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NEF Centric Workflows For PC…What’s the Best Strategy?

Discussion in 'Nikon Capture and View NX' started by jgatscher, Aug 14, 2008.

  1. jgatscher

    jgatscher

    19
    Jul 29, 2008
    Nashville
    This question was mentioned in another thread so I thought it might be interesting to get the opinions flying. But before I let loose my thoughts, we need some desired rules to set the stage:

    1.) Capture NX2 is the image editing tool of preference (because we love its results)
    2.) Plus we need an image catalog tool to manage our large image collections. Not a browser-based tool, but a tool that runs on database technology to fully manage our DAM stuff

    Ok with that in mind….here I go with my ramblings….sorry for the lengthy post

    My Current State Workflow:
    NX2 is an exceptional editor and can handle my NEF’s like no other tool. I want to keep my NEF’s as my digital negative and manage only my NEFs to the maximum extent possible. I do not want to manage NEF derivative files (like jpg, tif, and psd) that have been exported out of NX2, but I do make exceptions to this rule when NX2 can’t perform the needed editing. For me this presently occurs about 10% of the time when I use CS2/CS3 for major pixel manipulations like cloning out something or to airbrush in skin treatments for portraits. For printing purposes I either print directly from NX2 or I dump out a tif and print from CS2/CS3 and then simply trash the tif after printing. When I do export tif to work on outside of NX2, I will bring the finished tif back into NX2 and save as a NEF. Then place new NEF into catalog with a minor file name mod.

    To manage my NEF collection I use a DAM catalog. Presently I use Expression Media (formerly iView) as my digital asset management (DAM) catalog tool. I spend most of my time in the catalog. I cull out my shots and assign all of my metadata (keywords, IPTC data and photo ratings) in the catalog then I transfer (tag) the metadata to my NEFs so that the native NEF will always contain any metadata that I have assigned. I also use keywords to help me run batch processing in NX2. For example I have many different NX2 batch formulas that I use depending on if the shoot was portrait studio work or if its landscape work, or outdoors with people in it, etc. I then use the catalog to select the photos that are studio and then click a button to transfer into a unique folder under my directory structure. Do the same for the other photo types. Then I go into NX2 and run multiple batch jobs based on the photo type. Once batch processing is done, I go back into the catalog and select the high quality photos that I want to individually process in NX2 (all NEF edits need to be visible in catalog). I click a button and that sends the NEFs to NX2 for interactive processing (I can only send about 8-12 NEFs at a time). I work on the NEFs by tweaking the existing batch formula to suite my taste. I might save several versions of the NEF ( B&W, tight crop, etc). I continually change my formulas based on what I learn and thus I keep my NEFs evolving as I improve my techniques. I keep all of my NEFs on a server that has RAID backup protection so I really don’t archive off any NEFs in my collection….all of my NEFs are ready to grab and work on in NX2 from multiple PC in my studio. Presently my collection is about 120K NEFs. I use either the catalog to export out client deliverables such as proof jpg’s or NX2, but I don’t manage any of these derivatives…these are temporary and then discarded. The NEFs are my master image files that are managed.

    From my perspective a DAM catalog is necessary to manage large collections. I’m not tied to EM and would gladly switch to another DAM tool if it provides tighter linkage to NX2. The ability to select images within a catalog and then click a button to initiate a NX2 batch operation (like run my portrait_studio.set) without having to be concerned with file path locations would be a big plus.

    Cheers
    Jeff
     
  2. Jeff,

    I'm a little unclear as to whether you are soliciting the NX2-DAM workflow that people use or if you are soliciting recomendations of DAM products that meet your needs with regard to the capability of integrating with NX2.

    If it's the latter, I suggest that you test drive IDimager as it integrates exceptionally well with NX2 and Nikon files. It embeds the XMP data or places it in a sidecar, at your discretion. You can open files in NX2 directly from within IDimager.

    I'm a little confused though about sending multiple files to NX2. Please elaborate on that.
     
  3. jgatscher

    jgatscher

    19
    Jul 29, 2008
    Nashville
    Mike....sorry for the confusion....I'm attempting to stimulate a conversation of how people currently work using a NEF centric flow in conjunction with using NX2 and a DAM tool...

    EM (expression media) will let me select multiple NEFs and then click a button which will then open NX2 (launch NX2) and open up the NEFs within NX2. You can only work on 1 NEF at a time, but it will load up all of the NEFs that I send to it...but like I said I can only load about eight 6Mb NEFs or four 10Mb NEFs before things start to really slow down....so I work on a pic save it and close it, work another save...etc...then go back to EM and either send more NEFs over to NX2 to work or do something else in EM...

