Digital photography is booming and images are accumulating at an astonishing rate. But, do you have a routine for reliably moving your images from the camera to the computer? Can you find that nice shot of the Eared Grebe or the image of those cute but ugly American Coot chicks from last summer? Will you lose all your images when your hard drive fails or do you have a disaster recovery plan? Keep reading and I’ll help you develop a consistent set of steps, or workflow, for solving these issues.
Developing a regular method and location for storing images from your camera is the first step in developing a safe and efficient workflow. For safety’s sake, I recommend transferring the images at the end of a day’s photography or the soonest opportunity afterwards. Accumulating images on your camera’s memory cards over an extended period of time is asking for trouble.
I suggest creating a folder structure on your computer that you consistently use for your images. Create a folder name for a specific outing consisting of the date and optionally the general subject of the photos as demonstrated in Example 1. After copying the images to the new folder, make sure they have copied correctly by using the photo browser software that came with your camera. Quickly browse through the photos you’ve copied to make sure there are no corrupted images.
Although it can be tempting to start editing or deleting images, you should backup your photographs to at least one other storage device because they currently only exist on your computer’s hard drive. As certain as death and taxes is the fact that all hard drives eventually fail. Therefore, I recommend archiving a copy of the images to a writable CD or DVD and labelling the disc with an appropriate disc-friendly marker. Creating an additional backup of the new images to an external hard drive increases the security of your photographs and gives you additional disaster recovery options.
Next, add metadata to your images to help differentiate your images. Metadata is information stored with or within your image files that helps describe the image. Metadata is also known as the File Info, properties, EXIF or IPTC information. The great thing about metadata is that after it’s added to your images, you can search it to find just the image you are looking for.
Digital cameras record information in the metadata that indicates the date, time, and exposure information at the time photograph was made. While it is fresh in your mind, I recommend adding subject, location, caption and your personal information to the file’s metadata. Most photo editing software included with today’s digital cameras can edit your image’s metadata and if yours cannot, I recommend upgrading to software that will.
Now that you’ve copied your images from your camera’s memory card to your computer, verified the images copied correctly, created backups and added metadata specific to your images, you can start sorting, editing and printing. By forcing yourself to adopt a consistent workflow you maximize the investments you’ve made in your photography.
I’m happy to answer individual questions on this or any photography subject via email