Walking in the Scottish Highlands

(Or, how to organise, edit, find and not lose digital images)

Long before I started my photography business, I had thousands of photographs on various computers. I had no real idea which ones I liked best, when they were taken or whether they were worth keeping. More worryingly, I had no back up copies of any of them in case of a disaster. In short, my photo organisation was a mess.

When I moved towards my current professional approach, I made many upgrades to my equipment and created new business processes. To help with my photography workflow at the time, I downloaded a copy of Michael Clark's 'Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: A Professional Photographer's Workflow' (www.michaelclarkphoto.com), took time out to read it cover to cover and decided what worked best for me.

My photography workflow today

The three components in my photography workflow today are;

  1. Import files
  2. Rate and rename
  3. Archive and share

I have two main photography folders on my desktop computer - a temporary folder and a client archive. The temporary folder is used solely for the initial import and is cleared out once the images have been rated and moved to my archive. Doing it this way reduces disk space as I am only archiving quality photos and not any unavoidable rejects.

The software I use to process my images is Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. For backing up files, I use both desktop and portable hard drives plus a cloud solution from Crashplan. For client sharing, I use Dropbox Pro.

My workflow summary

  1. Download images to a temporary 'Raw files' folder on desktop
  2. Create a new Lightroom catalogue (e.g. Catalogue_2015) or use an existing one
  3. Import photos with keywords relating to the shoot
  4. Rate photos 1 (delete), 2 (happy to keep) or 3 (images that best meet the brief)
  5. Filter to view 1 star images and remove from Lightroom and hard drive
  6. Batch rename all remaining images (so both 2 star and 3 star) 
  7. Move the now-rated Raw images from my temporary folder into the client archive folder
  8. Synchronise Lightroom and export all the 3 star images to a 'Processed Images' folder on my desktop ready for submission to the client (I use custom presets so they're optimised for each destination I use) 
  9. Exit Lightroom, choosing to back up catalogue
  10. All files are backed up regularly by Apple's Time Machine (though I do manually if I've made a lot of changes).
  11. I also back up to 2 separate portable hard drives, both of which I hold in different places off-site, plus I have an automatic back up to the cloud
  12. Once a client has made their selection from the proofs, I'll mark the select images up to 4 star, complete the processing of them as required in Photoshop and share them with the client as high-resolution JPEG and TIFF files to finish the job.

Ratings summary

  • 1 star - delete
  • 2 star - happy to keep for archive
  • 3 star - sent to clients for proofing
  • 4 star - client selects

As a result;

  • I spent 2 months initially reviewing a huge backlog of photographs
  • All my photographs and Lightroom catalogues are now stored in multiple places (currently on my hard drive, two separate portable hard drives and in the cloud)
  • All are rated 2, 3 or 4
  • All files are named and tagged consistently with client, activity, location and date
  • I can find any client's images very easily