Workflow, workflow every photographer needs a workflow

This is a subject I return to quite regularly, the last time being May, 2014. It’s an important subject because with digital photography you create many, many images, and if you’re not organised you’ll lose some images you want to keep or use, which can lead to unnecessary frustration and a lot of wasted time.

In the earlier post I detailed how I was using an external hard drive (a WD My Passport Slim) to store all Images and my main Lightroom Catalog. Nothing has changed here – the ability to swap between the MacBook Pro and the iMac for editing working off a single catalog and image store has been invaluable – the only modifications being:

  1. I always do a second copy of my imported images to a Folder on the Hard Disk of the Mac the external Hard Disk is attached to – on both systems this is Pictures > Lightroom Backup > Imports, and
  2. I always backup the Catalog on exit every time to Pictures > Lightroom Backup > Catalogs.

When I’m confident the external hard drive has been backed-up to Time Machine when it’s connected to the iMac, I delete the contents of the Lightroom Backup folder(s) on both systems.

I’ve also decided that I need some “off-site” backup as well, so periodically I ask for a disk, lodged with a neighbour, to be returned so that I can do a complete disk copy of the external hard disk.

I did consider using a cloud drive for the second copies, and the catalog backups, but with the size of the image files now being so large (a single RAW image from the A7r is over 30Mb) there was too much delay being introduced in sync’ing files to the Cloud. So, regretably I decided against that option.

However, an alternative could be to use a Wireless External Hard Drive such as the WD My Passport Wireless with it’s integral SD slot and use another connected Hard Disk to store the Second Copies / Catalog Backups to. I’m considering this option as I hinted in my post yesterday.

[It’s at this stage of the process that I would have liked to have considered using Lightroom Mobile to do the tagging and creation of collections, but my iPad is not up to the task, and the initial release of software didn’t allow me to do the tagging I wanted to do – this may have changed in later releases, I haven’t checked.]

So that’s the hardware part of the workflow sorted, what about the software? Well … Lightroom is very easily configured using Presets to store the images where you want them, to add keywords as you import the images and do certain adjustments (eg for lens, for camera, etc.). It really is important to tag (keyword), and label your images as you import them, so the next stage for me is absolutely vital.

I review every image in the Lightroom Library module and if I’m going to keep it because it has no flaw, I then rate it on a star basis by just typing 1, 2 , 3, 4 or 5, and I add any additional keywords to individual images. That done, I then create a Smart Collection of all the images rated at 3 to 5. This is the collection I then start reviewing in the Develop module.

[An aside mainly for non-Lightroom users. It is important to remember (in Lightroom) that all my non-deleted images are stored in folders (mine are by date) on the drive and that Collections are virtual “pointers” to the originals. Lightroom is a non-destructive photo-editing program. All changes to images are recorded in the Catalog, so you can always go back to any step of the process and move forward from there again – sometimes after creating a virtual copy of the image to store the state of the image before anymore changes are made.]

If, when editing, I consider the rating of the image should be changed, I do just that, which will cause an image to fall out of the Smart Collection. My objective here is to get a set of images rated 4, or 5 that I am going to do further work on. If there are a considerable number of images, I might set up another Smart Collection to reflect this.

Working on this collection I will then colour code the images red (6) – no further work will be done on the image, yellow (7) – work still to be done on the image, or green (8) – finished image,  to indicate where the image has got in the post-processing.

This workflow and image categorisation has served me well in identifying images to be uploaded to Blurb for Photobooks, or for images that might be printed.

That’s where I am this May, I wonder what I’ll be doing next May :-).

Second guessing what Apple will do next

Why I’m bothering with this post, I’ll never know. However, I know of at least one other person considering what to do when his iPhone 4s goes “end of life” this autumn and I guess there’s probably plenty of others. So this is just a “state of the Apple nation” post – where I am, what I’m thinking of, what needs to be done, and what can/should be done in an area where Apple never makes long-term decision-making easy.

