Photo Management. My personal workflow for beginners.

Are you like many people out there who enjoy taking photos? Some of you might be new to photography and find yourself in a very common situation where you have way too many images on your camera or phone. The next logical step is to put them on a computer, the cloud, or somewhere else but you are not too sure how… well let me help you by explaining my personal photo management workflow.

I take thousands of photos a year and have developed a system to manage and safely store them. It took a while to find and buy the right gear, so I am hoping that I can save you some time and money.

First thing you will need is a photo software program for you computer. There are a lot of options on the market that offer a free trial. So fear not, you will find one that works for your wallet and level of knowledge. Why a photography software program? Well, they will help you visualize, manage, edit, and erase your images. I personally use Adobe Lightroom Classic. It has been my favorite and primary platform for a decade. Here are a few options for you:

  • Mac OS Photos: Free with your Mac operating system. Good file management but very limited editing capability. The positive is that you can add plugins for editing.
  • Adobe Lightroom Classic: Part of the the photography plan. It includes Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Cloud storage and more. Subscription is $10 US/ month.
  • Luminar 4: An excellent photo management and editing platform. A one time purchase!
  • Capture One: Professional grade software for file management and editing. This is a solid software program at a premium price.
  • Picktorial: Affordable and is an advanced file management and editing software program for Mac users. It won’t break the bank and will work like a charm.

At this stage you will need to create a folder structure that make sense for you. I personally have a primary folder for the year, then sub folders for different events. I will have an ongoing “Best of” images for personal use throughout the year.

The next step is to backup your photos so that if your hard drive on your computer breaks down, you’ll have a backup of all of your favorite and important images. There are two ways to do this- you can buy and use a external hard drive or store your photos on the cloud. I personally do both, that way I have multiple copies of my photos. The Adobe photography plan offers cloud space with the subscription. There are also a lot of free and paid options out there, just make sure to use a reliable one as the company might suddenly go out of business and leave you with a short amount of time to transfer your photos somewhere else.

The last stage is to archive your photos. Now what is the difference between backing up and archiving photos?

  • Backing up photos is an ongoing process. I usually shoot lots of images and put them in a folder on my computer for editing and deleting. Occasionally, I don’t have the time to do it all and have to leave the folder alone for a bit. I will also introduce more photos and folders throughout the year. I backup those folders as I go on my devices and leave them on my computer for future use until the end of the year. That way if something goes wrong, I’ll have a copy of them. The down side is I have more files that I need as I haven’t deleted all of the bad ones and it takes way more room that it should.
  • Archiving photos is the final backup at the end of the year. I do this when I know I am done editing and deleting most of the images I imported to my computer. I will then have a well trimmed collection of images for the year. This is when I copy my year onto my devices for the last time. I will overwrite the folder as the one from my computer only has the files I want to keep and I no longer need the previous larger ongoing backups. This allows me to have a reasonable size of photo folders on my external hard drives. I can always bring back a folder or some images to my computer if I need to do more work.

Here’s a list of my devices.

  • NAS Qnap T451+: A network attached storage unit. This unit is my own personal cloud. It has room for 4 hard drives and can run different RAID combinations. This is the perfect solution for a small business with multiple users. It can work at home for the family as well. I use this unit for ongoing backups and archiving.
  • Western Digital My Book: A simple but efficient hard drive. I use this one for ongoing backups and archiving.
  • LaCie Rugged Portable Hard Drive: A solid unit that can run RAID 0 and 1. Mine has a Thunderbolt 2 and transfers files at a very good speed. I can edit 4K video from it. I use this unit when I am on the go for immediate backups. I don’t keep files long-term on it.

I hope this will help you create an organized and efficient backup and file management system.

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