Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I'm not sure if I've ever written anything about my most recent workflow... but I think it is time.

For those of you non-photo people - feel free to skip this one. It won't be offended.

First - lets talk about my setup. I use a 15" MacbookPro as my main computer. It has a 500gb internal HDD. Next to it is a 22" LG monitor. I use an old Bamboo Fun tablet for mouse and pen work. Also essential to the editing process: headphones and music. I use Sennheiser HD 202 headphones. While I wait for files to upload I use an old computer running UBUNTU 9.10 to browse the internet. That's the 15" monitor on the far right.

So. I shoot RAW all the time these days. After I've captured all my images, I put my CF card into my LEXAR firewire 800 reader and I'm ready to rock.

1) Import into folders. - I keep my files organized in folders by year - month - day - file type. If there's a super special event, the day file will show it. For instance "january11_eventname"

Dead center in my desktop I have a folder called Pull Folders. In it is the list of filetype folders that I copy and paste every time I import.

2) After I've imported my NEF files, I go straight into the Adobe DNG Converter. I have no use for NEF files, but DNG's are useful and less cluttered (no sidecart xmp files). The machine copies all my NEF files to DNG's before I even launch Aperture or Bridge.

3) Once the files are in what I consider to be a usable format, I open the appropriate program. I use Aperture exclusively for personal work, whereas I use Bridge for all my work stuff (I shoot sports for Northern Arizona University).

4) We're going to assume I'm doing personal work - because that's what I like doing most. Once I'm in Aperture, I create a new project with the date of import. I then create albums by filetype - just like my folder organization. I import the DNGs into a DNG album.

5)  After Aperture is done making thumbnails and previews, I start my editing. I wait for Aperture to finish because my machine only has 2gb of RAM, and if I start to go through and make my selections, my computer can't keep up.

6) Selections are as follows:
 -1 star - every picture that doesn't hurt to look at and that I might possibly maybe want in the future. I make these selections based off the thumbnails with a one or two second glance at the preview.

- 2 star - To make these selections, I start at the beginning of the 1-star photos and I make them full screen. I take a lot more time deliberating whether a photo deserves a second star - all the 2-star images get edited and I don't have infinite amounts of time to edit. By the time I finish selecting 2 stars, I usually have 1/4 the photos I originally took.

- edits - I go through, pick the worthy 2-star photos and give them basic edits. Exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpening, etc. 90% of the time I can keep all of my edits in Aperture.

- 3 star - All the edited files are upgraded to 3 stars and unstacked from their parent image. The original remains at 2 stars. Aperture likes to rename files "300_5937 - Version 2" or some such thing. I really don't like that. I go through and rename the file to "300_5937-1" : A hyphen at the end of an image lets me know I edited it. The number following the hyphen tells me how much work I did. If the number is 1, I know I made basic adjustments and that the image is in color - perhaps just cropped. If the number is 2 I know the image is black and white. If the number is a 3, I know I did extensive editing to get it there.

- 4 or 5 star - Anything that could be portfolio-worthy gets 4 or 5 stars. Every few months I look through all the 4 and 5 star photos in my library and upgrade them to my portfolio if need be. Very few of my photos have 4 or 5 stars.

Once I'm done with selections and edits, I take the following steps:

- export - Everything that has a hyphen gets exported as a full resolution JPG, then likely as a 50% size JPG for use on this blog, Flickr or Facebook. This is a redundancy measure - If my Aperture library gets corrupted for any reason, it could lose track of the XMP changes it makes to the files. If I have them exported outside of the library, I can access them at any time without any need for Aperture.

- deletion - I delete all the NEF files. I already have them saved in a more usable format - the NEF's are just taking up space on my hard drive. I also delete all the DNG files that didn't make the 1 star cut. I now have between 1/3 and 1/4 the number of my original photos, and everything that I have left I can use.

- backup - Everything from the folder I now have goes immediately to three additional hard drives. One of them is a portable USB powered drive that lives with my computer. Another is a hard drive dedicated solely to photo backups. The third is an automatic time-machine backup. All of these hard drives are on site. In case the house burns down, I have a series of three hard drives at my parent's place in Colorado that get updated every time I go back. Next up on my plate is a fireproof, waterproof box that one of these backups can live in in case my house burns down.

That's it. After everything is backed up I take some time away from the computer.
I'm always looking for new and better ways to manage my stuff - so if you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to comment below!