Workflow is a new buzz word that appears everywhere from making cars to mowing your lawn. Photographers also love to talk about their workflow and how their workflow is more efficient than another workflow. In this article I want to take a step back and look at what a workflow is and in particular to see its application to photography.
What is a workflow anyway?
In general, the term workflow has to do with the “flow” of “work” or in other words the steps necessary to make a product or arrive at a desired end. The manufacturing industry uses terms like production workflow or production process. In document intensive industries like insurance and banking, there is a documentation workflow. Normally, these “workflows” are very complex and they require quite a few people to be involved in their creation. Also, these complex workflows need to be constantly scrutinized for potential bottlenecks and improvements.
Are you looking for the perfect photography workflow?
When designing a workflow, people that know the particular business inside out will try to define and describe each step in the workflow. Then, once the large steps have been described, each step is broken down into smaller steps. The process of further defining smaller and smaller step continues until the desired granularity is achieved. Usually the process stops when one individual can perform a reasonable number of the steps in the process.
A workflow for photographers
The process for getting your pictures from your digital camera to your computer, editing them, printing them and storing them can be a very complex process as well. So the term workflow can also be applied to managing your pictures. Actually Digital Asset Management and Photography workflow are synonymous terms…they both refer to the process of managing your digital pictures from creating to storage and retrieval. As with every workflow, a photographer’s workflow must contain certain important steps.
5 basic steps in a photographer’s workflow
- Shoot the pictures – this is where everything starts.
- Transfer the pictures to the computer – there might be an intermediary storage device if you’re shooting lots of pictures in the field.
- Organize the pictures on the computer – this includes renaming pictures, creating folders and applying keywords.
- Retrieve and find pictures. Everything above will influence this step.
- Export the pictures. This step can include multiple steps or functions: backup pictures, email pictures, print pictures and other ways to use your picture collection. This is where you’re using your pictures by exporting them in different formats for different purposes.
Once you have these steps down then you can use your pictures collection to print pictures, to publish to the web and to e-mail pictures. All these extra steps depend completely on creating and maintaining your pictures collection. So, in order for you to produce outputs (prints, e-mails, etc) from your pictures you must first have that collection of pictures organized in such a way that you can use it in multiple ways…but that’s obvious :)
I know that this is a simplistic look at the workflow steps for photographers, but I believe they are most common for all photographers. Weather you’re a die-hard photographer or a beginner in photography you have your own workflow. Whether you perform all the steps above or just the first two or three, you still have your own workflow for your pictures.
Where’s the perfect photographer’s workflow?
Well…there is no perfect workflow…at least that’s what I think. While these steps are generic for all photographers it is obvious to me that photographers have different purposes and requirements so each has to tailor their workflow for what they need. The important thing to remember about any workflow is that it can improved by improving each step in particular and by improving the connection between the individual steps. The question for you is: are you looking at your workflow in order to improve it? Or are you just concerned about taking great pictures and don’t care about the rest? So, in the end, it’s all about you :)