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My Workflow

Lesson 9 from: How to Become a Freelance Photographer

Isaac Johnston

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Lesson Info

9. My Workflow

Backing up, organizing files, getting ready to edit. It's a boring part of the photography process but it's crucial to master if you want to become a professional.

Lesson Info

My Workflow

Let's talk about my workflow process. I have a confession. I don't actually much like the process of making photos and video. Now, I love the creative process, the process of shooting photos and editing the photos, and even sharing it. The creative processes are so, so fun. But what I don't like, and what sucks, is all the parts in between. All the parts of the managing, and the categorizing and the importing; even saying all that, I'm feeling kind of bored. So what I've done, is I've learned efficient ways to front load that work so that I can avoid the mess that comes when I'm in creative mode, I can avoid getting out of that mess to just stop and manage things. I think that the creative inspiration that I get is a very delicate thing. And I don't want to disturb that by talking about managing my files. So, at the risk of falling asleep or you falling asleep, we're gonna talk about my workflow process. Backing up your files. So losing an important file, happens to the best of us. And...

when you lose an important file like a photo or video file, it always seems to be the one that you really didn't wanna lose. So here's how I make sure that I minimize the amount of files I lose, and how I make sure that I have the file that I need, every single time. If your camera has dual slots, this new one doesn't, you can actually have one in here, and then with my 5D Mark IV, you could actually put another CF card in there as well. And you can set it to record to both at the same time. Now, I don't use that all the time. I would normally just always get two in there, and I would have them auto switch when they were full. But if you're doing something, like a wedding or something that just can never happen again, and the consequences for losing that file are gonna be massive, like a huge project, or, you know, the wedding, there's just like an lot of emotional loss that would happen for the bride. I just have them right there. You have a backup, right to both cards. If you just set it to right to both cards. The cards that I use are these Lexar professionals. I try and get the fastest I can afford. I don't think this is the very, very fastest but it's definitely fast enough for everything I record. And it's, I get the 128 because I do a lot of video. If you're doing photos, 128, you don't have to get that, you can get smaller sizes, 'cause you're not gonna have any files interrupted. So what I don't want is to have video files be cut short because I didn't have a big enough card. So yeah, that's what I use for cards. And that's how I would back up if you had dual card slots. I don't trust SD cards. I'm like, they just don't seem like they're not Isaac proof, SD cards. Once you get back to your computer, you're gonna wanna copy your files directly under your hard drive. I use two of these SSD hard drives. I use this 500 gigabyte one for my video and this 250 for my photos. So I plug these into my computer and then I also do one copy on my computer's hard drive. So for this one, what we'll do, is we'll pretend that we just shot something very important on this SD card here. So I'll just pop that in here. And basically before I go do anything, I want two copies. I don't wanna just leave it, I don't wanna forget about it. If I don't do it now, like right after I go shoot, right when I'm about to edit, If I don't do two backups, I'm never gonna do two backups. So what this does, is it's going to ensure that no matter what, I've always got two copies of my file. So, okay. So as we pull these up here, I just wanna say that you never, never, never want to format any memory card from your camera until you've got two copies of this on two different hard drives. One hard drive is not enough. If that one fails, you just only have that one, and it's gone forever. Everything that's on there. And I think if you've done this long enough you've heard horror stories, and if you haven't, then you'll hear horror stories of people losing entire drives full of stuff that they never backed up. So start the process of backing up now like make it a habit, and then you won't always have to second guess whether you did. So I've just opened up my hard drive, and you can see that I've grabbed my Windows here. I like to actually grab my Windows, and put them physically on which side my memory card is on. And so right now my memory card is on the right, I'm plugged into the right side of my computer, and my hard drive is plugged into the left side of my computer. That just, it's a mental thing that I do so that I know where I'm dragging, so I'm not dragging for my hard drive on accident not paying attention onto my memory card. I just know which side is which. So I just wanna pull open just whatever the files are on here. So let's say that I just wanted to, these top five or whatever, or new, let's just go down the bottom. Let's just say that this group here is new, that I've already backed up or imported the top files, that are in this folder. So rather than drag and drop, like this, I don't wanna do that. 'Cause the computer sees that as a cut and from what I've been told and from what I've noticed, that if you cut or if you drag and drop, it has a higher potential to corrupt either the card or the drive. So you wanna hit Command + C, and then just open up wherever you want it to be. This is how I name my folders in my hard drive. I name it by either the job, as you can see here for a job that I've just done, or I name it for the time and place. So May 2020, Montana. That was my last files, but we haven't started one for June. So we'll just start a new folder. And June 2020, MT. Easy peasy. Now I like to name my folders, the place and the time because oftentimes I'm like, oh, it was a spring shot that I did in Montana. And I wanna go back and look at that, but I don't know the month. I'm not good with the month, or even the year. I'm not good with that, but I am good with knowing that it was spring and then where I was, that's what my visual memory. So I always make sure to include the place. Let's say if I was in Peru, I would do June 2020, Peru. So then I just open that up, hit the Command + V or paste, hot key. So you could also right click, and do paste that way, if you don't wanna do the hot keys. So then, after you paste that in there, you've got it on one drive. One drive only. So what I would do normally, is I would either pull up my second SSD drive, and I would plug that into the other side and do another USB port, or I have this cheap little USB hub, it's got four ports, if you don't have more than one hub on your computer. So I would do that, but because I've got a one terabyte drive on my Mac, I'll just open up this and then I've got a