My Post-photographic Workflow – Part 1

UPDATE: There is a revised version available because of my switch from MacOS to Linux (Ubuntu).

0 – Introduction

In general most post-photographic workflow comprise of four general tasks performed after shooting:

  • Storing images on a hard drive;
  • Cataloguing, organizing, or managing images;
  • Image processing and correction;
  • Exporting and distributing the images via slideshow, email, web galleries, or paper prints.

In this two-part article I outline my post-photographic workflow using Apple’s Aperture application with a number of plug-ins and utility programs.

1 – Storing images on a hard drive

I use high capacity (32GB) SD cards with my camera. Because of my commitment to Project 365, shooting every day, I collect images from a number of days. It takes sometimes a week or so before I’ll decide to do an import. Here are the steps I follow:

1.1 – Copying images from SD-card to temporally folder on computer

My internal RAID 1 hard drives are only used for system files, applications and support files. All data is stored on three separate delegated document-type specific NAS (RAID1) drives. Because of that, I have lots of spare room on my internal drive that allows me to copy all new image files into a temporally folder for renaming before moving them into their final location on the delegated external picture NAS (RAID1) drive.

1.2 – Rename image file name

Today’s cameras do a lot, but they give the image files terribly boring names like DSC01234.AWG. This file name doesn’t tell me much. So what information do I include? What other considerations are there?

  • Each image should have a unique name.
  • Use the same image naming convention on all files.
  • Include the capture date and time.
  • Avoid using funky characters or spaces.
  • Don’t put too much information in the file name.

I could use the Aperture import process to ingest and rename my images, however, I prefer to use a stand-alone application. Using “A Better Finder Rename,” it reads the EXIF creation data of image and changes the image file name to YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS (Year, month, day, and hour, minutes and seconds in 24-hour format). In case there are multiple images taken at the same second, the program adds letters starting with “a” to the end.

1.3 – Copy renamed files onto external drive

Firstly, I use Aperture’s “Referenced Masters” to store my images outside the Aperture library on an external NAS (RAID1) drive. The folder structure starts with a root folder for each year named YYYY. Underneath is a sub-folder for each months labeled MM, which are further subdivided into folder for each day within the month, labeled DD. Subfolders are only created for the days and months image files exist. Since having started last year with Project 365, year 2013 has images for each day. The same will be true for 2014.

2 – Cataloguing, organizing, or managing images

Photo organization is one of those things that comes down to “best practices” because there are lots of different needs and every person seems to have a variation that seems most correct to them (perfectly valid). With that being said my overall goal was to have a system that required as few levels of folder structure as possible to fully sort as many of my photographs as possible. The last thing I wanted was to have to drill down through 4 (or 6… or 8(!)) folders in order actually get to my photographs.

Note: Sometimes I need to look for a specific photo quickly, since I know most of the time the (exact or somewhat around) date, I don’t open up Aperture, instead I use the Fragment Application. It displays many different image file types and offers a flexible interface for browsing quickly images within a folder.

2. 1 – Import new images into Aperture

There are many different approaches to organizing images in Aperture, and there is no single perfect way to organize your images. One thing to remember though is that lots can be done with folders. Not only can folders organize stuff within a project, but folders can also organize across projects. Grouping projects together in folders allows the creation of Smart Albums which will show all images across those projects.

In my case, I create separate libraries for each year. Within each library I create a folder for each month. Because I use Aperture’s “Referenced Masters,” I use the import Folder as Project option to be added to the relevant month folder each day’s images in its own project from my external NAS drive.

Note: By adding metadata and keywords to the photos, I have also a dynamic way to search my photographic library to find what I am looking for quickly and with little effort. More on that in section 3.4.

2.2 – Optional, create albums within Day projects

If for a specific day I have photos that are form more then one subject area, I create separate albums that are labeled with the relevant subject name.

In addition I have a number of Smart Albums. Smart Albums aren’t rolled up into a folder view. Both Projects and Albums are manual containers – I chooses what goes in them. Whereas a Smart Albums system generated based on a specific criteria, such as keywords, and are updated dynamically. More about that in sections 3.4 and 3.5.

This is it for this part. Stay tuned for part 2, in which I will detail the remaining two steps of my workflow for image processing and correction and exporting and distributing the images.