I hear that this is the most vital to store/manage/edit and other tasks. What is your ideal workflow?


1 Answer 1


First off, while I'll try to offer some helpful advice, I think that each individual should develop a workflow that fits their own personality. There is no one "correct" photo management workflow. That said, here are a few tips:

  1. Optimize for discoverability over structure
    • Manually storing photos in a folder structure is a lot of work, and only provides one way to organize your work.
    • Storing all of your work in a single (or very few) folders, and using tags/keywords & metadata to provide flexible and alternative ways of organizing your work tends to be more effective
    • Most modern photo management tools allow you to tag or keyword your photos, offer metadata editing, and provide powerful searching tools
  2. Tag or Keyword early so you gain the benefits they offer
    • This should be a primary organizational tool, allowing you to quickly find and organize your work in a variety of combinations
    • Tagging/keywording on import is the most effective way to start, and is a quick way to add common keywords to bulk images
    • After import, review the photos you have imported and add more specific tags/keywords to individual photos or smaller groups
  3. Add proper metadata early so you gain the benefits metadata offers
    • Metadata describes your work in detail, and includes camera details (EXIF), geocoding, etc.
    • IPTC Data:
      • Title & Job Title
      • Description/caption
      • Copyright year/owner
      • Location: Address, City, State/Province, Postal Code, etc.
      • Much more
    • EXIF data (usually set automatically): Camera & Lens Details
  4. Flag picks and rejects in work while adding keywords and metadata
    • Look for rejects and either flag them as rejects or delete them:
      • Blurry or Out-of-focus shots
      • Unrecoverable exposures (radically blown highlights or severely blocked shadows)
      • Interrupted shots that had to be retaken
    • Look for top picks and flag them:
      • These are the shots you will probably keep
      • Shots with proper exposure, good composition & lighting, interesting story, strong vision
  5. Process your picks
    • If you shoot in raw, you'll definitely need to process your picks
    • Don't be afraid to adjust keywords or metadata as your processing if you think of something additional or more descriptive than what you chose originally
  6. Publish your work
    • If you intend to publish online, export your images for screen viewing and upload
      • Mild sharpening
      • Moderate saturation
    • Some tools allow you to create flash web sites that may be exported and published online
    • Some tools allow you to generate CD's or DVD's of your work that may be burned and shared with friends, family, customers, etc.
    • Best to create a clone or copy of your images that are intended to be published online, to avoid degrading the original
  7. Print your work
    • If you intend to print your work, adjust for optimal printing:
      • Moderate sharpening
      • Apply an appropriate color profile for the paper you intend to use
    • If permanent changes are required to tune your image for print, best to create a clone or copy of your images to avoid degrading the original

The tool or tools you choose to use will ultimately dictate which of the tips above you follow. Some tools offer a linear workflow that directly support the activities and order specified above. Other tools offer non-linear workflow that allows the activities above to be done in any order at any time. Some tools only offer a subset of all the activities above, or you may use a combination of tools that each support a part of the process. Learn what your tools support, and adjust your workflow for both those tools, and the way you use those tools.

(NOTE: The workflow above is particularly useful with Adobe Lightroom, which explicitly supports a linear workflow of import, organize, develop, publish/print. Apple Aperture supports a highly flexible non-linear workflow. Photoshop, in combination with Bridge or another photo organization tool, support the activities above without any specified workflow.)


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