For some this article may sound very basic and simplistic, buts it’s a question I am asked all the time in my seminars and private consulting sessions. “What’s the best way for me to get my photos into the computer?” This article will not go completely in-depth with file management and the importance of metadata as used with Adobe Lightroom, but it will push the limits of basic folder organization and creating a back-up copy of your images.
First, let us settle once and for all the fastest and safest way to transfer your images onto your computer: using a card reader. That’s right, not by connecting the camera directly via a USB cable. There are three drawbacks to this, one of them considerably serious. 1) The camera connect method is painstakingly slow as compared to the card reader. 2) You are running down the camera’s battery when you do this, and the transfer process isn’t cheap on battery power. 3) If your battery was to deplete its energy during the transfer process, there is a good chance you can lose some if not all of your images (that was the serious one).
Card readers are simple. You take the card out of the camera and insert it into your reader which should already be plugged into a USB port on your computer. If you have USB 2.0 on your computer, purchase a card reader that is capable of USB 2.0 transfer. It really does matter.
Once you insert your card, you will most likely be prompted with a message which says your operating system has detected a source with image on it. This will be true for both PC or MAC. If you don’t get a message, don’t panic. In Windows go to you ‘My Computer” icon and identify the drive which the card corresponds to. On a MAC, a new drive letter will appear right on your desktop.
If your OS (or, say you have Photoshop Elements installed on your machine) prompts you with a wizard, sometimes it is just best to follow that, as it will guide you through the process. It will ask you what directory to copy the images to, ask if you’d like to rename the base filenames, and Photoshop Elements can even automatically take the red-eye out right away. If your software does not prompt you, you will have to go the old drag and drop method (some people still prefer this anyway) and drop the images into a directory of your choice.
But which directory should it go into? “I just put my pictures directly into my Canon ZoomBrowser.” Oh, do you now? Well, probably not, since your images aren’t actually in your software – they are really on a location on your computer hard drive. Most likely you’re My Pictures folder if you are a Windows user. The [Canon ZoomBrowser] software is merely a portal for viewing the images from their source location.
The My Pictures folder is one possibility. However this folder lives on your main hard drive, which is of course most susceptible to viruses, bloatware, computer crashes, etc. Would you really want your most prized possessions on this drive? I personally think no, which is why all of my images are directly copied to data-redundancy external hard drives. So right away, I have two sets stored on a drives other than my main hard drive. Choosing a directory structure for how your images will be organized is highly subjective. There are objective criticisms of one over another – but its yours so you need to be in tune with it. Will you organize your folders by date (preferred), category, vacation destination? The reason date is preferred is because in today’s computer programs you can tag your images with category names and keywords which allow you to powerfully filter for the photos you are looking for within seconds. A chronological organizational system of your image files will be easier for your and the computer.
Once this is accomplished I burn a DVD-R of the most recently transferred data. As of now an optical disc back-up is the most permanent back-up we have. Only then is it safe to put the memory card back into the camera to wipe it clean via the format command and use it over again.
Once the data is on my back-up hard drives, I then import the record of those files into my Lightroom image catalog. A brief Lightroom tutorial will follow at a later date. What’s important right now is the order of actions necessary for a proper workflow.
Of course this is a general overview for workflow and specific situations will present themselves to individuals. This is one of the many consulting services I provide for individuals (amateur & professional, as well as companies who utilize photography and photographic applications as part of their businesses. Please see our Services page for our full list of consultation offerings.