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Setting up a Good Digital Photography Workflow – Dos and Don’ts

How you set up your digital photography workflow is like building the foundation of your house. It has to be solid or at some point the entire thing may come crashing down.

In this article I'll walk you through how I set up my system, as well as look at a few things you'll want to avoid. Based on my own past failures and mistakes (yes it's true, I have had a few!)

I want to help you create a solid foundation so that your workflow is smooth and you avoid any potential disasters and headaches.

Workflow 01
Photo by Michael J
PART ONE – think it through first
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard (or said myself), “I wish I had done that differently at the beginning”.

If you're new to digital photography you are at an advantage because you haven't gone too far yet to start doing it right from the get go. But if you're like me and have been doing it for a while, you've probably encountered an issue at least once and made a mess of things. Trust me – I've made messes!

Either way let's lay the groundwork of the foundation by actually thinking it all the way through first, before actually doing. Get out a pen and paper and make a flow chart. Sketch out how you see it going, make note of possible issues, and see how it looks on paper. Things you want to think about are:

  1. What format will you shoot, RAW or JPG?
  2. How many memory cards do you need? How will you indicate which are full and which are saved and ready to go?
  3. How will you download them – using a card slot in your computer, a cord from the camera or a USB card reader?
  4. Where will you store your images – on your laptop/desktop or on an external drive? Do you have enough space? What happens when it gets full?
  5. How will you back up your images? How many copies will you have? Will you have one copy off-site somewhere?
  6. What will you use to process your images? Do you know how to use it? If not where will you learn? Can you computer handle the software and load on its memory? If not will you have to upgrade your computer?
  7. How will you clear your cards? Delete All in camera? Erase from the computer? Or “Format” in camera?
Workflow plan 02
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers

DO

Plan ahead and think about this beforehand.

Ask other photographers what they do. Have a system! So many photographers I've seen have NO system and what ultimately ends up happening is duplicate images taking up hard drive space, lost files, stress from not being able to find images, or even, unfortunately – complete disaster and loss of everything.

DON'T

Don't jump in with both feet without looking first.

Don't blindly do what someone else does without asking the important question, “Why do you do it that way?” and understanding how it works. Just because it works for them does not mean it will work for you – and that applies to everything I'm going to say in this article. Take my advice with a grain of salt. Apply it to your own situation and experience and make your own decisions – but do it wisely and in an informed manner.

What if you already have a mess?

Sometimes it's best to just cut your losses and give up on the old system if it isn't working, and just start fresh. Now's your time to do that if you've got a mess on your hands. I've helped a few of my classroom students reorganize and start over using a different system and software. Spending hours trying to find all the duplicate images you might have isn't worth it – just save, backup, and move on and start fresh is my advice.

PART TWO – get all the pieces you need
Once you have your plan outlined you may need to get a few things.

Workflow 03
Photo by fianlamb

If you're going to backup using externals drives – get some big enough so you don't run out of space too quickly. I recommend buying the biggest you can afford (but don't go crazy – if you only shoot 3000 images a year you do NOT need four 8TB drives!).

Think about all the pieces including cords, card readers, place to store your cards, online backup, perhaps even a safety deposit box at the bank to store on backup. What about insurance? If you are doing this professionally it is essential; even if it's a hobby for you losing your gear and images is devastating. Make sure you're covered – do not assume your homeowner's policy will cover you. Call them to confirm and if not add additional coverage as needed.

If you travel like I do you may need additional hardware or an extra drive or two. Likewise a few more memory cards is never a bad thing.

DO

Get the right equipment for the job

Meaning don't skip out on a backup drive thinking “I'll get one next month” and that time never comes, then you have a crash and lose it all. Get advice from computer experts if that is not your area of expertise. Buy from a specialty computer store not a big box store – speak to staff who actually know what they're talking about.

DON'T

Don't skimp out on a backup drive and online or off-site backup.

This is so important. Things happen all too often. Just in my own city I personally know three people whose homes have burned right to the ground. They got out safely but lost everything inside. Hard drives crash that is a fact of life. It's not if they will die it's when. So have a backup plan that ensures you always have at least three copies of your files (and your Lightroom catalogue if you use LR) including one off-site.

