I have written a couple of other posts on this topic previously on my blog (HERE and HERE); however, they are at least a couple years old. I thought it was high time to write a refresher post– especially since I mentioned it recently on a podcast about using my big camera in everyday life, and I also recently gave a short talk at a ladies’ event at church about organized memory keeping with digital photos.
In fact, my workflow hasn’t actually changed in any substantial way since my post about using Flickr. I think that this means that my process is working really well for me and the way that my brain works. I will say this: the process is work-intensive. It is not quick and easy. It takes dedication, but I firmly believe that it is absolutely worth it.
Therefore, I think it is worth sharing again– so here is my current workflow:
- Get the photos to the computer.
- I have a folder in “My Pictures” for each year. Within that folder, I keep monthly folders. If there is an especially big event (say, a special vacation), I might have an additional subfolder for that set of photos. But in general, monthly folders are sufficient.
- Several times per month (or more frequently, especially if I want to use a particular photo quickly– for example, on the blog, or to share with a friend or family member), I put my SD card into the slot on my laptop and copy the photos onto my hard drive.
- Once per week, my husband and I upload photos from our phones to Dropbox, and I copy those photos onto my laptop’s hard drive, as well. I keep cell phone photos in separate subfolders in my monthly folders because it helps me keep what photos I’ve processed straight. I generally work with one camera at a time so that my brain doesn’t get too tangled.
- Delete the bad photos.
- I delete anything that is badly blurry, or a photo of someone with a really weird expression or eyes closed. I delete obvious near-duplicates.
- I have a hard time culling too many photos, though. My kids are little, and their expressions change so quickly. I am lenient on myself and probably keep too many…
- Rename the photos from the big camera. Yes, this is an extra, unnecessary step.
- The images from my big camera are just numbered, and so I rename these files with YYYY_MM_DD_shorttext so that there is a bit of information captured in the filename.
- Yes, this is an extra, unnecessary step. However, I appreciate the quickly-accessible information when I’m scanning through my monthly folder.
- For big events with lots of photos, I don’t always re-name, especially if the files are in a separate subfolder.
- Import photos into Lightroom.
- I import my photos in smaller batches when I can; it makes the next tasks seem quicker.
- Add metadata.
- In my opinion, this is the most important step. As I gushed about in my long-ago post about metadata, it is amazing that there is a way to record stories right there within the .jpg file. I started adding captions and stories to each and every photo that I add to my hard drive within a few months of my first child being born, and it is a game-changer. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but now I know my thoughts or the story behind every photo. I am able to preserve precious details in a manageable (and backed-up!) way. It’s kind of like when you used to write photo details on the back of a print…
- In Lightroom, in the Grid or Loupe view, there is a “Caption” field in the right-hand menu:
- You don’t need a fancy program to enter a caption, though! In Windows Explorer (this is Windows 8), make sure that in the “View/Navigation Pane” options, the “Details Pane” is turned on. The metadata will be revealed, and you can edit fields right there, including the “Title” field (This is where LR writes caption data, and where it will be picked up by Flickr, etc. as caption information). Make sure you click the “Save” button to write your metadata changes to the file!!
- You can add the same story to a series of photos by selecting them all before you type your caption.
- Choose favorites.
- In each import set, after I’ve captioned all of the photos, I select favorite photos. I personally label them with a purple color label in LR.
- I’ve set up smart collections for each month; based on the date and color label, the collections automatically pull in those favorite photos so that I can easily export and share them later.
- Edit favorites.
- During each import session, I do some simple edits on only the photos I’ve selected as favorites.
- Export and manually back up photos.
- At the end of each month, I export the favorite photos to a temporary folder and upload them to an album on Flickr that I designate to be viewable to family and friends. I also copy them to a computer at a remote location for an extra layer of protection (Thanks, Dad, for giving me back-up space!). Then I delete this folder of edited images; the edits are stored in Lightroom.
- At the end of each month, I upload all of my photos (the unedited files) from that month (from all of my cameras) to a private album on Flickr– this is an additional layer of backup for my photos. I have Crashplan running in the background at all times, and theoretically once per week, I also back up my laptop to a local hard drive (Even though I have Google calendar set to send me a reminder every single week, I will admit that I am too lazy to actually do it every week).
- Once my photos are backed up in multiple locations, I empty my camera’s memory card(s) for that month.
Processing my photos through this workflow ensures most importantly that my stories are paired with the photos–I can’t stand the idea of not having an idea of why a photo was taken. My photos are safely backed up, and I am able to (mostly) keep on top of the influx of new ones. I am able to share with family and friends, and I am able to have photos ready for memory-keeping projects at any time.