Working on group projects, I’m often a little surprised with the disorganization of some photographers. It’s like when we learn to drive a car, we spend most of our time understanding rules of the road how to safely control our vehicle and stay on our side of the road. But, there’s that one other thing we all have to learn; how to parallel park. Organizing and filing our stock is probably the least creative or interesting thing we do as photographers, but, it is a necessary and very important component of our workflow if we want to succeed in the commercial environment.
This is especially important when working as part of a team, on a large scale project, or event. I’ve met many an excited photographer who can capture and produce absolutely stunning photos. Then I put that person to task to cover a field of 30 athletes and deliver 1 to 3 images per contestant in an afternoon. The photos should be organized using a designated naming convention and cropped to a designated proportion. Then, a sudden meltdown occurs. Interestingly, it’s not the cropping that causes the issue. It’s the organizing and naming images that seems to be a challenge.
I’ve discovered over the years that either I’m exceptionally disciplined, or maybe just a little OCD when it comes to my photo files. Naming and filing are a critical part of my workflow. I have photographed large events, and for a couple of local organizations, I manage a library of thousands of photographs. I need to be able to recall a photo for my clients relatively quickly.
There are many different ideas on filing, many photographers have embraced tagging, and admittedly, I don’t use tags as much as I probably could. What I do believe is important though, is being consistent to the point that filing and naming become a discipline.
My personal workflow, is to download my camera’s card contents into my computer. It doesn’t matter how excited I am about what I just photographed. It could be 5 photos or 500 photos. The very next step is to throw them up on Bridge, just like I would have done with negatives or slides. I scan the batch for any misfires and obvious out-takes. Those get trashed, because I don’t waste my time on bad photos. Then I take what’s left of the lot and batch name them with a date-topic sequence. Now I’m ready to start editing.
I will occasionally select a few special photos, that I think will publish well, and tag those. When I’m working composites, I’ll often create a project file for layers that I might want to use over again in future projects. I’m actually working an advertising campaign right now for a local winter event that includes posters and rack cards, as well as digital media like Facebook, the organization’s website and partnering advertisers. I’ve grown a file of edited images that I can swap around the various media types, with ease and efficiency.
The key to the success of this project is that timing and deadlines can only be hit if I can find the photo I need when I need it.