    I guess I'm interested in how others manage their NEFs when NX2 is the editing tool....EM is a decent DAM tool but certainly not the only one that is capable for this purpose...
     
  4. woodie

    woodie

    45
    Aug 2, 2008
    Central Ohio
    I currently use iMatch to catalog files. I can select multiple files within iMatch and open with NX2 for editing. iMatch has capabilities far beyond mine for scripting and other functions. However, I find it pretty easy for the functions I want. It reads IPTC and EXIF from NEF files and will create categories including the full heirarchy from keywords at import. I think I paid around $60 US, making it one of the less expensive DAM products.

    Many here at the NikonCafe like IDimager. I've tried both the regular and pro versions and it just doesn't work for me. Right now I'm using Photo Mechanic, iMatch, and NX (trying NX2). If I need capabilities beyond NX, I turn to Corel Paint Shop Pro. My preference would be to stay with Nikon products since I shoot raw and prefer to keep as much information as possible within the image file. Unfortunately, Nikon doesn't offer what I consider a "complete" line of imaging managing products.

    My 2 cents. Of course, your mileage may vary.
     
  5. Jeff,

    I'll get back to you as to whether IDimager can "send" mutliple files to NX2. Considering my experience that NX2 works faster with only one file open at a time, I never tried sending more than one.

    Regarding my overall workflow, take into account that I'm brand new at cataloging. I also have some needs that appear to be a little different than the norm, so I think my workflow is also a little different from the norm. From start to finish, using IDimager (IDI)as my DAM and NX2 as my editor...

    1) IDI: Download the files from the memory card, applying no metadata. Downloading them automatically imports them into the database. (However, IDI can apply all metadata at download, including renaming, versioning [linking two or more files to each other], etc.)

    2) IDI: Cull using its very powerful Light Table. View up to 30 images at a time at 100% viewing. View two images side by side, "freezing" one and quickly progressing through the others to compare them with the "frozen" one. Delete non-keepers instantly during either or both processes.

    3) IDI: First Rating Session still using its Light Table. Viewing each image full-screen, I apply 5 stars to the "probable" keepers. The images with no stars are "maybe" keepers. If there are not many files, I will do this as I cull (see Step #2) rather than as a separate step.

    4) NX2: Open the first 5-star NEF in NX2 from within IDI(done by pressing a shortcut key or clicking on a menu item). Adjust the file and save. Do that repeatedly until all of the 5-star files are edited. Do the same with the no-star files that ultimately become keepers.

    5) IDI: Delete all NEFs that aren't keepers. Batch rename all NEFs according to my naming convention. Batch create and rename a large JPEG for slide shows and viewing full-screen on the monitor. Batch create a small JPEG for posting on the Internet.

    6) IDI: Apply all metadata to the small JPEG (most people will apply it to the NEF, but not I). Version (link) the three files -- the NEF and the two JPEGs -- using the small JPEG as the Main Version (again, most people will use the NEF as the Main Version, but not I). Versioning automatically sends all XMP data to the other two files. From that point forward, no matter where the three files are moved to, they remain linked including if they are placed in separate folders.

    7) Batch apply color labels to the three formats, making it immediately apparent whether a particular file is the NEF, the large JPEG or the small JPEG. Second Rating Session to finalize the star ratings, applying them only to the small JPEG.

    Considerations: It's only in the last few days that I decided to make large JPEGs of each file. I'm strongly considering making that my Main Version, which means that I would also apply my metadata to the large JPEG rather than or in addition to the small JPEG.

    If anyone has any ideas of how to improve my workflow, I'm all eyes and ears.
     
  6. I like IDimager a lot but I'm new to it. It might be helpful knowing what doesn't work for you so I can be on the lookout for any potential pitfalls.
     
  7. jgatscher

    jgatscher

    19
    Jul 29, 2008
    Nashville
    Mike...just curious, but do you batch process your NEFs?

    I've found that if I cull after doing batch processing that I seem to have better luck in weeding out the good from the OK...maybe my in camera settings are too neutral because when I look at them right off the camera, they all look flat...

    Thanks for sharing your flow details...
     
  8. woodie

    woodie

    45
    Aug 2, 2008
    Central Ohio
    First, to answer jgatscher’s question. I selected two images with IDimager and used “Open With” and selected NX2. NX2 opened but neither image opened. Maybe this is a quirk with my system. It looks as if it should be possible to send images directly from IDI to NX for editing, but it isn’t working on my system. I'm in the trial period for IDI so someone with more experience may be able to tell us both how to make this work.

