Last month my friend and colleague Andrew Wiard attended the annual IPTC (International Press and Telecommunications Council) Metadata Conference in Paris on behalf of The British Press Photographers’ Association. He came back with one of the most sensible ideas that I have ever heard for getting all photographers to add their basic information to all of their pictures – The Four Cs.(more…)
Like most photographers my workflow has developed over the years and there are some bits of it that are more to do with convenience and habit than they are to do with efficiency. Cataloguing my archive is definitely something that I haven’t given enough thought to. Well that’s not entirely true; every time I look at Lightroom one of the things that attracts me to it is the cataloguing function that it brings with it. The idea of having an application that does so much and that is effectively free (as I subscribe to Photoshop CC anyway) is a good one but every time I have given it a go, I have decided that it isn’t as convenient at Media Pro as a catalogue. I have had Media Pro in its various forms for a very long time now and it has served me well. Phase One’s decision to stop supporting it has made me look around for an alternative.
Being a long-time fan of Photo Mechanic I have been holding out and waiting for them to bring out a new version of the application that forms the core of my workflow with a cataloguing function. Camera Bits have been saying for years that “it is coming” but I have decided to look around for other options.
A few months ago I was reading a thread on a Facebook photographers’ group that mentioned NeoFinder. I thought to myself “how come I have never heard of it?” A quick search on the web brought up their site and I realised that this was a newer name for the old CD Finder application that I tried and quite liked half a dozen years or more ago. They offer a free trial and I had some time on my hands and so I downloaded and installed it. I made a quick catalogue from about 20,000 old images and I was shocked by how easy it was to use and how good the searches it allowed were. The question popped into my head “why keep trying to make Media Pro work when this is available?” All of my pictures have their metadata intact and I have tried hard over the years to get my captions and keywords as good as I can make them. Moving from Media Pro to NeoFinder was a doddle. The developers even offer a “sidegrade” discount for people making this transition. (more…)
I was about to sit down and write a blog post about the last four weeks of my life – three and a bit of which were spent underneath Court 14 at Wimbledon – when I realised that I had written the self-same post this time last year. Instead I thought that I’d tackle the subject that causes me the most work and the most angst when I am working as an editor; IPTC captions. For those who don’t know or whose photography doesn’t involve writing them, IPTC (the International Photo Telecommunications Council) captions are the standard for adding the details in words describing the “where, when, who, what and why” of the image almost universally used in our industry. It is a form of metadata added after taking the pictures – although if you are smart and use the right software, quite a bit of it can be drawn automatically from the camera’s own EXIF metadata.
This has already turned into a geek-fest. I apologise to those who want to read about technique and kit but without good metadata, finding the right pictures in amongst tens and hundreds of thousands of others becomes a chore and can become almost impossible. (more…)
Whilst watching television a few days ago there was an interview with James Corden the actor. They had a couple of pictures of him as a younger man and he talked about working with Alan Bennett on The History Boys. That triggered a thought: I’m sure that I photographed the two of them together when they were doing an interview about the play and the film.
I have always catalogued my pictures and so I decided to put my IPTC skills to the test and search my system using the two words ‘Corden’ and ‘Bennett’. My archive is currently run using Phase One Media Pro (the software that produces the lovely contact sheets used on this blog) and so I opened the catalogue window, typed in the two words and waited. I waited for less than two seconds for the first thumbnail to pop up and probably less that five for the search to be completed. I could see four JPEGs and four Canon CR2 files – that’s pretty efficient. The catalogue told me that the JPEGs were on a mounted drive and that the RAW files were on an external drive that wasn’t mounted. One double click later I had opened the chosen JPEG in Photoshop and resized it.
Metadata is magic when it works. It works best when you, as the photographer, are a bit anal about adding captions and keywords to every single picture that you save. I have been pretty anal about captions for as long as I can remember – even adding tiny typed labels to the mounts on 35mm slides and stickers on the backs of prints. It’s easy if you can add them in batches and there’s plenty of software options out there to handle the task. My chosen application for adding metadata is Photo Mechanic – I love it to bits!
So there we go. Mission accomplished. I tried to find a fairly random image and I found it in seconds. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be able do that?
Every software package has its fans, its designers and its detractors. If we all loved the same system then there would be no choice. I wanted to blog about Photo Mechanic and to say how much I like it. That isn’t to say that the others are rubbish – that would childish and purile – just that I find this one application suits me and what I do extremely well. So what is Photo Mechanic? I thought that the description on the company’s own website was hard to beat:
Photo Mechanic is a standalone image browser and workflow accelerator that lets you view your digital photos with convenience and speed. Photo Mechanic displays your “thumbnails” in a familiar “contact sheet” display window. Photo Mechanic helps you find the best photo amongst several similar shots in a preview display that lets you flip through a group of selected photos at high resolution.
Photo Mechanic’s super fast browsing enables you to quickly compare multiple images and select the best ones from a sequence. Its powerful batch processing, full support for image variables, IPTC and Exif metadata, make it the perfect tool for any digital photographer.
Before this becomes an advert and a love-in, there are a few tiny issues with the current (4.6.8) version that I’d love to get sorted. The trouble is that we quickly revert to the “love-in” because the team at Camerabits who design, code and sell Photo Mechanic are second-to-none when it comes to listening to the views, issues and suggestions of their customers. Got a problem? Email Camerabits and nine times out of ten they sort it the same day and the other one out of ten times sees a resolution in the next upgrade.
Anyway, what do I use it for? Photo Mechanic is the package that I use to import RAW images from my memory cards, edit out the bad pictures, IPTC caption, batch rename, edit again and then send the selected RAW files to my RAW converter of choice (which happens to be ACR in Photoshop CS5.5 but that isn’t important right now). Once the files are converted there they are right back in Photo Mechanic where I can save them to a separate folder, create HTML web galleries, burn discs, FTP or email images to clients or pretty much whatever I might need to do with photographs.
I can hear people saying that there are plenty of packages that can do all or some of the above and even ones that remove the need for a separate RAW converter – all true, but that misses the point. I want my workflow to be fast, repeatable, adaptable and generally hassle free. I want to rely on the trackpad or the mouse as little as possible and have a good, strong set of keyboard shortcuts instead. Bingo – that’s what I get from Photo Mechanic.
In an earlier post I talked about how teaching helps you to get your own practice right and this is very true with using software. If I had to work without Photo Mechanic tomorrow I have a good knowledge of Apple’s Aperture and a very good knowledge of Lightroom and I would never try to dissuade anyone from using those packages. Having had to buy and learn other software has made me appreciate what I have.
The Camerabits website says that version 5 of the software is due in the early part of 2012 and that there will be a separate but interconnected cataloguing application available too. That’s two things from my wish list sorted out – all we need now is a version of Photo Mechanic for the Apple iOS and that would be another thing ticked off that list.