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Digital Photography Workflow: From Camera To Catalog

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I developed my digital photography workflow after reading Peter Krogh's book "The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers". DAM is a critical and integral part of running my photography business, and it starts at the very beginning of the raw post processing workflow. This article shows my complete workflow from camera to catalog.

My workflow is completely based on Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, and iView Media Pro. I use Adobe Bridge to make my image selections, apply ratings and labels to the images, cull out the garbage photos, and apply all my metadata. I use Adobe Camera Raw to set all of my raw conversion adjustments for every photograph I keep, and to convert all of my raw files to Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format, which I use as my master file after all of my post processing is complete. After I have completed all of my raw conversion adjustments, and applied all of my metadata, ratings, and labels, then I use iView Media Pro to catalog all of my photographs. iView Media Pro is my only catalog source of reference.

Here is a detailed look at my workflow from camera to catalog.

  1. Open Adobe Bridge and create a new folder for this image set. I use consistent naming conventions depending on what the image set represents: "<artist> @ <venue>", "<artist> @ <function>", "<artist> - <purpose>".
  2. Use "Import from Camera" (zip file here - a JavaScript plug-in for Adobe Bridge) to download the images from each card. This copies the raw files from the card to the folder I specify on my computer. In addition, it can rename and apply initial metadata to every file as it is imported. This alone is a huge time saver, and guarantees consistent naming of all of my image files.
  3. Browse through the images in Bridge and throw away the garbage. Garbage for me means out of focus, bad framing, no way in hell I can rescue the exposure in raw conversion, bad timing, unflattering facial expression, etc.
  4. Apply raw conversion settings in Adobe Camera Raw to the remaining images (yes, I fix them all at this point).
  5. Apply ratings in Bridge using their star rating system (1 to 5 stars).
  6. Apply labels in Bridge using their colored label system. If I am shooting an assignment, this helps me remember which ones I'm sending to the client.
  7. Select all of the images in Bridge, bring up the File Info Panel, and apply common metadata that is associated with the entire set - artist name, type of music, venue, city, state, country, date, etc.
  8. Select groups or individual images in Bridge, bring up the File Info Panel, and apply detailed metadata. This is where I apply metadata that identifies each individual in the frame, what instrument they play, what role they play in the band, any unique features or traits of the image, etc. For example, if the image is of the lead singer, who also writes the lyrics and the music and plays guitar, I apply all of that information to the metadata at this point: <lindividual's name>, lead vocals, singer, lyricist, songwriter, guitarist, musician. If there are any identifying trademarks like "Gibson" or "Fender" or "Yamaha" in the image that might be of interest to an instrument or equipment manufacturer, I include that in the metadata as well.
  9. Once I have set all of my raw conversion adjustments and applied all of the metadata, I then use Adobe Camera Raw to convert all of the camera native raw files into Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format. For this, I select all of the images using Bridge, open them in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), select all the images in ACR, then press the "Save Images .." button to bring up the DNG converter panel. On this panel, I make sure that full size previews are selected, that DNG format is selected, that the images will be saved in the same folder, and that the files are stored with lossless compression.
  10. After the images have been converted successfully to DNG format, I delete the camera native raw files. I have never had an instance where I needed the original camera native raw file. If you are concerned about that, there is a checkbox in the DNG converter panel that allows you to embed the original raw file in the DNG file. It increases the DNG file size significantly, but allows you to extract the original raw file later if you ever need it.
  11. Using guidance from The DAM Book, I have a consistent naming convention and folder structure for my archive disk. I now copy the working folder from my computer to the appropriate folder on my archive disk drive.
  12. At this point, I exit Adobe Bridge and open iView Media Pro. I then add the new folder on my archive disk drive to my iView Media Pro catalog. iVMP reads all of the metadata that I applied in Adobe Bridge and stores it in its database. It also imports the preview images that I created during the DNG conversion process into the database so that I can see the image without the archive drive having to be online all of the time.
  13. Inside of iView Media Pro, I have custom, heirarchical catalog sets that I maintain. For example, I have "Music > Live Performance > <artist name>" and I have "Music > Portraits > <artist name>". This makes it very simple to find all of the portraits or live performance images I have captured for any given artist with the click of a buttom.

If you are new to digital photogaphy workflow, I recommend you read Peter Krogh's book. It will enlighten you a great deal on the power of metadata, image organization, consistent file and folder naming conventions, backups, etc.

© 2008 Walter Rowe. All Rights Reserved.

Author: Walter Rowe
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Web: www.RoweImages.com

Comments

This seems like a useful guide. I personally use lightroom to make any adjustments to the images e.g. exposure, contrast and brightness etc. If I need to I then send them to photoshop to make any final tweaks.

I then export the images using light room to hi quality JPEGS. I then use faststone re sizer to make a copy of the image and it add a water mark.

This gives me both the high quality image and the water marked web sized version.