photo backups folder here. So I would make the same folder over here. And since you've already got it all copied, you should be able to just hit Command + V and paste, or again, right click, paste. All right. So we've got two copies of that. Now, if you, for some reason were short on cards, and you needed to do that, and you reuse that card, you could format that card. So I just close out of these folders, just like that. And then what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna eject that card, and no matter what happens, I can always take this and have it as a backup. But if I accidentally format this thinking that it's another card, it's fine. I've already got two backups on there. The drives that I'm using are these Samsung T5 drives. I've actually got a T3 and a T5. And I briefly just wanna describe why I use these over another one. I've had some bad experiences with some other brands, and this guy I've actually had for a couple years. It's like, I think you can drop it from three meters which is nine feet, I don't recommend that. I've never dropped it, but it's just small, easy, and it's mega fast. So I actually work off of these drives. Sometimes when I need something really fast for video on my slower computer, I'll put it on the hard drive of the Mac which is faster transfer speeds. But this is nearly as fast especially for photo, and they're expensive, yeah, but they're fast and easy to use. And the best part is, is they're really small. So even if you just let 'em dangle off the USB port like that, they can support their own weight, and they're just super robust. Now, once I've got my backup on this drive, if I'm somewhere, let's say I'm in a foreign country, and I have my laptop, and my primary hard drive in the room and I don't wanna take it with me, I can literally just slip this into my back pocket, or in my backpack and take it with me to the restaurant so that I have two copies, if I'm worried about somebody breaking into my room stealing it. So I can always have one of 'em on me. That's a nice feature, and that's why I use, why I've gotten in the habit of using these to work off of rather than my primary hard drive on my computer. So those are my working drives. And what I really wanna imprint in your head again, is that never format your card until you have two backups. And if you plan for your drives to fail, so you always have two that you'll never lose anything. 'Cause one is gonna fail or one's gonna get stolen or water damage. Somebody's gonna drop coffee on your computer and you only have that one or just whatever. This can get bumped off, and it doesn't actually withstand nine meter drop. Something's gonna break. So if you just double things up, you don't have to stay awake at night or you don't have to deal with the failure of your hard drive, and the loss that happens after that. Once you're done working on these smaller drives, these fast drives, we need to move the files off of these to make more room for new projects. Now I don't store long term on these, 'cause per byte, they're actually like, three or four times more expensive than cheaper alternatives, and larger alternatives. So that's where I bring in these hard drives. Now, most people and most photographers that I know, do long term storage on RAID. And so RAID is a bunch of hard drives all synced together in one container, but they're kind of expensive. So this is my solution. These are two eight terabyte Seagate hard drives. They're like, I think they're the cheapest, big hard drive you can get on Amazon. There's also Western Digital. I'm not really brand loyal, I just want cheap bytes because again, these are cheap because, they're traditional spiny disk, they don't last as long if you use them a lot, they'll last as long not being used. But they also have to have power cables, and they're big, and they're just not protected. If you drop these at all, they're totally broken. But because of that, they're majorly affordable. What I do is I connect them both with just a cheap USB hub, I put them on my computer, and then I use a program called Carbon Copy Cloner. Carbon Copy Cloner costs like 20 bucks, or maybe 30 bucks, and it's a software that you can plug both of these in simultaneously and your drive, which I have here plugged into my computer, your working drive. And what it'll do is it'll recognize automatically, when you plug those in, and it'll copy them to destinations that you've preset. So for instance I have several programs to run here when I plug in. So I have video, which is my video working drive, to eight terabyte one. So it's my first eight terabyte drive. Then I have some other drives. My other drive I call Transcend, it used to carry my catalogs. I have more videos, more photos, So these are all my working drives, and they're going to eight terabyte one. And I have my hard drive for my Mac that'll actually put it on there. I've got it set up to where it dumps everything onto this eight terabyte drive, but it recognizes duplicates. So if the same backup is on two different working drives, and on my Mac, it'll only dump on one of the copies because it's smart enough to recognize. Now the final piece here, is that I have two of these drives. So you'll notice that I've numbered them with wonderful handwriting here, one and two. So as soon as something goes onto one, I always plug them in tandem. Two recognizes that and it starts duplicating whatever's on one, onto two. So it's automatically. I don't have to copy paste. I don't have to do that process that I showed you that I do with my working drives. It just automatically does it. So I don't have to think about it. And again, it's like 20 bucks. These I think are under 200 dollars, and you've basically got a RAID. You just have to do a little more thought and do a little bit more setup time but it's easy peasy, and cheap. One more note here, I'm only saving raw photo and video files, and my Lightroom catalog. I'm not saving the final JPEGs. So those are actually getting backed up online. I save those to my hard drive, and that gets backed up to Dropbox. So it syncs there. So these can go somewhere in a shelf far away, and I only pull them up when I need to re-edit, which just rarely happens. I want them in case a client wants something bigger or better or a different edit, I wanna keep them. But they don't get accessed on a day to day basis, like if somebody says, "Oh, I wanna print to that photo." That's gonna be a JPEG backup that lives on my Dropbox folder. So once I'm sure that my solid state drives, these little guys, are successfully backed up to my Seagates, to my big heavy drives, then I'm gonna delete whatever's on this. So every single time, that I wanna delete someone off this, I'll back it up. But I'm also in between, when this is not full, I'm backing it up about once a month. I'm just plugging my USB hub in here to my big drives, and letting it back up so that I don't lose anything in the meantime. But yeah, these guys never get deleted until everything is on my long term storage. Okay. So let's jump into my photo import process. This is really exciting. It's not really exciting, but I'm glad you guys are still listening and watching, if you are. Once I have my raw image files onto my working drive, so my Samsung hard drive, you can see them right there. What I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna open up Lightroom. