My current image workflow

I posted my current backup strategy a while ago. And after a quick chat with Rodrigo on Twitter I decided to post my image workflow as well.

The basic flow is simple:

1. Out there
Snap images in RAW using my trusted Canon ESO 400D. I’m still very impressed with this camera. It has survived more than I could expect. Now snapping away at its image number 26 654.

It has survived drops from 1,5 meter. Heat and sand in Marrakesh and freezing snow in the mountains of Norway. I’m not changing before Canon cranks out that 21 mpix, 8 fps, weather sealed, HD-video shooting full frame 5D mark II. Yeah. I know. Rumors.

Anyway, I am using two 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II CF cards while out shooting. Then:

2. At home
Transfer the images to my 24″ iMac (a fast, beautiful, silent and in general amazing machine). I’m using the import function in Lightroom and organize the images in folders according to the date: “Main Archive”/Year/Month/Day/image files

The images are not stored on the iMac. They go to a shared drive that’s connected to the main server at home. The main server is a MacBook Pro that had an accident and ended up with a destroyed screen. It’s now permanently connected to the TV in our living room. Serving as a media hub, PVR and file storage for the family. It’s placed in a well ventilated cabinet together with a bunch of disks.

And that’s where my image files go. On to two of the disks. Set up in a mirrored RAID for redundancy.

3. The boring stuff
Tag my images as much as I have time for. Usually that boils down to a few tags describing the session, happening, place and whatever suits all images. I’m not good enough at individual tagging of my images. Too much of my archive relies on the fact that I remember when the image I am looking for was taken. Lately I’ve also started to do automatic geotagging of my images.


(This image: the ultimate cliche. Shot at Solastranden at the western coast of Norway)

4. The fun stuff
Process and edit my images. Lightroom 2 is really powerful for this. With the adjustment brush I can do wonders with an image very fast. And everything is non destructive, leaving the original RAW file untouched. The RAW files contain more information than a JPG and I’m still amazed what I can get out of even a bad shot with wrong white balance and wrong exposure.

I used Aperture for this in the beginning. But Aperture ended up useless on my 60 000+ image archive. I’ve checked, and the latest version of Aperture is way better at this. But when switching I also ended up liking the tagging work flow, editing, RAW conversion and general handling in Lightroom better.


(This image: the beautiful Steinsdalsfossen in Hardanger, Norway)

The kitschy stuff goes into Photomatix and the tricky stuff goes into Photoshop.

5. Publishing
I’m using my images in my presentations, on this blog, over at NRKbeta, on our family site, on print and even for sale. I have a lot of images on Smugmug and Flickr, but the ones I’ve sold have been directly because someone found them on my blog or through my experiment with Shutterpoint.

In general I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to people using my images. As long as it’s not stupid shops using them in commercials without asking.

The alternate workflow
When travelling I bring my MacBook Pro. I’m running Lightroom on that one as well. So, when I’m on the road my images go from the camera, into the MacBook and on to an external disk for backup as well. When back home I transfer the images from the MacBook. Keeping all the editing and metadata from Lightroom on the laptop.

Feel free to fire away questions in the comments.

My current image workflow

4 thoughts on “My current image workflow

  1. thanks for sharing that ! many many more questions :

    – how do you manage the transfer from your laptop projects to your external disks (I use Aperture), if you’ve worked on them on the road. can any of these programs (assuming Lightroom here) manage different projects easily or do you need to reimport everything, etc.

    – how do you configure your RAID setup at home ? (maybe a link to a setup page online ?)

    – what do you use for running a server system on that broken MBP (I also have one with a broken screen ;) : Mac OSX Server ? What’s the setup there ? (I upload to Flickr, and got myself an AppleTV to display the pix on my TV)

    – do you use any optical correction software such as http://www.dxo.com ? I’m liking them a lot. But I need help with the automatic setup of the workflow :
    RAW files > dxo for automatic treatment > aperture for cropping/tagging/etc. > storage

    – any good comparison analysis available between lightroom and aperture ? of available plugins for each, etc. or even on how to share libraries or folders between the 2 programs ?

