Whenever I finish a big project, the next thing that happens is picking up the pieces, cleaning up the disarray that accumulated during the intense effort to reach completion. One thing I kept putting off throughout the Cathedral and Highway 89 book projects was to get my Digital Asset Management act together: back-ups, keywording, etc. Since completion, I really have no more excuses and a great need to try to get additional use out of my investment in images. To get started right, I decided to read some of the experts on DAM rather than inventing my own process. Just before the last Photowalking Utah clinic, my request for the library copy of Digital Asset Management by Peter Krogh was fulfilled, and I started reading it that very night.
It won’t come as any surprise that, once I decided to get serious about it, I have been going after this project with some level of obsession commitment. When I discovered that the last time I burned a DVD was March 2008, made a hard drive back-up (when I filled my last LaCie, about June 2009), I got very scared.
The principles in Krogh’s book aren’t that different from David Allen’s GTD, and one thing I learned from Allen was to do a complete stand-down and get the reorganized system up and running so I could trust it. For me, it means shifting away from Adobe Bridge as my folder-based browser, despite the fact that (cue whining) I know where everything is (sort of), to a catalog-managed archive using keywords and metadata in Adobe Lightroom that will grow with me even as my memory starts to overflow with photo opps.
I decided to go back to January 2008, and put all my files into DVD sized “buckets,” rename the files to a rational scheme (torrence_yyyymmdd_camera-sequence#.ext), and import all the files into Lightroom. I kept the files in their subfolders, which are labeled by date and location, but breaking the subfolders into chunks that fit onto DVDs. 2008 was the biggest year for the Highway 89 project: I shot 77 DVD-sized chunks that year. Once I the 2008 files sorted into buckets, I paused, started burning DVDs (#58 is in the burner as I type), and copied the LR database to my laptop to start keywording while the desktop machine burns DVDs. It seems my desktop Mac resents almost any competing application, and I got tired of wasting DVDs, so it is a (very expensive) dedicated DVD burner most of the day during this stand-down.
Krogh has an elaborate ingestion process for copying files from camera chip through a “working storage” unit, into various folders to mark its progress through a metadata and keywording workflow, ultimately to an archive, but I’m having a hard time deciding which RAW files are archive vs working, so I’m going to dump my chips straight to DVD-sized folders, do the file renaming, and burn them right away as I accumulate a full “bucket” and use meta-meta-data to track what stages my files are in (as Eric Scouten described in his workflow).
I learned a time-expensive lesson yesterday: if I want full-sized previews in LR on my laptop, it would be best to do them as I import files, not 18,000 of them at once, which took about 16 hours to generate. That put the DVD burning behind schedule! But the adding titles, captions and rudimentary keywording is taking far less time than I thought. I’m doing enough so I can find stuff, although not good enough for stock sales. I entered metadata for over 2,000 images this afternoon. I can always refine later, so long as I can find stuff to begin with. And the full-sized previews I need to remember what’s what are take up expensive hard-drive space: the catalog of 18,000 images if over 44 GB. I’ll be purging those previews as soon as the keyworded version of the database is transferred back to the desktop machine (and backed up!)
As I have been reading, one workflow advantage that I am looking forward to using is the collections tool in Lightroom. My RAW files are pretty tidy, but my derivative files (PSDs, JPGs, CMYKs and rest of the alphabet) are not. I am declaring, and in some cases blending and recreating one primary file each finalized image that will live in a special directory. Print-sized, sharpened, web-versions will all be exported from Lightroom to a separate folder, and the master file can populate as many collections as needed. But no more time spent sorting through various versions to figure out which one is the true primary file. I’m many DVDs and hard drives away from that level of paradise, but I can see the steps to take to get me there. If only I could burn DVDs any faster, I’d be there already.