Photography Workflow 2018
Hotel du Collectionneur | 51-57 Rue de Courcelles | 75008 Paris, France
This year brought a ton of tweaking to my photography workflow - this mainly focused around optimizing my existing backup processes, but it was sparked by some new gear in the arsenal. At present, it still doesn’t feel like it’s quite there yet, but it’s a vast improvement over how I started 2018.
I made the jump from Sony Alpha 7R to Sony Alpha 7R III and could not be happier. It took me a little while to figure out how I wanted to utilize the dual-card slots, as of right now, I’m writing RAW’s to the fast slot and Extra Fine JPG’s to the slower slot. I’ve read a ton of posts about this kind of configuration, both positive and negative. Let me be clear, I edit in RAW-only; if I were to lose the RAW’s I would be devastated. That said, the JPG’s are like a bonus for me. If I were out shooting and somehow ran out of space on the primary card, I wouldn’t think twice about formatting the JPG card and using that for a second batch of RAW’s - this hasn’t happened to me yet, but again, it would be a no-brainer. That said, I’ll get to why I like having the JPG’s directly from the camera.
Back Home (or, “wherever the laptop is”)
Once I’m done shooting for the day and back wherever the laptop is, I plug in the camera via USB-C. I LOVE this about the a7R III; the transfers are SO FAST and I never have to take the cards out, which has burned me before either by forgetting to put the card back in the camera after taking it somewhere to shoot or losing images because of some weird issue with a card reader - no more!
Cloud Services (or, “this is where things get complicated”)
First, this is where those JPG’s come into play - the whole batch gets uploaded to Google Photos. There are a few reasons that make this my preference, but the main point is that I can see everything that I shot on multiple devices, which allows me to preview no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I can also share unedited selects with family, which is especially helpful when you have a 2-year-old with grandparents on different continents.
I should mention that I have G Suite setup on my own domain, which includes many benefits, one of which being unlimited drive storage. I still don’t believe that this is a thing and rather some kind of mistake that Google made when I was setting up my account, but it’s real. Given that, my 16TB NAS is kept in sync with my Google Drive using Synology’s Cloud Sync app - if I move files over at home, they’re backed up to the cloud automatically - if I’m on the road (and have a fast connection), I can upload the day’s shoot to Google Drive and I know it will be on a drive in my closet as well shortly thereafter.
Going back to Google Photos, I’ve since corrected an issue that an earlier me implemented without thinking longer term. Just because Google Photos allows you to upload RAW’s does not mean that you should! This caused my backups to be twice as big as they needed to be (Google Drive + Google Photos) which wasted a ton of space. It is also a giant pain to pull down RAW’s from Google Photos in the event that you would ever need to. Downloads are limited to 500 pictures at a time and transfer speeds are incredibly slow compared to pulling down files from Drive. I also noticed that any download approaching or larger than 3GB would frequently error out, requiring you to restart the download all over again. Overall, there’s just no need to upload RAW’s to Google Photos - I was just being lazy. Moving forward, everything I shoot now has an associated JPG already - everything from the past that doesn’t is a simple overnight Photoshop batch-process away from being JPG-ready.
Overall, I really love that I can either drop a shoot folder on the Nas or vice versa on Google Drive and not think about the redundant backup that will be automatically initiated.
Now that everything is either fully backed up or on the way to be in multiple places at the same time, the nervous feeling in my gut has subsided and I can start editing.
I am an almost full convert to Lightroom CC. There are still some things that I need to do in Lightroom Classic, but overall, Lightroom CC is my preferred application for photo editing now.
The main reason for this is Catalog management. I still have random, disparate Lightroom catalogs strewn about on various drives that I have no recollection of what they contain or with what photo repository they are associated. Those days are over now as far as I’m concerned - I happily pay Adobe $29.99/month for the photography plan + 2TB of storage. I’m at around 75% capacity now, and honestly slightly dreading the 2x price jump to the next level up (5TB), but at the end of the day it’s so worth it.
I can edit on my desktop, laptop, and phone using the same catalog with instant updating between them all - this means post work can happen more often and in more places because I’m not constrained by a main catalog that only exists on my desktop at home.
I did mention that I’m slightly worried about needing more than 2TB of storage from Adobe. Since I started taking pictures, I’ve operated under the strict rule of “delete nothing, keep everything.” I’ve calmed down to this only over the recent months. If everything is backed up to both local and cloud storage, I’m realizing that I don’t need to keep every single shot in Lightroom. This was tough to adopt at first, but it’s also helped me improve at taking a more critical eye to the shots I’ve captured and it’s allowed me to cull more efficiently (and with a vengeance!).
Shooting on film slowed me down for many years, but as soon as I pick up a digital camera I start firing away like a madman. Being conscious of a well-defined post-processing workflow forces me to take a step back in the heat of shooting and think more about not just what I’m capturing, but how many times I’m capturing it.
I’ve read a lot of inspiring posts by Samuel Zeller, a Swiss photographer (and really, the inspiration for this blog and the most recent incarnation of my portfolio site), and he really sold me on the importance of having a photo archive (read his post if you want to be convinced as well).
I usually post my favorite shots to Instagram and Ello, but I loved the idea of having a full-res JPG w/ all of the relevant metadata available somewhere online. I took his advice and created an archive using SmugMug. This has allowed me to take a deep look at work from the past - shots that I used to love that I know think are just horrible and vice versa. It also helps to limit the number of images that I show in my portfolio (currently 12, but never more than 15). Instead of having to fight the voice in your head that says, “oh, you gotta put this image in there as well” - you can appease it by knowing there’s a place for everything. Images that don’t make it into the portfolio aren’t bad, they’re just not the best - they can go into the archive.
In addition to these posting channels, I’m also a big fan of The Print Swap. I’m lucky to have had 2 of my photos featured so far (one of which is also available via their newest endeavor, superfine prints), and in return, I received 2 different prints from photographers around the world. There are so many people out there doing such amazing and inspiring work, it’s always awesome to find it - I love that The Print Swap slows this exposure down to the physical world.
I think that’s everything.. I know by this time next year things will most likely have changed again, but as of right now, this is my workflow.