Post Production 1: Transfering Files

As mentioned earlier I’m going to cover some of the work and thoughts that go into photography after the image is captured. Traditionally this would have been the developing and printing phase of the darkroom, today we’re using a digital darkroom.

Please Note: I’ll try to use generic terms and not be platform or software specific, but will assume that most people already have a workflow in place. For simplicities sake I will use Adobe Photoshop as the reference software.

So you’ve come back from holiday or your last photo shoot with a camera full of photos - what now?

First off we want to preserve any possibility of those photos getting deleted, lost or damaged. Regardless of the amount of time you like to or want to spend in Photoshop, getting a copy off your camera’s memory and into the computer is the first port of call. We want the peace of mind in knowing that in a worst case scenario our precious images are safe.

Most cameras come equipped with a memory card. There are various types and sizes of memory card but essentially they are solid-state memory cards/flash memory. There are 2 main ways to extract the information off of the cameras card: plugging in the camera (typically via USB cable) or taking the card out of the camera and inserting into a Card Reader (USB or Firewire).

With Megapixels creeping upwards and the abundance of cheap memory, there are more and more GBs worth of photos being taken every day. More photos = more GBs = more time to copy/transfer to computer. It doesn’t really matter how you get the information from the camera to the computer it is more a question of how fast you want to transfer that information.

A USB port is almost universal for camera connections, there’s nothing wrong with that and it is very convenient and cables are plentiful. Make sure to use a USB 2.0 port if you are using an older computer. For example my iMac has USB 2.0 ports on the computer but two USB 1.0 ports on the keyboard. There is a big difference in transfer speeds, if it seems slow then try using another port or checking your computer specs. An alternative is to try using a Card Reader.

Card Readers come in a number of flavours, most can read multiple styles of card. A USB 2.0 All-In-One Card Reader can usually be picked up for about $20 or less and come with a USB cable which powers them. Take the memory card out of your camera and insert into the right slot on the Card Reader and it works just like an external HDD or often times, exactly like plugging in your camera. Transfer speeds using a Card Reader are typically higher although they may not automatically activate the camera companies software like plugging in the camera does.

For those shooting large amounts of photos and who have a Firewire port available, you may want to consider buying a Card Reader that uses this port. Transfer speeds are faster still over the USB 2.0 but really only matter if you are copying large amounts regularly.

File storing systems are a personal thing. Some people don’t take enough photos to be bothered manually sorting folders, others are downright obsessive about order. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you store your photos as long as your system makes sense to those using it (including spouses, partners or others who may need to access them). Cameras often create and store photos in date-stamped folders you could simply copy the files. Many organisational software programs offer options at import and can rename, shuffle, tag and sort your photos in one step.

Regardless of your filing system once those photos are in your computer there are still 2 things left to do. Firstly you need to backup your folder to another HDD or external media (like CD, DVD, flash drive). Don’t skip this if you are going to do post production work, if you mess with your originals there is no recovery option. PLUS hard drives fail. It isn’t worth the risk for the few cents and time it takes to burn a DVD. Make sure you have images in 2 separate places, if you are thorough store a copy of your DVDs off-site.

Secondly, unless you are going to print photos from your camera’s memory card at the local mall, format your memory card. This is good practice and will avoid duplicates (the “hmmm-did-I-already-import-that” scenario), it is also good for the health of the memory card and lowers the chances of corruption occurring.

Now you have a computer loaded with images, a back up of those images and a clean memory card ready to take more images. Next stage is selecting images to work with.

[FONT=“Georgia”]What’s Picasa?

I’ve heard the name before and always thought it was just a web-gallery thing like Flickr, no?


It looks that you give lots of effort to writing the blog. It is so informative. I am appreciating your hard work. I always prefer Cybershot. It i the best than others.

For Connecting to remote desktop of another computer (via internet or network) and controls. Also to VNCSever through Repeater or directly to VNCServer and a lot of other configuration options. For more details VNCServer

Hi Alan, Welcome to the SitePoint Photography forums.

As I stated in the first paragraph this thread was just dealing with processes that occur AFTER the image has been captured. Shaun(of the Dead) is also writing a series dealing with basic principles of photography. We’re trying not to double-up on content.