So why the shiny MacBook as a featured image? Well … I’m betting on that being the future for Mac’s portable laptop range, so it needs some serious consideration as a replacement for Jenny’s aging (well, mine actually) 7+year old MBP. Even though we didn’t do the Yosemite upgrade it’s running slow, and now with Jenny’s increasing interest in photography and using Lightroom, a replacement needs to be considered.  So … she could have my mid-2012 MBP which is still screaming along and has just had a battery and top case (keyboard) replacement following the expensive coffee-spill episode, and I could take on a new MacBook … couldn’t I?

It’s got a lot going for it – light, retina-display, fast storage and sufficient RAM – and then it’s got a single USB-C port! Where did that come from? Thunderbolt and Lightning, very, very frightning. Out with the old, in with the new – this could very well be the future of expansion ports, and the demise of Apple’s proprietary ports. Well, actually the opposite. Apple appears to have invested in USB-C and made it a standard – it’s already to be found on Google’s Chromebooks and no doubt more will follow. The exciting thing (to me) is that it means that the accessory market, and the third-party hardware solutions will be opened up and Apple has acknowledged that by controlling the patents on the standard, it doesn’t need to control the interface. The accessories (like this USB-C hub) have already started to be advertised.

So in a nutshell – USB-C appears to be “a good idea”. One of the first accessories made available is this little beauty – the snapily titled USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adaptor. I quote from the website …

“The USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter lets you connect your MacBook with USB-C port to an HDMI display, while also connecting a standard USB device and a USB-C charging cable.

“This adapter allows you to mirror your MacBook display to your HDMI-enabled TV or display in up to 1080p at 60Hz or UHD (3840×2160) at 30Hz. It also outputs video content like films and captured video. Simply connect the adapter to the USB-C port on your MacBook and then to your TV or projector via an HDMI cable (sold separately).

“Use the standard USB port to connect devices such as your flash drive or camera, or a USB cable for syncing and charging your iPhone, iPad or iPod. You can also connect a charging cable to the USB-C port to charge your MacBook.”

This means I can have my external USB-3 WD My Passport Slim disk connected, with a charging cable all through a single port. I could even mirror the display to a TV at the same time – if I wanted to. That’s really quite neat! But then again this battery-powered WD My Passport Wireless with SD card drive is really itching to join the “Just thoughts” household – but I’ll leave that for another post!

So why am I getting excited about an expansion port, and what on earth has that got anything to do with an aging iPhone 4s, or indeed the equally aging iPad 2 I have, which I mistakenly upgraded to iOS 8; something I didn’t do to the iPhone 4s … thankfully, because the iPad is really painfully slow at times.

Well take a look at this set of rumours about an iPad Pro (or Plus) with a USB-C port and perhaps a stylus. I think that every Lightroom useer who’s interested in photography welcomed the arrival of Lightroom Mobile, but with my old iOS gear – it’s just not practical to consider using it. So … an upgrade to the iPhone/iPad must be on the cards, just from the photography side of things – even if they weren’t both about to go “end-of-life”. If an iPad witha USB-C port is launched that could be a really good alternative to a MacBook for Lightroom on the road, so to speak.

However … will the iPhone 6s (or 6s Plus) also have a USB-C connector replacing the Lightning port. Could I therefore consider not replacing the iPad and instead have a MacBook and iPhone 6s – now that might be very nice, and you can see where my thoughts are going … can you see any reasons why that’s not a good strategy, given that I have the iMac for my serious Lightroom work.

It all depends on USB-C you see!

[Update: A recent announcement that Apple is seeking to unify the USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt ports with its new USB-C port which is not available on the new MacBook …

“Because Thunderbolt 3 is compliant with the USB-C standard and USB 3.1 specification, the cabling will also simultaneously support DisplayPort 1.2, third-generation PCI Express, and power supply for recharging notebooks at up to 100 watts.”

Also …

“The next generation of the high-speed Thunderbolt specification was announced on Tuesday, ditching the legacy Mini DisplayPort connector for the new smaller, reversible USB-C standard, and offering transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps with high-end cables.”]