07. backing up, selecting, editing and printing your photos PLUS gear advice
So you have been shooting for nearly a week now and this means you must have at least a few dozens of photos sitting somewhere on your card. Today’s lesson is on your next steps and a little bit on some new camera gear should you wish to invest in it.
Backing up your photos and keeping them organised
Ok, I’m going to start with something so unsexy, your eyes will want to skip right ahead, but be strong.
Are you backing up your photos?
If you’re not, I can tell you this with complete certainty – one day, your computer or drive will fail – and that is not a case of if – it’s a ‘when’ – and your best case scenario will be handing over several hundred pounds to get your photos recovered, and your worse case scenario will be simply losing all your data and your photos.
If you’re not doing that already, I highly highly highly recommend creating a backup system that will work for you and building it into your process so that you don’t even think about it. Call it – protecting your children’s digital legacy.
At the very least, you need your photos to go to one more location than they’re now – that could be a separate hard drive or a cloud service. Ideally, you want at least 2 – so perhaps a hard drive or a network drive plus a cloud service?
Ideally, you want something that won’t not be cumbersome to add to / access.
Additional hard drives used to be large, chunky lumps, but these days, they’re hardly bigger than your phone and still can house even a couple Terabytes of data and will still come in under £50 bracket.
Lots of choice out there – WD and Seagate brands are the most prominent in the market, they’re even specialising in this field for years. If you can, spend a little more on one with wireless capability – you’ll find it a lot easier to use it if you don’t have to plug it in, dig for cables etc.
Apart from a physical hard drive, I would highly recommend using a cloud service to store your photos is as well – Google or Dropbox will be free up to to a certain capacity ( you still get A LOT of space), but there are other free and paying services too. Both can be integrated in your computer’s folder structure.
Whatever you choose, whether it’s one or two step backup, there will come a day when your main storage fails and you will thank yourself for thinking ahead.
Selecting your best photos
Ok, so your photos are sitting safely in multiple locations, time to select your best ones. I know for an absolute fact that most parents find throwing away photos a heart wrenchingly impossible task. But we now shoot more and tend to have a ton of very similar looking photos every time so it’s best to get yourself to actually pick your best or you will drown.
With every shoot I do – whether it’s just my kids or clients, I tend to have a main folder and a “best of’ folder within it. Over the years, I have developed a very simple and relatively quick 3 step routine which serves me very well and saves me a headache of wading through 700 similar photos every time. Here is my process:
Step 1: THE CULL
Mercilessly cull all blurry, cut off, finger in the lens, hugely underexposed/overexposed photos. And I mean mercilessly. It may be the cutest smile that my daughter is giving me, but if the photo is blurry and bad, I won’t print it, I won’t post or show it to anyone. It needs to go. Be ruthless. This step should leave you with a bunch of reasonable photos.
Step 2. GROUP AND PICK
If you’re like most parents, you’ll have taken multiple shots in any one shooting situation. So you never have just one photo of your son eating his first ice cream – you’ll have 30. But keeping them all is madness, so take each such situation as a sub-group and then pick the unique photos. If you have 7 nearly identical ones, where the only difference is that one of his eyes is slightly more open than the other, just pick one – the one that is the sharpest, has the best light and the cutest smile. Imagine Granny asks you to print just one – and pick the one you think she’d like the most from each group. Many photo storage solutions will give you a 5* rating system so you can rate your photos that way – don’t bother – waste of time. After all, you’ll only want to see the ones that are best, not the ones that are just not bad enough to cull, but not interesting enough to print for Granny.
Step 3. FINAL CUT AND EDIT
My final step is a second cull to the photos selected in your second step and then edit, but you can just stop at step 2 and copy all those chosen ones into your “best” folder while storing the rest away or archiving them.
Editing your photos
There are so many editing software options out there. The times when it was just the domain of pros are gone and we’re all editing and tweaking our photos. There are lots of mobile editing apps out there – some better, some worse, but in most cases their power is still a bit limited.
