Editing on the road
First written for & published in Practical Photoshop –
One of the upsides of being a photographer is the travelling, however, one of the downsides of being a photographer is the travelling.
In today’s fast past, mobile world the photographer has to be able to work and travel at the same time.
The most sensible way to edit, is to do so in a comfortable environment using large colour calibrated monitors, a decent computer with a good deal of horsepower, a nice size Wacom tablet and some decent music to help you zone in to the project on hand. (Spotify is my recommendation here but Grooveshark is pretty good too.) However, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time to get home to turn projects around. Sometimes we miss the luxury of the editing suite.
I do try my best to only edit in one place, but of not, here are some tips about working outdoors or outside the normal set up.
Firstly, get is as right as you can in camera. There is simply no way to work faster by having less to do. This is pure fact. Doing less takes less time than doing more.
Secondly, there is just no way round not having enough horsepower to open your photos. On a recent trip, I took my Toshiba Satellite. It is touch scree, works as a tablet, light, 8gig of ram, Crucial/Lexar 960GB M500 SSD and it is quite amazing. If you want a fast computer, a SSD is going to help no end. My next vital piece of kit was the latest Wacom Tablet. The Intuos 5. We loved this tablet as being wireless and it can be used as a touch pad. It was a great way to speed up the work flow and enable a similar editing feel as back at home. The Toshiba is uses USB3 so moving files about using the Lexar Hub is super fast and easy. I think of it this way, the battle is always against battery power when on the road. being able to move files and back up faster frees up battery power for more useful work. Please note the above and below – there is a Sony Vaio and not the Toshiba. I should really take more BTS shots these days..
All this gear does carry a price tag, and looking after all this gear is paramount. The last thing you need is to be carrying about broken gear, that is dead weight and prevents you from working. Peli make some great cases for laptops and cameras. The extra weight over-ways the comfort of knowing the gear is safe at all times. The industry has trusted Peli for a long time and it is s worth while investment to protecting your gear also. Peli do come with a price tag, but it is about investing your money in good products sometimes. if you are looking for a cheaper solution, Thule are pretty cool too.
Do take note of your screen brightness. Personally turn off any auto screen brightness adjustments. The Toshiba is very good at making tiny brightness adjustments on it’s own using some kinda of auto brightness magic. Great for reading Facebook, bad for editing. Make sure it is off and you are in control of what you are seeing. If you can, keep a screen calibrator with you and check from time to time. Laptop screens are not the best when it comes to longevity, so do bear in mind that the colour will fade in time and watch for spots of screen damage due to wear and tear. Having a good laptop case will help, and laying a lens cloth across your keyboard will help too. A good tip is to not use the screen as much as you can to help pro-long the life of the screen. Try and use external screens as much as you can when at home.
Super tip – I carry a HDMI cable to hook up to TV’s as I go. Most hotel rooms have TV’s you can use if you have a cable you can have use the screen to watch Netflix !
Avoiding direct sunlight and trying to find cool shady areas can be very important. There are a range of laptop hoods and protectors. Some laptop cases have built in hoods. When looking for a hood. Make sure you have get one that lets the air get to the computer to prevent overheating. Remember batteries don’t like the cold, so keep a spare battery in a stable temperature just in-case. Think Tank make a great screen protector.
Colour accuracy is always going to be the biggest problem when on the road. Using the colour picker and using pre-defined colours that you know look great is always going to be a winner. When editing on the road, stick to what is safe and simple. Using the histograms and sticking to known colours using the Panotone range is a great idea as you know what the outcome will be. As an example, I have some PSD files that are on Dropbox and always local to me. I can use these images as base images to check for tonal matches. If you are running CS6 or CC, using the Colour Look Up tables can be a life save in times like this. If you have done your homework that is. Having a Colour Munki or similar screen calibration is great, but so hard to keep perfect due to changing lighting conditions and laptop screens. It might be best to work with this colour histograms in PS to stay safe. But, if you really need total colour perfection. You would be re-editing back home anyway ??
SSD* Solid State Disc drives. Older hard drives had spinning disc Hard Drives which don’t like drops or quick movements due to the optical technology they are built on. SSD drives are faster, more durable and use less battery.
- They’re more durable. With traditional hard drives, the continuous motion generated by small moving parts creates heat, which is a leading factor in hard drive failure. Because SSDs don’t have moving parts, they’re more reliable and more vibration/shock-resistant than traditional hard drives. They’re also more resistant to common drops, accidents, and wear and tear since they don’t have the small, susceptible parts of traditional hard drives. If you happened to drop your laptop and it had an SSD installed, your screen would probably break before the SSD. That’s SSD durability.
- They’re faster. Without moving parts to slow your computer down, SSDs aren’t just faster; they’re ready to go when you are. Crucial SSDs offer instant-load performance, meaning faster boot times, faster application loading times, and better system responsiveness.
- They’re easier to carry. Since SSDs weigh less than hard drives, they’re more mobile-friendly and they help make your laptop easier to carry. With lightweight components and solid construction, SSDs are better suited for the rigors of constant travel.
- They’re more efficient. Since SSDs have no moving parts, they require less power to operate, which means you’ll get longer battery life. They’re even quieter, too.
Some more tips-
- Using a program like Lightroom will enable you to do mass adjustments using pre-sets.
- I would encourage as little editing out in the field as you can. Using known pre-sets is quick, easy, simple and reliable.
- Using a Hardcase can be a total lifesaver. When on the road look after your vital equipment is the greatest care. Invest in a good case Check out Tule or Peli.
- Always save your work in PSD format (PSB for files larger than 2gig). The chances are you will want to get back and re-touch your edit a few times. Ensuring you have your layer stack intact is vital.
- Using a Tablet to preview and select your photos will save vital battery and editing time.
The combination of plenty of power in a laptop teamed up with a nice editing tablet is winner. Using the softer nibs with the pens means they won’t slip about the tablet when you are working and moving, such as a train or boat. Keep your gear safe with a tough case that will ease your mind about damage when your kit is packed away. There is nothing worse than carrying about a broken laptop. And remember, try not to use your screen at full brightness, about ¾ is fine most of the time and watch your ambient lighting. Using a sunscreen protector like Think Tank’s sunscreen can be a life saver.