Workflow – What Happens Next?

15" MacBook Pro

I’m currently going a little crazy at home, laid up after knee surgery last week. As this has obviously put a bit of a hold on my photography, I thought I’d write up a post on what happens after a shoot. A lot of people think that once the shoot is done, us photographers simply download the images and go to bed, but this is far from the actual process.

Every photographer’s workflow differs, but here’s an outline of mine. It’s probably going to be long, so if you’re not a photographer or a geek, you might want to skip this one!

The first step is, of course, getting the images from camera to computer. My main computer is a heavily modified Mid-2009 15″ MacBook Pro. I’ve replaced the stock 320GB drive with a 500GB 7200RPM upgrade, and replaced the optical (DVD) drive with a second 500GB 7200RPM drive. The main drive is host to my system, applications and day to day documents – email, proposals, marketing stuff and the like. The second drive is formatted with two partitions, one for my Aperture Library, the other for the RAW master files of projects I’m importing and/or currently working on. I’ve also upgraded the RAM to the maximum 8GB. You really can never have too much RAM!

Apple's Aperture - serious software for photo pros

Aperture is my tool of choice for both managing photo projects, and 99% of my editing. I use a referenced library, allowing me to keep the size manageable and store the RAW master files on a separate drive (I’ll get to that shortly!)

Images from each shoot are imported directly into Aperture as their own ‘project’. I add basic keywords, ownership details, contact info and copyright statement at import to save time doing it on individual images later. Once imported, I’ll immediately run a manual Time Machine backup to an external Firewire800 1TB MiniStack. Time Machine automatically handles incremental backups of both drives, and provides my first safety net for the images that are basically my livelihood.

Quad Interface Ministack - these things are rock solid

The next step is a the initial selection of ‘keepers’. I’ll skim through the images in Aperture and rate potential keepers with one star being a possible, two stars being a definite and three stars being an image I know has ‘excellent’ potential.

Bonus Tip: I used to ‘edit out’ – skimming through and marking bad images as rejects. I would have to go through the process 3 or 4 times before ending up with my final selects. Until I started editing in. Editing in works the other way – marking images to keep, not ones to reject – and saves hours! If you’re editing out, try switching – you’ll thank me!

Right, where was I? Oh, yes… rating images. Once I’ve sorted out the junk and have my final picks, I’ll back up the masters and my entire Aperture library to an additional external RAID drive, and Time Machine continues to make backups every 20 minutes. Once I know everything at this stage is safe and secure, I’ll begin the post processing of the images.

Before Aperture 3 arrived I’d end up round-tripping a large number of images to Photoshop, which is a real pain in the a**. With the advent of Aperture 3, 99% of my images never have to leave – the toolset and interface are absolutely amazing (sorry Lightroom users – the LR interface is completely non-intuitive!) – everything form editing, to building web galleries for clients, to designing both high end and mid range albums can be done without leaving this one application. Best of all – all edits are completely non-destructive, leaving those precious RAW files completely untouched.

The editing process can take a few hours to a few days, depending on the results I want – sometimes I will leave an images almost untouched, while others stand out as ones that beg for a creative interpretation.

Once the edit stage is complete, I’ll back up my Aperture library again to the external drive. I don’t need to back up the masters again, as the non-destructive nature of Aperture means they remain in their original state at all times.

The final step as far as the client is concerned is the export burning of the final edits as JPEGs onto disc. Here I’ll burn two discs – one to be shipped to the client, and one as an archive of the final JPEGs as a further safeguard for me.

Drobo self repairing RAID

The final step for me is to make an additional final back up of the Aperture project and relocate the associated masters to a 4TB Drobo in a completely different physical location.

In all, I have 4 different backups of the final files – a Time Machine backup, a disc of the final JPEGs, theAperture library and masters on an external Firewire RAID and an archive of the project and masters on a Drobo.

So there you have it, a (not so brief) look at my workflow for an average photo shoot!

Till next time!

1 thought on “Workflow – What Happens Next?”

  1. Good Morning Mr. Jamieson,

    Thank you so much for this blog. I did enjoy it. Until now I have never heard of Aperature. I can’t wait until I get my Macbook to order this software and try it out.

    I am a ‘newbie’ to photography but I focus mainly on Weddings and your gallery was a treat for me to view. You are an excellent wedding photographer! I hope that someday you could teach me a thing or two about photography.

    God Bless!

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