How do I organize and archive my digital photography?
February 29, 2008 4:08 PM   Subscribe

What is the best work-flow process for handling digital photos from capture, processing to archive?

I've been knocking off a few paying assignments lately and have had some work published in newspapers and and quickly finding myself engulfed in both film and digital clutter. Particularly for some of my modeling contracts I find myself ending up with over a gigabyte of photos per shoot. I need to find a way to deal with this. Also I do some medium format and 35mm photography which I scan into the computer.

Currently I'm working as so:
-Capture in RAW
-Edit in photoshop, retain the original CR2 file and also save a jpeg copy, then create a low-res jpeg for the web.
-Once a week back up my directory of photos to an external drive
-I send clients 2 copies of a CD of their shoot, and I burn myself a copy which I file in a accordion folder.

A lot of the photos are sorted by either subject matter or date of capture, really I have no idea what I'm doing and there seems to be several different systems going on at once.

What formats should I be saving the files in? Taking into account the best preservation of quality and of space.

I'm a bit of a digital junk collector, and I'm sure there are photos going back years which are sitting moldering away in my stacks of CDs and on drives. In terms of clients photos is there much point at all in keeping them after handing over the goods and receiving payment?
posted by chrisbucks to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a complete answer for you, but I would start by purchasing a copy of Adobe Lightroom and use it along side Photoshop. It will truly revolutionize your workflow, organization and general photography, IMO. Good luck!
posted by rocco at 4:27 PM on February 29, 2008

Here's my workflow:

Download RAW files.

Using Adobe Bridge:
Batch rename
Delete the utter rejects
Sort through the rest and label the keepers
Edit the keepers in Adobe Camera Raw

If that's it, I save as JPEG. Anything that needs to be worked on in Photoshop proper gets saved as a 16 bit tiff, edited, then saved as a JPEG. A good set of ACR preset does wonders for speeding up your workflow.

I keyword and geotag at the image level using Bridge. Re-tagging, titling, and geotagging is a waste of time each time you upload to a different service is a waste of time.

I keep the RAW files. In my mind, the cost of hard drive space is not greater than the loss of my digital negatives. When I run out of space, I buy more. And I always back everything up.

As far as keeping everything sorted out goes, I use dates for organization and keywords in order to find things. My system is pretty simple, based on dated folders:


If I'm searching for specific people, landmarks, or themes, I use keyword searches. If I'm looking for an event, I can go to that folder.

And that's it. I've been using this system for the past year, over the course of hundreds of gigabytes of photos, and have not hit a snag yet. The only thing I know I am missing are off-site backup. I've got stuff burned onto CDs and DVDs, but don't have a good network-based backup solution yet.
posted by tomorama at 5:27 PM on February 29, 2008

And just to be clear, the "Photos" folder is for JPEGs while the "RAW" folder is for you know what.
posted by tomorama at 5:28 PM on February 29, 2008

Upon reading your question again, I see that you are manually backing-up once a week. Save yourself some time and use an automated backup solution. I work on a Mac - I used to use SuperDuper!. I've been giving Time Machine a shot ever since Leopard came out, but may eventually return to something that can give me a bootable clone of my HDD.
posted by tomorama at 5:30 PM on February 29, 2008

Lightroom is exactly what you want. You import and organize your RAW files, develop them, and then hit "Export" and you can save your own export settings to generate whatever files (low res JPEGs, High res files for Photoshop, etc.) you need in whatever kind of file system structure makes sense to you.
posted by bradbane at 7:00 PM on February 29, 2008

I looked at Lightroom a long time ago and ruled it out. I can't remember why for sure, but it seems to me that it was because it stored the files in its own database, so you would get locked into that system. Take a look before you commit to something like that. It would be really painful to have to re-organize all of your pictures if you what to switch to a different workflow.

It isn't for everybody, but here is my workflow (I'm not a pro, but I take a lot of pictures, with multiple cameras, and I have a digital organization fetish):
* download into ~/pics/dump/ using Vista's built in utility (it also allows you to add tags at this point)
* a python script I wrote renames and moves the files like so: ~/pics/date/date-time-number-camera.(JPG, CR2 or AVI)
* the script runs automatically after download through windows task scheduler
* JPG, CR2 and AVI commingle in the same folder. I've found it is much easier to keep track of.
* tag using Windows Photo Gallery (built into Vista) or windows explorer
* edit in photoshop
* edited files go into /pics/date/edited/
* run python script to upload to flickr any files tagged "to publish" (the script also tags, geotags, and places them in sets according to my tags in Vista)

With this setup, I organize my photos only once. Evar. I can change away from Windows Photo Gallery or Flickr with no extra work. If say, I switch to another online photo site, I quickly write a python interface and all of the pictures that I've tagged "to publish" in the past will be uploaded.

Vista's native support for tagging makes things really slick. No need to make folders based on subjects or events, just view or search by tag.

Also, the Vista's tags are placed directly in the file's metadata, so you can access them with other programs (for example the python scripts, or windows explorer). This is another thing to look at with Lightroom, where do the tags go? In the file (good) or in its database (bad)?
posted by nazca at 5:30 AM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

n-thing everyone else's recommendation of Lightroom. You can accomplish most typical photo editing tasks much quicker in Lightroom than in Photoshop but can always bop out to Photoshop if you need to. Lightroom edits are non-destructive so you always have the original raw file and if you edit in Photoshop it automatically makes a copy for you.

If you're on a Mac, I've heard that the latest release of Aperture is much better than the initial release. I've never used it, so I can't say, but you might want to check it out as well.

nazca: Lightroom can work with your files wherever they are (I don't know where it stores tags though).
posted by zanni at 7:00 AM on March 1, 2008

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