Workflow Essentials – Keeping Things Organised

It’s easy to quickly accrue hundreds and then thousands of images. A good workflow will help you organise, store and retrieve them so you never find yourself pulling your hair out trying to track down a specific shot.

1. Backup your images

First, transfer your images from the camera’s memory cards onto your laptop or computer. We use Adobe Lightroom to do this, but you could also use Windows Explorer or Mac Finder. Make sure you copy rather than just move the files, so you have backups of them all from the start.

Next, back the files up on an external hard drive or by uploading them to a cloud storage system (like Dropbox or iCloud, for example). Memory cards, computer drives and hard drives fail all the time. In fact, the average life of a hard drive is between three and six years, so it’s just a matter of time before yours lets you down.

We always have at least two copies of each image for all our commissioned work. This starts in-camera, with dual memory cards recording each image just in case one fails. Protect yourself from losing hard-to-replace images by having multiple backups.

2. Import your images to your software

Again, we use Adobe Lightroom for this, but alternatives include Adobe Bridge and Capture One. During the import process, you can add metadata such as a title, caption and keywords. Taking a minute to do this now will save you hours of searching later on, when you are looking for a specific shot. The information you add will be applied to every file affected by the import, so relevant data could include the shoot, the client and the location (e.g. engagement shoot for Mr & Mrs Smith at Forest Woods).

3. Rename your images

Sort your images by capture time (so they are ordered chronologically) and rename them. In our studio, we use the format YYMMDDZZZZ_XXXX where:

  • YYMMDD is the date the image was captured, formatted in reverse so that files are stored first by year, then month, then day.
  • ZZZZ is a four-letter code that represents the shoot (e.g. ESFW to represent Engagement Shoot Forest Woods).
  • XXXX is an incremental counter starting at 0001. We always use four digits as it ensures the images are always displayed in the correct order, no matter which application opens them.

We store our images in folders named YYMMDDZZZZ_JobName so they are also stored in order, and are descriptive enough to be helpful when searching.

4. Format your memory cards

Once your backup is complete (and you’ve double-checked that the images are safely stored), format your memory cards and repack your cameras, so they are ready to go for the next session.

5. Shortlist your images

The last step before editing is to shortlist your images. Choose your favourites and split them into two levels: Level 1 for keepers and Level 2 for non-keepers. Alternatively you could use flags, colours or stars in Adobe Lightroom or Bridge to differentiate between your choices, but the downside of this method is that you won’t be able to tell them apart when browsing files in Windows Explorer or Mac Finder.

We archive every image taken and never delete anything. We just shortlist the images with a high likelihood of being selected by the client, but keep the rest anyway.