Digital workflow

My workflow has taken a little while to evolve and is constantly being refined further but I now download the RAW images from the memory cards or iPod to the Mac, using Adobe Lightroom, for which I have been a beta user since it was first introduced. I choose to copy all images into a folder on a separate hard disk drive using the date and name of that day's shoot such as '2008-06-22 Name' where the folders are grouped under year. This is so the folders index quite quickly making it easy for searching, archiving, backing-up etc and usually, I know where to find them.

Once the images have imported into Lightroom, I then review them and delete any obvious non-keepers, making any colour and contrast corrections to the remaining ones. I only physically convert an image to another format now when needed, so I can catalogue and keyword at this stage knowing I won't need to repeat the process. I then make web galleries, export images, copy to DVD's and CD's as required. TIF files are created whenever a print or high resolution image is needed and then archived. I only convert selected images to TIF when needed - this is a big improvement on how it used to be just a relatively short time ago. Images are then archived to an external 500Gb Firewire hard drive with additional backups burned to DVD. Lightroom now keeps track of where everything is and allows for quick visual access as well as searching by category and/or keywords so I am able to locate images of any subject quickly.

This workflow has taken some time to evolve - it works well for me now but no doubt it will evolve and change further over time as needs change as it has changed over the past 5 years or so.

Lightroom has proved to be a godsend as I used to use Cumulus, iView Media Pro, Portfolio, Image Info Toolkit and various others in order to achieve the same results. I have tried various applications for converting from RAW, trying Capture One and others but always went back to Adobe Camera Raw as I seemed to always get the best results with it. I immediately signed up for the beta of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom when it was first announced and was delighted to be invited to join their pre-release programme and to still be involved in testing and contributing to the development of the product. I am currently using version 2 and beta testing version 3. Thanks Adobe.

I have long been interested in cataloging and Digital Asset Management solutions and have tried several alternatives, never really finding one I have felt truly happy with. Those I have tried include IView Media Pro, Extensis Portfolio, Canto Cumulus, Image Info Toolkit and Photo Mechanic. My favourite was Cumulus, as it was the ony solution offering the facility for nested and relative keywords. The downside however was that it took quite a long time to get set up and I spent hours getting it just right.

I am also particularly interested in the use of controlled vocabularies so partly why it takes so long to set up a system is ensuring everything is entered correctly and that keywords are correctly nested and related. For example, if I add a keyword to an image of a duck, I want to be able to enter Mallard and my system automatically add the words duck, waterfowl etc and to correct my spelling of Mallard to mallard if that is what I have previously entered. I was very pleased that Lightroom recognised the system I had so painstakingly set up and other than a little tidying up, I had a complete nested keyword structure intact which I have since been able to improve on further and refine, due to Lightroom's flexibility. (See Controlled Vocabularies for further details).

I am gradually developing a full scientific taxonomical keyword system which includes scientific or Latin names as well as common names for the various species of plants and wildlife I photograph. This is a mammoth job but it is amazing how much you learn about natural history in the process.

Due to the ability I now have to easily add relevant keywords, descriptions and captions to the RAW file (instead of having to add it to each derivative image), I rebuilt my library completely to afford me the means to be able to locate images of specific subject quickly and easily in response to requests from picture desks, libraries or client enquiries. Efficiency is vital and to be able to respond to an enquiry quickly, with a set of relevant images, can be very effective. In addition, it provides a means to easily see where certain subjects may be missing or conversely where I already have a good selection.

Conceptual terms can also be added to make it easier to identify images which meet various other criteria so this is still very much a work in progress and will continue to evolve as I refine it further. Who ever said photography was all about taking pictures?

Watch this space