My ability to effectively process my RAW files requires frequent breaks and change of tasks. My eyes and brain go batty after a couple of hours. So I’m going to engage the writing part of my brain for a bit.
The last three weeks has been, if nothing else, about managing a tsunami of data. These college shoots are high volume events as far as photos go. So, here’s my workflow for an on-location, multi-day assignment.
The first layer of data capture is the compact flash cards. I carry seven 2 gigabyte cards, and four 1 gig. A 2 gig card holds about 115 RAW format images. So I have a capacity for about a thousand exposures. It is usually, but not always, enough for a day of shooting. I’ll be buying some more cards before my next assignment.
Each card is numbered, and I always use the cards on sequence. When a card is full I turn it over in the wallet, so it’s obvious which cards are full and which are unused. I tried out several wallets before I found one I liked: a Lowepro case that holds seven cards and zips securely closed.
I carry around a laptop during my shoot (a Fujitsu Lifebook, 4 lbs). I try and take several breaks during the day where I can get off my feet. Downloading cards makes me feel like I’m productive during those break times, and it’s a good way to see how the shoot is proceeding. I use Photo Mechanic as my ingest and review software. For awhile I also used a dedicated card reader device to download the data, but I decided it was redundant. It introduced an element of uncertainty as to which cards were downloaded onto which device.
In the evening I go through the take on the laptop, and delete the obvious trash images. It’s about 10% of the shoot generally. My digital charge is based on the data volume after deletion. If a client is working me too many hours, and I don’t have time to edit, then they’ll also pay the premium for those dead images. Then I duplicate the images twice onto two 80gb USB hard drives. When I have the data securely in two separate devices, then I’ll format my cards. I log in my hours and the gigabytes on a spreadsheet. Then I go to bed.
On this assignment I took the additional step of burning DVDs on the weekends, and shipping them home. If something were to happen to my luggage or computer on this trip, I wanted to minimize the disaster.
This was a long assignment, which maxed out my data capacity and then some. I frequently had to delete files from the laptop and defragment the drive (I have just 40gb available for storage on it—it may be time to start looking for a replacement). In New York I bought another hard drive, a 100gb Lacie. I should have bought two, as I couldn’t puzzle out a way to have a duplicate set of all the data (115 gb by the end) divided between three drives.
That’s over 6000 images. It’s all on the local hard drive now (and the server). It will take me the rest of the month to chew through this mountain.