Every photographer has his or her way of doing things. My workflow is probably different from yours but I really enjoy looking into other photographers work and learning new stuff from the way they do stuff. Therefore I am posting my workflow so you can get a sneak peek behind the scenes when it comes to me and my photography.
I don’t do anything magical and my workflow is probably not too different from most other photographers. But I face the same problems and difficulties during photography work, both on location and in post-processing, as other photographers and this is how I try to work consistently to avoid misplaced or lost images.
While working in Photoshop, Lightroom or any other graphics related software I usually follow the same steps with most of my edits.
I try to keep an open mind and I know that there is a possibility that everything I do can be done better and more efficiently, or at least different.
If you have any tips for me or others who read this – please leave a comment!
These are the steps I follow when working with photography. From photo shoot till the final exported jpg.
The reason behind my workflow
The main reason for my workflow is the ability to re-export any image from my library no matter when I took the photo or what edits I made in Photoshop.
On numerous occasions during the years, my lack of organization has forced me to a lot of extra guess-work and edits on raw-files that I long ago had forgotten what kind of edits I have made to reach the final result.
I have been contacted several times by people who are interested in photos I have taken years ago. Back then I didn’t really see a need to keeping master-files and several exports. I justs made my edits based on my raw-file, saved a low-resolution jpg and deleted the psd-file and moved on my merry way. By now I know better.
Most of the time the low-resolution jpg have been sufficient, but there have been times where I only saved an 800-pixel wide jpg and a prospective customer is requiring a high-resolution image suitable for big prints. The only logical thing to do in situations like this is to open the year-old raw-file in Photoshop and trying to mimic the edits done in the low-res jpg and hope for the best. It doesn’t always work out so well.
Keeping your files in order
I am sure that a lot of you have been in the same situation as me but thanks to my mistakes in keeping my raw-files and master-files organized I have learned a way for me to always know where on my hard drives my files are located and I am always able to export a jpg in a suitable resolution while still keeping all my edits safely stored in a TIFF-file.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about my workflow.
I am not working as a photographer full time. Most of the times when I reach for my camera to venture outside in search of a beautiful landscape to photograph I do it for some quality time outside in the woods or in a city somewhere.
All my photo related adventures start with the preparations. I try to keep my camera batteries charged, and my camera inside my camera bag. This makes me able to just reach for my camera bag on my way outside, knowing that I have full batteries, empty memory cards and both my tripod and filters packed and ready to go.
I always start any photo session by formatting my SD cards. By doing so I get an early hint of any malfunctioning memory card and I can feel somewhat safe that my image files won’t be corrupted due to a faulty memory card.
I do all my formatting in Camera and not with my computer or anywhere else.
2. Empty those memory cards!
As soon as I am back from a photo shoot, no matter how big or small, my first priority is to empty my memory cards and import all the footage to my designated hard drive.
This serves two purposes.
- By not leaving footage on my memory cards I make sure I don’t lose it or accidentally delete it by formatting my memory card.
As soon as the first files land on my hard drive during the importing process my automatic backup solutions kick in and begin saving all those raw-files into the cloud.
- While importing I also make sure to convert all my raw-files to Digital Negative Files, also known as DNG. I shoot with a Canon-camera so all my CR2-files becomes DNG-files. I know that there are both pros and cons with this conversion progress as I don’t save the CR2-files but this is a little bit outside this post.
What is your stance? Are you converting to DNG or not? Leave a comment below!
As mentioned above I use a backup service that constantly monitors the folders on my hard drive, and instantly begins the uploading process as soon as the image files reach their designated folders.
I am sure I don’t need to stress the importance of backups. I have experienced several disk failures but I have yet to lose any footage. But since most of my image files are stored on mechanical disk drives I am painfully aware of the fact that is not a question about if one of my drives will fail, it is a question of when. And when that day comes I will make sure that any lost files stored on that failed drive will be properly backed up and ready to be restored as fast as my Internet connection will allow.
4. Capture, Master, Output
Structure and organization are extremely important. When your image library grows there will be harder and harder to find that exact image you are looking for. Some people are able to store massive amounts of photos in a single folder with file names such as IMG_2001239.jpg and still be able to find that exact photo they are searching for within seconds. I am not one of those people.
I crave order and my image library is filled with folders, and those folders are filled with files.
The naming process I have for my images is based on dates. I usually name my files according to this formula.
Date – Description – Serial number
A typical raw-file converted to DNG and named after this formula could be named something like this:
Thanks to this I can instantly recognize when I took the photo and the general idea behind it without the need to open it.
I follow these principles with all the footage from a particular shoot. Every photo shoot on any particular date gets a folder. In this folder, 3 subfolders are created.
This is the folder where all my unedited raw-files is saved and backed up. If I shoot many different locations or perhaps several different models on a single photo shoot they all get separate subfolders within the CAPTURE folder.
During the years I have tried and tested several methods for keeping order among all my image files. By now my image library contains several years of imagery and I need any bit of structure I can find. This seems to work very well for me, so far.
As soon as I start work on a raw-file my first priority is to save it. By doing so I make sure that any automatic background save functions is working. This is a very good practice and I do it no matter what software I currently working on. Lost data is a thing of the past. Most graphics software is getting more stable for every new version and by saving often you are minimizing the risks of losing any edits while working with your photos.
When I am happy with my image I keep the saves master file in TIFF-format in the MASTER-folder. From this file, I create jpg-files for Instagram, Facebook, and other Internet sites. All the images found on this photoblog is also exported and sharpened for web.
The reason for choosing the TIFF-format och Photoshops PSD is compatibility and just as with the DNG versus CR2-discussions, there are pros and cons with both file formats.
Read more: TIFF vs PSD – Adobe Community
While saving my TIFF file I make sure to enable ZIP-compression to keep down the file size as much as possible. Most of my master files are several hundred Megabytes and the large HDR Panorama shots can reach file sizes of several Gigabytes.
I export jpg-files from my MASTER-files and I store these in the OUTPUT folder. When exporting for the web or for printing I usually append _www or _print to the filename so I can see which file to use for Internet versus sending off to the print lab.
The ideas behind my folder structures come from Aaron Nace from PHLEARN. He pushes things a little further with the use of a SELECT folder, but I have no need for such a folder in my workflow.
5. Backup (again!)
But now I have my raw-files safely stored in the CAPTURE-folder. My master-files is tucked away in the MASTER-folder and my exported jpg’s are located in the OUTPUT folder. And all of these files are safely backed up in the cloud.
My backup solutions of choice are Backblaze and I have yet to find any negative with this service. I can truly recommend it for your backup needs. It doesn’t really matter what solution you use for backing up your photos – but you really need to do it!
If you are a professional photographer you are probably agreeing with me. If you are shooting pictures just for your own amusement, backup is maybe not as important to you. But if you are hoping to sometime earn money from your photo related work you really need to keep all that data safe. Do it, now!
6. Google Photos
All my finished and edited jpg-files gets uploaded to my account at Google Photos. I really enjoy this service. I have unlimited storage (yes, I really do – and you can get it too) and I can create albums, share images with people and much more. The best thing about it that I am always able to download and use any image from my image library directly from the smartphone in my pocket.
How about you?
How do you keep your images safe and what do you do to keep your image library organized? Do you have any tips and tricks to share? If so, please do so in the comment field below.