An amateur photographer may shoot a few hundred images a year, and finding a certain image can usually be handled by memory alone. However, when your image library begins to build into thousands or tens of thousands per year, you will need help finding that one image out of thousands: not just now, but 2, 3, … ten years in the future. Not only do you want to be able to find those images, you want to know that they are secure. If your computer breaks down or a hard drive crashes, will you have a means of retrieving your images?
This is my personal approach to digital asset management. Every photographer will have a different approach to DAM, but this is what works for me. I find Lightroom works most efficiently when I download one project at a time, or for larger projects, at least on a daily basis: this allows your import keywords to be most accurate and diverse. I also take for granted that you are shooting in the RAW image format (you are, aren’t you?) so that you are working with the best image data possible.
My routine begins in Lightroom 4:
1. Connect your camera or card to the computer.
2. Open Lightroom and click Import on the lower left panel.
3. Select your camera on the left Source panel.
4. Select Copy on the top Import Workflow bar.
- Click TO and choose a dedicated hard-drive to save your images.
- Create a folder on the hard-drive: I suggest using the year: 2012
5. Set-up the right-hand File Handling panel as pictured on the right, but note:
- Make a Second Copy To MUST be to a different hard-drive than the import destination. I prefer an external hard-drive for this.
- In the Apply During Import box I don’t select any Develop Settings. Some choose Auto Tone under General Settings, but I find it is still very inaccurate.
- In the Apply During Import box, set up your Metadata for all the typical information you would apply to every image:
◊ In the drop-down menu select New… The New Metadata Preset box (below) will open.
◊ If there are multiple users, enter your own name as the Preset Name, otherwise label it IMPORT.
◊ Add your name in the Copyright space and fill out the other IPTC data as seen below. Checked boxes means this information will be embedded with every photograph imported.
◊ When you are finished filling out the basic IPTC info., click Create.
- Keywords will help you search for specific images. Add all the general keywords that describe this set of photographs. You will be adding image specific keywords in the Library module.
You’ve completed the first stage!
You have just imported your images from your camera to your computer. You have secured them by backing them up to a second hard drive, and you have added metadata so that you can search and find them when you need them.
Whatever your approach, if you value your pictures in any way you should develop a routine that commits your photographs to be both protected and searchable. It is best to develop strong DAM routines from the moment you begin doing serious photography, because it does not take long before you have built up so many images that you find yourself in an endless game of catch-up as more images continuously roll-in.
- 5 Things You Should Know About the Lightroom Import Dialog (Helen Bradley)
- Digital Photo Tip: Take Advantage of Raw Capture Mode (Peter K. Burian)
- Review: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 breaks ground with new core features (macworld.com)
- Mastering Your Workflow in Adobe Lightroom (brighthub.com)
- The Modules of Adobe Lightroom (oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com)