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File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow

file management tips in photography

As you gain more clients, this also means that you’ll have to start implementing a more efficient workflow so that you can work quickly and get your images to your clients. In this article, we’re going to explain some file management tips to help you stay organized session to session.

file management tips

What is a photography workflow?

A workflow is a process in which a photographer has a file management system in place that helps them to get images edited and processed faster and more efficiently.

Basically, it’s a way to organize your images so that you can get them to your clients much faster. The way that a photographer manages their workflow can be different from person to person depending on what they photograph, their workloads, and what the end goal for their clients is.

file management tips

In time, you’ll be able to implement these file management tips so that your workflow is quick, and you’re able to deliver the images to your clients faster. You’ll also access the images on your hard drives quicker when you need them because they’ll be nice and organized.

Uploading the images

The first of the file management tips regards uploading your photos to your computer. Some like to go straight into Lightroom or the editing program and upload the images directly.

However, I recommend that you first upload your images onto your actual hard drive. This can be directly onto your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, or both. Uploading to both is the best option since sometimes computers can shut down or stop working and you wouldn’t want to lose your photos!

file management tips

Make sure to copy the images from the memory card rather than moving them. Doing this means if the upload didn’t go smoothly, you still have all of the images safe on the memory card.

Here are the steps to organize the Upload of your images onto your computer or external hard drive:

  • Create a folder with the year 2020
  • You can now create separate folders for the types of sessions you do. However, this is not required and it depends on how you want to manage your files.
  • Create a folder and name it according to the shoot date, last name of your client, a dash, then the location or something specific. For example 2020.03.06 Burns Family – Secrets Resort Puerto Vallarta
File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow
File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow

The location is optional, but it does help keep the information to the session together. It’s also good for searching later on when you want to find a location photo to post on social media or otherwise.

Renaming the images

Renaming images can seem like an added step, however, keeping the naming simple with numerical sequence, adds more organization in the end.

It’s tough when looking for an image by the original image name of IMG_ when it would be much quicker to remember the name and then look for an image that way.

file management tips

Rename with the last name, a dash, then the sequence number, for example, Burns-0001. Use more than three zeros so that you can safely number the images when you have more than one hundred images.

If you have more than a thousand, use another zero. This can keep all of your images organized and you won’t get jumping numbers from 01 and 11.

file management tips

When you import the images into your editing program, the renaming stays and will get saved the same when you’re finished editing. This is really helpful especially when the family wants a particular photo to order. They can simply use the sequence number and you can quickly find the image in the edited folder.

Importing into Lightroom

Now that you’ve organized the session into the yearly folder, session folder, and have renamed the files you’re ready to import into Lightroom.

Some photographers like to import the images straight from the memory card into Lightroom but creating the folders seems easier in Finder than in Lightroom. However, with time, you can choose how you want to import the photos that help your workflow work for you.

file management tips
Choose the “add” option a top to import the photos.

There are two different options to choose from when importing. You can simply add the photos, which is the simplest choice seeing that we’ve already backed them up onto your hard drive in the desired folders. Or the COPY option, which will create a duplicate of your image into a specific folder on your desktop. This usually creates a copy in another place and can take up unnecessary storage on your computer.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow
Check the box Add to Collection and this window will popup. Name it with the year and shoot date so your catalog stays organized as well within Lightroom.

We’ll go with the ADD option today since we have put the originals in the specific folder we made earlier.

Check the Collection option and put them into a Collection with the date and name – just like we did in the source folder.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow

This will make it easier to find the folders in the left sidebar while editing without making multiple duplicates or without getting lost in the Import or Folders section.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow

Now we’re ready for editing!

Organized editing

In Lightroom, editing can seem like a lot of work. However, you’ll want to go through this process so that your workflow is quicker and editing time is minimized.

Use the color tags to choose your favorites. This is how I personally tag the photos using the number keys:

  • Number 9 is Blue for chosen images
  • Number 8 is green for additional editing – usually when I have to swap out ahead or do some major editing.
File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow

After you’ve used the color of your choice for the chosen photos, at the bottom of the screen is a Filter option. Choose the blue square (or the colors you’ve chosen), so that all you see are the photos tagged Blue.

The great thing about using the filter and colors is that if you missed a photo somewhere, you can turn off the filter and go back and choose more photos to edit or tag.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow
Here at the bottom right-hand corner, you can toggle the color filter to show or not show.

Alternatively, you can untag a photo and it will hide it from view. Then you can just edit the blue-tagged photos without additional clutter.

Using the color tags in the toggle on/off filter modes keeps your photos organized, in the same folder, and easy to edit.

Exporting your final images

The final of the file management tips is exporting your final images.

After you’ve edited your photos it’s now time to keep them organized so that you can find the final edited photos with ease.

Go into the Library window, with the color tag filter ON, choose all of the images you’ve edited with the Select All option, and click Export.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow
We have only the blue tagged photos highlighted. Toggle the color filter on, select all images with that filter and then hit Export.

Choose the same folder your images are in, but create a subfolder with the words EDIT (or you can choose whichever name is best for you). This will create a folder within the original source folder on your hard drive.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow

This keeps all of the images from that session in the same location, which makes it easier to find later on.

file management tips for better workflow
As you can see, the edit folder appears in the family session folder with the RAW files. The final jpeg images are named the same for easier referencing.

In conclusion

These file management tips will help you categorize and catalog your sessions so that you have a more efficient photography workflow from start to finish.

File Management Tips to Create a More Efficient Photography Workflow
When you search for the images you can now do so with the name or date. Makes looking for images much simpler when you have your files organized.

Do you have any other file management tips to better organize your workflow? Share with us in the comments.

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Jackie Lamas
Jackie Lamas

is a destination wedding and portrait photographer based on the beautiful beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She earned her degree in photography from California State University, Fullerton. Jackie has over 10 years of experience as a professional photographer and teacher. When she’s not on the beach, you can find her writing on her blog and spending time with her baby and husband. See more of her work on Instagram.