What is the Best Process for Photography - Workflow and Technology?

Since I started taking photos, I have amassed thousands. Especially since 2007, when I first got a decent camera and went travelling.

Whilst travelling, I used SD cards and each time I got to an internet connection I would go through the photos I had taken since the last time I was at an internet connection, choose the ones I considered to be highlights and uploaded them onto Flickr. I believe I also backed up the images onto a hard disk and CDs.

Pros

  • Photos regularly got filtered and were made public in a social way.

Cons

  • Filtering was off the cuff so difficult to re-filter. Flickr's organising tool was rubbish at the time.
  • All my off the cuff 'contact' photos were out in the public which is generally considered a bad idea for a photographer.
  • Linking to items on Flickr on the blog with non descript file names messed up all the photos in my blog.
  • Flickr would have downtime which meant the photos on my blog would sometimes disappear.
  • The system caused me to get lazy because it worked ok and was out of my mind but it didn't allow me to confront my learning process.
  • No really serious back up system.
  • Taking photos for the web meant at first I didn't shoot in NEF.

Issues, summarised

Technology

  • Camera.
  • Storage.
  • Backup.

Process

  • Backup.
  • Organising.
  • Filtering.
  • Presenting.

Focus / energy

  • Photography not being my only media (I was also shooting film, writing etc), then my attention was only on photography. Media overload.

What I did to try to improve

When I first had the chance to take a step back and move forward with my photography, I spent time improving the Flickr account. However, I ran into problems with the organising feature (clunky interface, poor internet connection causing fall out). I decided to do a bit of spring cleaning and then left the Flickr account more of less as it was. I started to look into photography software.

Picasa

This started out being great with easy tools for on the fly automatic developing. It also offered the ability to back up to the cloud. However, after I while I realised that it wasn't right for me because it wasn't a professional tool. I started to get disenchanted with the amount of time I spent with this huge collection of photos yet running into technical problems that felt like I was wasting time.

This process tool the wind out of my sails and photography went on the back burner. This was a shame because of the fact that before I started the process of trying to sort out and organise my photos with the aim of 'communicating' them, I had a great process for at capturing shots, processing them and backing them up. For all the downfalls I found with Flickr at least I had a system.

Lightroom

The saving grace came in the form of Adobe Lightroom. This software is brilliant and feels professional. I started using it in around 2011 after downloading a trial and I have been impressed.

Hardware

This software had an interesting side effect. It made me realise that my technology wasn't good enough I needed to research and invest some hardware. At the time I was a PC user. I had a PC laptop, but I used it for web development and it was already overloaded and slow so there was no chance I was going to use it for photography too.

I decided to build a high spec but good value PC - i7 Quad core, 8gb ram etc and I put my photo collection on it. However, the problem was the PC was not mobile and I was, so I ended up neglecting my photography. What I ended up doing between around 2010 and 2012 was using the Macs in Goldsmiths where I processed only the photos I needed at the time for uni work. This unfortunately didn't include any of my travelling photos, so they stayed hidden.

In 2014 I bought a decent Macbook laptop (last 2012, i5, 8gb ram, dual disk SSD / HD) and since then I have used it for photography and everything else.

Workflow

I found the workflow of Eric Scouten and applied that to my entire back catalogue. Last year I made a space in a shed and went through all of my photography, completing basic metadata triaging into 'display public' or 'candidates'. Everything else goes into folders - 'other' (for work), 'family friends', 'dont show'. That's about it. Lightroom has great tools for going through and creating groups that can then be put into folders. I created a folder structure like 'year - place' and then inside that folder 'date - event'.

Now I am at a situation where everything is organised but the problem is that I need speed and access. My the catalogue runs too slowly, I'm paranoid about back ups and I'm afraid to get creative because I don't want to add chaos into the order. This is a strange situation to be in. Of course, if I was a professional photographer, who had come up through the ranks, I would have sorted this stuff out by now. However, I'm unfortunately limited by time and I do other stuff, so I have the need for speed.

Options - More catalogues in Lightroom

I've read that having more catalogues is a way to speed up Lightroom. However, first to instigate this I need to be sure that I've got the hardware and the speed to start moving many photos without fallout and error (including human error). I could put catalogues on separate USB disks and keep each disk backed up. However, disks start piling up. I see this as a bridge to a more serious back up system that wouldn't only work for photography - a separate media server or a NAS.

Pros of a separate server / NAS

  • Dedicated to media.
  • Could be made accessible across the web.

Cons

  • Expense.
  • Setup.
  • Safe place to put it.

Alternative

Another option could be to get Amazon to take all my photography and put it on their servers - a service called Amazon Snowball, which is a server they offer, but then I would need to look into if Lightroom can work off remote images.

NAS

Run Lightroom so that it reads / writes to the disk - using the NAS as archive for photo material.

Options

  • Synology DS416, DS916+
  • QNAP TS-251+-2G 2 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure with 2GB RAM

Conclusion

This is an ongoing process. Back soon.

References

  • https://paulstamatiou.com/storage-for-photographers-part-2/
  • http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_sop=1&_nkw=nas&_dcat=106273&rt=nc&_mPrRngCbx=1&_udlo&_udhi=200
  • https://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/19421/what-system-should-i-use-for-photo-management-and-sharing-over-a-lan
  • http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-network-attached-storage/
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