This Photographer's Workflow is Efficient, Safe, and Reliable

Workflow is everything: it makes your job easier, quicker, and more reliable. Travis Harris is a Miami-based wedding photographer who has one of the better workflows I've seen, and he shares it here.

Sure, workflow isn't the coolest thing to talk about in photography, but if you want to spend less time at a screen and more time taking pictures, it's something to work on mastering. Workflow really encompasses two main ideas: efficiency and redundancy. After creating this workflow six years and one million images ago, Harris swears by it, and I have to admit that I'm rather impressed as well.

Beginning with the point of capture, the idea of redundancy is crucial. He shoots with the Canon 1D X, taking advantage of the dual memory card slots (the 5D Mark III is a great option as well). He uses a smaller memory card in one slot and a larger in the second: this way, the second slot is always backing up the first, but he doesn't risk losing all images at once if something catastrophic happens in the first slot. It also means he only has to import from one card at the point of ingestion.

From there, he uses the G-Tech G-Speed Q in RAID 5 for work, though he recommends keeping the Lightroom catalog on a good solid state drive; note that this does not mean keeping the images themselves on the SSD, only the catalog file itself. A further array of G-Tech hard drives complement this, serving as his archive, where he stores projects to keep space free on the working drives and as various backups. An APC Smart-UPS 2200 insures him in the case of a power failure, and lastly, a Pelican case serves as transport when he does offsite backups.

Altogether, Harris' system is impressively thought out, thorough, and put together. His video is chock full of great little tips to use along the way as well, such as the benefits of managed vs referenced catalogs and how to name your folder systems. Give it a watch for more, and be sure to check out his site, Facebook, and Instagram.

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33 Comments

David Butler II's picture

Its funny... your flow is almost identical to mine... even the naming convention.... one thing don't do is export the LR project catalog which sounds pretty good... I'll have to look into this :-)... Nice job!

Roger Morris's picture

That's a complete workflow and back-up solution!
I like the thinking behind your workflow decisions. I also like the physical offsite drive scenario, as the cloud based options are not only slow, but have you completely at the mercy of a company you really know nothing about, and have no control over.

Sean Walsh's picture

I use Amazon's S3 buckets. Amazon isn't going anywhere and neither is their service. It's super cheep and I loose zero sleep because of my data.

Travis Harris's picture

Hey Sean! Good to hear your using the Cloud system with good results. For sure, this is a very subjective point from person to person as I mentioned in my video. Amazon does have a nice reputation, so you maybe in luck! I just wanted to show what I do, and hopefully inspire others to re-look at their processes. Shocking, many don't have much of any system at all! The specifics on what drive, local, cloud, etc.. all are pretty subjective.. its the process that I think is important, and adopting that mindset as I described in the video, because when this becomes something more then a hobby.. the expectation is then zero tolerance to data loss.

Nick Collura's picture

I just have to correct something said about lightroom. Lightroom does not have any ability to "house" the images. It does not have a "Managed" catalog. There is only one type of catalog, and it's effectively a referenced catalog. The managed vs reference is an Aperture thing.

I do agree that it's much faster to first copy your images manually or with photo mechanic to your drive first, because doing it via lightroom asks lightroom to build previews at the same time as import, which slows the import down.

Felix Hernandez's picture

Truly helpful!
Thanks!

Travis Harris's picture

Yes, Nick your correct.. this was an error in the video.. and yes, the terms came from the old Aperture days before I switched to LR LOL. I think because I never used a “managed” library, I just assumed that LR also had that option on import, and I do see that your right.. it does not. You need to select a destination for every import. However, when I speak of exporting as a new catalog for archive.. this is effectively the same thing as a “managed” library, and LR is doing -exactly- that.. it is then moving the RAW data into its own folder structure to be managed by the new catalog file. This is the most important point, along with understanding the differences between the two structures. So, all in all.. the workflow as described is on point, and there is in fact the two different catalog structures inside of LR.. they are just used in different ways as I outlined in the video. You just can’t import into a “managed” structure.. and.. thats a good thing! LOL. Thanks for pointing that out, I appreciate it, and the support!

