If you are serious about photography, it doesn't stop after taking the photos. Remember the time (or not) when photographs needed to be developed in a dark room? Many steps were involved in getting a photo to its final stage. Even if you didn't develop your own photos, it was always a couple of days waiting before picking them up at the photo store and opening the envelope to check if all photo prints looked ok.
With digital photography, the dark room is replaced by a computer, software, monitor and optional a printer. It's up to you to put the red bulb in that room and the smell of chemicals.
You could be happy with the photos straight out of the camera, but because I shoot RAW, they also need to be processed or better enhanced. Below are the steps I take to get the maximum quality out of my photos.
For me, it's already the standard procedure: Once I arrived at home after a shoot, the first thing I do is a complete backup of all those images! Data loss is a very traumatic experience that, unfortunately, many of us go through at some point in our lives.
I save all photos to a Synology DS920+ NAS or Network Attached Storage. The NAS is equipped with 4 Western Digital Red Pro hard drives and has a capacity of 16 TerraBytes. Once saved to the NAS, it automatically creates a double back up to two external Western Digital SSD drives. I recommend always doing a triple backup (or more) if something goes wrong with the NAS or one of the SSD drives. As an extra safety measure, the NAS can do an automatic backup to a Cloud service if needed. Centralizing your data is crucial in case of a computer failure and makes duplication of data easy.
There is no doubt that you need a fast computer to process all those images, especially when you shoot RAW like me. A desktop or laptop can do the work, there is no big difference anymore in processing power. With the ever-increasing megapixel camera market, files are getting larger in size. 50Mb per photo is not exceptional anymore these days.
A fast computer is nice, but what about the display? After all, you will change some critical settings of the photo like colour, white balance, sharpness etc., visually. I'm using a hardware colour-calibrated display, the PhotoVue BenQ SW271. This is a 27" 4k display with build-in colour calibration ready for the future.
Often neglected by photographers, even by professionals, every display needs to be calibrated by a specially made tool for this. The Datacolor SpyderX Pro Display Calibrator does that work for me. This tool measures the colours on the screen and, at the same time, the lighting conditions in the room and creates a calibrated profile to use on my computer. This is an essential part before starting the photos' post-processing because if the display is not calibrated the right way, you will never get the optimal results on every display in the world!
Since early 2020 I'm also using the Loupedeck CT to change all those settings in many software applications. It's a relief to focus on the photo while physically turning the knobs instead of moving all those sliders with the mouse or keyboard.
For local adjustments, it's always easier to paint with a pen than with a mouse. The Wacom tablets are already more than 10 years the perfect tool for this.
To process all those RAW photos, most photographers use Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, but since I'm using a Fujifilm camera, I switched to Capture One. In my opinion (and I'm not the only one), Capture One handles the Fujifilm RAW files in a better way than Adobe Lightroom.
Besides a RAW editor, I use a couple of other applications to enhance my photos. Although Adobe Lightroom or Capture One handles noise, I prefer Topaz DeNoise AI. This application is superior in removing unwanted noise in photos.
If I need some special filters or add some extra punch to an image, I use DxO Nik Collection.
In the end, I save my photos with JPEGmini Pro. This reduces the file size of the photo without visible quality loss.
After the backup is done, I start with Asset Management, eliminating (deleting) the bad ones and keeping the good ones. Sorting by subject and every photo that qualifies for publishing gets a tag or keyword; in that way, it's easier to find a particular photo during post-processing. The whole process can be tedious and sometimes boring, especially when you took hundreds or thousands of photos during a trip. But believe me, a well-organized library will be a joy to use afterwards.
It can be a bit overwhelming, for starters, when you first open a RAW editor; with all those settings, you can easily lose control. Fortunately, there are a lot of video tutorials and courses online. For example, this is the Capture One Pro YouTube Channel.
I always shoot RAW instead of JPEG, which means that I can manipulate the photos in extreme ways, but most of the time, I stick with the basic corrections like white-balance, exposure, colour, sharpness and noise reduction.
The final version of my photos will be published on this website, and their file size needs to be as small as possible, otherwise, it will take a visitor with a slow Internet connection ages to load them. As I mentioned before, I use JPEGmini Pro to optimize the file size. Another step in the final touch is to add a watermark; this is unfortunately still necessary (I sometimes see my photos being used for commercial purposes!). Although it's easy for an experienced Photoshop user to remove those watermarks, it's an extra warning not to use my photos without permission.
If you print them on paper, you don't need to worry about file sizes, and more attention goes out to colours (CYMK) and resolution. A good quality print needs to have a minimum of 300dpi. I'm using the Epson ET-7750 A3 Printer for this.
With this workflow, I hope I gave you some ideas on how to start with wildlife & nature photography. I must admit that I have an extreme workflow for a hobby that is getting out of hand. But yes, you can start with a simple camera system as long as you have fun doing it!
If you have any questions about my workflow please use my contact page, I will be happy to answer!