PART THREE – put it into action
Let's go back to the list in part one and go through those things one at a time.

What format will you shoot?

I personally shoot RAW format about 95% of the time. The only time I switch to JPG is for high speed burst mode (buffers and saves images faster) or if I'm using my new little Panasonic point and shoot camera just for fun. I'm not going to sell you on the merits of shooting RAW – you can read RAW versus JPG Why Shoot in RAW Format for more info on that.

Memory cards

How many memory cards do you need? How will you indicate which are full and which are saved and ready to go?

Workflow memory cards 04

Whichever format you use just be clear on the pros and cons and know how much memory you have to store your images. Most cameras will tell you how many shots are remaining on your card so use that to judge if you need to buy more cards. When going on a long trip I suggest you do an estimate of how many photos you think you'll need. Figure out how many cards that will fill – then take twice as many! If you have a laptop and way to download you might be able to get away with less – more on travel workflow later.

Using a good memory card holder is also essential, as is deciding on a system of indicating which are full and which are ready to shoot. The easiest way (how I do it) is to put the cards in the holder or wallet label up when they are ready to use – then after it is full put it back in face down to indicate not to use it.

One lady on our recent photo tour in Cuba had a little holder that had one card for each day of the tour – sort of looked like one of those little pill dispensers. What a great idea! After each day she just put the card into its place face down.

Downloading images

How will you download your images is the next step. Will you use a dedicate card slot in your computer, a cord connect to the camera or a USB card reader? I recommend either of the first or last options and NOT the camera/cord method. When you pull images from the card using the camera it must be powered on and will slowly drain the battery. If your battery is low or is empty the transfer will stop and you risk a card error which can cause corruption or loss of images completely. It is also much slower than a good USB card reader.

NOTE: do as I say not as I did! In 2011 I came back from a trip to Europe with a few 16gb cards full of images. One downloaded successfully using my USB card reader but the second one kept spontaneously ejecting and an error message popped up saying “device improperly ejected” which is usually not a good thing. Did I take a hint and stop doing it? NO! I put it back in several times until finally it did error and the card couldn't be read at all even by the camera. I hung on to the card all this time as data recovery is expensive. This year I decided I had funds to send it in and I ultimately paid $650 to recover 1000 images shot in Spain and France. Was it worth it to me – YES! Did I kick myself after it happened and every day since? Many, many times!So please note – card readers fail too, even the built-in ones. So if you get a message or warning like this – heed it and just buy a new reader, they aren't that expensive.

It is worth discussing the method you use to download not just the device. You have a couple of options here – you can just drag them from the card to a folder on your hard drive or you can use your editing software if it has that option.

Most of the time I do my importing using Lightroom. It does a great job of copying the files from the card, renaming if I choose that option, and converting my raw files to DNG format. You can also get it to do other nifty things like add metadata such as keywords, copyright information, and perform a develop preset you have determined you like to run on all your images (such as an edge vignette, increased clarity, etc.)

If I'm in a hurry, or have a lot of cards to import (when traveling) I often just copy over from the card to drive directly, then import into Lightroom later and do all that other stuff. This topic deserves an entire article, so I will leave it at this for now and go into it in more detail in the near future.

Folder structure and file naming

This is another one that could be a whole topic of it's own so I'll give you the condensed version here.

Have a plan for folder and file naming!

All too often I see photographers with a mess because they can't remember where they saved their images, or what they were called, or what the folder they got put into is called. First I'm going to say that my way is not the only way nor is it the “right” way – it's just my way. It's how I do it and it makes sense to me so I can easily store and find my images. If it makes sense to you – use it. This is what I do:

  • On my external Drive A (remember all original images go here) I have a folder called IMAGES.
  • Inside that folder I have several subfolders with categories. It makes it easier to find things when each folder only contains a few subfolders. If you put every shoot and every trip into the Images folder you end up with a really long list and it just takes longer to get to your images. So I break it into small subfolders that make sense for the things I shoot.

