Workflow, Backup and Security – What Every Photographer Needs

It’s easy to shoot one photo session. It’s easy to burn a CD/DVD and hand it over to the client.

But what do you do when you have one shoot per day, 5 days of the week? What if one photo session turns into 10, and 10 turns into 100? What do you do to make sure your files are safe, secure, and easily accessible in the future?

Welcome to the wonderful world of workflow. When you have one client, it’s easy to control. But when that number grows day after day, it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed.

Before that happens, take the time to setup a workflow system within your studio, and put all the pieces into place to make sure your data files are safe and secure, and accessible no matter what.

Organize your shoots

Start out by creating a system on your computer for you to store all of your client work. For me, I find it easiest to build client files by date and by name. I have a main file titled “Client Files”; then I have subfiles listed by year: 2011, 2010, 2009, etc.

Within each year, I further divide my list so every company gets a folder. I only have a few major clients each month, so subdividing it by year works for me. If you have dozens of clients per month, it might make more sense to further divide your folders by month, or even by week.

Spend some time thinking about a system that works for you, and set it up as you are working on your first client. Yes, you will probably adjust it over time as you find things that work and things that don’t. But starting off in a good position will make it that much easier down the road.

Once your filing system is ready, then you can load in all images from the shoot. If you’ll be working with a client again and again over the coming year, further define your shoots by date and/or content. The more descriptive your folders and names, the easier it will be to find what you are looking for when you need it. Checkout our post on file management.

Store first, manipulate second

Now that you have your original data stored in its first location, it’s a good idea to backup the data before you begin working with it. Occasionally you will make a mistake or delete the wrong photograph. If you are working with the original file, the data will be lost.

There are many types of storage, and there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to what you choose. Some people burn CD/DVDs. Some people use portable external hard drives. Both can work, and can be a perfect solution to your first layer of storage. The ultimate goal to storage is to verify it’s working and correct before you begin manipulation. If you burn a CD, take it to another computer and verify it opens. With external hard drives, verify the files are moving and are complete and correct.

Now that you have a clean copy of original data, its time to head back to your computer and start manipulating. As you look through your images, you’ll find some to change, some to delete. Work through each file accordingly. When you are finished, you’ll end up with a variety of files numbering systems, and in many cases you’ll skip numbers along the way. Rather than confuse your clients, renumber them in a way that makes sense to you.  We’ve used ACDSee for years, and love its flexibility and how easy it is to make changes.

Safe is better than being sorry

It only takes one problem to make you realize how important a system is. If you’ve ever spoken with someone who lost their hard drive, or had their laptop stolen, you know how damaging it can be – especially when you’ve lost client files with no way of recovery.

For that reason and more, we’ve always held strong to safety of data and doing all we can to protect our creations.

You now have a clean copy of original data on an external hard drive (or format of your choice), and your manipulated data file on your computer. The problem is both copies are sitting next to each other, and are still at risk.

Your most important papers – birth certificates, wills, deeds, etc – are probably sitting in a safety deposit box at your local bank. And chances are you have a copy at home too. Add in registered copies with government offices, and you can easily have access to what you need, given you have a little time to locate it.

The same applies to your original files. Computers can be stolen, external hard drives can be corrupt, and they can all be lost in a fire. If they sit next to each other, it’s like having no backup system at all. Moving a copy offsite and separate is your only choice for security.

We’ve found a great and inexpensive system that not only moves your data offsite, but also allows it to be in multiple places offsite, further guaranteeing your safety of data.

Head over to Amazon S3, a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. It gives anyone access to the same highly scalable, reliable, secure, fast, inexpensive infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites.

Or try BackBlaze, an easy online backup system that’s inexpensive and offers unlimited storage. I love this program, as it works behind the scenes, and backups everything from my hard drive as I’m working and changing it all day long.

Keep in mind that other instantaneous programs are available, its just a matter of finding what works best for you. The key is getting it into place now before you need it and wish you’d taken the time to put it into place.

Diligence and repetition

While all of this may seem easy on paper, putting it into place can be more difficult. It takes time to buy the right tools and learn how to use them. It takes dedication to move files from one location to the next. It’s easy to ignore when you don’t have a problem. Don’t wait for that moment. Instead, start your system now with your first client. You have more time to learn new systems, and more time to find a method that works for you.

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