Home How-To Tip Of The Week Using Lightroom for organization and backup—05/10/10
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Using lightroom for organization and backup—05/10/10

Ten tips to keep files safe and searchable via Lightroom

This Article Features Photo Zoom

I don’t know that I’m totally neurotic, but I’m definitely worried about one thing in photography: the organization and backup of my digital image files. My photographs are my livelihood, but even if I didn’t depend on them for income I’d certainly want to keep them around. Managing a digital database is crucial if you’d like your photographs to last. And more than just saving them, the management is important too. Because what good is having a photo file if you don’t have access to that file?

I’ve recently started utilizing Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to help with my organization and backup of a growing photo database. While Lightroom’s Develop module rightfully receives a lot of praise, the program’s ability to help index and back up my precious photo files is fairly remarkable too. Just a month into using it, here are 10 tips I’ve already learned that help me keep my photos safe and searchable.

1. Catalog by clients, then jobs. In the case of a non-professional user, consider catalog files organized by the most common broader subjects that you shoot. Perhaps that’s something like locations, names or dates.

2. Convert to DNG to comply with best practices for RAW workflow, and to maximize your chances of having RAW image files stored in a format that will be easily accessible in the future. I do my DNG conversions during import by simply checking the appropriate option in Lightroom’s Import panel.

3. Backup on import by making a second copy to an external hard drive. My previous method of backups had a weak spot—the time between importing to my hard drive and whenever I got around to creating a duplicate. Now I’ve got a backup in a separate disk the moment the images are imported. (I name the duplicate folder by month, so that in the future I can easily eliminate long-archived images.)

4. Rename files with appropriate names, dates and data—all during import. The ability to ingest files from card to computer and not have to rename or add additional information in future steps isn’t only a huge timesaver, it’s a great way to ensure consistency throughout your database.

5. Use a standard naming convention. If some files have names, others dates, others dates in different formats and still others with obscure reference codes, how are you ever going to be able to search for the appropriate file at a later date? In my case, I like to name files with client/subject/date conventions. You can do it however you’d like; the important thing is to be consistent.

6. Back up and verify the catalog on exit, or set it to back up at particular intervals. This backup doesn’t back up photos, but rather it creates a backup of all of your edits and other important image information and metadata. You’ll eventually want to go in and eliminate the oldest catalog backups, because they’re all stored in the same folder and every time you make a new one it doesn’t overwrite the old one. Adding a new folder means you could eventually end up with gigs of needless backups taking up precious hard drive space.

7. Edit directly in Lightroom, export directly to Photoshop. When I’m editing photos to the extent that I want to use Photoshop, I don’t export them from Lightroom and then open in Photoshop. I instruct Lightroom to send the photo to the outside editing program directly. This maintains consistency and tracking of the newly created file—which will automatically be indexed within my original catalog database.


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