Nick Collura's picture

Hey Travis, Thanks for the reply. The feature to export your selection as a new catalog is a very useful feature. But i will again disagree. The exported catalog is just like any old catalog. you can open it up and import more files to it like normal. You can move images out of their spot and lightroom gets confused like normal. The advantage here, and it's a good one that you point out, is that the export to catalog feature collects the raw files for you so you have a nice neat folder with everything you need to transport the project.

What i do is simply save the .xmp's next to the raws to make them portable. The only thing that does not transfer are the flags, and i only use stars and colors to rate images anyways, so it's not a problem.

I only have to manage and backup one catalog, and everything I've ever shot is in the catalog, about 700,000 images, which i think it a huge part of the power of lightroom. The convenience of one catalog. This, and the power of smart previews means i can take my server/drives/raid offline and still be able to sort and process any image i want.

One vs many catalogs is definitely down to preference, and your system works very well for you, so different strokes kinda thing here for sure.

Great video for sure! You can tell, tons of production/ planning, etc. went into it. nice job. And nice to talk shop with ya!

Chad Andreo's picture

Congrats of the feature brother!
You obviously put a lot of time and effort into this video.

Travis Harris's picture

Thanks Chad! You da man! Love working with talented people like yourself brother!

Ariel Martini's picture

elwood blues meets casey neistat

Travis Harris's picture

LMAO> LOVE that Casey reference.. just know.. LOL.. that I did not try to emulate him in ANY way.. LOL.. I do love him, and I totally used my sunglasses to read notes in order to shoot this. It was SO HARD to stay on point, and the glasses added a fun way to reiterate the facts, and.. provide me a way to look off camera and not look too weird doing it!

Jim Cutler's picture

Trav, it's impossible to do anything like this and not get a Casey comment. We are huge Casey fans, too. It's really hard on me and my wife because we've been vlogging for years, doing timelapses from the SAME hotel windows casey eventually stays at (he does them years later) and we laugh when people point out the Casey influence in what we do here. No! We did it first! I won't give up the timelapse or shooting our plane trips, but every time Casey adds another technique I remove it from my toolkit and develop something new. I don't want to spend time explaining to Casey fans. :) Casey is so damn good, we love him. You did a GREAT job man. Well done video. We notice all the set up shots, it takes time :)

Travis Harris's picture

Hey Jim! man.. thanks so much for this comment!! I hear ya.. I feel this way about "drones" way, way way WAY before they were main stream.. I was building them myself, and having fun with cameras etc.. and then when DJI came in to play.. the game changed, and they became the "Apple" of multi rotors. Now, everyone has one (it seems), and is an aerial filmmaker LOL. I love Casey, I love his blogs, and yeah.. I love using the time lapses for transition too.. and is something I picked up from watching "Keeping up with the Kardashians" But yeah, I know I came across like a Casey wanna be.. and I knew this would come up :-(. Truly tho.. honestly from the heart I did not intend to copy his style.. this is actually an interesting point.. and in fact maybe a topic I talk about in future videos.. People ask me all the time "Do you know.. X,Y,Z Photographer?" and I generally don't.. and I explain, that with photography.. I try my absolute best NOT to follow many, and not to get too hung up on anyones work.. because...weather I want too or not.. their work gets stuck in my head.. and it's too easy to start to replicate whats in your mind. I try to watch movies, look at music videos, and take real life situations for my inspiration when it comes to photography... but, this Casey thing is a perfect example, on how when you DO watch the same person (every day).. like it or not.. yeah, the style bleeds into your own work. This is a love hate battle!

