Since several threads are now talking about RAW workflow in several different products such as RSE and the new paid RSE and Capture 1 and Photoshop CS2, I thought I'd give my normal workflow for batch processing in Photoshop CS2 since most people tend to get confused on how to use CS2 for this purpose and end up criticizing it as being slow. I've tested all of the major products and I find that with proper workflow, CS2 is the fastest and gives the most consistent results. Here are some notes on my workflow. Not everything is revealed, but I hit the highlights of the general process.
My routine workflow starts with Bridge
1. Select a set of photos in Bridge that were taken in the same lighting.
2. Right click on one of them and choose Open in Camera Raw (be sure the shadows and highlight check box are off for steps 3 to 5 - this is optional, but easier for me to work this way). By the way, if you want to apply sharpening in PS where you can do it in several passes, then just turn off the sharpening using the preferences so that it will sharpen for the preview in RAW, but not apply sharpening when you open the image in PS.
3. Click on a representative sample image from the strip of thumbnails on the left.
4. Use the exposure slider first. Here are the steps with the Exposure slider: a. click and hold down on the slider thumb. b. Press the ALT key while doing this. c. The image turns black. d. slide the slider to the right till the first red appears, then back to the left till it just turns black. In other words in this step you are trying to push the histogram as far right as you can without clipping any highlights. When you see red while moving to the right while holding down the alt key you are seeing clipped highlights. If these are speculars, then you might want to clip them (white part of histogram). But watch the histogram carefully as you don't want to clip the red, green or yellow part of the histogram. You have now set the white point. But don't push any of the red, green, or yellow parts of the histogram past the right side.
5. Now do the same thing with Shadows as with Exposure. That is, left click and hold on the thumb, push and hold the Alt key and then slide all the way left. Then slide back to the right till you start to see part of the image show up. Then stop at that point. That sets the black point. Always be sure to set the white point first, since that gives you more latitude on the Shadow side.
6. Now turn on the highlights preview at the top and then use the brightness, contrast and saturation sliders to taste. The highlights preview will let you show when clipping occurs, but again speculars are usually okay to clip.
7. Now click the Select All button in the upper left.
8. Click the Synchronize button below it. And click OK to the dialog that pops up. Of course you can change settings on the dialog if you want, but I generally don't.
At this point all the images have been set to a common set of settings, using the photo you were working on above as the template. You'll see all the thumbnails change.
At this point you could just use the Save X images button and save out the photos as JPGs or whatever (choose the crop size for the size you want before using the Save X button. However, I only use this for Proofs.
I usually do my basic cropping in RAW. So at this point I click on the first photo in the thumbnails (be sure to do this since if you don't, when you crop the first, it will apply the same cropping to all).
I use the crop tool to crop and the straighten tool to straighten.
I then click on each and do the crop
As I go through the images, in some cases I'll do minor tweaking with the sliders or in rarer cases, tweaking using the curves tab (but that is for more advanced images control).
When I finish the crop pass, I then do the Save X if I need a batch of photos to immediately send to someone, etc. But if I'm just done, I click Done. This is very important. By just clicking Done you are saving the settings for each image so that when you open the image in the future it will already have all of the setting chosen including the cropping.
So suppose the next day I want to edit some of the photos in Photoshop. I find the first in Bridge or BreezeBrowserPro and choose to edit it (double click in Bridge, or Right click, edit image for BB). The photo immediately opens in RAW and I either just click Open to go directly into PS or I could do any advanced RAW processing at this point. 95% of the time I don't because I've already done the processing I wanted in the batch session above.
That's the basic workflow. So how fast is it? A typical example is to shoot 200 shots of a model in 5 lighting sets. I then divide the shoot into 5 batches, one for each set. So I do the above workflow 5 times, once with each set. Average time for a typical 200 shot set is about 10 minutes per batch or about 1 hour for the 200 shots. At that point I have a folder with all of the photos converted to JPG and so I can burn a CD for the model and send it off. By the way, I do the culling while using the above workflow. So if there is a bad shot, I just use the Trash can icon to not include it in the processing.
One other key item to keep in mind. Avoid doing minute processing when working on batches. Your goal here is to get the bulk of the photos done with 95% of them being ready to use. There will always be 5% that you may want to work on further in RAW at a later date. That is when you make use of the other tabs including curves. But don't get in the trap of going to that extreme on this basic pass.
I'll try to answer any questions.