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How Efficient is Your Workflow?

by Dan Bailey on November 8, 2010 · 10 comments

Evening light on The Alaska Range Mountains

How efficient is your workflow?

Before you answer that, let’s quickly run through all the major tasks that the average digital photography workflow encompasses and see if you’re performing them as efficiently as you could.

1. Importing and initial editing. Being the first step in the process, this sets the tone for your workflow. If you’re wasting time in this step, your inefficiencies will probably carry through to every other step as well. Are you using the best, most up to date software possible? And are you using it in the most efficient way? With so many choices out there, Lightroom, Aperture, Photo Mechanic, Bridge, you need to find the program that suits you and your photography needs then learn how to use it to its fullest capabilities.

When it comes to the actual editing, are you able to review a batch of photos and quickly star or check the winners and delete the losers, comparing them side by side with others as you go? Or do you spend long minutes poring over each shot, trying to decide if it warrants keeping or not?

2. Processing your photos. This is a step that can really see workflow slowdowns. Do you have a system where you process as you go, or do you wait to process images right before you deliver them to clients or customers? Are you consistent? Are you able to get good results quickly with your RAW conversions or do you need to get a Scott Kelby book or Deke McClelland DVD and brush up on image processing techniques?

3. Captioning and Keywording. This the task that many of us like to do least, but it’s often the most important thing we can do. Proper keywording and captioning will not only help you find your own images quickly during a search, it will make sure they can be found online on sites like Flickr, or on your own site if you have a keyword searchable site. Do you make use of batch commands? Do you have a list of preset words in your system so that you don’t have to retype the world “Landscape” an “Mendenhall Glacier” every time?

4. Archive. How and where you store your images can mean the difference between quick location of a shot or searching for hours through folders and sub folders until your mouse finger is spent. Once photos are captioned and keyworded, do you copy them on to the backup drive immediately or do you wait until you’ve got an huge batch of shots that needs to be archived?

5. Retrieval and Distribution. How efficient is your DAM? (Digital Asset Management) When you need to deliver images to a client or locate photos to send to the lab, are you able to find them quickly or does it take long minutes of scrolling through multiple image catalogs and libraries in order to find it? This is where good keywording pays off.

And, once you’ve found the images do you have a system that allows you to digitally deliver them via email or ftp, or post them to the web quickly? And, once you pull them from the archive, are they ready to go, or do they need to be processed, resized, captioned or edited in any way?

Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. Follow his own blog at and see his daily updates at

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