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How to establish a workflow system that works

How to establish a workflow system that works - Edward Byrne's overview of the digital photo management process. Part one tells us why image management starts in camera.

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General Photography


If you’re using a DSLR for your photography then chances are you already have an established workflow, even if it is a simple one and that you may not refer to it as such. Wikipedia’s basic definition of a workflow is a sequence of connected steps and for the purpose of this article this definition will suffice. In order to view or edit your images on a computer then you indeed need a series of connected steps that allow you to move your photos from point A (camera) to point B (computer) to Points C, D, E (web, prints, books, client, etc).

For many folks the process may be simple enough as connecting their DSLR to a PC and hitting the Import All button in the transfer software. Bang, finished right?

If you’re like me, however, and you like a little more organisation and security in your life and hobby, then you’ll surely want to add a few more steps to this procedure. In this article I’d like to share a few of the notions that you may want to consider when moving and editing your precious image data. Keep in mind that this article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to digital asset management (DAM), but rather an overview of important steps in the digital photo management process.


It starts in camera

For me, image management starts in the camera since much metadata (information about the photo) is stored directly in the image file. Most DSLRs will allow you to append a copyright notice and/or an author’s note to each image. For example, I add my website as a way of personally tagging all of my photos right from the start.

Secondly, you need to decide on how to name your files and whether or not your want a continuous numbering system (although this may not be so important if you decide to use other file-naming methods upon importing during a later step). Lastly, if you are travelling make sure you check your camera’s clock and set the correct time zone upon arrival. If you travel frequently, you may choose to simply use GMT+0 for ALL of your work, even in other time zones.

File format + in-camera storage

The decision for shooting either in RAW or jpeg format (or both) is a personal and technical choice and beyond the scope of this article. Regardless of your decision, however, you can still begin thinking about backing up your images before even taking a single frame.

Many higher-end DSLRs now have dual slots for two memory cards. Often, you have the choice to use the second slot to mirror the first; thereby providing instant backup in the case that there is a problem with one of the cards. Personally, I shoot in RAW format and usually use the second slot for full size, high quality jpeg backups. This allows me to use the high quality RAW image for post-processing while also having an easily viewable jpeg available as well. This has also proved to be convenient for times when I’d like to share photos directly out of the camera without having to go through a RAW converter. In the case that there is ever is an issue with the RAW files then I can live with a high quality jpeg as a backup. If you cannot then you can choose to store a RAW image on both cards.

In-camera reviewing

Personally I try to limit the number of frames I shoot and intentionally avoid the “shotgun approach” unless I absolutely need too. Quite frankly, I’d rather limit the time I spend sorting photos on the computer by being a little more selective in the field. For this reason, I review all my shots and immediately delete any obvious rubbish for the same reason. There’s a debate on whether one should actually delete images in-camera for fear of causing problems with the cards (corruption issues). Personally, I have no fear of this and completely place my trust in the camera manufacturers. I have yet to experience any issues by doing so. I’ll come back to this point near the end of the article.


I’ll mention backup quite frequently since digital data can be lost quite easily, mainly due to:
  • loss/theft of a camera
  • accidentally deleting images
  • corruption of cards (due to manipulating file structure via the computer)

If I have several days of shooting and I’m travelling without my main computer I’ll import my high-quality jpegs onto an iPad after each day. I don’t delete any photos on the card once they are imported, but simply reinsert it back into the DSLR. This gives me three copies of my photos in two separate locations, before even beginning any post-processing. Of course, I’ll carry a few extra cards in the case that they start becoming full.

The article continues here:

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

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