Taming the Workflow Beast: Part One

Struggling to tame the wild workflow beast is difficult. If you are like me, you have literally thousands and thousands of images - all vying for your attention. And if you are like me, you can't easily find what you are looking for. This series will delve into the creation of a workflow that works. From backup strategies to moving images through a workflow process, these tips will help you to tame your workflow beast!
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Taming the Workflow Beast: Part One

Workflow? What are we talking about here?

It was getting ugly! I had an art show to prepare for, and I knew that Murphy had risen his head to look upon my meager endeavors. And as it would have it, Murphy decided to throw a monkey wrench into my preparations.

I only had a few hours before I needed to open my booth. I promised a customer the previous day that I would have a print for her. And I couldn’t find where it was.

I had Lightroom opened. But with over 20,000 images in my library, how was I to find the proverbial needle in the haystack!

I did as most photographers. I kept adding images to my library with no real workflow or way to get at my finished photographs. I searched through all my directories looking for the one photograph I need to print. I needed that photograph printed and ready for the woman when she showed up at my booth to pick up her print.

I had photographs beginning in 2010 in my collection. I knew that the photograph wasn’t from 2010, but perhaps 2013. . . or perhaps 2014 with over 8,000 images. . . or 2015 with over 10,000 images. I was frustrated.

Finally an hour before the show opened, I found the photograph stuck in 2015 sometime in November!

But I had found it!

And I didn’t have to explain to my new customer how I would not be able to provide her the print I had promised. I realized that I needed to bring this unruly beast to submission, but was at a loss to how!

Welcome to the Workflow Monster, a.k.a. The “Wild Workflow Beast”

At some point, all photographers begin a journey to improve their workflow. Or perhaps even to create a workflow where there was none.

Workflow is both very simple and very complex.

I know I have struggled with workflow. For years.

At first blush it seems to be simple; it is the process of processing your digital images. Simple, right?

In my early days of digital photography, around 2005, I did not have that many i deal with. I had around several hundred. And it was pretty simple. Dump my digital images into a folder then open in Photoshop and process.

But the number of images kept growing as I kept taking photographs.

As the number kept growing, it soon become obvious. My simple system of putting all my images into a directory wasn’t working.

After a computer crash where I lost many of my “processed” photographs, I realized I needed to do something. The issue of not losing those images that were important to me became critical.

Another issue was the ability to quickly find images. I realized having my images in a single directory made finding images impossible. I had over 1000 images, and it was not easy to find what I was looking for.

I decided that I needed a naming convention to help me find images. I went through many naming schemes, all in an attempt to bring order to the obvious disorder.

I even invested in a book, the DAM Book. DAM stands for Digital Asset Management. I restructured my folder system and process using the insights from the DAM book. Together with Adobe Bridge, I had brought some order to the chaos.

Now some of you may be thinking, what about Adobe Lightroom? Well, this was all before Adobe Lightroom. And the system I had adopted sort of worked, but was still a cumbersome process and was time consuming.

Lightroom Era

Then Adobe came out with Lightroom.

This simple program would end up bring some order to the chaos I found among my images.

Now, there had been some early catalog programs out there in the wild.

I was a user of IDImager, but it could only catalog images. I had was pieces and parts to a process, but nothing that was an integrated and functional system.

Adobe Lightroom changed that. Here for the first time was a program that was not only a catalog, but also a RAW editor. And it worked with Photoshop – you could pass images back and forth. Cool!

And so I move my images into Lightroom and began to grow my collection.

But Still Not Out Of The Woods Yet!

But after a while, it too began to feel like the wild, wild, west.

I had developed a folder structure based on dates. But tagging images was tedious, and I had this belief that I needed to keep everything!

And so I ended up not tagging, or keywording, my images as my collection had grown to over 16,000 images. The more I delayed tagging my images, the more images I added to my catalog! Think of trying to keyword tag 16,000 images.

Yea, I thought so, you’d give up too!

And I had all these directories with TIFFs and JPEGs of processed images. Chaos once again raised its ugly head again! I found myself in as much chaos as I experienced before Lightroom!

Something Different

I realized that I needed to take workflow and DAM serious. I was getting overwhelmed with the growing number of images to manage. I found myself swamped with thousands and thousands of images all vying for my attention.

I have gone from just over 73,000 images to now just 56,375. And I am pruning my images at every opportunity! And in this image, you can see some of my workflow I have developed to help achieve the goal of processed and easy to find photographs.
I realized that using Lightroom was not the cure all I had assumed it would be. I needed to figure out how to leverage Lightroom to manage and get my images under control.

I realize I needed to move my images through a workflow. I needed to get to a point where I was happy with the results, and just as important, the process.

I sat down and began to put together a system. I wanted something that would make my processing quick and efficient. I also wanted a way to quickly find photographs simple and easy.

Now with over 73,000 images (but I am culling them down in my new system), I have a system that works for me. And makes sense, and I have something that I can grow with and will last me for quite some time.

Taking Digital Asset Management Seriously

I considered aspects of DAM – data backups, naming conventions, the nitty gritty of workflow, processing, and output. All these together fall under the rubric of ‘workflow’.

In this series of articles, I will share with you my current workflow. I will show you how I deal with various issues and some workarounds that I have developed.

Now I have to say upfront, my workflow is Adobe centric. I use three important tools, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

But it is how I use these tools. The ‘glue’ that makes it all work is the options and use of collections in Lightroom.

Today, my workflow is a combination of various pieces and parts that I have gathered from other users. I have put some of these ‘pieces’ and ‘parts’ together to work the way I need it to work for my desired output.

Realize that workflow is something personal to everyone. What works for me may not work for you. It’s the proverb – YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary. But you will get some ideas and some tips on how to improve your own photographic workflow and processes.

And get the chaos of images under control. You will learn to tame the ‘wild workflow beast’ and become more productive. And in the end, happier with your output.

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A little bit about me . . .

Back in 1982, my Air Force roommate was in desperate need of some cash, and he had a camera. And I was in the market for a camera as I had TDY (Temporary Duty) orders for Cyprus and was looking for a good camera to take with me. So over some beers and some negotiations with my roommate (and a few hundred dollars later), I found that I had become the owner of a brand spanking new Canon AE-1 camera with an assortment of lens, including a Canon 50mm, a 35mm lens, as well as a telephoto lens.

Fast forward to today, and I am now an owner of a Canon 5D Mark II (looking to upgrade, but can’t decide on my next camera) and a bunch of Canon glass and I am primarily a landscape and travel photographer. Yea, that means that I get up before the sun rises and am out after the sun sets. Makes for interesting times!

Thank you for joining me on this photographic journey and hope to hear from you!

Peace,

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