The Home Studio, Part 6: Workflow, Digital Asset Management, and Post-Production

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Having a workflow in place can save you a lot of time and frustration. After years without one, I ended up with 26,000 images that were only organized in folders by date. Imagine looking through 26,000 images to find a specific photo you once captured!

In addition to not having a workflow, I didn’t even back up my images! It was by luck that I never lost an image. From the very beginning of your photographic journey, it’s important to have a system in place for managing your images from capture to backup to distribution, because you may not be as lucky.

What is Digital Asset Management (D.A.M.)?

Digital asset management consists of file management and organization, backup, and its metadata. In managing your files, you should consider naming conventions and how you want to organize your images. Metadata makes it easier to find images and provides information like ratings, keywords, capture settings, and more. Backing up your images prevents accidental loss.

Workflow

It’s a good idea to write down the steps so that your workflow is consistent. As you work, you may find you need to add or tweak a few steps. That’s okay, because workflows tend to evolve over time.

Some of the basic steps for workflow include the following.

Capture and Import

When you capture an image, you’re either recording it to a memory card or, if you are tethering, you are saving directly to your computer. In the studio, I tether to my 27" iMac so I can see the details of each shot on a big screen and make immediate adjustments to wardrobe, poses, etc. If you are working from a memory card, you first need to import the files into your software.

Image captured with camera tethered
Model: Kristin Rutty

Back Up

Backing up your images is extremely important to prevent accidental loss. While my images reside temporarily on my laptop or iMac for culling and editing, I back up my original and retouched images on an external hard drive and to Dropbox.

Organize and Cull

There are plenty of software options for managing your images, some of the top programs being Adobe Lightroom and Phase One Capture One Pro. With either, you can import and organize your files easily. You can also cull your images for retouching by reviewing and rating them using tools like star, flag, or color ratings.

Image-rating methods in Adobe Lightroom
Model: Jeff Thomas

Edit

Once you’ve determined the images you wish to edit, it’s time to adjust. Whether it’s changing white balance, sharpening an image, adding contrast, or something else, most software has built-in editing tools.

Share

After editing, you can then export photos for various applications, such as printing, or to share your images on the Web.

Photo Editing Equipment & Software

There are several tools you will need to execute a successful workflow. Some of these tools include the following.

Computer

First, you’ll need a computer. Any type of computer will do, just make sure it has decent power and a good display.

Features to Consider

  • Size If you’re working in your home studio, portability isn’t a big deal. If you shoot on location, you may want to consider a small laptop. I use a 27" iMac for my home studio and a 17" laptop for everywhere else.
  • Processor Multiple cores are helpful in getting improved performance, so stick with at least a dual-core system when running bulky photo-editing software.
  • RAM The more RAM, the better performance your computer will have in running multiple tasks at once. For photos, I wouldn’t recommend less than 8GB.
  • Storage SSDs are a good solution since they are faster and quieter, but can be quite expensive. As for size, 1TB is a good base. If you work with raw and take a lot of shots, you may want to think about a larger capacity.

External Hard Drive

External drives are good for backing up, as well as working from.

LaCie 4TB (2 x 2TB) Rugged RAID

Features to Consider

When choosing an external drive, there are several different factors to consider.

  • Storage capacity External hard drives can be found in nearly every capacity from 128GB to 24TB and more! If you are just starting out, anything from 1-2TB and up should be plenty, and you can always pick up a new one if that one fills up.
  • Transfer speed The faster the drive, the faster you can work and perform backups.
  • RAID RAID serves multiple purposes because it can work as either a built-in backup solution, a way to increase speed, or both.
  • Connectivity You will want the fastest connection that works with your computer, so make sure you have your USB and Thunderbolt types confirmed before purchase.
  • Portability Do you shoot on location? A portable drive might be a better option for you. If you work with your images primarily at home, desktop options available too.
WD 8TB My Book Desktop USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

Other good external storage options:

Seagate 5TB Backup Plus Portable Hard Drive
Samsung 2TB T5 Portable Solid-State Drive
WD 2TB My Passport Wireless SSD

Photo Editing Software and All-in-One Solutions

Various editing software and all-in-one solutions are available.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is, perhaps, the most popular D.A.M. out there. With the Creative Cloud subscription, you can sync photos between your computer, tablet, and mobile phone. Beyond numerous image organization and culling options, as well as editing features and the ability to roundtrip your images through Photoshop, Lightroom has several sharing features such as book layout, slideshows, and direct sharing on the web through a cloud-based image gallery that other software solutions do not offer.

Image courtesy of Adobe

Adobe Photoshop

Combined with Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop is one of the most powerful photo-editing tools out there. From very basic color adjustments to full-blown composites, you can do just about anything with Photoshop.

Model: Mao Hanada

Phase One Capture One Pro

Image courtesy of Phase One Capture One

Tying It All Together

Having a consistent workflow can save you a great deal of time. You will rest easier knowing your images are always backed up and that you can find an image by searching with a few keywords.

For more pertinent information on how to create your home studio, click here for Part 1Part 2Part 3,  Part 4, and Part 5.

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