Recently, I’ve had several people email me and ask about my post-processing workflow so I figured it is time for a post! Let me preface this by saying this is what works for me and it may not be the “best” way… I’m not claiming that it is. This is just how I’ve set up my system for efficient post-processing in my eyes.
My main computer is a 27″ iMac with an internal 1 TB hard drive (a). The only files I’ve ever kept on my internal hard drive are working files, logo/branding files + any non-image business related files. I don’t know why, but even when I started my business on a Dell laptop, I just always tried to keep as many files as possible on an external hard drive in an effort to keep my hard drive relatively clear + maximize my computer’s speed. Not sure if this logic is sound, but hey… it works for me! All of my RAW files + edited photos are kept on mirrored RAID external hard drives (b) and they always have been. This set up works great for me. I personally prefer LaCie and Buffalo external hard drives. I’ve never had any issues with those brands and they are easy to use. I did have a WD hard drive fail early in my pet photography career and it wasn’t pretty, so I’ve just never gone back to them. That’s a personal thing. I have a Satechi 12-port USB hub (c) that I use to keep all of my external hard drives connected to my iMac and it’s fabulous.
Protecting my clients’ images is super important to me, so I’m careful even at the shoot. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and use the dual card slots to save the RAW files on both a CF and SD card. Therefore, I have an automatic backup in the event that one of those cards fails – it’s great peace of mind. When I get home from the session, I transfer the RAW files from the CF card to my iMac desktop using my Lexar card reader (d) via a program called Photo Mechanic. Photo Mechanic ingests my files quickly and allows me to start culling immediately, which is especially useful for my wedding photography. You don’t have to wait for the previews to render like you do in Lightroom, so for me, it’s a great program. I’m really impatient I create a new folder on my desktop labeled “YYYY-MM-DD Pet Name” and download all of the RAW files into a sub-folder labeled “RAW Files”. As Photo Mechanic ingests the images, I am able to quickly cull the session. I pick the keepers and copy those RAW files directly into the master folder. I do this so that later, I can delete the “Raw Files” sub-folder and just have the keepers in my main folder.
Then, I open Lightroom and upload the keeper files from the main folder. This way, I’m only editing good photos and not clogging up my Lightroom catalog with a ton of RAW files. I do 90% of my editing in Lightroom, then export as JPEG into a sub-folder labeled “JPEG Edits” and open the files in Photoshop to do my fine-detail retouching. After I’m done in Photoshop, I save-as all of the photos and I’m ready to upload the images to my clients’ online gallery + deliver their images to them.
In the meantime, I use an online backup system called Backblaze that is set up to automatically backup my desktop + external hard drives daily. Therefore, I know my working files are being backed up online while I’m working on them. I also don’t format or shoot on my original CF card until all of the images have been edited and backed up. Just in case.
After the files are all edited, I copy the working file folder onto my external hard drive, which is set up as a mirrored RAID drive. Once I know it has successfully copied to the external hard drive, I delete it from my desktop. It is now backed up on my external RAID hard drive + via Backblaze. If the client purchased their digital files, they also have a copy. Once my client has seen their online gallery and placed their order, I then go back into the master folder and delete the bulky “RAW Files” sub-folder. It frees up room on the external hard drive – I only save the “keeper” RAW files.
So that is what my post-processing workflow looks like! Hope it helps someone down the road and if you have any questions, please let me know!