My Digital Photography Workflow: In-Camera

After reading the Digital Photography School's article on RAW Workflow: A Pro's Approach, I thought I would offer up the same insights (though I'm not a pro). Everybody has a workflow, even if you don't realize it. Most of us are habitual creatures, so we do things the same way each time until we make an effort to do them differently. As you become more experienced with photography, your workflow habits will likely need to change and adapt.

I'm sharing my personal workflow habits, so don't take this as the Gospel. Every one of you as a photographer has different needs, so take what you want from this and incorporate it into your own workflow. I'll break this into three main sections: In-Camera, Organization, and Post-Processing. I originally wrote it as a single post, but it's pretty long. So this post will focus on the in-camera workflow this time.

Before I even turn the camera on, there are several things I make sure that I have in place. At a minimum, I always carry an extra (charged) battery and a lens cleaning cloth with me — even if I'm not going far from home. These are things you can throw in your pocket, so why not just do it? I'll also throw in my extra memory card if I'm planning on being out for more than a couple of hours. I check that my lens is clean, so I'm not fussing with it while I'm out. I usually pack light, but sometimes I'll bring my backpack with all my junk — which isn't very often. I usually just end up bringing an extra lens or two (they have their own little soft cases with a shoulder strap) and possibly a monopod or tripod depending on where I'm going.

Before I walk out the door, I'll turn the camera on just to check the battery level and make sure my memory card doesn't have a bunch of pictures on it already. One time, I actually went out without checking my battery and it turned out that it was pretty much dead. I took three shots and the camera died. I thought “good thing I've got my spare battery”, only to find out that I didn't charge it. So I got a total of four shots on that trip. Since then, I've become much more religious about charging batteries as soon as they come out of the camera. Before turning the camera back off, I also quickly check the menu to verify that the camera is still set to RAW+JPEG at the highest quality and size. The whole RAW vs. JPEG thing is a heated discussion among photographers, so I stay out of it by shooting both (actually, you'll find out why I do this in the next two posts).

Now that all systems are go, it's time to go take some photos. While I'm out shooting, I try to keep the camera settings relevant to what I'm doing, making use of the various priority and preset modes on the camera. After I take a photo of a new scene, I'll quickly check the histogram to make sure I'm not clipping any highlights or shadows. If I need to, I'll adjust the exposure accordingly and take more shots. This is important to check, just in case your exposure compensation was inadvertently set to the extremes and it results in a whole set of unusable photos (personal experience speaking). There's also the issue of deleting photos from your camera. I try not to delete much of anything. I will delete something if it's so completely wrong and I'm 100% sure that I'll just delete the photo later. But usually I don't bother.

That's pretty much it for my in-camera stuff. The next post will look at organization workflow, or how I keep track of everything once it's on the computer.

What are your in-camera workflow habits?

Share your insights with the other readers. Everybody does things differently, and there's no right or wrong. I'd love to pick up a few pointers from you guys.