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How to establish a successful workflow system

How to establish a successful workflow system - Part two of Edward Byrne's overview of the digital photo management process moves on to look at transferring images to a computer.

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General Photography

Words and images by Edward Byrne - www.tedbyrne.com

Transferring images to a computer

Until recently, transferring of image files to a computer was accomplished by connecting a cable to the computer (this process is also sometimes referred to as ingestion). Wireless transfer options have become more accessible through the use of WiFi equipped memory cards. Regardless of the method used, the philosophy is more or less the same. Here are some points to consider:


Again, not to get you paranoid about data loss, but it’s simply a good idea to get the images off your memory cards and onto a storage medium as quickly as possible. I know photographers, for example, who will leave the only copy of their images on the camera for weeks at a time. For the reasons mentioned previously, it’s simply in your best interest to back up as soon as possible. A stolen or damaged camera can be replaced, but your lost images are gone forever!


As I mentioned before, my shooting preference is Nikon RAW (NEF) and I am content leaving the file in this format on my computer. There is lively debate over the benefits and drawbacks of converting proprietary RAW formats (CR2 for Canon, NEF for Nikon, for example) to an open format such as DNG. My opinion is that RAW viewing and conversion tools will be around for quite a while for the big camera manufacturers. Converting to DNG if you are a Canon or Nikon user serves little use, in my opinion. This is even more so considering that image editing software such as Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture can all natively read most proprietary RAW formats now as well. Furthermore, converting to another format from RAW will dramatically increase the time it requires to transfer your large images as well.

Software choices

Transferring files to your computer does not necessarily imply that you need dedicated software to do so. Indeed, a simple cut and paste of the image files from the memory card to your hard drive would be a minimalist solution.

Most photographers, however, choose to use a dedicated editing suite to first transfer the files and then view them on the PC. The software packages that I previously mentioned not only have this simple capability, but also advanced options for renaming files and choosing multiple storage locations (there’s that backup again!). Some may even permit applying image effects and adjustments directly upon importing, including any default RAW conversions that you may wish to use (sometimes known as presets). I won’t discuss all the software options here, but I will assume that you are using a solution that has these options.

File naming

I always rename my image files upon importing to something more meaningful than the default naming from the camera (DSC_2345.NEF, for example). Again, your personal preferences may vary, but I try to make it as meaningful as possible.

Here’s an example of what I typically include in each file name (screen capture from Nikon Transfer 2):

File naming

  • dk7 = my abbreviation for camera model D7000
  • 20110328 = shot date
  • 001 = ordered sequence, starting from 001 for each shoot/project
  • London = useful information about the images
  • tedbyrne = my name, in case my images are shared.
This particular naming convention will ensure that the photos are always sorted first by the camera model, then chronologically. You may also consider using the exact shot time instead of the ordered sequence integer, but I prefer to keep it simpler.

During the import process you may also choose to create a copy of your images at an alternate location on your computer. Keep in mind that if you create a copy on the same drive as the original and your drive fails, you will lose both copies. That being said, my strategy is to not create a copy upon import in order to speed up the import process. However, I do use a dedicated backup solution in the form of Apple’s Time Machine, which makes incremental copies of all my data to an external drive every hour. Furthermore, this drive is also mirrored once a month to third drive, which is taken to my office (i.e. off-site). Not only are my photos secure in the case the house burns down, but all of my other data is safe as well. Of course, you can choose to on-line services for backup as well, but large capacities are needed and will add additional, recurring expenses. One important point to note, however, is that I am always absolutely sure of having two copies of the images before I delete any images from the memory card!

Image Storage

You may choose to import all of your images to a dedicated library that is manages automatically for you (iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom can do this, for example). This option will usually move or duplicate the original photos and place them in the software’s library. Personally, I like to leave my originals in recognizable folder structure, organised by date, then by event. For example:

Folder structure

The article continues here:

Words and images by Edward Byrne - www.tedbyrne.com

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