    Thanks.

  2. 1. Transfer between laptop and main library on iMac

    On the road I’m transferring the images to the laptop and immediately throws a backup on an external disk as well. That’s the one that goes into the safe in the hotel room. It will only be a backup of my images, not the complete Lightroom catalog with tags etc. Unless I feel I’ve done enough work worth another backup.

    So, I work on my images while traveling. Tagging. Editing. When I return back home I export everything to a separate catalog from Lightroom on the laptop. That catalog will include images, edits, metadata and preview files.

    This catalog is then imported into my main library using my iMac. At this point I loose any more edits I do on my laptop. I’m not constantly syncing the two computers. The iMac is the main library with all my images. The laptop is only a temporary stay.

    2. how do you configure your RAID setup at home ? (maybe a link to a setup page online ?)

    I’m using SoftRaid to mirror two and two full disks. Meaning that if I add 1 TB to the system I buy 2 drives, one TB each. Connect them both through FW800 and use SoftRaid to initialize them and set them up as mirrored RAID. You find SoftRaid here: http://www.softraid.com/ – The setup in SoftRaid is very graphical and intuitive. That’s why I like SoftRaid in favor of Apples built in RAID.

    3. what do you use for running a server system on that broken MBP (I also have one with a broken screen ;) : Mac OSX Server ? What’s the setup there ? (I upload to Flickr, and got myself an AppleTV to display the pix on my TV)

    I’m simply running Mac OS 10.5 with shared drives. I have considered OSX server because (as far as I understand) that would give me full spotlight search of all the shared drives. I’ve connected an EyeTV 610 digital cable tuner to add the PVR functionality and a Turbo.264 to speed up encoding.

    4. do you use any optical correction software such as http://www.dxo.com ? I’m liking them a lot. But I need help with the automatic setup of the workflow :
    RAW files > dxo for automatic treatment > aperture for cropping/tagging/etc. > storage

    I’ve played around with DxO and it works great. But it adds a level of complexity and I ended up managing my needs with Lightroom lens correction and Photoshop. I hope Adobe would buy DxO and make it an integrated part of Lightroom.

    5. any good comparison analysis available between lightroom and aperture ? of available plugins for each, etc. or even on how to share libraries or folders between the 2 programs ?
    http://www.oreillynet.com/digitalmedia/blog/2007/02/special_event_aperture_vs_ligh.html
    http://www.oreillynet.com/digitalmedia/blog/2007/02/a_comparison_adobe_lightroom_v.html
    http://testmac.net/aperture-2-vs-lightroom-2-beta/
    http://www.f1point0.com/2008/04/07/dodge-and-burn-lightroom-2-beta-vs-aperture-21/

  3. Interesting blogpost. I think of myself as a bit of a photogeek, but I have long ago realized that what happens between “out there” and finished product could and should be done more efficiently and better. Several reasons for this; lack of competence, student funds, not exactly top-notch hardware and so on.

    My workflow goes something like this: Shoot, import directly from the camera into a folder which is spesified as date(year, month, day) and a description or name of the contents. Tagging has not really become a part of it yet, though I know I probably should. As all my photos are shot in RAW, I go through everything in Adobe Bridge, where I do get a general idea of what images I would like to do anything about. Those images are then opened up in Photoshop where I do more or less all of the adjustments. The new RAW-converter is in my opinion way better than the one in CS2, and if you put a little time into it, you can really see the power in it. When the RAW-conversion is over, it’s all about finishing those last few details, or making greater adjustments according to the use of the photos.

    I am also waiting for that new fullframe weathersealed rumour, but I don’t think I really need 21mpx. And I just bought a EF 24-105L last night, so I need to start saving.

    Thanks for a lot of interesting blogposts. Loved your coverage of IFA.
    Andreas

  4. my photography workflow…

    Inspired by this old post by my old friend Eirik Solheim (great photographer and new media guru by the way), I’ll try to describe how I deal with my photography, and hopefully improve the way I work along the way…….

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