“The Post-Production 101”
Manage the Data Logistics with No Trouble
At least since you read the last article you’re aware of the possibility to possess different versions of images on your computers. Keeping a good storing structure and avoiding the embarrassment of publishing unedited photo material that would meet neither your quality standards nor brand guidelines is, therefore, a science unto itself. Generally, the photographer is willing to license the images they’re sending to you as previews with a clear conscience, yet by sending them over to you they entrust you with the providence to handle them decently. But how do you obtain the previews and finals in the first place? In the following, we’ll see various options of data transfers from up and downloads to delivery by couriers and we’ll screen how you can make selections or backups from there. None of the providers below paid me to mention their services – I’m simply gathering a number of platforms that I use myself and would approve to be convenient.
Ways of receiving your photo material
Other than in analogue times when contact sheets and larger prints were produced in the laboratory and mailed to the client, nowadays, there are many different ways of sending digital images. This also results in other selective approaches as opposed to grabbing a red felt tip and scribbling on the prints. Two main methods are to be mentioned here, as already touched on in the last tip: 1. the option to list the file names in your communication channels with the photographer (or retoucher) and 2. the creation of folders containing the selected previews. In both cases, leaving the file names unchanged is essential because it will help the photographer to find the associated raw files. Additionally, it can be useful to repeat the names in the process of correction loops, e.g. when you have another adjustment to request like so: “I still don’t like the shape of the dress in IMG3067 – could you make it straighter, please?”. I take that the solution with folders is a little bit more comfortable for the majority, though, it requires a basis of knowledge about the platforms that are in use to exchange the files. Therefore, some of the trendiest providers and prospects are listed below followed by a short description, pros, and cons. Notwithstanding which option is the right for you, the maxim is always: keep the previews and interim results safe and separate from the final files and never use unedited material. When you receive the final images, save them in several different locations to have a backup and be on the safe side.
Even though preview files are usually broken down into low resolutions and, therefore, smaller files, the quantity of images usually results in a sizeable folder that can’t realistically be sent through e-mail (supposed that no one wants to flood your e-mail inbox or vice versa). The finals, on the other hand, are reasonably large due to their high resolution and dimensions. For the purpose of transferring many small or a few large files more elegantly and potentially to several recipients platforms like wetransfer and transferxl are on the market. Both are, to a degree, free and easy to use, and if their limits of 2 GB resp. 5 GB are exceeded by an upload this can be worked around by simply splitting the material into several deliveries. Once someone entered the recipient’s, their own e-mail address, and uploaded files through such a platform (which, by the way, can take a couple of minutes up to a few hours depending on the total file size) both will get a notification by e-mail containing a link that allows them to download the media or share it with others. Here, again, completing the download after clicking the link requires some time which is co-dependant on the respective internet’s speed. Uploads are currently available for a duration of 7 days until the link expires with both providers. It’s, therefore, wise to hit the download button shortly after you receive the automatic e-mail by wetransfer/transferxl or a download link in a personalised e-mail by the photographer. In particular, the latter will be informed about your download and if you’re not doing it early enough, they’ll certainly reach out to urge you a little bit. If you’ve never heard of this sort of file transfer and you’re worried about any security gaps you can put your mind at rest: wetransfer and transferxl both encrypt the data. In the pro plans of both, it’s furthermore, possible to protect the upload with a password which is not the only advantage, of course, if you decide to pay a monthly fee. While the free plan doesn’t require registering to an own account at all, with the pro version the photographer or you can personalise the download page and above all send more files that are available for a longer time. This way, the history timeline showing your previous transfers on transferxl certainly becomes more valuable. Alternatively, the default wetransfer page features interesting artists and their projects (if not, rarely, advertising) to sweeten your wait for the files to download. If the results are disappointing, by chance, you might have found a new photographer through this already.