If you do actually want to get started editing your photos, and learn how to fix, enhance, boost or get creative with them – we recommend (and teach) Adobe Lightroom. It’s the widest used editing software out there, it’s very powerful and still pretty intuitive to use. It used to come as a standalone software package, but is now only available as subscription from Adobe. At a cost of under £10 a month you can get Lightroom bundled up with full Photoshop ( an even more powerful photo editor) with their Photography Plan subscription.
One word of warning. Adobe brought up an update to this software last year and it now exists in 2 versions Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC. Lightroom CC is aimed at more mobile style of editing, while Classic is more desktop based. We still recommend that if you do buy subscription to Lightroom, that you buy one which included Lightroom Classic CC as the other version does not yet have all the capabilities ( they admit themselves it’s still being developed). The Photography Plan ( 20GB) subscription does include them both. You do have an option of going for larger storage but I wouldn’t recommend it at the start – you won’t know if you’ll need all that storage and you may end up paying for something you don’t fully use. As far as I’m aware, Adobe doesn’t give you problems up-scaling your subscriptions.
Printing your photos
Ok, so you have backed up, selected and edited your photos. What now? You could just post them to your social media but how about getting them printed? I find this step really helps with overcoming kids reluctance to having their photo taken – it makes it tangible, real, not just Mum’s clicking habit.
Go for individual photos or create a photo book, but do make sure you print them. And while Photobox or SnappySnaps may be OK for printing your everyday photos, if you’re after a higher quality print, dscolourlabs.co.uk or loxleycolour.com are two great professional printing services used by lots of photographers. Pricier but worth it.
Extra gear – cameras and lenses
Finally, the questions we get to answer quite a lot from new photographers. Additional / new equipment to choose if you want to upgrade.
The variety in brand, price and levels of cameras out there is enough to give anyone a dizzy spell. But the truth is, you can never tell, just by looking at it, that a photo was taken by a Nikon or Canon, by a pro level camera or a smart mirror less. A good photo is a good photo, and camera is just a tool. Yes, some tools are better than others and some are even excellent but it really all depends on your needs.
The thing to know is that once you have a camera from a particular brand, you will need to get lenses from ( or compatible with) that brand too. You can’t stick a canon lens or a nikon body and vice versa.
Without going into details, here are our recommendations for entry level DSLR cameras:
The lens most DSLRs come with is often referred to as a Kit lens and while it is an upgrade if you had only previously shot with a point and shoot or similar, it does have its limits, especially when it comes to dim light situations. A second lens is the investment most of our students tend to make once they realise what it could do for them.
When you upgrade the lens, pay attention to one key metric – does it come with a wide aperture ( referred to as an F number). The smaller the number, the wider the aperture.
And to translate that into English – with a wider aperture, your lens will be able to create a wider opening for the light to get into the camera which means two things : your camera will perform better in low light ( like, you know, most of the year indoors in England) and you will be able to create that dreamy blurry background pretty effortlessly.
Two choices out there for you:
Here are the lenses I recommend students upgrade to if they want a better performing zoom lens:
If you’re shooting with a different brand, just tag me on the FB group and I’ll recommend alternatives.
As much as you may be thinking – why would I buy a lens with no zoom?, photographers LOVE these – they tend to be sharper and lighter than the zoom lenses and often cheaper too.
While a 50mm prime lens with F1.8 aperture seems to be very popular, we actually recommend going for a 35mm or 30mm prime for crop sensor cameras ( that’s pretty much all cameras below the pro level, so if your camera cost under £1000 when you bought it, it’s most likely a crop). The reason we recommend those is that we found that with a 50mm, students are always struggling for space as they try to shoot because you need to be physically further to get a shot which is anything other than just a tight crop.
Here are our recommendations:
Buying second hand
Nothing wrong with getting your gear second hand – photography gear tends to be very pricy, but if you go second hand, I would always always suggest you buy it from a specialist second hand seller which will service and inspect all the gear coming their way and give you a good length warranty in case you discover any faults with it when it arrives. We recommend MPB, Camera Jungle or the Used section of wexphotovideo.co.uk