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What Is the Most Efficient Way to Do an Intensive Amount of Photoshop Work?

Published: 11/04/2018
By: larry

Mike in Florida says:

My question concerns post-processing automation. The process I use is flash plus ambient based, and the results are very good. As I have refined my process, I have done quite a bit of automation within Photoshop. But there are repetitive actions that I do for every job that I would really like to automate but have been unable to. I wind up stacking photos either in Lightroom or Bridge and then sending to Photoshop to blend layers, color correct, etc.

I would like to automate the task of sending the stacked photos to Photoshop to open in layers but Lightroom cannot automate. But the Lightroom flow is great. When I send the group to Photoshop from Lightroom, it opens in Photoshop with the name of the first photo in the stack, then however many other photos are stacked open as new layers. When I am done editing, I close and save in Photoshop and a single composite photo is re-imported into Lightroom with "-edit" tagged onto the name. The new photo even has the same color labels as the original.

If I use Bridge, I can automate the process of sending all stacks to Photoshop using a script I found online, but the script I use opens a new untitled file and opens each photo as layers in that unnamed file. When I am done editing, I have to "save as," give it a file name, give it a file type, and then save. Then I have to then import the new photos.

The time I save by automating the Open is more than displaced by the extra steps I have to take saving. I am sure that I am not the only one who has been down this path. Has anyone else come up with a good solution?

I would offer two suggestions:

  1. If you are doing a bunch of automated tasks in Photoshop and you are running all of your files through the Photoshop actions, it may be more efficient to initiate the PS actions in Photoshop. You can open all the files within Photoshop. See this video.
  2. It also sounds like you may want to start thinking about outsourcing your post-processing. I have talked to many real estate photographers in the past few years who started outsourcing their post-processing to get their evenings back and they all claim that it is well worthwhile. Once they find a post-processor and train them to do their post-processing, they get their life back.

Any other suggestions for Mike?

7 comments on “What Is the Most Efficient Way to Do an Intensive Amount of Photoshop Work?”

  1. Agreed with Larry's second note, outsourcing. Find a good freelancer to develop a consistent collaboration with, or a reputable company, there are several good companies referenced on this website. Outsourcing might cost you 20% of your photo shoot revenue, but you can 1099 for the services and use the extra time to bring in more work and enjoy a stronger work/life balance.

  2. It is possible to automate the "Open as Layers in Photoshop" command if you are on a Mac. Apple Menu > System Preferences... > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts, then click on the + icon, select Lightroom from the drop-down box (you may need to select "Other..." first), then type in under the Menu Title field "Open as Layers in Photoshop..." exactly, but without the quotes. Assign a keyboard shortcut in the next box, then click Add.

    You should then be able to use that keyboard shortcut to open as layers in PS.

  3. I know people advocate the use of stacking, but frankly, it slows everything up considerably - because it assumes you will be importing from LR to PS, which is the bottleneck. Instead, what I do is, prepare all the files in LR, and then export them as max quality jpgs to a folder. Your not really losing any discernible quality by doing that, and I only open them one more time in PS, so the subsequent degradation to re-save is negligible if even. In any case, I tried stacking and all it did was suck up unnecessary time. The files are headed to MLS, not an art museum. 🙂

    I then just drag the flashed shot from the folder into PS, and drag the ambient shot over it (flashed ceiling repair, add lamp ambience) , mask and paint it to taste, drag the window pull pic over and mask and paint to taste, flatten, D&B, sharpen, done. Dragging and Dropping from a folder is instantaneous, and if you make sure you can see the whole pic in PS, when you drag the files on, PS will automatically center them over the first layer.

    But yeah, if you doing a high volume, importing to PS, or Open as Layers In PS, is dreadfully slow. It will double or triple your edit time just waiting for the files to move between applications.

    I have only 3 actions that I need to speed up and complete a set:
    1- Create a Softlight Layer for D&B
    2- Align all layers, because it's practically impossible to keep the window pull shot aligned while shooting
    3- Finally, a "resize" action, because the align layers action usually leaves white around the border, so my resize is set to zoom the image around 10 pixels all the way around the border. I can hit that action as many times as necessary to get rid of the white.

    Finally, I just hit save - and then delete the extra "helper" files from that shot. When I'm done, all that's left in the folder are the edited shots. I then just import them once more into LR (only takes seconds), and export them in the size MLS requires, and/or whatever additional sizes the realtor may want for their website. The whole process is about a minute start to finish. I literally go through 300-500 files each evening, and since I shoot 4 frames per image, that's 75-150 finished images. 2.5 - 4hrs, which means I'm a freaking workaholic.

    I've tried to farm them out... but there is a very heavy reliance on Tonemapping automatic processing, which adds a grunge factor that I don't care for, and seems to result in color & contrast contamination. And Tonemapping doesn't really work that well mixing flashed and ambient frames, especially because I often purposely have obviously patches of hard flashing in the first frame. I don't use ceiling flash as fill, I use it as main, like a giant softbox.

  4. Hi Kelvin
    Ref your 3. above could you give me a pointer to what menus you had your action work with.
    I attempted same sort of thing with >EDIT>CONTENT SCALE AWARE and changed the Width and Height from 100% to 100.5% and that seemed to do the trick ok too.
    Its def something that would save lots of time for me if its in an action.
    All the best Dave

  5. Don't be afraid to set up an action with too many features. You can always delete duplicated layers and adjustment layers that you don't use.

    My first goal is to have an image done in camera or so close that it only takes a few tweaks in LR to finish it off. Beyond those, I have a couple of approaches that I use to capture the scene so I have the frames I need to do the post processing I know I can do (flambient, separate window pull, reflection correction, adding artificial lighting back in or over exposing part of a frame to have more light in a far room without having to use another flash). Some situations I am not going to have a workflow worked out for and on those I try to talk myself through what my problems are going to be and what I need to do on site to have something I can use in post. The last is thankfully getting rarer. My exposure approach is getting to be moderately formulaic, but I'm very happy with that since it lets me worry more about the composition.

    If you are having to invent a new workflow for every job or needing several new actions consistently every month, something isn't right. You may want to step back and see if there something you can do to improve your original captures by using different settings, adjusting your composition based on the lighting, adding/subtracting/modifying light differently, etc.

  6. @Brandon V - I have been wondering if there was a way to make that LR to PS action a shortcut for years, thanks! I have found actions in PS to be huge time savers. Also you can turn your actions window into 'Button Mode' which is much easier to work with. I found Andrew Pece's 'One Light Real Estate Photography' tutorial a good resource to learn more about this, they are a little rough but gets the point across. Particularly helpful are the actions to bring up a brush with exact settings you want (black/white, size, opacity, flow), great if you work on a Wacom tablet. Also the new TK Actions V6 extension windows are great for all kinds of things, a bit of a learning curve but very powerful and efficient.

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