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna import onto my one catalog. So yes, I only have one catalog. A lot of photographers will say that they have a catalog for every season or job or, any sort of whim that they have, they'll make a new catalog. But let's talk about why I only have one catalog. And I think it has a lot to do, with what exactly a catalog is. So a catalog is a database that tracks the location of your photos, and the information that you've changed about them. And when you edit your photos or rate them or add keywords or anything like that, it's gonna say, oh this information goes with where this raw file is. So all of those changes are stored in the catalog all that information, but the files themselves the raw files, only their location is recorded in the catalog, not actually the changed files. It's just like an overlay. I've seen this process go a few ways, and what I've noticed is that most people think that your catalog is gonna get too big, and that you won't be able to separate the photos you took last week, from the photos you took two years ago. And that's not actually the case. And Lightroom has a better system for making sure you know what categories your photos go in than the catalog. The catalog is just designed to hold the information. It's not designed to separate the information. What Lightroom uses to separate what photos you took this week versus last year, is called a Collection. And so I'm gonna go ahead and import some photos, and I'll show you what that looks like. So jumping in here, I'm just gonna hit the file import. You can find that under file here, or you can just hit I think it's Command + I. It'll bring up your import dialogue box. So I'm gonna select my source. It's this Sam HD, which is my working drive. And then the folder we just created; June, 2020. And you can see it's all on there. Of course you can set this checkbox here to not import suspected duplicates, these are not. So they're gonna go ahead and get imported. This is the button here that is gonna make all the difference, it's called Add to Collection. So we don't have any collections. So rather than using our catalog to separate like we talked about, we're gonna use a collection. And so I just name it the same as the folder that I'm keeping my raw files in. So I'm gonna just name it June, 2020, MT. So anytime I want to just grab that, instead of having all of my files show up, I can just say, I want that collection, and it'll just open that up. Now, as far as keywords, I always add information based on location, the names of the people or the places, the season, the month, the year. The characteristics that might help me search for it 20 years from now. I'm not good at that. I'm just gonna say like my key words are just totally random, but I figure they're better than nothing. So for like this, this is gonna be the river, I call it River House, because that's where I live. Swan River, it looks like it's sunset. Might put water in there, because there's water. It's in Montana on and on and on. And because it's demonstration, I'm not gonna go through the whole thing. But you get the idea. And we need to make sure that we're hitting that Add to Collection and we've selected this, otherwise it won't. We can fix it later, but it's just better to do an import. Once we've got that, hit import. All right. So your photos are going to go ahead and import, and my edit process is pretty standard. I won't go over that now. You've seen a lot of great editing videos from a lot of different people I'm sure, so I'm not gonna go over that now. But what I wanna talk about again, this is about my workflow. Not my editing workflow, but just my workflow. So once we've got, like, let's say an edit that we just love and we're ready to go, gonna pull open this folder here, go to the develop window. Just looks beautiful. But let's say that we've got where we want it. We're just gonna throw, let's throw one at Alexas on there. Montana dusk, boom. So we've just thrown a preset on there, just so that it knows there's something different. We're gonna go ahead and we're gonna hit the export button. So file export, or you can right-click. Export. And I've got these quick user presets of where I wanna export, but I'm gonna show you exactly what my settings are. So I'm gonna come in here and I'm gonna go to a new folder that matches the name of my raw folder, and matches the name of my collection. So everything just matches up. So I don't have to think like, oh, I think my June exports were in a folder named, I don't even know, like what you would say. like, oh, River House. But my raws are in June, 2020, Montana, and my collection is called Isaac's Favorites. Like that's gonna be hard to remember 20 years from now, whereas everything is in June 2020, MT, all the way across, it's gonna be easy. So I'm just gonna back up one level here into the folder that I keep my finals. It's called Insta-Photos, cause I've never changed it they're from more than Instagram now. But this is also a folder that's on my hard drive that is synced with Dropbox. So it'll be backed up. So we're gonna name that June, 2020, again. Choose it. Alright, coming back down, I always name, custom name, original file number. I put I Johnston on there. That makes sure that no matter what happens nobody gets confused about who took this photo, myself included. I export as JPEG, SRGB, quality 100, and I used to resize a fit. So that Instagram wouldn't crush my image when it posted it on there. So now I don't need to do that. Instagram is better at compressing file sizes. They don't make 'em look so horrible. And even if they did, I would rather have them crush it and make it a little horrible on a phone rather than having to go back and export a larger file size from my long term storage. I'd just rather have the biggest file size I can possibly get. So I don't resize the fit, I just let it go full-res out there. And then after that I do nothing. That's it. There's nothing to add. I hit export, it exports up here and then it'll automatically sync to Dropbox. Recapping what I've just said, what I want you to do is back up twice. So two separate locations, never delete a memory card or a drive until you have it backed up in at least two other locations. For long term storage, I use Carbon Copy Cloner, and these big Seagate drives that are cheap, and a USB hub 'cause it's cheap, and it's easy. I work off of one catalog in Lightroom for all of my images and then use collections to sort them. Then I export full resolution JPEGs, to my computer hard drive, and that automatically backs up to Dropbox in the Cloud. Yeah, that's it. So I hope you're still awake, I hope you didn't fall asleep. But Tucker, can we play some sort of a rowdy video to get people back. (rowdy beep)

