Photography Workflow – Part I

Part I – My Workflow…the backstory

Arrows and blocksI didn’t start out thinking about a photography workflow, but I sure wish I had.  Even if I had – change is inevitable; that is one constant you can be sure of.  Technology changes so rapidly and keeping up is almost impossible.  The more you immerse yourself, the more you learn and that initiates change as well.  Ultimately you need to find what works for you.


In the beginning, my needs were pretty basic.  I downloaded the files from my camera to my PC and then shared them on facebook and/or made prints.  Things have changed considerably over that last few years.  It didn’t take long before I began to explore that vast and very expansive world of post processing magic.  Yes – magic – it is amazing what can be done with the digital negative with today’s technology and software.


Early on I dabbled with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, played around with Nikon’s View NX2 features, and made basic adjustment in Photoshop .  I used View NX2 as a means of viewing raw files and eliminated the trash (blurry, out of focus, etc) images before I proceeded further.  I didn’t really have a method of keeping track of my photos other than the file folders I created to download my images to.  It was a very crude filing system.  It is a good thing that I have an amazing memory and it has served me well in recalling where a photo is located…for a short time.  It didn’t take long though to advance beyond my memory.  After you have amassed thousands of pictures over multiple year, things just start to run together.  At this point I had heard about workflow, but didn’t have a clue really what it all meant.

It was also during this period I decided to create a blog.  I wanted to do more than just share a photo on facebook.  Blogging allows for more story telling and reaches a more vast and diverse audience.  Navigating social media is a whole other big and potentially crazy mess to venture out into.  Perhaps a post on that is in order…we shall see.


I was eventually introduce to Adobe Lightroom around version 3.x.  I was instantly amazed with its feature set, controls and capabilities.  At the same time I discovered Nik Software plug-ins. This opened up a whole other reality in regards to photography.  I was overloaded, over-stimulated and never before did I have so many cool and interesting tools at my disposal.  I was so enthralled with all of the new things I could do that I lost sight of managing this quickly forming mess of files.


As I continued to use Lightroom more I began to understand more of what it was capable of.  When I began using Lightroom, I just jumped right in.  No training, no classes, nothing – just started clicking buttons.  This only gets you so far.  YouTube is a wonderful resource for how too’s.  I wish I would have watched more, more often and earlier on.  I watched and learned just enough to get started – get started at a mess that is.  I am not saying that any particular way it right or wrong – this is just how things unfolded for me.  I began by creating a catalog for each instance of shooting.  There are pluses and minus to this.  I wasn’t even at the point of utilizing keywords and other meta data so the +’s and -‘s easily escaped me.  I stuck largely to my folder structure I had used all along.  I think during this period I acquired a pretty good working knowledge of the develop module.  There is so much more to Lightroom.


Holy Crap…keywords, now that is cool.  Managing your images and having the ability to search through them all by keywords is an incredible thing – provided you thought of all that ahead of time.  I did not.  I made the decision to change my catalog utilization; it was one catalog for all my images broken down by albums named by the date and occasion/subject from here on out.  I also began to utilize keywords so I could more easily locate images of the same topic.  I began the painstaking task of going  back through all of my albums and assigning keywords to the whole album and then also to each image.  Let’s just say that project never came to fruition.  I also started a new catalog for calendar year 2013 which left behind 2011 and 2012.   The thing with catalogs in Lightroom is, the bigger they get, the slower they get – or so I am told.  Having a new catalog for each calendar year wasn’t the ultimate solution in my mind either, but that is what I did.


It didn’t take long after my cataloging/keyword epiphany to realized I needed to get my digital act together.  I secured online cloud storage and implemented an additional external hard drive. This whole configuration is being modified currently.  The computer that was acting as my server had 1 of the 3 drive die.  It’s o.k. though as everything was backed up on my external drive and also in the cloud.  One could say I implemented a backup solution none to soon and they would be 100% correct.


And here we are present day; much wiser and more adept at this photography thingy.  With Cyndie and I both using laptops (1 PC & 1 MAC) and desktops (2 PC’s) we have been considering the best option in processing, storing, cataloging and sharing the images we create.  This workflow thing can be a real bugger to wrap your head around.  Things can get complicated if you let them. I an interested in something very easy to use.  I’d rather spend more time out shooting.  Cyn and I recently spent some time with some photography friends that shoot professionally.  I was able to glean some knowledge from them and put it use.  Thanks John and Emily @ Flom Designs and Photography.

The most important thing is understanding [realistically] what your needs are first and then tackle wants as you are able.  As we all know, needs and wants are very different animals.  I’ll go into this more tomorrow with Photography Workflow – Part 2, The Revised Workflow.


7 Replies to “Photography Workflow – Part I”

  1. LR is immensely powerful if used to its full potential as a database. I discovered much too late what it can do. Now I am slowly retrofitting everything. Not a happy chore.

  2. We seem to have come from a similar place… I needed this post 3yrs ago 🙂 Love LR, why I finally got it, was to organize my messy self. Tried multiple cats but have settled on one (125,000) images and running just as fast. I too thought there would be a limit or experience some sort of slow down. Lastly… backup… I use a DROBO and 2 backups. One off site!!!! My camera club peeps would love to see this…. big thanks for the organized post.

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