Due to the length of this entry, I've broken it down into three parts. In Part 1 will deal with importing images into Aperture. I will address setting up a Project, adding preset Metadata and sorting / ranking images.
In Part 2, I will discuss some of the basic steps I use in processing or adjusting images intended for distribution. This will address Aperture's adjustment panel and using the basic adjustment tools.
In the final installment, Part 3, I will discuss applying keywords and the logical sequence I use to create a consistent and efficient process. To wrap things up, we'll talk about exporting images.
To begin (and finish) Part 3, let's fast forward to the end of the weekend. I've shot approximately 5000 images. I've rejected roughly half of them either due to being complete misses or redundant to other images. In racing you might shoot for 10 laps or so at one location. Hence, you can end up with a lot of similar shots of the same car. Lime Rock is a very short track, so the cars were coming by quite often.
Of the 2500 images I've kept, I will end up with 600-750 with a 3 star rank. This was accomplished by sorting and processing any time I had free-time to commit to editing. That's usually between session, after dinner, before bed, etc. From Lime Rock we drove to Bradley International Saturday after the race and flew out Sunday morning at 6AM. Editing continued on the flight between Harftord and Atlanta, in the Delta's Crown Room at Atlanta airport and on the flight between Atlanta and Fort Myers.
Tip: To keep the screen manageable, you can use Aperture's file filter (next to the sort dialogue in the grid view browser panel) to view files by import session. Aperture saves each memory card download by sequence and date. So you can look at one particular card or shooting session at a time. I like this feature as it will allow me to only have 500 or so thumbnails on the screen at once. It's a little less overwhelming.It's also a simple way to bookmark where you've left off when you take a break or get pulled away.
I spent another two or three hours Sunday afternoon finalizing the sort, rank and processing edits. The final step was to filter for all 3-star images and revisit each one. For this I, make sure I have the images sorted by Image Date, then scale the thumbnails up to their largest size. Now I can look at them in the sequence they were shot and can see shots that are similar to each other. Though they might be of a different car, they're going to be a similar shot from the same corner or section of the track. For my final edit, I want to select the best one or two.
To do this, I'll compare two or three at once. If I highlight four images and hit the F key for full window, all four images will share the full screen. I will give them a closer look and decide which ones will get a 5 star rank. I'll repeat this step until I'm down to about 150 images with 5 star rankings. What I'm looking for is quality and a variety of cars while considering the location and style of the shot. Of course there will be head shots, pit shots and atmosphere images included too.
Next, I need to do the ugly job of adding key words. I'd love to tell you Aperture makes this easy. It doesn't. I does make it less ugly... but it's tedious...time-consuming and necessary. You have to become disciplined and do this. The sooner you do it, the easier it will be.
I've found a keyword method that works for racing events. Hopefully, you can think through my method and come up with a work-around for your type of shooting.
Using a thumbnail grid view, sorted to display all of my 3-star images, I will start with the first image and select ALL images that feature the same car. Once I have them all selected, I will hit Shift + Command + B - this will bring up the Metadata Batch Change dialogue box. I am presented with a window for Caption and Keywords and the option to Append or Replace. Remember when I imported my files? Remember I added American Le Mans and Lime Rock Park as keywords? Well, since I don't want to lose those, I choose the option to Append.
I can now type in keywords that apply to the set of images I have selected and they will be applied to them all. Typically, I am going to add the team name, the car type, the sponsor and the class they were running in.
I will repeat those steps until I've added keywords to all the car images. While making those selections, I might have included some head shots of drivers or pit stop shots... even pre-race photos. So, I'll go back through and select images that have a common denominator... pit stops, pre-race etc. and add the keyword; pit stop, pre-race. Or maybe there are atmosphere shots that include flags, or pretty grid girls... maybe VIPs. Again, you can just go in and append those few images individually. Like I said, Aperture does make it a bit easier if you plan ahead and think it through.
Finally, I will sort/filter for each team I need to upload galleries for. I'll sort that team, pick out 25-30 images and using an Export filter in Aperture and use the appropriate plug-in to transmit the images pre-sized. Aperture's export feature allows me to pick a size, add a watermark and transmit all in one step. The size images are never created or stored on your computer. They're generated, transmitted and gone.
Lastly, I will take the 150 5-star images and using the Aperture to Photoshelter plug-in transmit full size versions to my e-commerce site at Photoshelter.
When that is complete, I'll transfer a copy of the Lime Rock Project to the 2009 Motorsports library that resides on an external drive on my desktop and I'm done.
I can't stress enough the importance of downloading, editing and processing your images as soon as you can. For me, getting started during the event also serves as a reference to how the weekend is going. I can see what I've shot, how I'm shooting... or even how the light looks in that part of the country. It's a huge advantage we have when shooting digital. We have instant feedback to our work. We can see where we are and how we're doing... and we can adjust as necessary. Don't give up that advantage.
Learn your software. Knowing the ins-and-outs of the software gives you leverage. For me, Aperture is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I'm not looking all over my hard drive trying to find a specific image... opening folders or playing hide and go-seek. I'm not opening a program to import another to sort and yet another to process. I'm managing my files from cradle to grave (so-to-speak.)
One of the key factors incorporated into Aperture is choice of method. Nearly everything you do in Aperture can be done two or three different ways. Accessing a tool or changing the screen, rearranging your desktop, searching for a set of images.... you name it, there are several ways to accomplish it. This where YOU take control. Learn these methods properly and you now have the control to design your workflow and use Aperture the way you want it to work. I like to think of it as a language. When you become fluent in that language, you are now in control. Learn the program and design a workflow that works the way you work.... not the other way around.
Developing a good workflow and good workflow habits is key to your efficiency. I'm not encouraging you to rush things.. on the contrary. A good workflow and good habits allow you the luxury of looking through all of your images and giving each proper consideration.
I have a hunch we'll be seeing a new version of Aperture in the coming months. Be sure and check back here. I'll continually report on how my workflow is evolving and make you aware of any changes in the pipeline.
If you haven't seen it, here's a brief slideshow from the shoot at Lime Rock.