Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Large Files are Weighing You Down

I've been doing most of my post-processing in Photoshop these days. My subject matter has moved away from events and stills to studio/location shoots with models. I've setup Aperture to use Photoshop as my external editor. I've also set the default file format for external editing to be 16-bit PSDs. While I may lose access to some filters in Photoshop because of the higher bit depth, I rarely use them in my post processing. The 16-bit color depth is kind of like shooting in RAW. I may not need the extra information, it's nice to know that it's there. The problem with a 16-bit PSD file is that it's massive. I'm shooting with a Canon 7D. I'm already cranking out 25 megapixel files that are around 23MB a piece. Make that into a PSD file, and BAM! over 50MB. Throw in a couple of layers and it'll start choking most machines.

I've now made it a habit to resize all of my PSD files. I try and think about where and how the photos may be used. If it's only ever going to be seen on the web, then I'll drop them down to 1800x1200 and process from there. That's almost 1080p quality and good enough for most desktops. If I think that the photo will be used for print, I'll resize the file to 3600x2400. That's more than enough for a 8x10 print. I discovered I haven't really had a reason when I would need a 25 megapixel image yet. Yet.

The smaller file helps in a lot of different ways. Obviously it takes up less space. But more importantly, it's a lot faster to process. Many of the minor blemishes go away as part of the resizing. Applications/plug-ins/filters all run a lot faster as well. All in all, it's a way to speed up the process. I recently spent a few hours on one photo cleaning up specs of dust on the seamless. Had I resized the photo to a smaller size, the time I would have spent would have been dramatically reduced and the final result would have been the same.