As a side-effect of joining Google, I have a new 13" MacBook Pro with a solid-state disk (good!) whose capacity is only 113G. This has pretty well screwed up my previous picture-management habits so I had to invent a new workflow, which is working out pretty well. I’m not claiming it’s right for anyone else, but others might find it a useful read. Plus since it’s photo-related I’ve dropped in three miscellaneous pix that I think are eye-pleasers.
The Old Setup · I had always managed to keep my whole life, excluding music, on one computer’s disk. I achieved this, even though I take a lot of pictures and shoot RAW, by being ruthless; I only keep the ones that I think good enough to publish or which have sentimental value. Other photogs blanch in horror when I speak of discarding digital negatives: “How can you know what might be important later?!” I can’t; but I can accurately forecast the immense amount of pixel-pumping drudgery that a strict retentionist policy would entail, and I ain’t going there.
The pictures are all stored in directories of the form YYYY/YYYY-MM, so
today’s would be in
Home ⇒ Pictures ⇒ 2010 ⇒ 2010-04.
I find that this meets my needs as well as anything else I’ve tried; among other things, I like to do slideshows of recent pictures, and this works great for that. Unfortunately, the pictures going back to 1998 added up to more gigabytes than I now have, so change was required.
Infrastructure Issues · Outboard disks, now apparently all USB-2 (what happened to FireWire?) are plentiful and cheap and good. But I don’t want to be fiddling with them when I’m on the road, and their performance doesn’t feel as good to me as a real actual internal disk wired up however it may be. Especially when the internal disk is an SSD.
It’s intangible, but it isn’t subtle. Everything that runs off the SSD, in particular everything that involves reading a lot of data, feels quicker. So for pix that I’m actually working on and editing and publishing, I’d like them local.
Archives · I still have the per-year directories in the Pictures folder, only now they’re symbolic links to the versions on an outboard 500G disk made by, uh, I forget who, that I bought at the Best Buy, uh, I forget where. Man, disks must be a tough market to make a living in.
I still keep the archive directories on the outboard USB and the big honkin’ Mac Pro consistent via rsync, which despite warnings that This Could Go Off The Rails, has so far worked smoothly for me.
Current · That’s the name of the directory which constitutes the key change. It lives under the Pictures directory and is the sandbox for the current month’s works. That’s where they get downloaded to from the SD-card slot in the side of the Mac (damn, that’s a nice feature, thank you Apple). That’s where they sit while I pretty them up in Lightroom. And that’s where they get exported from for family use or into this blog, directly or via Dailyshoot.
The key non-change is that even though most of my pictures are living off in USB-disk-land, the Pictures ⇒ Lightroom directory is still right there on the SSD. This setup, where most of the I/O is on a local SSD, seems to make Lightroom happy; it’s still not as fast as in the halcyon days of Lightroom 1.0, but it’s faster than on the previous MacBook.
One nice thing about Lightroom is that it doesn’t care if most of the actual raw files are living off on a USB disk that might be in a different timezone.
At Month-End · I make a YYYY-MM directory on the USB disk (and a symbolic link on the Mac) and transfer the raw files over there from the Current directory and [important] I do this using Lightroom. I had quite a bit of trouble getting this to work; I could select a ton of photos, but I couldn’t move them, until I realized that you have to click-and-hold on the actual image in the photogrid, not the grey area around it.
Anyhow, this might not work for you, but right now I’m reasonably satisfied with my computer’s workings in general and my photo-processing setup in particular.