Folder structure workflow

  • Inside the subfolders are the individual trips or shoots.
  • I also rename my image files with a structure that includes the shoot or trip name, the year (or month and year) and a sequential number. Lightroom does all this and you can make presets for it also.
  • Any exports, variations, smaller files, working files, etc., related to that same shoot or trip go inside the same folder. So I know I can always find the images from that event there – no hunting.

File naming workflow2

Storage and backing up images

Where will you store your images – on your laptop/desktop or on an external drive? Do you have enough space? What happens when it gets full? How will you back up your images? How many copies will you have? Will you have one copy off-site somewhere?

This of course depends on what kind of computer you're using, desktop or laptop. If your desktop has a large drive you may wish to store your working files on it and archive all finished ones on external drives. Just keep this in mind:

Once your drive is more than 50% full its speed and performance slow down significantly.

So where you decide to keep your images is really important. If your drive gets bogged down because it's mostly full, any image editing software will seem like it's running through mud and you'll constantly be banging your head on the wall waiting for it to do its thing. Yes processor speed and RAM are also factors in speed, but hard drive capacity and percentage full is often overlooked. I've helped people get their images off of their main drive when they thought they needed a new computer, and magically it was much faster when more clear space available.

Burning CDs or DVDs has become an option that isn't viable any more due to the sheer size and amount of data being saved. The best solution I've found is to have two drives and a way to store everything offline or off-site. My system looks like this currently:

  • MacBookPro laptop which holds my programs including Lightroom and my catalogues. Do NOT save your catalog on an external hard drive, LR does not like it and it will run really slow or not at all!
  • External Drive A – this is where I put all my original image files. I also save a backup of my laptop (docs, etc.) and my LR catalogs as well.
  • External Drive B – I use this drive to make a copy of all my images. An exact copy! Make note if you save all your files to this drive when you import into LR and rename them later – Lightroom will not recognize your backup files as the same images. I know – I made this bone head move. So please remember to update your backup copy if you rename your files!!!
  • Copy #3 – I keep a working copy of everything that's active on BackBlaze. It's not an archiving solution as it only backs up what is connected so once you archive a drive it will no longer back that one up. If you don't have fast internet (backing up 1tb can take over a month even at high speed) you might want to considering getting a third external drive and making another exact copy. Then store it in a safety deposit box at your bank or even at a friend's house. Then once a month or so switch with Drive B to update it.

When drive A gets full usually the other is too so I replace both with larger ones and retire those to the shelf. We're currently looking at a more sophisticated system (called Synology) but I can't speak to that yet. Perhaps I'll do a review of it once we get it in place. Basically it's a redundant system that keeps you running even if one drive fails, you just pop in a new one and continue. It's similar to Drobo.

So do some research on drives and what's available in your area. Figure out what you need for storage space and get as much as you can afford that's a bit bigger than your estimate. Give yourself room to grow into it. I use these types of drives currently:

DO

Get enough storage from reputable manufacturers.

Have a backup plan in place.

DON'T

DON'T wait until it's too late or you have a disaster to put a plan in effect. Do it now!

Image processing

If you've been reading this site for a while you'll know I'm a big fan and advocate of Lightroom. That is what I use for 95% of my image processing. No matter what you use for processing find the one that works for you and you can understand.

I've recently reviewed the top photo editing software for 2018 and have added a new program to my set of editing tools. I'd recommend you read it over before making any decisions.

If Photoshop or even Photoshop Elements makes no sense to you – then try something else. Likewise with Lightroom. Just because I say it's the best doesn't mean it's the best for you, it's my choice.

Note: The only things I do NOT recommend and I do so vehemently are to NOT use iPhoto or Aperture. Both products are being discontinued by Apple and the fact they are made by Apple says that they are not professional imaging tools. Adobe is the standard for imaging. If Photoshop or Lightroom aren't in your budget there are a lot of other good free options like Picasa, GIMP, or Darktable.I've helped several of my students get their images out of iPhoto and Aperture and it was a nightmare. Their file organization is horrible and they hide your original files and you end up with lots of duplicates. I suggest that you just don't use them.

