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.