DPP Home Software Image Processing Managing Your Photographic Legacy: Part I

Monday, November 9, 2009

Managing Your Photographic Legacy: Part I

Taking a long-term perspective on creating your digital archive

So the first step in setting up your library to be best organized for the long-term is to start with a clean, new, high-quality external hard drive. Then get things organized in chronological order with meaningful folder names. After that, you can add all the keywords, star ratings and color labels you wish in the cataloging program of your choice. In my next article, I’ll go into more detail that will help you plan effective workflows for getting photos pushed through your system and out onto your archive drive.

Of course, I don’t imagine the asset-management story is nearly this simplistic. I only wish it were! But taking a long-term view is an important prerequisite for being able to see the various elements in the proper perspective. After that, things begin to fall into place.

Finally, as long as we’re looking forward, I think it’s fun to keep an eye on where technology might be taking us in the near future. I’m personally excited about trends in online applications and cloud computing, or online storage of my data. I finally have reliable-enough web access that I’ve made the transition to 100% online e-mail.

I don’t store anything locally, and the interesting result of that is that I’m now free from worrying about backups and the problems associated with having different versions of my mail database scattered among multiple computers. And I fully expect the same thing to eventually happen with my photo library. Yes, there are all sorts of bandwidth issues that we’ll have to overcome, not to mention a whole new host of user-interface ideas that will need to be innovated to make online storage for the photographer’s library a reality. But I’m absolutely convinced that one day it will be real and infinitelymore productive for me as a photographer. Just imagine being able to access your entire library, from any device, in any location.

“Library” Or “Archive”: What’s The Difference?
At first it may appear that I use the two terms interchangeably, but I want to be a bit more precise than that. When I use the word “library,” I mean any working collection of photographs. That could mean all of your digital photographs, but also could mean one shoot or a group of shoots that you’ve imported into a catalog (in the sense of a Lightroom or Expression Media catalog). It could mean your commercial library as distinct from your personal library. When I talk about your “archive,” I mean an organized, up-to-date collection of digital files that you store in a safe place, that’s there for you in case your working hard drive fails or in case you fall off a cliff tomorrow. It’s a physical thing that you wish to use to preserve and to pass forward your life’s work—your entire, organized, photographic legacy.

Color Correction Is Subjective!
How many times have you corrected a photo to your satisfaction and then returned to it later only to decide that you now need just a bit more saturation? Or decided that you now would like to push up the blacks just a bit more than before? Or finesse a crop? This happens to me all the time. Also, I find that I make fairly different renderings of my RAW photos based on what their final destination will be. Color corrections made for one printer are generally different for a second printer, and corrections certainly can be different for the screen and for printing, no matter how carefully “calibrated” you are. So, how important is today’s “final” correction? Well, I say if a specific rendering of a RAW image made in a certain application is important to you, then you should archive both the processing instructions (metadata, whether in the form of a saved catalog or in XMP files, or both) and a rendered RGB file of that correction.

George Jardine began his career as a professional photographer; his work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens, Interior Design and many other publications. He joined Adobe Systems in 1993, and in 2002 began work on the Lightroom project. Jardine teaches workshops, consults for digital photographers and is a freelance video producer. His websites are www.mulita.com/blog and www.bacchuseditorial.com.


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