Creating beautiful images in only part of what it takes to be a successful photographer. Managing large amounts of data while still being able to access it quickly and easily is one of the biggest challenges facing photographers.
Today’s high resolution cameras generate an enormous amount of data very quickly, a 12mp camera will produce a 15mb RAW file. If you consider that a busy shooter will take hundreds of photos per week, the gigabytes add up very quickly. Developing a smart workflow and data storage/management strategy will allow you to concentrate on shooting, not where you are going to put your images (or worse, looking for a single image among thousands). I will be outlining my workflow and data management as a guide, your workflow will vary.
Here is my setup
- iMac 23″ 2.4 GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB DDR2 SDRAM
- 1TB of space for storage, external drives (4)
- Hoodman Firewire800 HDMA card reader
- 16 GB Pro UDMA CF cards (4gb each)
- Aperture 2 (managing/organizing master files, keywords, tags, metadata)
- Photoshop CS3 (batch processing, mostly)
- DF Studio (for client proofs, final image delivery, archiving)
The Four Commandments of Digital Photography
- Always shoot RAW. No sense in not utilizing every pixel at your disposal. You will be able to generate and export any size file from your libraries.
- Do Not Delete. Save all of your shots, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This serves two purposes, first, you can examine the bad images so you can improve your shots the next time you find yourself in a similar shooting situation. Second, just because YOU think it’s a bad shot, someone else might love it. Trust me on this one.
- Do Not Edit Master Files. Your original RAW files should be treated very carefully. Think of engraving plates used to print money. Any changes made to the plate will show up on every copy.
- Stay Organized. Once you begin your workflow, you need to follow it to the end.
The Digital Workflow
- Import into Computer – Create a folder on your desktop called “Daily Dump Folder” or just “Dump Folder”. Download your images into this folder.
- Import into Aperture 2 – Open Aperture 2 and drag the files from your dump folder into the library. Aperture 2 will automatically create a new project called “untitled project”. You can change this to indicate the date, subject matter, location, etc.. If you want to add more photos to this project later, you will drag the new shots into that folder and it will not create a new project. All of your projects are kept in a library. You can have as many libraries as you want. For example, I have alibrary specifically for pictures of my daughter, a library for each invoice period, etc.. Once the images have finished importing into Aperture 2, you can delete the files from your dump folder. Exact copies of the RAW files have been added to your Aperture library, where they will remain safe and warm.
- Stack Images - Select the images you would like to keep as a group, then (apple key) + K. This will keep your images in a stack. Stack or unstack at anytime to make viewing easier.
- Create Album - Select a new stack of images, the (apple key) + E to choose all of the images within the stack, then (apple key) + L to create a new album within your project.
- Review and Select Final Images - Check the images you would like to use (using the green check mark will automatically assign 5 stars).
- Export from Aperture – Select your final images, then ctrl + (apple key) + E to activate the Export dialog. From here you can rename your images as well as choose the size to export (JPEG – Original Size, for example). Export the images to a folder on your desktop. These images are now ready. Your original files have not been altered, the JPEG in the export folder is a version of your originals.