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Its long and mildly complex, but its tried true and tested for extremely large libraries.

I shoot RAW and small jpg.
The jpg is for reference as I shoot typically 4-9 stops under exposed, and in BW only.
The RAW files will all look terrible or be hard to see, so having the jpgs as reference is essential.

I Use Photo Mechanic to sort the days workload shots from the stuff I choose to keep (typically less than 10% of what I shoot), and I do three short visual eye scans to take out the junk, then the decent and then the great, to leave me with only the hottest ones that I’m actually going to use or print.
You have to determine the difference between images that you really really like vs the ones you know you like but are probably not use, but just want to keep -just remember this; all those files you know you love but wont do anything with because they are for reference or whatever -they come with a price: HDD space. Figure out within yourself, the difference between one that your are exited to work on vs one that your not, and invariably you’ll come around to just not bothering to keep them.

I run an IPTC data template over everything with a few basic keywords from a template, and may add others later depending on factors.

At that point I rename everything remaining.
I use a nomenclature that I invented 35 years ago which transcends all catalogue systems (as Ive seen them come and go), with a very basic date-copyright-country code.jobID-sequential index number, for the remaining images.
So it would look like 20220101.AA(c).USA. XYZ.00001
This way the file has your copyright info upfront, and other pertinent info without having to actually look at the images (essential if you have a large body of work).

I use ctrl+M to rename the files in Photo Mechanic which treats RAW & JPG together. I then do whatever social media distribution with the jpgs.
After that I then take the jpg’s and put them in a zip file, so I can retain them for reference, but that zipfile wont import to apps, only the RAW files.

I import those prepared RAW’s into Capture 1pro (or whatever app you use), and run a very basic sweep over the images converting them all to BW and cropping the raw files back to the format in which I shot them (16:9 or 2.40:1) .

I use C1Pro because their implementation of BW control is the best I’ve seen yet, and I print my work so having critical control over how the app handles files with certain ICC print profiles and how they are displayed eg; I was printing using selenium tone BW ink set, which has a very particular finished look, I have that profile setup in windows to show tiff and raw files with that profile. Its very helpful when you are looking at unfinished work and trying to get a handle on what it will look like printed.

When that’s done I can then start to actually edit the images.

At this point I drop in a 3% watermark across the image. 3% is virtually invisible -unless you know what your looking for and then it appears. Works great in courtrooms!

Get bare hard drives (two, or multiples of two, of them) and a toaster. Bare drives come with good warranties, and are not subject to changing hardware. My toaster is USB3 my drives are sata 6, so USB basically is as fast or faster than the actual throughput speed of a drive itself.
Spinning rust is the way to go still. You can invest in two or four 10-14tb drives a lot cheaper than a stack of SSD’s- which really only benefit from access speed, but this is an archive, so your referencing the files rather than manipulating them, so that speed is really meh.

The most important thing you can do is form a bullet proof nomenclature.
Put your (c) info on the file name.
Make a webpage that is public with your copyright information (you can find legally binding texts for free on the web, which you modify to yourself. Then use that URL as a statement of copyright and put it into your metadata.
That is essential.
I’ve had tons of images swiped and reclaimed by many only to run face first into my copyright.

I have this whole process broken down into three batch file executables: so the actual workload for this is very very quick.

I originally used Photo Mechanic in Newspapers so trust me when I say: its fast.


  • Darts and Letters says:

    Thank you for sharing your post shoot workflow. How often do you replace your hard drives? I’m just doing photography on a small level, hobbyist. I’ve been using the same bare hard drive for a half dozen years, now. A couple hundred thousand images over twenty years, maybe. I plug that into my computer when I want to edit. And lately I’ve been wondering how long the motors really can last in these things and how often I should copy to a new drive

    At any rate, enjoyed perusing your site in the WP Reader. Your essay and images from your trip back home several years ago to move your father into new home, that was very touching, raw. fullest respect for your other work, too. been on WP for ten years, glance over reader only from time to time, think this is the first time I’ve seen your site in there


    • devtank says:

      Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.
      I had been good up until recently, where I would buy a new drive every two or three years, but I still only have a 24mpxl camera and new hard drives are massive, so the last drive I bought was a 6tb and its about 60% capacity. Also, I buy drives in pairs, so I have A+B for backup’s dating all the way back to my first set of drives back in the early 90s I think they were 80gb drives. By this ‘schedule’ I should be looking to buy two replacement drives now, but right now I just cant do that for other reasons. Id probably look to get two 8tb drives, as the likelihood of me filling a 12 or more tb drive is low, and like you said, they wear out. So smaller massive drives are where my mind is at. I buy bare drives and use a HDD ‘toaster’ on fast USB3.2g1 (10gb speed USB -whatever they call that), so that I can pull drives as needed. ALSO I dont want off the shelf drives because the drives themselves have typically been inferior, and I like the idea of being as future proof as possible. I have my own file renaming convention and like to keep the drives only full of image files and catalog files (catalog software changes, Ive been through 6 or 7 of them over the decades -remember Apple’s Aperture? Now gone along with the file conventions it demanded), so keep it simple, the drive is naturally readable on any Operating System also.

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