I thought I’d share the latest iteration of my photography workflow. I recently bought a nice used Leica M8, rendering my Nikon workflow obsolete. Here’s how it looks today.

Ingest

I still use the terrific Photo Mechanic to ingest photos from the card. I tried giving it up but it’s the only thing that moves and renames files exactly how I want them, which is…

  1. Copy RAW files from card to the Capture One session folder (I’ll get to Capture One in a minute).

  2. Copy duplicate RAW files from card to a second external hard drive.

  3. All files are put into directories by date (e.g 20090521) and renamed with date and sequence (e.g. 20090521_001.DNG)

  4. Photo Mechanic automatically applies whatever IPTC template I choose to each photo.

Cull and Convert

Once the files are off the card and named properly I fire up Capture One. This is new to me, as it came with the M8. At first I dismissed the idea of using yet another app in my process, but then I compared the RAW conversions of Capture One 4.8 with those of Lightroom 2.3. Out of the box it was no contest, Capture One’s conversions were cleaner and the color was better. It’s subjective, but there you go.

I then use the nifty Capture One workflow, deleting the junk and moving the keepers to a folder for processing. Once things are reasonably culled, it’s process time. The only things a RAW file get you are exposure and white balance. I tweak each keeper and set a white balance and adjust exposure as necessary. After that, RAW doesn’t get me much, so I output either JPG or TIFF files, depending on if I expect to do significant additional processing. These are output to a folder called, you guessed it, “Output.” I then delete the originals. (Remember I have another copy of each)

Catalog and Archive

I use Adobe Lightroom for cataloging, tweaking, printing and uploading to Flickr and SmugMug. The Capture One output folder is configured as the auto-import folder in Lightroom. All I do now is launch Lightroom and the latest processed images are imported automatically. I’ll move them around into folders from there, either by date or by event.

After any final tweaks, crops, etc. I’ll usually export one or two images to Flickr and several more to SmugMug right from Lightroom using the handy plugins from Jeffrey Friedl.

Backups

I delete the original RAW files from the processing folders of Capture One, but still have all of them on the external hard drive. I have 3 external drives. The first holds my Lightroom Library consisting of processed keepers. The second holds every RAW file ever pulled off a card. The third is a Drobo which acts as a backup of each of the first two. I copy everything from both of the “media” drives to the Drobo daily using Chronosync. I also occasionally buy an additional external drive and copy each of the backups to it, then store that drive offsite. Whew!

Too Much?

This all sounds very complicated, and perhaps I am trying too hard. After all, I could easily just import right from the card into Lightroom and be done with it. Who knows, that’s exactly what I might end up doing, but for now, everything is how I like it, file handling, RAW conversion and cataloging are all nearly perfect. Today, it’s worth the effort. I like that I don’t save every single raw image to my Lightroom library now. I might have a card with 300 images on it and only convert 20 or 30 for import into Lighroom. I still have the secondary backups on the other drive, but the library stays nice and clean. Clean is good.