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You spend a lot of time learning about your gear and how to use it to produce great images. You also invest time and money into learning to improve your technique for capturing and processing your work. It is therefore fair to say that developing a consistent workflow in handling your images after (and sometimes before) they are captured is also of importance. Here are a few steps you should be taking to help you manage your photography work.
What are you going to shoot today? Is it an event in a dimly lit place or is it in the middle of a sunny day and outdoors? What will be your source(s) of light? What gear will you need?
Prepare by planning for your subject and thinking through your shoot. That way you can think of possible outcomes and pack accordingly (and in some cases avoid overpacking). Weather conditions, time on your feet, length of your trek/journey and environmental constraints will also help you determine if you need to scale down your gear to the essentials or rethink how/what you pack.
If you are used to shooting the same genre of images, you may have your settings already dialed in. This takes into consideration the creation of presets to handle different scenarios that you face. Keep a reminder to adjust your white balance for the type of light you will be shooting in. Will you need a flash or supplemental lighting and what settings will you need when you add those?
Do you want to shoot your images in RAW or JPEG? Both have their advantages and disadvantages and you need to choose what works well for your planned shoot and expected outcome.
A good practice is moving the images from your memory card to your computer as soon as possible. A card reader transfers images faster than using a direct connection from your camera to your computer. While recent computer card slots are comparable to card readers in speed, there is still a preference to the latter. One school of thought is that a good quality card reader is built to minimize the chance of corrupting your memory cards.
While the objective is to move the images, it is advisable to copy the images across (as opposed to move). After you copy, compare the number of files on the memory card (and size) to what was copied. This is especially important if there was an interruption during the copy process.
Note: If you choose to move instead of copy, this comparison will not be possible. More importantly, there is a higher probability of loss or corrupted files, if there is an interruption during the move process.
Prepare for the failure of your devices. Having more than one copy of your image gives you some peace of mind that it is safe somewhere. There are many backup combinations you can use, but the most basic is to have two copies of your images. You can have a copy on your laptop/computer and one on an external drive. You can save on more than one external drive or even go with an external drive/cloud combination. An ideal backup strategy involves two copies where you have one offsite (off premises/cloud).
An essential part of having a backup is testing it from time to time to ensure that it works and can restore your images when needed.
Backup processes can be revised as your workflow progresses. For example, after a shoot, you can copy all of your images to a secondary place. After you have culled your final selection, you can replace those images with your selection. When you edit and find your best images, you can add this to your library later. Whatever system you choose to work with, they all require a level of organization.
A good rule to adopt is to clear your memory cards after you have backed up your files to two locations. In each instance, copy from the memory cards directly. After your copy, compare what was copied to the number of files (and size) of those on the memory card. This is especially important if there was an interruption during the copy process.
A digital asset management software system is a great way to browse, preview, locate and rate your images and mark them for processing. Two of the most used asset management systems are Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Bridge. There are a few others that work similar to these, with a primary focus on browsing and rating images.
Most people do not take advantage of the rating ability of asset management software, but it is quite a useful tool to cull your work. When you browse your images, you give the highest ratings to your best images – those to keep, review or edit. The next rating is for those with potential and worth a second look. You award the lowest rating or no rating to images that do not make the cut. These would include blurry images, those that are not salvageable or ones you will never review/edit. These can be marked for discarding at a later time (when space becomes an issue) or immediately (if that is how you streamline your work).
Many times post-processing immediately follows shooting and nothing is wrong with that. Once you develop a workflow that suits you, then there are no rules as to when to do what. Whenever you post-process, remember that your edited images need to be saved in several locations (especially if they are for a client). Saving your final images with a descriptive name/date in a sub-folder will help you easily find them later on.
Your images are worth protecting, thus developing a habitual photography workflow is important. Find a way that works for you, keeping in mind that you will be thankful for spending the time on a proper backup strategy.
Finally, create with the assurance that your work is organized and managed from capture to delivery.
Do you have any other tips to add here? Please share in the comments below.