DO

Try out a few programs and pick the one you can both afford and understand.

There is lots of training available online for Photoshop and Lightroom, including tutorials on this site, so learn how to use the tools well.

DON'T

Learn from another beginner

I've had to “fix” more than one Lightroom catalog because of well meaning people trying to “help”. Take a class, get a book, or get help from a professional teacher.

Clearing the slate

How will you clear your cards? Delete All in camera? Erase from the computer? Or “Format” in camera? Finally, when will you do this?

Those are basically the three options, but which is best? I like to use an analogy. If you have a chalkboard and you write all over it, then use the eraser to clear the board there's always some chalk residue left right? It's the same with memory cards if you use the “delete all” or erase them using the computer.

Workflow chalk 04
Photo by Alex

Using the “Format” option in your camera is like spraying the board with water, then using a damp rag to clean it. Comes out looking like brand new with no residue. Format sets up your memory card to receive files on a clean slate. It helps eliminate card errors and actually helps to extend the life of your cards. I've done it this way from the very beginning in 2004 when I switched from film to digital and I can count on one hand the number of card errors I've ever had.

Lastly is the question of when to clear or format your cards. I recommend doing it right after you download and make a second backup copy – AND verify the files are all there and are valid. If you put the cards back in your card wallet and you don't go out to shoot for a while you could end up in the field with all full cards and not remember if you have them all downloaded and backed up or not. Clearing the cards right after back up saves you that pain of pushing Format and not being 100% sure you have the images. Then it's simple if they're empty you're good to go!

DO

Use the Format in camera function to erase and clean the memory card.

DON'T

DON'T format without having two copies on two different drives, and verifying they all work.

lightroom alternative for photo editing softwareNEW: Adobe has announced changes to their licensing model for their products.

Lightroom Alternative: I've reviewed what I believe to be one of the best lightroom alternatives currently available. I encourage you to check it out before making ANY decisions about your photo editing software choices.

Read: Lightroom Alternative - Is Luminar the Answer?

Summary

So the bottom line of setting up a good workflow is that you think it about it, plan it, get the pieces and tools you need to do it right, and then implement. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Be opened to see how other people do it but ultimately you need to create a system your brain can understand. If my method works – great, feel free to copy it. If not – tell us how you do it and perhaps you can help someone else out.

Cheers,

Darlene-1-250x130.png

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  • Sharon Ann Witteck Austin

    very great article!

  • Kirsty Wilson

    Handy article, and now realizing that I have to add even more storage space than I already have (5 external tb) Well, time to rethink my whole system 🙂 time for a raid now :-).

    • Raid is not a bad idea!

      • Kirsty Wilson

        Yeah, it’s been suggested several time by a tech friend. Now I just need to figure out how to set it up as the price of a bottle of scotch has gone up significantly (and he’s more than willing to tech support remotely if I am in dire need.) Nice to know he’s got confidence in my tech work which hasn’t failed me yet :-).

  • Jeff Ross

    I enjoyed the article and always like to see how other photographers address “my situations/issues” so thank you for sharing. When I first read the title, I was hoping it would cover the workflow once the images were loaded onto the hard drive and the processing begins. That would be a nice follow up.

  • Sylvia Dewey Rowe

    I liked this article. I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that I’m doing almost everything I should be except I need an off-site storage space. I’ve looked for some but I’m just not sure what’s best. Good article!

  • Ruth

    Please don’t be too long writing the next article about downloading the images into Lightroom! Seems like I’m doing OK up till that point but I’d love some guidance about downloading/setting up a catalog from someone who’s had a bit of experience rather than racing in myself and having to redo it later!

  • Pat

    Loved this article and am pleased to say that I am doing most of it – except off- site storage which I have been going to do for ages!! I was surprised that you do not recommend camera/cord transferring of images as I was given to understand that SD cards can get easily damaged by moving in and out of camera and card readers, so I very rarely remove my SD card. Apparently this does not happen with Compact Flash cards as their contacts are inside. Have I been given duff info??