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Workshop PDF
How To Build A Proposal - Pitch Deck Example
Idea Asset List Template
Story Creation Sheet Template

Ratings and Reviews

Ken Neubecker

A great course/workshop, one of the best I've seen with CreativeLive. While at 71 I'm not looking at starting a full new carrier in freelance photography or video work, doing the work helps keep me off the street. It has given me inspiration to do a stoty about what I am going through now as a full time caretaker for my wife, who has been suffering the declining pains of Alzheimer's for a few years now. No one with Alzheimer's travels that final journey alone. In a sence it is an adventure, mostly for those close to the one with the disease. While it's not like the travels I did 50 years ago when what today is called "adventure" (canyoneering, something we used to simply call a hike in the desert...). I spent a lot of my life running rivers and working as a wilderness wanderer and guide/instructor. Now my travels are pretty well limited to long walk with the dog and occasional fishing outings with my wife who used to be a guide herself. Maybe thats not all that interesting or exciting as say going over a cliff with a bike and a parachute, but for many older folks it is the new story, the new adventure as their later years unfold. This in itself will be an adventure, at least for me.

Ryan David

Practical yet fun Great workshop and worth the time/money. Isaac is an easy to watch presenter and the various modules were each concise and practical. Time well spent!

asieh harati

honest advice from an adventure photographer who went through career transition I think a lot of us are mulling over the idea of transitioning to become a photographer. It's not easy. There are lots of fears and hesitations. It's a change that could affect our life. I'm at this decision branch for the second time in my life, and I still fear. Isaac shares with us how he overcame those very same hurdles and fears. He is genuine, practical and proves that you don't need expensive gear to start or even continue to become good enough. The pitch deck example, the starting up a conversation with a prospective client, the way to deal with blockers, all are real. I cannot wait to put them in place and start my first pitch. Thanks Isaac for sharing your journey!

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