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I'm trying to understand how photographers approach the task of multiple images that were all shot at the same environment/setting/event. Instead of opening each photo separate, and tweaking hue, sharpness, contrast one by one, don't they instead come at the entire project with a checklist of identical processing steps to apply to them instead so that they come out looking similar?

What do you really do to process an entire photo collection? And is batch processing implemented in some automated way in software?

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    \$\begingroup\$ idk whether this question could just be considered 'opinion-based', but I'd never dream of batching a session. The only reason to batch would be I've I'd made the same error right the way through [under-exposed etc], which even my limited ability has so far failed to do for every single picture in a session. My approach is cull hard, early & process only the keepers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 25, 2021 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I batch all the time to apply adjustments not available in-camera (HSL adjustments, for instance) or in finer increments than available in-camera (a color temperature of, say, 4340K instead of 4300K or 4400K which is the finest adjustment available in my camera's menus.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 25, 2021 at 14:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin: re: idk whether this question could just be considered 'opinion-based' ... I think this fits squarely in the realm of Good Subjective, so not really opinion-based (from a on/off-topic standpoint). \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Dec 28, 2021 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @scottbb - thanks for the clarification. I didn't vote either way, but that's why I didn't flesh out an answer. I think my comment is now more than covered in other answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 28, 2021 at 16:17

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Using the light table view in Darktable or Lightroom, it is simple to copy and edits from one picture and paste the edits to others.

It is also possible to have edits applied by default when images are imported...demosiacing with specific parameters for example when working with RAW files.

It is also possible to have batch edits automatically applied at export automatically as well with editors like Lightroom and Darktable.

Applying batch edits is more cumbersome in software that operates destructively such as Photoshop or Gimp. It is also more cumbersome with software interfaces that don't have an aggregate (i.e. light table) view.

Finally, if it's only a few pictures, I will just make the same edits again and again for multiple pictures. Often this is because I haven't quite yet found the edits that make me happy.

In terms of the place to start, I think it is with choice of editing software. That's basically either Lightroom or Darktable because they make aggregate operations easy to make. And easy to undo because they are non-destructive (or non-linear) editors.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Annointing identical edits to a light table of batch photos and seeing them all side-by-side, flippable before and after all at once, sounds very ideal if this is what that means. What is demosaicing and operate destructively? \$\endgroup\$
    – user610620
    Dec 25, 2021 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user610620 see added links \$\endgroup\$ Dec 25, 2021 at 23:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a light table view solution for Gimp? \$\endgroup\$
    – user610620
    Dec 26, 2021 at 8:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user610620 No. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26, 2021 at 14:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feel like Lightroom might be the most powerful editor, but the most generic learning curve for anyone whose used Photoshop extensively. Haven't used Lightroom yet though. How would compare Darkroom and RawTherapee vs Lightroom in their power to enhance fine art scenic photographs (singularly and in batches)? \$\endgroup\$
    – user610620
    Dec 28, 2021 at 13:05
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Many demosaicing applications (RawTherapee, for instance) can save the processing on a picture (aka recipe) to repeat on others. But this is typically restricted in practice to global editing (colors/levels...), the general case (cropping, selective colors/levels ) is hard to reproduce on a series of pictures without a large dose of AI.

And in practice such processing is only useful if the source shots have been taken in very controlled conditions...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ colors/levels is exactly what it would be needed for. Is it really correct to call them "global editing" vs "general case"? Neither sounds specific enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – user610620
    Dec 25, 2021 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ "global editing" means that you aren't picking specific areas to process, the same processing is applied on the whole picture. In the general case you often want to apply different processes to different parts of the picture, but this requires human intervention for the selection. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Dec 25, 2021 at 21:03
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It really depends upon the context. There are applications where it can be very helpful. There are other use cases where it's not helpful at all.

I find when shooting night sports under artificial lights that having a recipe to apply adjustments not available in-camera to all of the resulting images can be tremendously beneficial. This is particularly the case with cameras which can detect the flicker of lights used in such sports facilities and release the shutter at the same point in the flicker cycle for every frame.

Once I've developed a recipe for a specific facility, it's usually good for every time I shoot there until they replace their lights with a new system every few years.

Some of the things this allows me to do are:

  • Set Color temperature in increments smaller than 100K. I can apply 4250K (or 4230K or 4280K) to all images when the camera allows me no closer to 4250K than either 4200K or 4300K.
  • Set White Balance corrections in increments smaller than the camera allows. My cameras allow settings in whole integer steps that equate to a five mired filter. Canon's DPP 4 allows increments on tenths of those same integers. So I set a magenta ←→ green setting of -1 in camera (minus one unit on the magenta ←→ green axis is equivalent to a 5 mired filter towards magenta), then batch apply a setting of -1.5 in DPP 4.
  • Make contrast adjustments to the highlights and shadows independent of the overall contrast setting. (A few cameras offer this, but many don't. The Canon EOS 1D X series does. The rest of the Canon EOS DSLR lineup, including the 5D, 6D, and 7D series, does not.)
  • Set Black point and White point precisely and independently of overall contrast
  • Use an HSL tool to make fine adjustments to the hue, saturation, and luminance of eight color bands independently of one another.
  • Apply lens corrections for CA, color blur, peripheral illumination, and geometric distortion after the fact so that applying them in-camera does not slow down the camera's burst rate when shooting sports.

Once I've applied the same recipe to all of the shots I'm free to modify each frame if needed. Things such as straightening and cropping tend to be individual adjustments. Perhaps shots taken early in the game before the sky over the stadium was completely dark will also need further adjustment, but the vast majority are finished with regard to color, exposure, contrast, etc. after applying the batch recipe. This is even more the case for indoor gyms where the artificial lights are the only source of illumination.

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Lots and none at all…

Broadly, it is not often needed but when it is, it can be vital.

Jo Average photographer should have seen what was needed and adjusted the camera to improve shots in general to suit the field of work… or concentrated on the details of individual shots.

Two photo-processors I met had clear needs for batch processing.

One was a photographer, with years of work cataloguing thousands of museum exhibits… many different subjects pictured under similar lighting, angles or other conditions not always ideal and either way, needing standardisation.

Another was a technical librarian with years of work translating the technical manuals of an older aircraft for digitalisation. The conditions for scanning however many thousands of pages - text or illustrations - might be identical, but that said nothing about how the originals were printed or duplicated… and please remember, aircraft technical manuals can run to thousands of pages.

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I'm going to take a broader, more philosophical position.

Batching is only applicable when you have a series of photos taken under basically the same conditions, and you can identify common changes that you wish to quickly apply to the entire set of those photos.

This could be something like Michael C's sports photography - where the subject and conditions will remain fairly consistent over an extended period of time. Or it could relate to something like you've overlooked a setting due to stupidity - EG accidentally left EV compensation set not where you thought it was set.

However, if you are are taking shots of different subjects, under different lighting conditions (EG I take a shot of my cat sitting in the sun, and then take a single shot of the night sky, and then pan a shot of a bird flying by) then it can be difficult to identify a set of changes that I would want to make to all 3 images. And that reduces the usefulness of batching edits.

But all is not lost. Because if I am using the same camera and same lens for all 3 shots, then that is a common element that could require a common set of corrections (EG lens distortion etc) across all 3 images. Thus unless every photo you take is a different combination of camera, lens, subject and lighting then there will always be some scope for batch applying changes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Batch processing is also useful when making similar output. An obvious example would be thumbnails. A less obvious example might be color grading. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27, 2021 at 19:01

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