so of the film leader off, instantly identifying which rolls had been used and which had not to avoid mixups. I guess such tricks will fade into history now.

Having arrived home, you have the matter of what to do with all the images that you have shot. Obviously, the first job is to load them onto a computer. So which computer should you use? Mac is the tool of choice for the imaging pro and the graphics pro. They make life so much more logical and easy for you. Once you have got under the hood of a Mac, a Windows machine just seems so rough.

OK, got the computer. Now what software should you use? Well, Apple people have the excellent Aperture and that is my preference. Adobe’s Lightroom works on either platform and is very similar. Both allow you to build libraries of your images and to carry out 90% of the adjustments you will usually want to make to exposure, sharpening, image repair and so on.

RAW files can be processed by both programs, removing the need for a separate step to do that. RAW files contain all the data from the camera sensor, unprocessed. I recommend using that format (perhaps with JPEG as well if you need it) so that you have maximum flexibility. Mac’s OSX operating system will even display RAW files with no additional software.

The next thing you need is some form of backup storage so that the irreplaceable work and memories you have created do not vanish when your hard drive packs up or some other misfortune occurs. The easiest and most flexible I have found is the Drobo – a fully automated plug and go system that uses standard HDD’s. It will take up to four in the standard unit but there are bigger units that will exceed 16Tb if needed!

Many photographers are members of the Photoshop Appreciation Society. I am not. I am a professional photographer who does not even own a copy of Photoshop. There. I said it. My reasoning is simple: I find it very counter-intuitive to use, with possibly the worst User Interface of any software written in the last 10 years. Compare PS to any software written by, say, Apple and you will immediately see what I mean. PS is also far too complex for 90% of photographic requirements.

My alternative to PS is Nik Software’s excellent suite of Aperture plug-ins. These various programs take the image from Aperture and allow you to (depending on the one you are using) remove noise, selectively add light, colour, structure and so on, add a range of adjustable filter effects such as Pro Contrast, Graduated ND, Soft Focus and so on and finally to sharpen the image in quite sophisticated ways. Of course sometimes I need a proper application of PS to remove someone from a shot or otherwise manipulate it so I outsource that to a specialist so I can use my time elsewhere.

So our workflow is shoot, download into new projects in Aperture, back up the images to 3 internal drives in a Mac Pro workstation and to the Drobo external drive, keyword and rate images in Aperture, process the resulting selects in Aperture (and with Nik plug-ins) and then export to disk/client/printer/web.

Keep it simple, use software and hardware that fits the way you want to work – do not change your ways to fit the software/hardware designer’s plan! Also, never be afraid to be different in your choices: creativity is individual and so is the method you use to produce it.

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