Digital Photography Workflow

Article and photo by Al Perry

Fall Color in Alaska, before and after adjustments in Adobe Bridge.
Fall Color in Alaska, before and after adjustments in Adobe Bridge.

One of the most frequently asked questions in digital photography relates to workflow. There are probably as many workflows in digital photography as shooting styles. I have a disciplined approach starting with raw image capture and finishing with secure backup of selected images. Because quality counts, I never shoot jpegs.

I use memory cards that hold one full day’s shooting—32, 64 or 128gb of data. You will frequently hear some people say they don’t want “all their eggs in one basket,” so they write to several small memory cards.  While this approach has merit, it is not one I practice. One problem I have is fear of losing memory cards in the field by removing and storing cards in your pocket or camera case. Therefore, I minimize swapping cards, especially in the field, because I believe the safest place for your photo images is within your camera on a memory card.

After each day’s shoot, I usually download files to my laptop computer using a memory card reader rather than the camera, review images for the day in Adobe Bridge and then backup files on laptop to an external hard drive before formatting the memory cards in the camera. While downloading files, I charge batteries and check cameras for sensor dust. I never start a new day with partially charged batteries or dirty sensors.

If it is not too late at night, I sort through my images and label each image with one star that deserves further consideration. Additional evaluation of images usually occurs in my office with a large, high resolution, color calibrated monitor. I select one star images and label a few of these as two stars. At this point, I check focus and may make changes to brightness, contrast and white balance. I rarely adjust my images beyond Adobe Bridge.

You may notice I haven’t mentioned Lightroom or other digital photography software. If someone points out significant advantages of Lightroom over Bridge/Photoshop, I may give Lightroom another try. I acknowledge Lightroom may evolve into the software of choice for most photographers in the future. I use Bridge to label my images, remove dust spots, adjust brightness and contrast, crop, sharpen, size, select color space and convert to tiff or jpeg file formats. 95% of the images I upload to Facebook and my online photo gallery have not been processed within Photoshop. If I were more skilled in Photoshop, perhaps I would use it more often. Keep in mind: all adjustments within Adobe Bridge are nondestructive, i.e., the underlying original raw file has not been changed so you can undo any and all of your adjustments.

So there you have it—my workflow in the field and the digital lab. My workflow is focused on capturing, screening, and backing up images the same day.