The sunset of my trip and file workflow

The days end in sunsets and my trip to Brazil ended with a long airplane flight back to the USA. If you think that flying internationally could not get any worse, think again, with a mask on.

On a previous post, Sunset, Pedra de Itaipava, I shared a sunset photograph from a hike. I took the photo above from the same place, on the same day, a few minutes later, also handheld. If you want to learn more about how I took the photo, please refer to the post linked above.

I came back home with a little under 3,000 photos. I am beginning to process them and think that this is a good opportunity to talk about my workflow.

  • I always take my photos in raw format and also small jpgs;
  • When I arrive home after a trip or an outing, I transfer all my files to two external drives: one I keep at home and one I keep at work, about 30 miles from here. Why two locations? Well, let’s suppose something happens to my home … its reassuring to know that I have a second copy somewhere else;
  • I also keep the original memory cards from important trips and photoshoots for a few years;
  • In my external drives, I organize my files by year and, within each year, by location or subject: the travel photographs are stored in folders named after the location and the still life photos are stored according to subject; 
  • I use Adobe Bridge to indexkeyword, and browse my files. For an example, see the folder below, named “2021.” All my files from my last trip are stored in a subfolder named “Brazil;”  
  • Directly from Adobe Bridge, I can open each file into Photoshop. I do NOT use Lightroom. I hate lightroom;
  • In Adobe Bridge, I delete all technically unacceptable files first. Unacceptable files are out of focus, extremely over or underexposed, have resulted from accidents like clicking the shutter when moving the camera, or a combination of those; 
  • I then inspect my series of similar photographs and chose one that I like and delete the others. For example, if I took three pictures of a flower in the wind, I choose the best one and discharge the others;
  • After this stage, I delete all my jpg files from the travel folder. That reduces the number of files to store to one half;
  • I then keyword the pictures using Adobe Bridge. My files from Brazil all got the labels “Brazil”, “Petropolis”, then general keywords like “landscape”, “botanical”, “person” etc;
  • I continue to work on it for as many days as it takes to find and to process those award-winning photographs 😁;

The entire process may take weeks or even months to complete. Some of my trips don’t get processed until a few years later, as I am often pressed for time. Sometimes, digging into old folders that were not completely processed using the newest versions of raw processing programs will reveal long forgotten treasures. 

Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

25 thoughts on “The sunset of my trip and file workflow

  1. by hating Lightroom you miss out on the ease of organizing which your setup is similar to mine but Lightroom is my darkroom of choice. I love the simplicity of non-destructive edits and my original raw files are always there to start over with. I don’t like all the layers in PS and applying all the edits that I make on one image to 1 or more others saves me time.
    I was a wedding photographer and that took me to Lightroom beta through today. If Lightroom goes away I might stop being a photographer… 🙂 To each their own…

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    1. “I love the simplicity of non-destructive edits and my original raw files are always there to start over with.”

      That’s the same with PS. After I edit a file I save it as psd but can always go back to the raw image which is not altered. PS’s camera raw is a Lightroom in a sense you can do almost everything in camera raw then only do the final edits in PS.

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  2. That orange is crankin’! Love it.
    My workflow is fairly similar. I’ve been migrating away from Adobe somewhat. I use Elements, have tried Lightroom, and am currently trying (2) different options. The sheer volume of today’s technology requires some form of filing

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    1. I am sticking to Adobe for the moment since I have a free subscription through adobe stock. I also use Topaz for some editing. It’s hard to keep up. I have used PS since 5.0 for work, so I know how to use it fairly well. Learning other software is time-consuming, but I bet there are equivalent or even better options out there. The Lightweight Photographer blog does a lot of software reviews and sometimes I feel like trying a different one. But I never do.

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    2. Elements is a very appealing program with a lot of features that, when I tried it years ago, I unfortunately had no need for. What kept me in the Photoshop camp, however, besides its great flexibility, was learning that it works in 8 bits rather than Photoshop’s 16 bits. If that’s sufficient for you, fine. But you might want to watch a video on bit-depth I recently came across by Joel Grimes at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yE0m-I4tY4 .

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  3. Always interesting to read about the workflow and preferences of others. I’ve read of others keeping those original cards unused for awhile. Sorry to read about the hassles of the travel though – I can only imagine. I’ve only flown as far as Ecuador and can imagine the troubles with all of the issues of today.

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  4. You have a good workflow. Mine is fairly different but that’s to be expected with so many options available. Just as with Photoshop, there are lots of ways to accomplish the same task. I resisted Lightroom for several years but started using it once the subscription went into effect and it came with the Photographer’s plan. I keep all my processed files as tiffs now, used to be psds, in case Photoshop goes away or they break their promise of $9.95 forever. Although I do keyword my images, the tiffs are stored by subject, flora, amphibians, etc, so I can find them that way so no keyword search needed. In Lightroom, if I ever want to reprocess with new tools I just access the file in LR by the date captured. I use Bridge to find the processed files by category.

    You captured a lovely Brazilian sunset. Too bad about flying being unenjoyable these days. Once was enough for me and that @35 years ago.

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    1. Since you do a lot of nature photography, it seems plausible to separate by subjects. One issue I have with Bride or Lightroom is that if the folder gets to be too large, then generating the thumbnails takes a long time and you need a lot of computer power. If I for example had a folder with all my botanicals, it would be way too large to handle. Hence, separating by year also. But I would like to have everything on one subject in one folder.

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      1. Even though I do have a powerful desktop the thumbnails still take a long time to generate every time there is an update or upgrade. All my raws are filed by month/year but not my tiffs. Your method is probably easier to deal with but at this point my way is a habit that’s hard to break.

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  5. That’s a yummy sunset.

    I’m fine with deleting pictures that are clearly messed up. I normally keep slight variants of the same subject because sometimes I’ve been able to combine parts of two takes to make a picture that’s better than either individually, typically by picking the best-focused details. I’ve never used Lightroom, and my impression is that switching to it now would be onerous. Like you, I do a lot of my adjusting in Bridge and Camera Raw, which I gather have about the same functionality as Lightroom.

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    1. The world of photography sure doesn’t need yet another sunset, but they are difficult to resist. The extremely orange sky has the explanation that it is very dry there right now and there are a lot of particles suspended in the air. Yes, it does make sense often, to keep variations the same theme. Sometimes also I keep them because I’m lazy to go over and select.

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  6. I know what you mean about not editing possibly until years later.

    I use both Lightroom and Photoshop on each photo I process. I could do with just PS and ACR but I like the organization workflow of LR. To each their own. I have several friends who also don’t use LR. And they make great photos. Like the one here !

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