Thoughts from the clay guru.

Digital Camera “Workflow” (updated Oct. 2011)

I guess I should consider myself an amature photographer, at least in the summer.  I have been averaging about 400 photos a week so far this summer with my kids in various sports.  Of those, about 300-350 turn out well enough that I keep them.  But since I strictly take digital photos with my Nikon D70 D7000, how does one make sure they don’t lose this “history”?  Below is the process I follow to backup these images and clear them off my memory card(s).

Guiding principles:

  • Don’t have only 1 copy of your images.  Get them off the memory card as soon as possible.  I have already had a memory card fail (one with a Lifetime Warranty – that was promptly replaced).  Failures happen on digital media, CD/DVD ROMs, harddrives, etc.
  • Don’t reformat the memory card until you have 2 copies, and at least one you “verified”
  • Index images so you can easily find the one you want out of 10s of thousands (you will get there….eventually).

Here is my current digital photo backup process:

  1. Create the following folder structure on your home computer:  C:\photos\DVD###.  Initially, you will start with DVD001, and then progressively increment the folder name as you “fill-up” the folder.  And by fill-up, I mean once the folder is approaching 4.2 Gig (the limit a DVD ROM will hold), you need to start a new folder.  I do have a Blue-Ray burner, but the blank disk prices are still relatively expensive, so I still use DVDs…at least for the short term.  Also, DVDs are more compatible at this time since most people/computers still have DVD drives in them.
  2. Within your DVD### folder, create a new folder with today’s date(this should be whatever date you are uploading your images).  I prefer to use the following format since it sorts nicely in Windows Explorer; YYYY_MM_DD (ie. 2007_06_14).
  3. Upload ALL the images from ALL your memory cards into this folder.  (Don’t move or delete them yet…remember, we need a backup first)
  4. Using whatever image viewer you prefer, I used the build in Windows image viewer, flip through all the images and throw away any “out of focus”, duplicate images that are inferior to the others, bad shots, etc. you don’t want to keep.  You should have a number of these, because you take A LOT OF DIGITAL PICTURES in the “field” because you can always delete them later – right?
  5. Now it’s time to back up since you have the photos you want to keep.  Using your favorite DVD recording software, backup the entire DVD### folder to a DVD RW disc.  (CD RWs will work too…you will just need a lot of them eventually).  I suggest using the RWs, since you will be adding more photos in the next few days/weeks.  I use Nero, and really like it.  If you are under a budget, there are free recording tools out there.  Make sure you use the Verify option to re-read the disc after writing it.  We want to make sure we have a good back.
  6. I will take this DVD-RW to an offsite location (aka “work”), and bring the DVD-RW I have at work back home to rewrite on the next pass.
  7. Since we have 2 copies of my pictures (my hard drive and the DVD-RW disc), we can safely delete the pictures on the memory card.  I typically put the cards back into the camera and use the camera’s menu to “reformat” the cards – this seems to be a suggestion by a number of camera manufacterers.
  8. When I have a DVD folder that is close to the 4.2 Gig capacity of a DVD disk, it is time to do a “final” archive this set of images. I copy the DVD folder to my Home Server and burn 2 copies of the DVD### folder on a DVD-RW disk, and another on a DVD-R disk.  (The reason I use an RW and a R type disk is based on an article I read a while back that stated that RW’s actually have a longer archival length due to differences in how the disk is actually created).  I now have 3 “permanent” copies of my photos this point in time.
    • One is at home (my home backup)
    • One is at work locked up in my desk drawer (offsite copy)
    • One is on my Home Server – for viewing on my home computers, XBox 360, or any device on my network.
    • And one “non-permanent” copy on my work desktop…but this will eventually be deleted to free up space.
  9. Optional:  Since my wife does scrapbooking, she is always looking for photos for some “page” she is working on.  How can we help her find the image, now that we have thousands (or 10s of thousands) of images on the computer?  The answer is some sort of image management software.  For a pretty good free program, check out Google’s Picasa tool ( ).  I personally spent a about $60 on IMatch ( ) which I think is superior (I will post my resoning in another entry later on).
    Since you just uploaded some new pictures, now is a good time to “index” your photos.  So using your preferred tool, tag all the images you just uploaded.  In general, the photos you just uploaded are probably around 1 or 2 events that just happened, so this will facilitate tagging since you are going to tag groups of photos under the same categories.
    That’s it.  It sounds easy, but trust me, it takes a little bit of time to get into the habit, but preventing the loss of those once-in-a-lifetime photos…it’s worth it.

And, don’t get discouraged when you first begin to import your images into an image management software tool.  It takes a long time initially, but once they are in, it is much easier to just maintain as you backup your images.  I think I had about 5000 images to index, and spend a number of hours over several weeks to get them in, but finding pictures now is very easy.  If you want a picture of my son and daughter together, I can pull up every digital picture I have taken in about 30 seconds.

(I have again gotten lazy in tagging my photos…and am looking for a long winter day ahead where I have nothing to do but catch up on my photo indexing/tagging)

I hope you have found this helpful.  Please feel free to comment if you have personal experiences that can improve on this process.


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