This ongoing series of articles covers what do you do after you have taken the picture with your digital camera.
When it comes to digital workflows, taking the picture is only the start of so many options. In this series of articles we will explore the options. So we can make some headway with a huge topic, we will assume you are using a fairly recent digital camera and that your interest in photography is a pretty serious one. Over this series we will cover a range of workflow options, including ones using Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture, as well as other special purpose software and plug-ins to handle things like noise.
When I return from a shoot I have three initial priorities: download, backup and quick scan.
You would think downloading your images is an easy process but there are even a good number of options here. Firstly you can download from the camera just using a suitable USB cable or you can remove the memory card and use a card reader of some description. The first is simple, the second is much better if you use a lot of cards during a shoot (as I typically do) and want the fastest download. I’ve found many cameras can be positively slow when downloading directly, though this is far from true of all cameras.
Also if you have UDMA compatible memory cards and a UDMA card reader (see B&H Photo UDMA products ) you will get much faster downloads than most cameras will do.
Also part of the downloading question is what software will you use? You can use the operating system and drag and from the files from memory card or camera to somewhere on your computer. When doing this, the camera’s USB mode needs to be set so that it just looks like a disk to the computer. You can use the software that came with your computer (such as iPhoto on a Mac), the software that came with your camera or some other program, such as Lightroom or Aperture. There are subtle differences between these approaches. When you use the operating system you have total control over where the photos go but then need a second step to import them into whatever program you are managing them in, such as Lightroom. Using software to import them and catalog them makes it one step but, depending on the program, many not give you all the control you want.
Making an immediate backup of your images should be the next step because in the process of importing them you may have cleared them off your memory card(s) and so only have one copy of the images. You can immediately backup to CD or DVD. You can backup immediately to a second hard disk drive, either attached to your computer or to the local network. Eventually you should do both. I backup across three disk drives, my computer plus two external drives. I then backup to DVD later at a convenient time. Please note that disk drives do fail. Do not listen to manufacturer’s hyp, drives fail and unless a unit is a suitable RAID system that provides redundancy to survive a drive failure, even a drive labeled as a backup drive is a risk. So you always need your images on at least two disk drives, and, as soon as you can, backed up on DVD and stored away from the computer (in case of fire or theft) as well. When you backup to DVD you should have a system in place so that you can find the right disk. This can be software based, by using something like Extensis Portfolio, or as simple as a log book. Just make sure you have a system that you use.
Giving your images a quick scan to see how they look is usually an urgent need for a photographer. You can use the software you used to import the images, the operating system (sometimes) or another program, such as Adobe Bridge. Remember that some programs will build their previews and save them, while others will generate them every time you open the directory. This affects your revisit time. Of course, those that save the previews use up more disk space but unless you are on a laptop this should not be much of an issue.
Next article in the series: Basic image adjustment in Adobe Camera RAW.