  • Terry Laboeuf

    such great direction…however I was the guy who dove in without thought and after some time
    I have now a workflow that I use that is efficient. Not without pain !!1 Thanks Darlene@

    • Thanks Terry – so you can attest to everyone else how important that part is now right? 😉

  • For indicating which memory cards have been used I usually put that slider down that indicates for the camera that no data can be written on the card anymore. That is easy enough to spot when in a hurry, easy done and should my cards decide to fall out of their card box and get messed up I can still see which one has been used and which one has not.
    Further more while importing / copying files from the card to the computer I have that slider down to protect it from being written over. So in case my card reader decides to get thrown out without my help my computer was not interrupted in a writing process => my card will survive with almost 99.99% certainty.
    For the backups… well I am kind of in the middle of it. The plan is to have two hard drives that mirror each other and one set of DVDs at my parents place (updated once or twice per year) and one set of DVDs at work. But I must admit I am not even through with burning the first set of DVDs – more than 100 already done.

    One little handy trick: Since after a while one hard drive will not be enough and two most likely won’t either be… labeling them can be a good idea. Not only do mine all (well those that are small enough to travel with me) have an address sticker on them – should one get lost it can easily be shipped back to me, but also I put on little stickers stating what’s on them. Scandinavia 2014 apparently has all photos from last summers bike ride up to the Lofoten, NZ 2013 has well New Zealand, Lightroom has… Photos has… easy to find the right hard drive even without turning your computer on and connecting them one by one.

    And one handy trick for Lightroom: sort your photos in keepers and no-keepers before adding the appropriate keywords saves a lot of time. I actually spend about 6 weeks to get keywords for all 1500 photos that I had taken during a trip, but how many of them I decided to throw out later… those would never have needed keywords in the first place…
    For this Lightrooms star-rating is pretty good. Go through the photos of one shooting and give those one star which you want to keep. Go through all that got one star in detail and check for exposure those that are clean get 2 stars. Go through those with 2 stars and check for focus and composition – those that survive get 3 stars. All that get 3 stars will be chosen for development from RAW and keywording and if there are some that really really are good they’ll get 5 stars.
    My only problem with that so far is that I get too attached to my photos, so finding some that won’t get 3 stars easily is really hard… but then one cannot argue much against exposure or composition faults… the portrait where out of someones head grows a tree is a) good for Mounty Pythons but b) not so good for a real portrait of someone 🙂

    • Great suggestions and plans Lille. As for labelling hard drives yes I do that too but I don’t write what’s on them – that’s the neat thing about LR is I can easily find any image, on any hard drive no matter when I shot it or if that drive is connected or not. LR will tell me where it lives – I go find the old drive, plug it in, and voila there’s my image.

      • Thanks Darlene.

        Well “labeling what is on them” might be a term inviting to misinterpretations. It is not that I would put a full file-index on the labels. But at least I put a label on stating the name of the hard drive (all my hard drives get names – so that I don’t end up with 7 “my hdd” drives to search through) – and that is usually enough information for me to know which one I need.
        So the sticker will say for example “Scandinavia 2014” or “New Zealand 2013” and Lightroom would (if that catalogue was set up for say Scandinavia) also tell me to put in the HDD “Scandinavia” – but I would not have to put in HDD1 – 20 before finally finding the one I was looking for 🙂

        I admit it I also put a label on with the guarantee number after I had some trouble with a couple of hard drives and was wondering after a while if they even had made it through their first thirty days – so having a label on them which references back to the bill might help if I get in trouble with one again.

