"Workflow" simply means the steps taken to churn out a photo after you snap it.
With film, our workflow is:
Take film to lab
You get the idea. This whole process is the "workflow." For digital it's just the steps and software you find most convenient.
Here's what I use as of September 2008 for my digital cameras:
1.) I create a new folder on my Mac into which I'll ingest (also called download or import or copy or...) my images. I use no camera maker's software; I just drag and drop files.
I have a folder for each year, subfolders for each month, and preface each shoot's subfolder with the date and what I shot.
For instance, if I made photos to illustrate this article, they'd be in a folder at Pictures / 2008 / 09 / 04 Examples for Workflow Article, if I shot them on 04 September 2008.
If I shoot more than one thing in a day, the folders are marked 04 A, 04 B, 04 C...
2.) I use a SanDisk Extreme IV card reader and Extreme IV cards. Why? Because gigabytes download immediately with no waiting. TIme is money.
2a.) I won't format a card until its images are backed up in two separate physical locations. With pro cameras with two card slots, as soon as I've downloaded to my computer, I can flush card one because my images are on card two (in-camera) and my computer. On amateur cameras with just one slot, I'll have to use another card to shoot until I back up the computer and move that backup off-site, and then erase the card on which those images were shot.
3.) In the Finder, I select the new folder I just created and drag it to the iView icon in my dock, which starts iView and starts it cataloging. This can take a while if there are 500 shots in the folder. You only have to wait once, since once iView creates a catalog it opens and works instantly every next time. I prefer this to Aperture and Lightroom, which don't make catalogs and have to take time crunching data every time you use them. I have no time to wait for images to "load" as I'm working.
4.) I save the catalog that was just created in the same folder with all the images. I often preface the catalog's file name with "_" so the catalog bubbles to the top of any folder listing.
The next time you want to see your 500 images everything just works instantly by clicking the iView catalog in the Finder.
If you're still stuck on a windows computer then use BreezeBrowser instead of iView. BreezeBrowser needs no catalog, so you can save time by skipping steps 2.) and 3.), although since it has to read all the files it takes a while each time you open it.
5.) In iView, correct any vertical shots that need rotating with the rotation arrows. Most cameras don't need this step.
6.) Select all the images (CMD+A) and use Action > JPEG Rotate. This is called a Lossless Rotate, and re-orders the data in each image that's rotated so that each image is now genuinely a vertical, as opposed to what came out of the camera, which was really a horizontal with a flag set to vertical. (This step ignores the images that are already AOK.) Use the option "default," which means iView goes through and arranges each image to match what you see in the preview.
This is important because now the image will read correctly in every software and browser, not just those smart enough to read flags. It also makes the verticals display much faster, because with flags every piece of software needs to perform the rotation every time the image is displayed.
What's important about the "lossless" part is that you're not opening and resaving a JPG. All iView does is reorder what's there, with no loss of data. This is much more elegant than opening the image in Photoshop, rotating, and resaving.
This can take a second per vertical image, and it rotates the actual image data, not just the flags, once and for all. This is important to me, and something missing in Aperture and Lightroom last I checked.
7.) Look though iView to see what images you like and delete the crummy ones.
8.) When you find one you like, just burn it to a CD and have it printed at Costco or CVS or Wal-Mart or Target or Sav-On or wherever. I get much better prints much cheaper, faster and easier then trying to screw with an inkjet printer at home like people did back in 2003.
If you need to twiddle in Photoshop, which if you shot it correctly in the first place you wouldn't, then:
9.) Drag the image from the thumbnail view in iView to the Photoshop icon in the dock. PS opens and so does your image in PS.
10.) Mess with it in PS, save it as a high-quality JPG, burn to CD and take to the discount store for a real print on real photo paper. If you want a huge print then I burn a CD with a TIF and mail it to Calypso. Smarter people FTP it.
I use any search tool, like Apple's Spotlight. It finds my folders, created in step 1. above, by name.
If I want to find photos of Yosemite Tunnel View, I type that into Spotlight, and it pops up all my folders that are related. If I work an image in Photoshop, I might add the subject to the file name, which again will pop up however you search your hard drive.
I don't bother with Keywording. Why would I want to do that?
see my page on Backups
see my page on Backing up and Working in the Field
In the Shop
Back at the shop I backup my camera files, which as you should know are as irreplaceable as film, two ways:
1.) CDs. Each month I burn that month's shooting onto TWO sets of CDs of TWO different brands of CD. I store each set in a different location in case of fire. Why two brands? Simple: no one knows today what brand lasts five years from now. This way if you have a failure in one CD you have a very different one you should hope to be OK. If you check the backups every year or so you'll know if one brand is failing and can burn new CDs to replace them. Philosophically we don't care if the CDs are lost or fail in their own right so long as we know and keep them OK, since we will only need them should our master hard drive get stolen at Starbucks. In other words, if we lose the CDs it's no problem so long as we don't lose the master at the same time.
With CDs you have a copy of the original file if the file on your hard drive becomes corrupted. You also can read CDs in almost any computer and should be able to for years, or even decades, to come since CDs are so popular. The disadvantage is that CDs are made with dyes, not solid aluminum like commercially pressed CDs, so they can fade in time and lose your data.
2.) Portable external hard drives. I have two firewire hard drives. Each month or so I copy my ENTIRE Mac hard drive to the drive with the oldest backup. I just format the destination portable drive under Mac's disc tools and drag + Opt the Macintosh HD icon on top of the destination drive icon. You could just delete everything from the external drive and empty the trash, however that takes longer.
I rotate between two external drives so if I do something stupid and kill both the master and the slave in the process that I still have the second external drive undamaged. Back when I wasted my time with windows computers I actually had both the original and destination drive somehow make themselves unreadable and unbootable. I lost EVERYTHING, but since I had that second external drive it was no big deal and I laughed about the whole thing. That's another reason I love working on Mac today: we just don't have "computer" problems like that that people blindly using windows consider acceptable.
Having two hard drives in rotation I carry the one to which I just copied to a remote location in case of fire at my house. I bring back the older drive from that location at the same time and keep it at home ready for the next time I make a backup.
The advantage of hard drives is that they store everything without the need to use multiple discs, and that they should be almost impervious to decay or fading. People smarter than I consider the magnetic plates inside to be very long lived, so long as you have a computer that can connect to and read them. The disadvantage to this is that if a file corrupts itself on your master hard drive then each backup all you are doing is backing up the corrupted file. You won't know till a year from now when you go to read it, in which case you'll thank yourself for having also the old CDs you made above!
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