On new tech and changing my workflow

For the past couple of months I have been working on changing my image processing workflow for the newspaper.

In an industry that is increasingly demanding faster and faster turnaround for the web, figuring out how to do things faster has become a little obsession of mine.

When I first started shooting photos for the Winnipeg Free Press we were working with film. Each day you would head out with a handful of rolls and shoot your assignments, heading back to the office about two hours before the end of your shift to process. After putting your film into the processor you got a chance to hang out with the other photographers. When the film was ready you used the light table to select the frame you wanted and then scanned it into Photoshop on one of the two Mac machines in the darkroom. If you had to wait for a Mac it just meant you got to chat with the photogs more. We managed to solve most of the worlds problems in those days…

Now we all have DSLRs and laptops. We have cell-card transmission dongles to hook up our laptops to the Internet. We use Photomechanic to batch caption while we ingest images. Now we do these things from inside our new office, the car.

But guess what? This isn’t fast enough! Most of the time it is fine to take that half-hour to download, caption, select and process in Photoshop.

Sometimes, the time between taking the photo and the need to get the photo back to the paper is so short it can affect how much time you spend shooting. Less time shooting can affect the quality of your pics greatly.

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One of the items I have found to be indispensable to my new workflow is the use of an Eye-Fi card. It is an SD memory card that has the ability to send photos over a wifi connection to a laptop or (and here is the very cool news) your iPhone. Yes, that’s right, the iPhone.

Once the image is on the iPhone you can send it immediately via FTP or email using various apps. Recently a few apps have come onto the market that allow you to caption your images properly into the IPTC data fields. This is huge for us because now we can FTP images from the iPhone directly into our archive system.

So, in theory we can shoot a photo send it to the iPhone and transmit it into our network within minutes.

Crazy!

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I tested a form of this workflow around the beginning of September when the paper sent me to Penticton, BC to shoot a hockey tournament Winnipeg Jets’ prospect players were taking part in. In Penticton the first game the Jets prospects played in started at 7:30 pm local time. That’s 9:30 Winnipeg time. My deadline was 10:15 Winnipeg time. The game didn’t actually start on time, I think it started closer to 7:40 pm.

The Eye-Fi card saved my butt. I set up my laptop on a chair beside my shooting position and sent my pics into a folder that I could quickly caption using Photomechanic and FTP with the tap of a couple of keys. I had a half-hour to shoot, download, caption and transmit my photos. It was stressful, but less so knowing that I didn’t have to run up to a media-room during the game.

Another major test of my new workflow occurred the other day when the Winnipeg Jets played their first home game. My assignment was to hang out outside the building and capture the atmosphere. My main job was to file to the web so that we were regularly updated with art prior to the start of the game at 4:00 pm. Fans were dressed up in jerseys, costumes, and carrying signs. I didn’t want to be walking around for hours with my laptop breaking my back, so I decided to take the plunge and leave it at home, relying entirely on my iPhone to process my photos and transmit them to the paper.

Over the course of a few hours I was able to shoot and transmit pics successfully to our system before the game started.

It’s the dawn of a new era for me now that I feel confident using the Eye-Fi card and my iPhone.

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