  • GreenMountainGirl

    Hi Darlene. This article is an excellent guide, both for newbies and for those of us with a bit more experience. I was glad to see I am doing pretty much all of it right!
    My computer has 2 internal hard drives, with programs on one (including LR) and documents, photos, etc. on the other. My backup system is a backup folder in the second HD, and one in a WD 2TB Passport. Nothing off-site. Not a professional photographer, so haven’t deemed this as necessary. Actually, I have 3 backups because whatever I download to LR automatically goes into a LR Photos file. Then when closing LR, I choose my external site first, then every couple of days go to the backup folder I created and back things up there as well. Have been thinking of buying a second WD passport, though, to decrease the chances I will lose one of my backups.
    Susan

    • HI Susan – regardless if you are a pro or not, how much pain and heartache would you personally feel if you lost everything? Lots I’m guessing. I suffered over those lost 1000 images for 4 years. I still suggest making a plan for off-site backup. Even for your computer files, documents, etc. Backing up and having a system is about how fast can you get up and running again with minimal hassle and pain.

      • GreenMountainGirl

        I do understand – not too long ago I mistakenly reformatted my WD backup instead of something else that was my actual objective! However, thanks to the other backups on my computer I was able to retrieve almost everything. This is why I am thinking about buying a second WD, even if I don’t store it somewhere away from my home. I was mad at myself for not paying enough attention to what I was doing…

  • Clayton Reitzel

    Great article Darlene. I look forward to your review of Synology. I am thinking of going that route for a backup system.
    Clayton R.

    • That would be my review I think. I just had a power line run to my cabinet, on it’s own circuit for it, our cloud drives and our network switch

    • Thanks Clayton – call Rob and ask him, he’s got it all planned! LOL

  • Rodney Buxton

    Great article. Just one question, I caught that you import in dng format, can you expand on the benefits. Is it really more flexible than leaving in raw?

    • Hi Rodney – I’ll go over that more in the importing tutorial coming soon but the short answer is yes. DNG is a more universal format and it’s slightly smaller in file size so saves a bit of space.

      “They” say that in the future the software version then (let’s say LR15) might not support the raw format files from the cameras of today. By converting to DNG you eliminate that issue as they’ve said it’s the standard for all software.

      • Rodney Buxton

        So I guess my follow on question is, is there a way in lightroom to convert all of your already imported images from raw to dng?

        • Yes for sure. As I said working on a follow up article to this one which will be about importing into LR and answer all of these hopefully.

  • Mike Jones

    Excellent points made. I am still working on getting organized the way I need to be.
    The Synology products you mentioned work great…I have used their products for several years . Very dependable and along with off site back up work great.
    Thanks for your timely articles!

  • Ian Browne

    As always good advice Darleene
    If the older files are in a bit of a mess and new system is needed then start the new system with the next lot of photos or the most recent photos on the d/drive. Once the new system is in place; and working, we can move slowly back through the older files. IMO the best filing system is the delete button [X key in LR] . Do we really need 10 photos of grandma with that cup of tea? ;). LR uses: put all old messed up images into a “0 to sort” collection and delete/keyword/file from there. Now I wish I had thought of that one earlier when I had to do a big clean-up.

    • I Ian – yes I know some people who use that method of sorting. It really comes down to what works for you.

  • Alexander Vreede

    Hi Darlene,
    For me this article (and your next one) absolutely came at the right moment! I am in the process of moving into Lightroom and leaving iPhoto behind. I now read how much you even hate iPhoto yourself so that’s an extra motivation. Do you have any advice for me on how to extract my 20.000 photo’s in 350 events from iPhoto and move them to the nex external drive I just bought for this. You write that this was a nightmare so I’d like to avoid getting into that nightware myself. It would be a great help!
    Thanks in advance, Alexander

    • Hi Alexander – honestly it was a while ago I helped a student do that and I do not remember exactly but I seem to remember having to export all the photos to get the originals out.

      Google “moving photos out of iphoto” and see what you get. There should be some good step by step instructions. One thing to note is you want your ORIGINALS not processed versions. iPhoto makes a mess of files and you do not want to lose information, especially if they are JPGs.

      The thing that’s a pain is that even if you get them out and put them on the external, iPhoto leaves them on your hard drive still – hidden in a secret folder you can’t access. So they still take up space. I think we had to right click on one of the photos INSIDE iPhoto and choose “show on drive” or something like that. Then it would show you all the originals. You can try and just copy them all from there to the new drive. Remember to have a second copy (and test them both) before deleting anything.

