The ABCs of an efficient photography workflow

Updated: October 22, 2018 | Contains affiliate links
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In my last two articles I have written about basic questions to ask when creating or modifying your photography workflow. However, what do you do after asking these foundational questions ? Where do you start analyzing your current workflow? This article will explain the simplest steps of a photography workflow…this is the “ABC” of photography workflow. These are the steps that are part of any photography workflow no matter how simple or complicated. This is where all photography workflows start, this is the birthplace of a photography workflow.

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The “ABC” of a photography workflow

What basic steps make up a photography workflow? I came up with a simple acronym to make things easier. My acronym is S.T.O.R.E which stands for (Shoot, Transfer, Organize, Retrieve, Export). Others may use different terms for the steps in their workflow but no matter how people call them, any photography workflow is a combination of similar steps.

The steps of a photography workflow

  1. Shoot – Take the pictures
  2. Transfer – Transfer the pictures
  3. Organize – Organize the pictures
  4. Retrieve – Find and retrieve your pictures
  5. Export – This is the exporting of your picture collection in different formats and for different uses. There are many ways to export your pictures, so my list contains only suggestions.
    • Backup
    • Print
    • Web
    • E-mail
    • Many other possible ways to use your picture collection.

Detailed diagram of the photography workflow I’m using
Detailed diagram of a photography workflow.

While you can disagree with the names I’m choosing, your steps are probably similar to mine. The key to understanding a workflow is the relationship between the individual steps. I believe that the first four steps (S.T.O.R) must support the last step (E). This is the most important relationship between these basic steps in a photography workflow.

The foundation of the photography workflow

The foundation of the S.T.O.R.E workflow are the first four steps. These are the (almost) mechanical steps that every photographer must perform day in and day out. The purpose of these steps is that in the end the photographer is able to use his or her pictures collection to achive the goals they set out to achieve with their pictures.

However, be they mechanical or not, these steps are exactly that: the foundation of the photography workflow. Without them there would be no workflow and more importantly without them you wouldn’t have a photography collection that you can use efficiently. So, whether you hate doing them or not, you still have to perform them faithfully for the rest of your life as a photographer. There are no cutting corners with these steps you just have to them. Remember one important word with regards to these tedious steps: perseverance ! This is all you need and that’s how you get them done.

What makes a photography workflow hit YOUR target

As I have written before, the whole purpose for your workflow is to support the goals that you have set for your pictures. These goals will show up in the ways you wan to export your pictures. Whether is printing, e-mailing or publishing your pictures online, your picture collection and the way you organize it is supposed to allow you to achieve your purposes every time and many times. This is when your workflow becomes efficient, when you can achive your purpose for your pictures every time you need to. So, the first four steps all have one purpose, namely to support step five: Export.

The bottom line

Well…step 5 (Export) is where there’s variety. The Export step can be implemented very differently by photographers, because each one of us can have different goals. However, every photographer must carefully design his/her workflow so that it would support the goals they’re trying to achieve.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Here are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

The ABCs of an efficient photography workflow 1Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you're looking for a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac (70% off until November 18, 2020) or ACDSee Pro for Windows (20% off Lifetime License until November 18, 2020) is my preferred solution for organizing your media on your computer. It has a very fast browser, beautiful image editing capabilities and you don't work with catalogs at all.

The ABCs of an efficient photography workflow 3If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has excellent photo editing capabilities. Yes, Lightroom has a steeper learning curve as you have to learn to keep your catalogs in sync with your hard drive. But if you do image editing, Adobe Lightroom is my favorite.

The ABCs of an efficient photography workflow 5 I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 4 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure.

In addition, make sure you have an inexpensive and reliable external hard drive for backing everything up. It is absolutely essential for backing up your media regularly.

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