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Managing Your Photographic Legacy: Part 2

Step 4: Push your finished shoots from your local hard drive to your Working Library drive. Once I feel a job or shoot has truly been put to bed, I’ll proceed to Step 4 and copy the shoot folder from my local hard drive to my Working Library drive. As a safety precaution, I’ll also refresh my very first backup on my scratch drive by basically deleting it and replacing the whole thing as a new backup once again. This time the backup contains all my edits, metadata and a small working catalog for reference. This additional backup on the scratch drive also lets me go ahead and delete the working shoot folder from my local hard drive if I want to and still have the peace of mind of knowing that I have at least two copies of the shoot at all times, somewhere on separate hard drives.
Step 5: Push your entire Working Library (or just shoots that have been modified, and your updated master catalog) to your Archive Library drive on a frequent basis. When I feel pretty certain that a shoot or group of shoots is completely edited at least in the short term, I’ll push them to my Archive drive and delete them from my local and scratch drives.

You can probably see by now that the system I’ve created makes your Working Library a sort of middle ground between the place where you do your real work (in your shoot folders on your local computer’s hard drive) and the place where you push your finished shoots for permanent, unchanging archival storage—your Archive Library. When you need to make further edits to a shoot you’ve already pushed to your Working Library drive (and you will), you can work on it directly through your master catalog on the Working Library drive. Just be careful to always have a backup of your master catalog in case you somehow corrupt it, and then always remember to push those changes to your Archive Library drive.

The system is designed to allow you always to have at least two, rock-solid copies of all your photos somewhere, in addition to giving you a structure for managing the continual flow of finished photos that should always be moving in one direction: toward your ever-growing, but stable, Archive Library.

Safety During Downloading

I personally use the operating system to make my initial copy from my camera memory card to my computer. This is because I don’t like to put yet another application in the middle of things. Call me a luddite, but over the years, I’ve just seen way too many file corruption problems stemming from the use of an intermediary program. Yes, things in this regard are better than they used to be, but I simply prefer to do them one step at a time, letting the OS do its job to get the copy done right. Because of this, and a few other simple habits like using high-quality memory cards, cables and hard drives, I’ve been rewarded with a record of never losing any digital photos. And believe me, I hear about losses and file corruption in the classroom all the time. On the subject of renaming actual photo files, I must say I wish I didn’t have to do this. My instinct is always to keep original file names the camera has given to each photo. But as soon as you’ve been shooting long enough that your camera’s numbering system rolls over, or when you start shooting with a second camera body, you can no longer sort your entire library correctly in a cataloging application by file name. This is a drag. So I’ve created a numbering scheme that solves these types of catalog-specific sorting problems, but that’s a subject for yet another article or blog entry.


The “Master Catalog”

An additional step that I didn’t include as one of “the five” would be the creation of a master catalog on your Working Drive. As I assemble my chronological sequence of finished shoot folders onto my Working Library drive, I also import them into one large master catalog. This catalog is useful for viewing all my photos in one place, creating portfolios, web galleries, etc. But I’ll reiterate here that I think it’s important to get your file organization for the long term straight in your file system first. Building and maintaining one giant catalog (yet another database to manage) is an important step along the way, but one that’s more about day-to-day photo management, and isn’t central to the basic workflow that I’m presenting here, to help you establish a bomb-proof Library and Archive.

George Jardine began his career as a professional photographer, and 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 and

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