      • Alexander Vreede

        Thanks! I’ll try but expect it to be a long and tiresome job. But worth my while, I’m sure.

        • If you’re one to use curse words, expect a few of those to fly also LOL. Yes it’s a bit painstaking but worth it to get rid of it.

  • Steve Taylor

    Great article Darlene once again. I read a couple of years ago an excellent ebook call “The Photographers Workflow” by Gavin Gough. It was one of the 12 days of Christmas promotions on DPS and it gives fantastic advice on the usage of flags, stars and colours (Canadian spelling) I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to set up an organized workflow. I have been making DVDs for my off site back up, stored in my locker at work but as you pointed out they are really not a viable option anymore. With a 24 mega pixel full frame camera now the files are just too big and the time and number of DVDs is crazy. I am going with a second external solid state drive and keep it at the bank in a safety deposit box. Thanks for the idea. It’s a lot faster, they’re only about $100 and I’m soon going to retire so I think they will take away my locker anyway.
    Steve

  • Mukund Umra

    Excellent article.I download my pictures on my pc on coming back and delete on camera.I will now format.I mark with pencil at back of memory card the no.of that card.Hence I know that no.1/2/3…… etc. is/are blank.Thus I save my time and mess.
    Dr.Mukund Umra.

  • Michael Stevens

    Hi Darlene, Been following you for some years now: Great, thanks! Question: – My HDD on my Mac desktop is full up now (and no backups!) and I want to transfer all my images to an external drive (A). Am I correct in assuming I do this by “Importing” in Lightroom by moving, not copying, to the new drive so that LR knows where they are and keeping folders as they are. I’m also not sure how to back-up these images regularly from (A) to an external drive (B). Advice would be appreciated. Finally can I uninstall LR4 now that I have LR5? Thanks!

    • Hi Michael – that’s a whole long answer! I’ll try and help you best I can here.

      #1 – are the images that are on your laptop already inside LR? I need to know that before I can answer. If YES then you just move them from inside lightroom by dragging to a new folder on a new drive. OR move them and then relink. You do NOT want to import again if they’re already in there.

      #2 – you can get software to do backups, I use Good-sync. Or you can just manually copy the folders from drive A over to drive B once a week or so.

      #3 – do not uninstall LR4. Just get LR6 (that is the newest one, not sure you can buy 5 any more) and do an update. It will leave both on your computer so if something goes wrong updating the catalog you have a fall back. Make sure to backup your catalog before upgrading and updating.

      • Michael Stevens

        Hi Darlene, Thanks for the reply; glad I asked! I think I’ve got what you say.

        #1 – All my photos are in Lightroom on my desktop but stored on my internal HDD. Do I add a new folder in LR and choose the external HD “A” having put an “images” folder in that first then drag the complete “Pictures” or “Photographs” folder, complete with sub-folders, from my HDD to that?

        #2 – Got that thanks. Do I understand that you don’t copy to a backup folder when you import as they would be the unadulterated images, but only copy to backup after editing?

        #3 – I’ve already got LR5, only bought earlier this year, and don’t plan on upgrading to LR6 at the moment. I just wondered if it was worth leaving LR4 on the computer if it was taking up space.

        Great, thanks.

        • #1 – not quite. LR won’t see the new drive until you put something on it and import it into LR. In your case because you have a LOT of photos – I would copy them to the new drive first (don’t delete them off HDD yet!) then on your computer HDD rename the main Pictures folder. That will cause LR to “lose” the photos. Then you need to just relink them up in LR but telling it where they are on the new drive. Once you have done that AND checked them AND backed up on different drive yet again, then you can delete off the HDD.

          #2 – no I copy to backup right after download. ALWAYS have minimum two copies. I do that before formatting my memory card. Then you need to update the back up as you edit the files – that’s what GoodSync or similar will do for you.

          #3 – yes leave it until you update the program and the catalog just to make sure it all works. Then you can uninstall it (not delete)

          • Michael Stevens

            Excellent! I’ll get on to that. I’ve been looking for a while on how to do this and hope this helps others too.
            Many thanks for your time.

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