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Managing Your Photographic Legacy: Part 2

Redundancy easily can get out of hand if you take it too far. It’s important to have backups, but making backups of backups of backups can leave you confused about which is the right one should you need it.

Step 3: Download your daily shoots to your local hard drive, and make a backup. My internal, local hard drive is where I do the bulk of my processing and editing. It’s during the first to seventh days after I download a shoot that I tend to make the most changes to it. So it doesn’t make sense for me to push daily shoots to my Working Library drive and master catalog just yet. For now, it’s important that you always have at least two copies
of every photograph you take and that you’re always pushing your photographs and your edits toward a stable and permanent archive.

I copy the first working version of each shoot onto the desktop of my local computer’s hard drive, but, of course, I’m following my guidelines for putting them into a folder with a useful name. “20090811 George Self-Portrait Denver Colorado” would be appropriate to fulfill my “when,” “who,” “what,” “where” criteria. I don’t bother very much with dashes or underscores in file or folder names any more (unless I’m e-mailing a photo) because both Mac and PC operating systems finally deal with long file names and spaces as they should, and I expect that to continue. Underscores are an outdated artifact in file naming, and if you ask me, just get in the way these days. I put my first backup on any reliable drive that I have handy and simply call the drive “scratch” or “temp bkup.” This backup is insurance in case your internal drive fails after you’ve erased your camera card and before you’ve had the chance to push the shoot to your Working Library.

Relative to my larger library, this first working copy and its backup are just temporary. As I stated earlier, this is because it’s during the first few days after a shoot that I’m accessing it and making the most changes to it. And I don’t want to plug in my Working Library drive every time I need to make a few edits to a recent shoot, or e-mail a new version of a work in progress to the client. (Of course, if you have your entire Working Library online 24/7, on a RAID that has reliable and automatic backups, then you probably know enough to easily eliminate the local editing routine in the five steps I’m outlining here.)

Once I’ve downloaded a shoot and made a backup of it, I then import it into my cataloging and processing application of choice, make edits, rank and/or apply keywords if I feel so inclined at the moment, and make a few processing decisions on the important shots. I consider most of this metadata to be subjective, and feel that it’s fine being stored in your catalog, rather than as part of your basic file system organization. (At this time I also mark the photos as “Copyrighted” and apply my name and address as the creator, my copyright string and the other metadata basics. Using Lightroom, I force this metadata to be written out to the OS in the form of XMP sidecar files that will eventually follow the digital image files into my archive, but this workflow is also the subject of a future article.)


Generally, I’ll make a fresh, new catalog for this initial editing task, inside the shoot folder on my local computer hard drive. This catalog will be temporary, just as the copy of the actual shoot on my local hard drive is temporary. It’s just used as a stage for my initial edit and color corrections. These settings then can be later imported into a master catalog, if you wish, after you’ve copied the shoot to your Working Library in the next step.

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