Thanks for the good tips in your post eg. Multiple angles, multiple shots of the same subject, ensuring good power to a camera when transferring files, locking SD cards etc. With so much to learn when it comes to photography we can use all the different view points that are out there so we’ll look forward to hearing more of your tips along the way.

We seem to have skipped a step or two; how to set up our camera? How to ‘bracket’ exposures etc.? Digital cameras can do much of the processing at exposure time. There is a limit to what can be achieved in post-processing either in the ‘darkroom’ or the digital processor.

For best quality, especially for studio shots (like the lipstick) or when some post processing is likely I would save as a bitmap. SD cards are so cheap; this is not a problem. Check their speed if you want to make repetitive shots or videos and make sure your camera is compatible with >2GB cards (e.g. SDHC).

Current digital cameras, even those in cheap mobile 'phones have superb facilities for colour correction. e.g. Flourescent light: forty years back I wanted pictures of my first-born in the delivery room without using flash. A suitable filter would have doubled the exposure time to 1/15 s at f2.0 - my cheap 'phone camera set to ‘auto-colour-correction’ can produce better ‘prints’ with little green cast; when set to ‘Flourescent’ it is almost perfect with little post processing required.

From the start of affordable digital photography (1985?) I set out with a pocketful of spare batteries and storage cards. Do not settle for one shot of your subject; take several with different settings and at different distances, focal length (zoom/macro) and camera angle. In the good-old-days when 35mm film was standard it was not unusual for a professional photographer to expend a complete film (36-40 exposures) on a single picture and, maybe, reload within five seconds for another 40 shots! At virtually no cost this will increase your chance of obtaining that ‘perfect shot’.

Even my relatively cheap (£50 UK) Nokia (2730c) 'phone has options for it’s 2M pixel camera. It is set for maximum: 1200x1600, High. I got those details by right-clicking an image in MS W7. My Minolta will supply more detail e.g. Focal Length 9mm, 1/350s, f3.5. As mentioned above the EXIF data is useful and can be set by most photo viewer or album programs. N.B. bitmaps will not contain EXIF data.

Most PCs (Desktop and Portable) supplied in the past five years have an SD/MMX slot. It is most likely connected internally via USB 2.0 but it is convenient. When using a data lead to connect a camera to the PC it is common for the camera to be powered from it’s own supply and there is a chance that the internal battery will fail before data transfer is complete. The camera manual will, most likely, recomend an external power supply.

SD Cards, and probably others, have a switch marked ‘lock’; this makes the card ‘read only’. Switch to ‘lock’ after removing the card from the camera. Unlock (and format?) only when you have verified backups. Chances are that the copies on your Windows PC will inherit this status but double check; alternate (right?) click the folder and ensure that ‘read only’ is selected - save. Mac and 'Nix users will have a similar facility.

I guess that when we get to ‘Post-Processing’ we will be advised to only manipulate a copy. By ‘write protecting’ the original we can manipulate to our hearts content and never suffer that heart sinking feeling one femosecond after we click ‘save’.

I also have strong views about the production of jpg, gif, png, svg, etc. for the Web so expect to hear from me again ~Chapter Six.

Alan Saunders (UK)
(Gnarly, old, very amateur photographer who cut his teeth in the darkroom 50 years back)
(Definition; ‘Femosecond’: The time between the light changing to green and you hearing the sound of a horn from the vehicle behind you.

Thanks for those comments ParkinT, I’ve always wondered about the Eye-fi cards. At present they’re something that only exists in theory for me as I’ve not had any contact nor seen them anywhere. Certainly as a piece of interesting technology I find them a great idea. I’m glad to know that they have to potential to live up to being more than a good idea that doesn’t work in the real world.

One more point I left out of my previous post: The Eye-fi card can be configured to automatically geo-tag the photos. This is regardless of your camera’s capability (GPS) because it uses a very clever system that tracks the location based on a database of MAC addresses for wireless routers it locates in the vicinity.

Since I received my new Sony DSLR, I have been using an Eye-Fi memory card.

As soon as I take the picture it is uploaded WIRELESSLY to my computer and/or an online service.

