Photoshop Elements, batch processing, and how I got the scoop

A night of vandalism shatters my hometown's quiet sense of security, and I got the photos out there first.

How Photoshop Elements' "Process Multiple Files" feature let me scoop the local media on a local breaking news story.

"Come to Raritan Avenue right away," an agitated friend called me one morning a few weeks ago. "It's like Kristallnacht here!"

It was about 10:00 a.m. Someone bashed in the windows of five stores on Raritan Ave overnight. I checked; the story wasn't in the news yet. Thinking the worst—all of the businesses whose windows had been broken were Jewish-owned, including two Jewish gift shops and two Kosher restaurants—I grabbed my Canon EOS 7D and Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM zoom lens and sped the short drive to the main drag of Highland Park, New Jersey to document the damage.



First on the scene, first photos posted online: As soon as I'd heard that several local Jewish-owned stores had been vandalized overnight, I grabbed my camera and ran to the scene. I was the only photographer there and was pretty sure I had a "citizen jouranlist" scoop.

I spent about 20 minutes documenting the vandalism (which, I learned the next day, was allegedly committed by a middle-aged Jewish man who is well-known in the community and has serious mental health issues—and had apparently gone off his meds). Back at my computer, I checked online once more—still no news about it. (Why were the local papers so slow in responding and sending out a photographer and reporter? Most local news staffs have been eviscerated to the point where there's hardly anyone available to cover local stories outside of big cities.) They'd come eventually—friends and neighbors were emailing the media. I realized that if I could quickly post the images onto my Facebook page, I, in the role of citizen-journalist, would have a scoop.


This was one of the biggest local stories since I started living in Highland Park. As a 20-year-plus resident of the town I knew the store owners, and they were very cooperative letting me photograph the damage. This was taken shooting from the inside of a store that sells Jewish books and gifts.



I needed to work fast. I quickly transferred the images to my MacBook and checked them in Preview to make sure the exposures were good; they were. Before I could run the photos, I needed to prepare them. I had to reduce each image from full 18MB size to 800 pixels wide, run auto color and exposure corrections as well as sharpening on each shot. I also wanted to add a watermark copyright to each photo—my one hedge against Facebook's onerous photo usage policies.

I had over 30 photos to apply these changes to. If I did each picture manually, one at a time, it would have taken an hour or more that I didn't have. But in Photoshop Elements (I used version 9; the feature is also available in the recently-released version 10 as well as in some earlier versions) I could use the Process Multiple Files feature to reduce the processing time down to about a minute!

Here's how I did it.

First, I put all the photos into a subdirectory called "Originals." Then I created a new directory that I called "web res". Both were in a directory that I named "HP Kristallnacht 2011"—a name that turned out to be a bit alarmist.



Next, I selected File > Process Multiple Files, which brought up a dialogue box with many choices (see above). I selected the Originals as the source folder, and web res as the destination. Under file naming, I chose to rename each file so it would have the format documentname_800.jpg to reflect the fact that each image was 800 pixels wide.


Still in the Process Multiple Files dialogue box Under Image Size, I chose to resize each image to 800 pixels. I knew almost all the photos were horizontal, and had only 3 verticals which I would manually reduce a bit more. I changed resolution to 72dpi, and checked the Convert Files box and selected JPEG High Quality from the pull-down menu. (I could also choose PSD, PDF, GIF, PICT, TIFF and other file formats if I wanted to.)


The Process Multiple Files dialogue box has many options for automated image editing that speed up workflow.


Moving to the right column of the Process Multiple Files box, I chose three of four Quick Fix options: Auto Levels, Auto Contrast, and Sharpen. I felt the color was on target in the preview images so I left that alone. Finally, in the Labels area I set the Watermark to say Photo ©2011 by Mason Resnick, set the size, font, alignment and color of the watermark, and hit "OK"

From on the the scene to Facebook portfolio in under an hour

It took just over a minute to process all 34 18MP images. I double-checked them in Preview, and they looked good. I selected a dozen photos that I thought best told the story and uploaded them to Facebook by 11:00. Within an hour the portfolio had been shared by hundreds, and I was getting calls and emails from media around the world asking permission to use the photos. The story didn't appear on any kind of news web site until late that afternoon and for a few hours, my photos were all people knew about the incident. By 4:00, police announced they had the suspect in custody.

We soon learned that the vandalism turned out to be a sad case of a person who was probably in a psychotic state—and while I have digested many lessons (both photographic and otherwise) learned that day, a tense town is breathing a sigh of relief.

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