Photo storage, management, and work flow - what do you use?


TPF Noob!
May 22, 2012
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Anchorage, AK
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hey there! So I am using iPhoto to import my photos... awful I know. :/ What program do you use to manage your photos? I use CS6 to edit and I've seen that there are adobe programs. Thanks!
I store photos:

1) On whichever one of my two computers I happened to edit them on first
2) Monthly or so, I upload the ones I care about at all to an external hard drive, which I try to always keep at my office at work (so if the building burned down, it wouldn't take out both computers and the HDD)
3) Occasionally, bi or tri-monthly or so, I also upload ones I care about to Amazon's S3 cloud.

Exclusively photoshop to edit, except for the odd HDR photo for which I use the rather superior photomatix.
I shoot as RAW+LJPG and download them to separate folders. I pull the memory cards (5D3 has CF+SDHC slots) from the camera and put them into the appropriate slots on my computer. That way they download faster, or so it seems. It's also a good 'safety net' and 'oops' recovery in case of my inadvertently deleting a photo on my computer. As soon as those those copies are made, I put the cards back in the camera and don't erase them until I am done with all processing. Note that I have 3 'sets' of cards, as I sometimes don't have time to process everything before going out again. I also make a backup copy of the photos onto a different physical internal drive on my computer. Just more 'oops' protection. I make yet another copy to one or more USB thumb drives that I keep in my pocket just in case the house burns down or gets cleaned out until I have the processing completed and backed up on a backup hard drive.

My first real processing 'pass' is with the JPG folder, deleteing the boring/missed-focus/over+under exposed/duplicate/poorly framed/and other losers before I do anything with Lightroom. I then delete the corresponding RAW images and import what's left into Lightroom. I can usually do all my processing in LR. But for those times when I need to do some serious cloning and other difficult touch-ups, I move them to Photoshop Elements.

When I'm done with processing, I'll make a 'cropping pass' of the pictures cropping them to the sizes I want to print for the photos I give away. The cropped versions go to a separate folder, leaving the original for other crop sizes, etc. With all that done, I make a final copy to my long-term storage internal hard drive, and wipe out the versions on my SSD that I use for fast access while editing. Perhaps quarterly, I'll retrieve my external drive from a couple of miles away and download the pictures there as well as everything else important that has been updated, like my checkbook, etc.

As far as managing and/or cataloging my photos, I can usually group them by general subject folders and more specific detail folders underneath. So, for example, I have a folder D:\Church\Baptism Photos\xx-xx-xx(date)\RAW\ and \Final\ and \4x6 Cropped\ for example. It's not fancy, but then, I'm only an amateur so it's not like I have 1000 images per week to keep organized, like a professional would have to.
I shoot only RAW and my workflow is as follows:

1. Import directly from CF/SD card into Lightroom, using a pre-defined import preset that sets metadata, lens corrections, picture style, keywords, and makes a backup copy to an external drive during import (at this point I have 2 copies of each image, on different drives, before I even start editing).
2. Put card(s) back in camera, format it, put camera away.
3. First pass: identify selects and mark rejects for deletion.
4. 2nd pass: edit.
5. 3rd pass: set final star ratings now that editing is done.
6. Export as necessary using a pre-defined export preset for sending to model, uploading to website or Flickr, or anything else that I may be doing with the images.
7. Delete the jpgs I just exported.
8. From within LR, move (archive) all of the completed images to storage on my Windows Home Server in my basement. (My Home Server, in turn, backs itself up to an external array at 1am nightly, and to Windows Azure cloud storage at 2am nightly.)

Some thoughts:
* My folder structure is simple: \Year\Month (ex. 2013\07). I use this on both my editing PC and my Home Server archive. If you're managing your image library with LR and you're leveraging LR's capabilities (keywords, ratings, etc) then folders become largely unnecessary. I shot about 20,000 images last year and they're spread across a grand total of 12 folders.
* If you're shooting RAW there's no reason to keep jpg's you've edited/exported. OK maybe there's *some* reason, I do keep some of my top favorites in folders to use as desktop wallpapers and on my tablet for showing off. But, largely, there's no reason to hang on to jpg's.
* I have a script that runs monthly that purges files more than 6 months old off the external storage from step 1 to prevent it from continuously growing. This disk is simply my emergency backup location that images are written to during import; After 6 months those images would have long been edited, archived to my Home Server, backed up to external storage off my Home Server as well as backed up to Azure.
* My backup process is thorough and 100% automated. I never have to remember to do anything, I have 3 copies of each image, and one of those copies is offsite (Azure).
The question you ask in your title and in your post are somewhat different questions, but I'll specifically address what you posted. It appears that most people who edit with it use Lightroom to manage their photos. I've never used it, so I can't comment on its abilities. Adobe's bridge is designed to import, sort, and manage photos, and it does a decent job. The best, IMO (and the standard in photojournalism) is Photo Mechanic. If you're looking for a program dedicated to managing photos, it is extremely capable and powerful.
CS 6 Bridge is a pretty powerful image management tool, if you take the time to learn how to use it.
Bridge is a browser.
Lightroom's main function is image database management.
Database management differs significantly from using a browser to image images.
Database management is best used with a large image database and when monetizing your images is a goal.

I recommend getting the book - The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers
I use two drives.

1tb drive inside my mac mini, this is where i import my photos too. I Have 1 folder, which contains folders for years i.e 2013, within the year folder, my photos are broken up in to shoots, either the time and date of shoot OR the name of model/studio I've shot with/at

I use Lightroom to manage my photos.

Once a week I back up my entire folder to a backup drive. Which I use solely for this purpose.
pull everything in with lightroom. catalog, tag, do 90% of my editing and exporting thru lightroom as well. use cs5 for the other 10% of my editing.
pull everything in with lightroom. catalog, tag, do 90% of my editing and exporting thru lightroom as well. use cs5 for the other 10% of my editing.
Store Raw files on partition of harddrive and organize through Photo Mechanic 5. I then use photoshop for and PP and save it over again in the backup.
Okay, thanks guys! This has helped a lot. My photos are much more organized now with the 1TB external hard drive and folders upon folders. I think I would like to get a second external HD to put copies of the pics on (2 is 1, and 1 is none). Sorry about the confusion with my question. I also realized that iPhoto wasn't storing my images as RAW... great.

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