I can configure how this all works, of course.
Since I use Picasa, my Eye-fi card finds a local wireless network* and push my new pictures to a pre-designated ‘album’ on my Picasa account.
If a suitable wireless network cannot be located, they are queued and the next time I come within range of my wireless gateway/router the magic happens.

The Eye-Fi card is a bit pricey but, as advertised, it is endless memory for my digital camera.

*to clarify, I must pre-program the network(s) I want to use. It does not randomly select any network it finds.

Second part is now here. Types of Software.

Sorry, I missed that. I look forward to Shaun’s series. Maybe my comments will be a useful memory jogger for him.

In my overlong post I forgot to compliment your articles. Much of Sitepoint is now directed at experts; we need more contributions, like yours, that assume no previous knowledge.

Then again your example ‘lipstick’ was not about ‘Post Processing’; unless you are going to explain how you produced the second image by processing the first ;).

I am neither an expert nor a beginner but I would be happy to proof read yours and Shaun’s articles. Perhaps there are existing articles which you could recommend?


Online services definitely have their advantages but for heavy use broadband data allowance can become an issue. I know that much of the US has unlimited plans but here in NZ you pay for GB usage (and it isn’t that cheap).

As someone who shoots pretty heavily I would be using a good percentage of my monthly allowance just to transfer files off-site. I have seriously considered it though because of the security of having photos in an off site location and accessible via the web.

I used to just burn DVDs and take them to work with me and store in my office. Minimal space taken up, offsite, and easily accessible.

Many people rate Picasa highly, I have version 3 installed on the home PC and have used it for home photos. I’ve been impressed by the facial recognition features which I’ve found impressive even with our very similar featured kids (we’ve been accused of human cloning but it is all LIES).

Personally I struggle to use it and don’t find it as intuitive as some of the other programs I’ve used. There are some features I expect to jump out and bite me but are a little bit too hidden for my taste. But there is a solid company behind it, a large user base and a good review history. Can’t beat that price either. I’d certainly recommend it to those wanting a free piece of software to cover the bases well and who have the time to learn it.

Yea notice the past tense in that statement LOL, with HDD becoming so cheap I’ve made the switch to HDD too but not everyone can justify that expense. If you are doing it properly and backing up both as you go and using an offsite storage that is 2x the HDD. Convenience and space-wise I think it is a no brainer but if I were shooting less images and not generating the same amount of GBs I’d stick with cheap media.

Funnily enough I priced Blu-ray here last month as an alternative storage solution and it was easily cheaper to buy HDD space than use BR discs. Crazy. Could probably source cheaper discs but the easy go-tos weren’t even competitive.

Try Picasa for the desktop - my 4 and 2 year old love it -

[FONT=“Georgia”]Except when you want to browse your old photos.

Not to mention the hours taken to burn DVD’s, and some folders being split up among multiple discs.

I bought a Western Digital drive and have been using that to store all of my photographs; DVD’s were too much headache.

Still have that indexing problem though.

hmm… I wonder if there’s any freeware for keywording photographs on a computer.


I have been using Picasa* (originally simply because it was available) and it continues to impress me; as I discover new features and functions.
Although I had to readjust my point-of-view, it has a great system to catalog/organize photos by “Albums”.
And any photo may be a member of numerous Albums.
There is also a feature to Synchronize with your online account.
To the point Slackr made in this post, I like to immediately transfer the photos AND THEN upload them to an online album. That way they are preserved off-site, so to speak.

*Picasa is yet another free application provided by and supported by Google.

Picasa is a free product by an obscure little company called google or something like that. You can download it here. :wink:

They seem to have some sort of affiliation with youtube because you can see their intro tutorial here.

[FONT=“Georgia”]I spent several weeks indexing my boss’s photos with Adobe Bridge. Tagging them with keywords. Sorting them by location then topic.

Only to find out when the HUGE volume of photographs were finally done (something like one and a half terabytes) that it would take Adobe Bridge something like five minutes just to do a single search.

I’d like to come up with a system that I can use myself, but that they could also use, that isn’t quite so heavy.


i use photobucket because its the best at it best.