Dave’s Photography Workflow (Part 1)

My current workflow focuses on future-proofing my photos so that I can take advantage of any new software that comes along. I do not want to be dependent upon any piece of software to work with my photos, so I stick to formats like JPG and Canon’s raw.

This post covers how I get the images onto my computer and begin the editing process. I currently use Apple Macintosh computers with Adobe Lightroom but it wasn’t to long ago that I used Windows XP, ACDSee, and Photoshop for the same results.

Setting Up the File System

NOTE: Instead of creating a “My Pictures” directory you can use the directory created by your computer such as “Pictures” on Mac and “My Pictures” on Windows, I prefer to keep this folder on an external hard drive or Storage Area Network device so create my own “My Pictures” directory. I also create a “Not My Pictures” directory where I store images that I get from other sources.

Create a “My Pictures” directory; inside that directory create an “import” directory and an “export” directory.

Now get out there and take some photos.

Copying Photos to Your Computer

I never plug a camera into my computer to transfer images. Use a quality memory card reader, not a no-name generic one, but one from Lexar, Sandisk, or other major memory manufacturer. If you have a card reader built into your computer you are all set. Plug the memory card reader into the computer first, then the memory card into the reader.

Put the memory card into the card reader and wait for it to appear then go to the directory on the memory card that contains your photos. Now open a second window and navigate to the “import” directory that you created earlier. Then create a new directory named with the date and a short description of the event. Use the format of 4 digit year, 2 digit month, and 2 digit day so that the folders will sort correctly and be very easy to find. For the description I use one or two words trying to keep the name short but easy to understand, it only needs to be enough information to jog your memory.

For example, Christmas family photos would go under “20101225-christmas-family”. But the word “family” is unnecessary if those are the only photos you took that day.

Now copy all of the photos from the memory card to the folder you have just created. Once the copy is complete eject the memory card from the reader. On a Mac it is very important that you do this first from the operating system before removing the card, I have permanently damaged a card by pulling it out of the reader before the computer was done with it.

Do not delete files or format memory cards using your computer, let the camera do all of that to keep your cards in good shape. I format my memory cards in the camera only after I have finished processing them, that way I have a quick backup if something goes wrong while I am working on them. It would be even smarter to make two copies of the photos when I move them to my computer on separate hard drives.

Importing into Lightroom

Now I fire up Lightroom and import all of the photos using my default meta data and add keywords that are applicable to them all. I am not covering meta information in this post, but cannot stress enough how important it is to properly tag your images with keywords, descriptions, locations, and anything else that would make it easier to find in the future.

Once in Lightroom I use the “Library > Rename Photo” to rename all the photos with the format of “dave-nelson-Date (YYYYMMDD)-HourMinuteSecond-Sequence # (0001)” which will result in filenames like “dave-nelson-20101225-191521-0001.jpg” which guarantees a unique filename even when I am shooting 6 frames a second. It may look like a ridiculously long filename, but it makes it really easy to see who took the photo and when it was taken.

Summary

Now that everything is set-up it is realy simple to import and rename new photos.
1. Create import and export directories
2. Create new directory for images “YYYYMMDD-name”
3. Copy images from memory card
4. Rename files using LIghtroom

The next step is going through the photos and flagging them as “selects” and “rejects”, adding keywords and descriptions, color correcting, rotating, cropping, and exporting.

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