Bringing my photos in from the cloud

For years, I’ve kept my photos in a nicely-organized, dated folder hierarchy on my local machine. Eventually, the lure of easy management and ubiquitous access became impossible to ignore, so I spent some time using cloud-based services to manage, edit, and organize my photos.

I’m done doing that, now. I’m back to managing photos locally.

In the process of reeling things back from the cloud, I’ve updated my workflow a bit and will try describing it here.

The current year’s photos go in dated folders on my big iMac’s local hard drive. I’ve decided to call the top-level folder “Negatives”. So photos from today will go in ~/Pictures/Negatives/2019/11-November 2019. I chose to call it Negatives because that’s how I’m thinking about both film scans and RAW digital files. From here on I’ll refer to both scanned film and digital RAW files as “negatives”. Next year I’ll start a new folder and move last year’s off to the Synology.

I maintain a Capture One Pro “session” named “Capture One Inbox”, into which I import all new images. This also includes importing photos from my iPhone. I export periodically from Photos into C1. I think of my iPhone as just another camera/source. After culling and aggressively deleting from this inbox, I move the original files into the appropriate Negatives folder.

From there, I edit the photos I’m interested in using Capture One. Once editing is complete, I export a JPG into my “Digital Print Archive“. The DPA is where I live with the photos after editing. I don’t go back to look at the negatives unless I want to make a completely new version (e.g. black and white) of something.

Not relying on Lightroom or Capture One as the only way to view or catalog my images is comforting, but I still kind of want a catalog. That’s where I’ve started using the still-in-beta Photo Mechanic Plus from Camera Bits. I’ve used the original Photo Mechanic for many years as a tool to ingest, cull, rate, and caption photos. It’s by far the fastest method I know of for doing that. Photo Mechanic Plus introduces comprehensive cataloging to Photo Mechanic.

At first I didn’t take to Photo Mechanic Plus. I found it kind of weird and awkward to use. Subsequent betas have improved things, and I’ve become accustomed to the way it thinks. It’s quite powerful and flexible.

What I’m now doing is cataloging my Digital Print Archives. I’m not cataloging my negatives/RAW files. That seems weird, but really, once I’ve edited and exported a negative, odds are I don’t need to go back and dig through everything again. I truly am thinking of them as negatives.

A positive side effect of this is that I’m no longer tempted to tweak every single photo I view. In Lightroom or C1, as I’m browsing my catalog looking for something I invariably end up spending half the time just making “one more little tweak” to an image I was done with weeks or months ago. Nothing is preventing me from doing this now, it’s just that it’s become a deliberate act rather than a distraction.

I’ve changed my file naming process too. I no longer rename the original negatives. They remain named as they were coming out of the camera. Film scans get my “2019 Roll-NNN-FrameNo” format. When exporting to the DPA I rename them using the format “YYYYMMDD_ORIGINALFILENAME_TITLE.jpg”. It makes the filename a bit longer, but this way I can easily find the original negative based on the filename of the “print”.

From Photo Mechanic I can upload/share/archive whatever. Photo Mechanic is good at that stuff. And fast.

I admit that I also take advantage of Google Photos’ AI features. My entire DPA folder is automatically uploaded to Google Photos. This gives me a great way to browse and share collections from everywhere, without losing control of my library. I’ve decided to ignore my privacy concerns around this for now.

This all sounds pretty complicated when written out like that, but it’s basically this:

Import to C1->Edit->Export->Add to PM+->Share

The filesystem is my binder of negatives. Capture One is my enlarger. The filesystem is where I store and peruse boxes of prints. Photo Mechanic Plus is my librarian. Flickr/Instagram/Blogs are my gallery.

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