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Merging photos into your master photo archive

From: Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow

Video: Merging photos into your master photo archive

Once you get home and unpack and get yourself settled in, there's one more workflow step that you might have to go through, depending upon how you're working in the field. Now if you simply took a lot of media cards with you and have just been shooting to those cards and you didn't have a computer or something else that you are offloading to, then your post-production workflow is pretty simple. You just start loading those cards into your computer and going on with your normal post-production process. If you took a computer with you though, and it's not your main computer--that is, if you have a second computer at home, maybe a tower with more storage in it where your main image archive lies--in that case, you've got to get those images that you're working with on your laptop computer in the field into that system that you used at home.

Merging photos into your master photo archive

Once you get home and unpack and get yourself settled in, there's one more workflow step that you might have to go through, depending upon how you're working in the field. Now if you simply took a lot of media cards with you and have just been shooting to those cards and you didn't have a computer or something else that you are offloading to, then your post-production workflow is pretty simple. You just start loading those cards into your computer and going on with your normal post-production process. If you took a computer with you though, and it's not your main computer--that is, if you have a second computer at home, maybe a tower with more storage in it where your main image archive lies--in that case, you've got to get those images that you're working with on your laptop computer in the field into that system that you used at home.

That's my situation. I brought a laptop with me, but I have a different computer that I do the bulk of my work on at home. So far, you've seen me working here in a fairly manual way. I've been copying images to external drives on my computer and managing them by hand: deciding what files, what folders they go into, using Adobe Bridge to browse those folders, launch edits into Photoshop, and that kind of thing. That's a pretty simple situation because now when I get home, I simple take those external drives, plug them into my tower computer, and simple copy them to where I want them to be.

If you're using a different piece of software though, things might get more complicated. iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom all will require you to take a couple of extra steps. Aperture gives you the option of having managed or unmanaged projects. A managed project is one wherein Aperture is deciding where things are going to be stored. So when you import something, it takes those things and sucks them away inside in its library somewhere and if you want access to them, you have to ask aperture to give you those files. You can also ask it to have unmanaged projects.

That's where you get to choose where it's going to live and Aperture simply stores a reference to those projects. If you're running with referenced files, you can't simply copy those files to your new computer and important them into Aperture because you may not get all of the metadata and edits that you have made in the field. If you're working with a managed project then you don't actually know where the files lived. In either case, you need to ask Aperture to export that project for you. You just go up to the File menu, after selecting the [roject, and choose Export > Project as New Library.

It'll simply give you a dialog box. You can choose where you want to save that project, and it's a good idea to check these three checkboxes. Consolidate masters into exported library, that means if there were any master files that were in a different project, it's going to grab those. Include previews in exported library, that's going to save you time later because Aperture is not to going to have to rebuild preview files, and you can check Show alert when finished. Aperture will do this operation in the background, and it may take it a while so you can keep working and it will let you know when it's done. Then you just hit the Export Library button and it'll write out a single library package.

You can then copy that package file to your desktop computer, go up to the File menu, and choose Import. So if I go here to Import > Library/Project, I can then merge that into my system at home. I am not going to do that here because I'd be importing into the same place that I exported from. That's going to take all of your original photos and any edits and metadata changes that you've made. So it's a really easy way of moving things back and forth from a field's machine to a desktop machine. If you're using Lightroom, things are pretty simple.

You would select the folder or album that you've been working on, select all the files in it, go to the File menu, and choose Export as Catalog. That's going to also give you a dialog box asking you where you want to save it and a few options here. Export Selected Photos only, that's fine in this case. I've selected everything I want. I could also just say no, take everything that was in this album. Export Negative Files, they are using negative in a metaphorical sense here. They're just talking about the original master images that you've imported. And Include Available Preview, this is just like the Aperture thing.

If I do this here, it's going to save me time on the back end because Lightroom will not have to rebuild previews. I can say Export Catalog; it'll write out the catalog. When I get home, I can choose to merge that catalog into my Lightroom catalog at home, and that's going to again pull all the metadata and editing changes that I made and be sure that I've an identical copy at home. Two very easy ways of moving data from these two applications. iPhoto is a little bit trickier. iPhoto does not actually have a built-in facility for moving an album of images.

I could go through and select all my photos and export them, but that gets complicated because I have the choice of exporting originals or edited images. I'd probably wouldn't want to do both, and there's still a chance that I might mess up and lose some metadata. There is a third-party application that's only $20, the iPhoto Library Manager, that will do all of this for you. It'll give you the same kind of functionality that you've seen here in Lightroom and Aperture, and that's a very easy way of moving things that you've dealt within the field back to some kind of home-based system that you might have.

So those are some pitfalls. Obviously, there are particulars in each application that you need to learn how to work, but those are the pitfalls that you might be facing. If you don't move things back in the way that your asset management system is expecting, you could lose edits. You could lose metadata. You probably are not going to lose images, but that can happen things if things don't go exactly right. So depending on how you're working in the field, you'll have this extra step when you get home to be sure that all of your images and edits go back into your main system.

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Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow

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