9 Timesaving Tips for the Photography Slob

*Kick the bad habits that are cutting into your time behind the lens.*

In the days of digital photography, you often find yourself spending more time behind the computer than behind the lens. With retouching, printing, and all other computer work, your time in the field slowly diminishes. If you get a system of organization and stick with it, there will be less stress and more time to do what you love-shoot!

1. All Your Gear Needs a Home
How to do it: If you are like me, after a long day of shoot you like to drop your equipment anywhere in lands. Instead its best to designate a specific spot of every single piece of equipment, from your flash to your off-camera cable-each should have a place.

How it saves time: Next time the sun comes out, you won't have to go searching from your polarizer and the next portrait session you won't madly run around trying to find your pocket-wizards. Not only is it a time-saver, but it also helps prevent you from losing increasingly pricey gear.

2. Get Workflow Software and Stick To It

How to do it: Find software that helps you manage/handle your images and use the same program for every image- practice makes perfect. There are dozens of programs to do this (Aperture, Photo Mechanic and more), but I suggest Adobe Photoshop Lightroom because it handles all forms of organization for you upon import.

How it saves time: These programs help you to develop a habit of handling your images so you go through the same process every time. Consistency and a system save you time and confusion. These programs will help you achieve several of the steps in these organizational tips including file naming, keywords, metadata, and rating.

3. Be Specific and Purposeful with File Naming
How to do it: Don't name an image of a cat 'cat.jpg' or your headaches will never end. Using the date (YYYYMMDD), a descriptor, and a sequence number is an effective solution. An example would be 20090428_TabbyCat_001.jpg and so on.

How it saves time: Consistent file naming provides you with the ability to search for your images (in my example by descriptor and date), prevents you from ever creating duplicate names, and also provides you information about your image just by glancing at the name.

4. Develop a System for Importing Images

How to do it: Importing is the most important moment for organization. Have a folder naming system (similar setup to your file names) and have a consistent location to place the folders/images upon import. You never want a DCIM folder on your computer. It's also best not to use the generic "Pictures" folder your computer tries to horn your images into.

How it saves time: It will be easier to find files if their folders have similar naming conventions and also provide insight to their contents. Avoiding DCIM will make sure you never overwrite an image folder. Saving to an external hard drive (instead of your computers built-in hard drive) will help organization and not slow down your computer by using too much space. With the cheap prices of external HDDs these days, this shouldn't be too painful.

5. Use Keywords
How to do it: Add special word tags (called keywords) to your images using your workflow software. Figure out how and why you would use keywords, and tag images appropriately. Words could include dominant color, subject matter, type of image and more (ex: red, barn, scenic).

How it saves time: Keywords help you find specific images or images with a specific subject matter by search for words that describe them. For example, each year when I submit to calendar companies I can simply search for the word "barn" in Lightroom (or other program) and it will bring up all images that might be appropriate to submit to the barn-themed calendar. No more searching through thousands of individual images to find my submission for next year.

6. Develop a Rating System for your Images
How to do it: Decide what each type of rating means to you and why you would use this rating (including stars, colors and flags). Write the meaning of each rating symbol on a note card and tape it up near your computer so that you maintain and consistent system of rating. Does a 1 star mean its garbage? Does a red label mean 'competition worthy'?

How it saves time: It's common to shoot a bunch of frames of a single scene, but remembering which one was the best can be tedious. This can help you find the right image without tiring your scrolling finger out.

7. Add Metadata to your Files
How to do it: Always including information about you with your photo. At minimum you want to include your name, one way to contact you (email perhaps), and your copyright. You can also add your website, address, terms of use and much more.

How it saves time: When you are sending your files out to magazines, calendars or any other purpose, you will always know that your information is embedded in your files. If an editor wants to use your image, they won't have to struggle to find a way to get in touch with you or figure out who produced the image-its all right there in the file info. Plus, it might save you some time should you get into an unfortunate copyright squabble.

8. Back up your Images
How to do it: Always back up your images to an external hard drive to prevent loss of originals. The duplicate should be stored in a different location than the original (prevents theft/damage to original and backup). Also, always physically and digital label your hard drives to differentiate the contents.

How it saves time: Your hard drive will eventually crash and getting data from them can be an incredibly time consuming and expensive process. Plus, backing up regularly will save you from marathon sessions backing up lots of gigabytes of data at once.

9. Keep Your Paperwork Filed
How to do it: Buy a filing cabinet. Keep a folder for camera/equipment manuals, invoices, expenses, publications and anything else related to photography. You can also use a similar system to store prints so this isn't just for the pros.

How it saves time: Whenever you have a question about your equipment, you'll know where to look. At the end of the year when you need to collect expenses for tax write-offs they'll all be in one place. Plus, you'll look like a total adult having your own filing cabinet.

6. Develop a Rating System for your Images
How to do it: Decide what each type of rating means to you and why you would use this rating (including stars, colors and flags). Write the meaning of each rating symbol on a note card and tape it up near your computer so that you maintain and consistent system of rating. Does a 1 star mean its garbage? Does a red label mean 'competition worthy'?

How it saves time: It's common to shoot a bunch of frames of a single scene, but remembering which one was the best can be tedious. This can help you find the right image without tiring your scrolling finger out.

7. Add Metadata to your Files
How to do it: Always including information about you with your photo. At minimum you want to include your name, one way to contact you (email perhaps), and your copyright. You can also add your website, address, terms of use and much more.

How it saves time: When you are sending your files out to magazines, calendars or any other purpose, you will always know that your information is embedded in your files. If an editor wants to use your image, they won't have to struggle to find a way to get in touch with you or figure out who produced the image-its all right there in the file info. Plus, it might save you some time should you get into an unfortunate copyright squabble.

8. Back up your Images
How to do it: Always back up your images to an external hard drive to prevent loss of originals. The duplicate should be stored in a different location than the original (prevents theft/damage to original and backup). Also, always physically and digital label your hard drives to differentiate the contents.

How it saves time: Your hard drive will eventually crash and getting data from them can be an incredibly time consuming and expensive process. Plus, backing up regularly will save you from marathon sessions backing up lots of gigabytes of data at once.

9. Keep Your Paperwork Filed
How to do it: Buy a filing cabinet. Keep a folder for camera/equipment manuals, invoices, expenses, publications and anything else related to photography. You can also use a similar system to store prints so this isn't just for the pros.

How it saves time: Whenever you have a question about your equipment, you'll know where to look. At the end of the year when you need to collect expenses for tax write-offs they'll all be in one place. Plus, you'll look like a total adult having your own filing cabinet.

ADVERTISEMENT