File hosting services
There are plenty of hosting services for files where remote storage is made possible online most of which offer free and pro plans with different sizes of memory space. Hence, file hosting services that are often recognised by their names containing e.g. “cloud”, “box”, or “drive” can be useful tools to share preview photos and processed images without the necessity to repeatedly upload new data and create extra links. The folder structure can be edited online accompanied by further useful functions. For this sort of service including interaction as opposed to review only, registration is needed, and additionally installing the apps can be a more handy option than just accessing the location through your browser. The overall advantage of these platforms is an easy synchronisation between all devices as well as the possibility to precisely control access to any file. This makes it possible to collaborate on content through one platform and even comment, pin, or mark single images if these functions are unlocked by the owner of the files. Apart from that, when it comes to Dropbox you can restore deleted images for 30 days (or 180 in higher pro versions) in case someone accidentally deleted anything important. Google Drive, on the other hand, works with a bin like a personal computer, however, this means that the storage space isn’t cleared by just deleting a file – it has to be removed twice which gives you the chance to double-check. Speaking of memory, if you have a Google account there is Google Drive already waiting for you to use 15 GB freely – it’s generally listed in the “Google-apps”. The free Dropbox storage amounts to just 2 GB, however, it is the more powerful solution if you want to comment on stored files and have the application on your desktop working like a regular folder. Both services have in common that uploads can also just be viewed through a link by non-users which can represent full access to the file including downloads, or a password-protected version. Personalised access is granted through e-mail invitations which makes the files invisible for unauthorised eyes. Needless to say, both services offer more storage for a chargeable monthly or yearly subscription. Self-evidently, the two giants above are not the only providers for file hosting – there are many more to mention, like e.g. Nextcloud. All these platforms, as long as there is enough storage space on both user sides, save the parties the trouble of frequently pushing around data, especially, when there are more decision-makers on the client-side or a creative team on the other. Within the folder, everyone involved can have a say in the final selection by placing images in sub-folders, rating, or commenting on them – all with the option but not the need to download them beforehand and without lamenting any loss in the end. A similar principle is used in the tool presented in the next paragraph – in case you’re not yet convinced by any of the above platforms.
Image review & selection tools
The gallery PicDrop is a tool for photographers and their clients which, depending on the former’s settings, allows the client to review and select images, comment, download, and access them easily without logging in. For this, the photographer provides a folder through a secure link that is optionally password-protected. As soon as you edit anything with this tool the photographer receives a notification about it so they can react quickly. PicDrop has, not very surprisingly, a free and a pro plan, however, the viewer doesn’t need to pay anything. In the free version, photographers can create up to three galleries with any sort of file format. For more storage space and the possibility to archive images there, the pro version must be bought. Although the method of PicDrop is the safest for the photographer, given that they can switch off the download option, it’s not the majority who uses it around fashion photographers – at least I haven’t met many advocates from this field. The reason certainly is the larger storage space that other platforms offer for free while being almost equally convenient. After all, if you’re lucky to work with someone using PicDrop or other tools like it this might be a contained item on your invoice turning this into an option with costs for yourself, albeit this can’t be very much extra charge.
Hard drives delivered by couriers
An allegedly more old-school way of sending and receiving files is to have them saved to a physical data storage device and dropped off at your office personally, by a courier, or by postal shipping. If you’re not a fan of using the world wide web or e-mailing this might be the solution for you, however, in one way or another you’ll have to communicate your selection to the photographer eventually. If not through a written (digital) message, you can, of course, create a selection folder on this or another hard drive again and return it to them by post or courier.
Apart from the above reasons why this option could be chosen, and upon prior consultation, it can be indeed the fastest way to get your previews, namely when you receive them at the shoot. Especially, when you produce inside and the digital operator is given enough space to take care of the incoming photos right away they can quickly export a folder full of low-resolution images and save them to your own medium or a new one which you requested beforehand. This way, also the raw files can be backed up and apart in space from the originals for safety reasons. A fellow photographer once put it like this: „If it turns out my house burns down tomorrow and all files are lost there’s still an extra set of images at the client’s place“. First and foremost, I would highly recommend this option as long as it is clear to all parties that the backup raws may not be used and edited on the client’s side unless this was the deal. Eventually, the license agreement applies, defining the exact amount of images and their editors.
A contra against the use of hard drives for transfers is their unfortunate fragility, mostly when they suffer from a shock or other damage, however, some devices can be deficient from the start without you knowing it. To prevent external damage, the most resistant versions which you’ve probably seen at least once at a shoot are the orange gummed hard drives by LaCie, or of course, SSDs. Eventually, as long as there are other backups saved on one or two mediums, you’re going to be good to go home with your own copy or risk having it brought to you by third parties who don’t know the enormous value of their delivery.
Take advantage without losing the plot
As you can see, our interconnected lives are giving rise to many possibilities of exchanging images and feedback, although it can surely be confusing to face new platforms every few projects. All of these apps and services, of course, are just trying to ease your professional life and give you more and more possibilities of handling your data. Some of them may be more practical for sending and receiving previews while others are better for the delivery of larger final photos. Hence, being familiar with all of the above, at least a little bit, enables you to deal with various situations in post-production when it comes to taking care of the files. The good news is that most platforms are built as manageable so that you can drag and drop files with your mouse when you want to send them. The other key skill you need to have is knowing how to copy + paste files from one location to another path on your computer. If you haven’t memorised the shortcuts for this yet, here’s the secret: it’s Command + C (copy) and Command + V on Apple computers, or Ctrl + C (copy) and Ctrl + V on Windows devices. Now, hopefully, there are no more obstacles blocking you from selecting pictures, giving retouch instructions, and finally enjoying your final results.
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