I teach a bunch of workshops every year and inevitably, a long discussion on workflow happens. I am never really surprised because to this day I even struggle with it. Well not struggle per-say, but definitely put a lot of thought into it–because I have no choice. I began photographing seriously in 1995, switched to digital in May of 2006, and since then have amassed a digital photo library of close to 60,000 edited images-none of them trash. If you think about how many I have actually shot in order to get those keepers the numbers probably could balance the national debt. Add on top of the digital files, 40,000 original transparencies, and you have a rather large collection of images for a single person to manage. I know where every single image is. And, if you believe that, I have some property on the border of Mexico I would like to sell you.
For the past two weeks, I have been sorting through many of those 60,000 files looking for images to rework, master, and show to the world. I will get to the reason why in a few thoughts. The image in this post was taken a few days before Halloween in 2007–metadata is an amazing thing isn’t it? It is one of my first attempts at a star trail composition. I rediscovered it a 2am last night, unmastered, and realized this is a definite keeper. I love the texture of the tree bark in the silhouette and the trails. Since this image was taken and uploaded, I have changed and edited my workflow routine probably a dozen times. The workflow that I am using right now, I have been using to some extent for a year and a half.
As my collection grew, the image diversity and locations grew, which meant it was necessary to change techniques to keep everything in order.
So what is that workflow? I think in the next couple of weeks I am going to put together a video of how I do it, but until then here is what I do. Also, remember, this is my way, it works for the way I think and work, you can think I am completely crazy (for which you would be correct), but I have to be able to access those 60,000 images. If you disagree, you can do it your way, the way that you think is just perfect, which I will think is completely crazy. I start by importing my newly captured images into a hard drive (named Photo HD) that houses the master image folders. When on location for multiple days, all of my images go into a mobile version of this file naming system and are backed up immediately to a mirrored hard drive. There are three folders here, Raw Files, Raw Movies, and Raw Scans. These folders contain breakdown folders that include subject, location, date, and a serial number. Every time I download, a new location and date folder is created to house those recent images and now I follow suit with my HD Video. I import these files using a software named Photomechanic. I use Photomechanic because it is screaming fast during the initial editing stage. Once those files are downloaded, I then edit, tossing the bad shots, renaming the keeper files to correspond with what the images are of, and then adding keywords. I am using a plug-in for Photomechanic called Controlled Vocabulary to keyword my images and I have added hundreds of my own keywords to the Controlled Vocabulary list. I can run through 500 images in about 15 minutes. Once my files have all of this metadata attached to them I import the folder into Lightroom 3.0 and begin mastering images. This is pretty straight forward, I just follow the Develop Module from the top down to do so, making adjustments that I feel make the images sing. Inevetably, this is just the beginning because Photoshop is needed for more localized and precision adjustments. I do not really rate my images, they are either keepers or trash. I will add one star to HDR exposures to separate them out from the pack and allow me to select which exposures will either go to Photomatix or be hand blended in Photoshop. I do attach a color code to the files though–no color needs to be mastered, green is done, blue is sharpened and ready to send to my new Photoshelter account, and red are images that were taken with film, scanned, and then mastered digitally and housed in a separate location. Images that need to go to Photoshop get an adjusted file name and then stacked on top of the corresponding original raw file. Files are then backed up to a mirrored hard drive named aptly–Photo HD Backup. This is where it used to end. Now here is why I have been looking, editing and mastering all new images…
We have a new website coming, really, really, soon. I want all new content here to highlight my diversity as a photographer. We then have the new Photoshelter account which we are licensing rights to my images and allowing people to order prints. On top of that our blog has been completely revamped highlighting any crazy idea I cook up in my insane brain. That then pushes these final selected images to five different usage locations, file sizes, and file types. In order to keep up with this I have decided that the fastest way to get the best image quality for the least amount of time spent, is to create actions in Photoshop to sharpen, resize, and refile those images for their specific outputs. In addition, I am using Pact Software’s Export Plug-in for Photoshelter, which I have to say is working amazingly.
This is a bit of an abridged version of how it goes, but stay tuned for a movie highlighting it all and the new website announcement.