My photography workflow

This article describes how my photography workflow functions and how I organize my library and folder structure. Which files do I keep, edit, translate or delete?

I have developed and optimized this workflow for several years now. However, I am not a professional photographer, thus the requirements for my workflow definitely differ from the ones professionals might have.

In general the images I shoot, range from roughly 50% ambitious, hobby photography and 50% family and vacation documentation.

I guess this means that no one cares about 50% of my pictures. Yeah, I am talking about the ambitious half. 😅 My wife always says “Who will look at the image of this shadow ever again” – well I do … but … you know, hobbies. 😇

The Basics

Folder and library structure

My photo library is structured in years, months and events

/photography/album/
   [2011]/
          ...
    [2012]/
          2012 - 01 - Berlin
          2012 - 03 - Groningen
          2012 - 07 - Copenhagen
    [2013]/
          ...

… and so on. This is the actual folder structure on the hard drive. For me, it is important that I can see and move the files on disk. This ensures reliable ordering and backup possibilities.

Image formats and file handling

I shoot in RAW exclusively, but I do not keep all of my RAW files indefinitely. I only keep the ones from the images I have edited.

Finished edit products are exported to 100% JPEGs additionally. This allows me to share, or present my edits, quickly without the need to open my RAW editor first.

The Photography Workflow

Image Sorting and selection of “promising pictures”

I run through newly imported photos several times. It depends on the number of photos if I can finish the tasks in one session.

The first run

During the first run I try to get rid of all the obvious broken shots – out of focus, over- or under-exposed, you name it. I use the pick and reject flags for this.

The second run

During the second run I delete redundant pictures. Let’s say I took six shots of the same motive with different settings. I try to keep maximum two images of the same motive – the others get dumped.

This can get really exhausting if you do it for many images.

The third run

Now it’s time for color labels! During the third run I mark promising pictures and select which photos I will edit later on. I use the following color codes:

  • Red label: I really like the picture
    • if someone asks me to show of some pictures, I will show pictures from this category
  • Yellow label: Stock images
    • Good pictures of things 😂 … for example, pictures of flowers 😇
  • Green label: Portrait shots
    • These are usually presentable shots of friends and family members
    • If only one color label is allowed this might collide with the red label
  • Blue label: Post-Processing shots
    • These images are used in post-processing workflows such as Huggin for panorama creation

I guess everyone will come up with its own categories. The important part is that these color labels will stay on the images indefinitely, as the one can search and sort by color label. Tasks like “show me your favorite pictures from 2016” can be accomplished – just filter folder 2016 for all red labeled images.

Image development

During the development I will mainly focus on the color labeled images. Not color labeled images get cropped, aligned and/or occasionally auto-tuned – but only if needed. The less work, the less time, the better.

Post development and clean-up

For color labeled images (promising pictures) I will keep the original RAW file, as well as an 100% JPEG or 16-bit TIFF version of the edited image. All other, non-marked images, will be transferred to 100% JPEGs, while the original RAW files will be deleted once development is finished.

The folder structure looks something like this in the end:

photography/album/
           [2017]/
                 2017 - 02 - St. Peter Ording/
                       DSC00472.JPG
                       DSC00476.ARW
                       DSC00476.JPG
                       DSC00482.JPG
                       DSC00483.JPG

In the example “DSC00476.ARW” was a promising picture.

The End

For me this workflow is the perfect balance between storage usage and maintainability. I am able to quickly share my finished edits with others, and start over, in case I have to.

I hope you found this somehow useful.

Cheers, M.

2 Comment

  1. Which program or programs do you use for each part?

    1. Mathias Hueber says: Reply

      I started with Adobe Lightroom. The workflow should be applicable to Darktable, digKam, you name it.

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