    Mike,
    I’m still in the trial period so I’m as new or newer than you. It’s hard to put my finger on any one thing I don’t like about IDimager. IDI just seems awkward to me. It’s probably a matter of IDI’s way of doing things is not my way. I can’t figure out how to change it and I’m too old to change!

    IDI seems to do a lot on it’s own. It has a list of what I’ll call categories setup automatically: Last Assigned Labels, Catolog Labels, Portfolios, etc. For me, these items I don’t want just add clutter. I don’t want most of these but don’t see how to get rid of them. I want a clean slate that allows me to setup what I want not what a programer thinks I should have.

    I have a hierarchical controlled vocabulary list that I’ve developed over the years using various references and adding personal data: family names for example. I figured out how to import it into IDI but it ends up multiple levels down under Catalog Labels, Keywords, and a couple of other headings. I want it to be the top level and so far haven’t been able to get it there.

    Adding IPTC data to multiple images brings up a screen with seven tabbed screens that need to be accessed to enter data. This just seems cumbersome when other applications have all the info on one screen.

    I haven’t tried importing my current database into IDI but this would be important too. I have 8,000 plus images cataloged, not a lot by some photographers standards but enough to make me hesitate if I need to start from square one with a new application.

    Because I shoot raw and prefer to keep as much information as possible stored within the image file, my preference would be to use Nikon software for image management. Unfortunately, Nikon does not offer a complete digital management package.

    I’m probably not remembering some of the other actions that have tripped me up. And, I haven’t given up on IDimager. I plan to follow the IDI thread and learn. I think IDI will do what I want it’s just a matter of me figuring out the shortcuts and other workflow items to streamline the operation for me. Who knows, I may become a convert.

    Just to quickly let you know where I’m coming from photographically, I started shooting seriously, got my first SLR, in the late 60's. I’ve processed black and white, color (negatives, prints, and transparencies) in my home darkroom. My first image catalog was 3x5 cards. That, of course, meant multiple cards per image, depending upon content. Electronic databases make it a lot easier!
     
  9. Jeff, if you're referring to batch processing the adjustments to my NEFs in NX2, I don't do that for two reasons. The first reason is that batch processing requires saving the NEFs. The time to save the files is immense, unless I can schedule my time to do something else such as read a good magazine or sleep while the batch takes place. The second reason is that I custom process each file individually. (I keep and process no more than 10% of my photos and probably more like 5%.)

    My camera settings are completely neutral, except that I use maxium in-camera sharpening for viewing on the LCD. I reverse that when I post-process.

    However, I save a LOT of time by using presets for sharpening, gaussian blur, and the chroma portion of the LCH editor.

    I used to batch process the resizing and subsequent subtle sharpening to create JPEGs in NX2, but I now do that in IDI. The reason is that IDI is much faster because it is working with the embedded JPEG preview rather than the NEF. Relative to the purposes for which I am using the JPEG, it works fine. Also, when I do that I rename the large JPEGs by simply adding "-L" and changing the extension to uppercase letters. That's not possible in NX2 thanks to a stupid design of the GUI in the filenaming dialog box.
     
  10. That's very helpful, Woodie, mostly because it confirms for me that your issues don't seem to be the sort of things that will affect me.

    I suggest that you post your concerns in the form of questions to Hert at the support forum. As an example, using the Options parameters, you can limit the "last used items" section to zero. There might be other things you can do as well, or maybe not.
     
  11. jgatscher

    jgatscher

    19
    Jul 29, 2008
    Nashville
    Mike....yes the batch process takes hours to run so I typically run 200-300 pics overnight...and do my culling the next day...I will only individually process a small hadfull of pics (maybe 10%)

    Good idea about using max sharpening in camera...I will try that
     
  12. That really makes a lot of sense. I can envision batch processing the global adjustments, taking care to batch the landscapes differently than the portraits, as an example. The next morning all of the global adjustment steps are already in the file, ready for the parameters to be tweaked and for the local adjustments and cropping to be added. I suppose you could even include sharpening in the batch, knowing that the order would have to be changed if local adjustments are needed.

    I just might try doing that when I've got more than 20 or 30 files to cull. I would still do all of the culling using my DAM software. I don't think it matters whether the first round of culling is done before or after the batch processing takes place.
     
  13. Woodie, I'm curious how you use iMatch vs PhotoMechanic and why you need both. I'm currently using PM as my browser, and metadata input app and it is pretty powerful and very fast. Like you said, Nikon is missing pieces.

