Digital photography is such a relatively new art that most of us, whether professionals or amateurs, have been adopting in helter-skelter fashion. Experiment follows experiment until we're temporarily satisfied with the results. Six months (or six days) later, we become aware of a new procedure, or some facet of the technology changes, and we begin making more and different changes to our ever-growing library of pictures.
That is when, to our horror, we discover that techniques that we once thought created perfection also destroyed so much of our original data that we must start the editing process all over again. Unfortunately, all too often, that's when we discover we have overwritten the original. Even if, by luck or forethought, we've safely saved the original, each of the changes that permanently alters the original data needs to be renamed and saved, adding to our workload, and to our mounting pile of digital files.
But wait! That's not all: we also discover that it can take more time to find the original than it would to just shoot another original. That's when the importance of establishing an efficient and non-destructive workflow begins to reveal itself.
Keeping images organised with the help of a systematic workflow is the key to your sanity. I've written this blog in the hope that it will help you to avoid wasting a lot of time recreating your digital masterpieces, or sifting through piles of digital file clutter in search of original files. What follows is a multi-level list of workflow steps that you can copy and paste on the wall of your digital lab and/or tuck into your camera bag. These steps can be gradually adapted to fit your own personal style and personality. Along the way, you may make discoveries of your own.
Before You Start
Here are some tips to consider before you even pick up your digital camera and start shooting.
- Make a checklist of all of the equipment you're likely to need on the shoot.
- Make sure that everything on the checklist is packed and ready to go before you have to do the shoot.
- Make sure your image storage cards are stored in clean, sealed cases and can be reached quickly if you suddenly discover that the camera's installed card is full.
- Use cards that will store roughly 36 (but not more than 50) RAW exposures at your camera's highest resolution. You'll also lower your risk of losing images if a card should fail while on a trip or assignment.
- If you're shooting large quantities of pictures, be sure to take along a device (such as a computer or portable 10-60GB pocket drive) that will allow you to recycle your camera cards at frequent intervals. You'll be able to store the content of your CF cards before you have to return to a computer for downloading.