    Question to anyone: do Expression Media and IDimager run on OS X? I know iView used to, but I'm not clear if they've continued to do so. (No, I won't leave the Mac for any software:wink:) 

    Regards,
    Peter G.
     
  14. IDimager is a Windows-only product, which is true of most if not all DAM products.
     
  15. Just a n00b's $.02 but I, too, find IDImager a bit awkward. I've been trying the free version, comparing it to View NX, Adobe Bridge CS3, Adobe Elements 5, Photo Mechanic and looking at all of them, if only very viscerally. These threads are very helpful to me (Thanks again Mike !!) but like many software programs, they seem to get more and more complex with each iteration/ version and lose much of their elegant simplicity. That is one of the things about CNX, in my view, that makes it so compelling.... elegant simplicity. That's what I'm looking for in a cataloging program. IMatch is something new so I will have a look at that as well. Again, my thanks to you all for explaining your processes in such detail.
     
  16. woodie

    woodie

    45
    Aug 2, 2008
    Central Ohio
    I'm now using PhotoMechanic to ingest, cull, keyword images. In other words all the "upfront" stuff. I was using ViewNX but it doesn't handle keywords very well. Enter a keyword and View, Capture NX also, puts it in a mystery file somewhere in the order of entry. No way to sort or edit the keywords and no real hierarchy. I'm new to PhotoMechanic but for me it's faster and easier to do the initial image work than other products. I've used iMatch for several years for cataloging. I could use it for ingesting images, keywording etc. but PhotoMechanic just seems a lot quicker for those functions. IMatch is much more powerful than I need but it's relatively inexpensive as DAM programs go. Also, I prefer to keep as much data as possible within the image file rather than in sidecar files or exclusively in an app's database. Both PM and iMatch work well with NEF files.

    Isn't Expression Media the "after Micro$oft" version of IView? If so it worked on Macs before. I'm not sure about now. I know the choices for Mac can sometimes be limited but try finding DAM software for Linux! There are a few apps that offer some basic functions but they don't compare to the Mac and Windows offerings. The Gimp does offer some powerful editing for multiple platforms but that's about it. Sorry for drifting off topic. Hope I answered your PM/iMatch question.
     
  17. Hold on Mike, that's truly not the case at all.
    If the Big five DAM products are:
    • Aperture: Mac Only
    • Acdsee: Windows only
    • Lightroom: Mac and Windows
    • Lightzone: Mac and Windows and Linux
    • Expression Media: Mac and Windows (I just checked the website). Note: Microsoft produces a version of Office for Mac as well which is outstanding.

    ...then, if you tally that up, it's Mac 4, Windows 4. (if those are truly the top 5, I'm only guessing based on my experience of reading photo forums and magazines)

    If you then add IDimager as one of the "top 6" (I have no idea how popular it is) then its Mac 4, Windows 5. So the DAM world is hardly a Windows only world. Given the huge gains Mac is making in market share, it's likely that more and more products will offer Mac options.

    Regards,
    Peter G.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2008
  18. Hey, Lightzone has a Linux version! I didn't know that until now but it's supposed to be a pretty cool product: http://www.lightcrafts.com/store/index.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2008
  19. Thanks for providing that list, Peter. To add more information gathered from Andy's DAMRoundup.com, which uses a definition of "DAM" that encompasses more products than I think most people would include in the category...

    Photology: Windows only
    IMatch: Windows only
    Photo Mechanic: Mac and Windows
    Extensis Portfolio: Mac and Windows
    IDimager: Windows only
     
  20. I agree.... DAMroundup includes Photomechanic as a DAM and even Camerabits (the makers of Photomechanic) wouldn't do that. They have indicated a future release of a new DAM product . DAMRoundup certainly has it's work cut out, given that he's just starting to review that rather long list. But I think I'd keep the definition of a Digital Asset Management systems more limited to the big ones with the big feature sets.

    There will always be a bunch of small players and niche players but the 800lb gorilla in the DAM room has got to be Lightroom 2 at this point (given it runs on Windows + Mac and it's from Adobe). And now it supports "paint brush" adjustments which puts it ahead of most the others. See this demo http://www.workshopsondemand.com/ps_lightroom/lrb2_p02/. I doubt it's possible to get installed base numbers of the different players like you can in some industrys/products.

    Quite a big and complex topic!

    Regards,
    Peter G.




    To me a DAM needs to support things like non-destructive "albums" where a single album can be in multiple albums
     
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