Jim Cutler's picture

Oh man you and I are so on the same page. I was building and flying my own quads from when NAZA first started. So when you and I include drone footage, timelapses and sunglasses.......lol well you know the reaction. Two weeks ago we were eating at the Fairmont in Santa Monica and talking about Casey and vlogging the meal with friends. It's on my site if you want to check it out. When I flew home I watched his vlog and he.....had been eating on the restaurant patio at THE EXACT SAME TIME we were eating inside the restaurant. Then we both were at adjoining gates for the Jetblue flights back at the same time. I never saw him. Almost a brush with greatness. Please keep making good videos like this. Content is king, and this vid was good, solid info explained well. Rock on. And thanks. I'll be watching.

Lee Morris's picture

great video

Travis Harris's picture

Thank You so much Lee !!

bob Farrell's picture

Driving and using for phone/recording device is really dangerous. Dumb. Other than that, nice workflow; useful vid.

Travis Harris's picture

Hey Bob. That's true. Although I did have the camera mounted in the car, so I was not having to hold it or anything like that. It mounts to the side of the door / dash with a flexible mount. But I totally respect your point on safety!

NIgel King's picture

How do you verify a set of files has been correctly transferred from one drive to another? Do you use an app?

Travis Harris's picture

Hi Nlgel, what I do is after the project has been exported as a new catalog, I then close Light room (master catalog) and open the newly exported project on the archive drive. This then opens LR again, but only loads that project. I then look to ensure all images have been included and skim through them. Once it looks good, it's done. EDIT: I also look at the folder contained along with the project file, and see that the same number of CR2 (RAW) images are there, as what was in the master catalog in which everything was processed in. This ensures that no matter what, I know I have all the RAW data safe and secure on the RAID 1 "Archive" drive.

Bill Irwin's picture

Travis,

I appreciate you taking the time to demonstrate your backup process and how your workflow is setup. I have a different backup process but it confirms what I am doing is on the right track. Also I appreciate the tip about how to setup LR in way that is not so bogged down. I will definitely be switching to this method to speed up the process. Many Thanks!

Ian Johns's picture

This is as close to data backup pr0n as you can get -- I love it. I'm not sure I would ever find inspiration in a video about data backup and redundancy, but I did here.

While this full setup is beyond my current budget, I can at least start putting pieces of the puzzle together to build up to something like this. I'll start with a WD CloudDrive I just won off of Fstoppers...ha! Thanks for the great video -- consider it bookmarked!

Travis Harris's picture

Ian, thanks so much man for that comment. Hearing this, is --exactly-- what motivates me to want to make videos like this in the future. I appreciate your support!

Ralph Hightower's picture

I like that 3rd gen backup rotation sequence.
Travis mentions about naming folders in reverse date fashion: Year before the date. The US date standard is month, day, year, where as Europe uses day, month, year; which is disconcerting to me. Back in the mid 1970's, I developed a computer program that had to sort by date and the format chosen was Year, Month, Day (YYYYMMDD).
Back when I got interested in photography in 1980, I created a numbering sequence of Year and roll number. Now, with two film cameras, the folder sequence is camera/year/roll #. I also have a DSLR, so that folder name is 5D III/YYYY/YYYY_MM_DD.

Alexandre Mayeur's picture

Hi,
very great video .
Little question : How do you name your files ?
We can see on the video that you rename the picture when you import them with Photomechanic, right ?
You seams to rename them, like Clientname_YYMMDD_filename
What's filename ? the originale name from you canon camera body ? something like IMG_2934 ?

Or have you an other suggestion ?
I'm looking to a way of naming name that is not a sequence , but still quit pictures in order ... One solution could be to use the time of capture as filename ... but ... it looks like , a little bit dirty for me.(but it's work).
So , what's your solution ?

Travis Harris's picture

Hi Alexandre!

Thanks for watching the video, and your support. I really appreciate it.

Yeah, so the first that I do is that each one of our cameras has all the Copyright data filled in, so that it has a "creator" (our names) as the pre-fix, and then a 4 dig. serial for each file.

The ingest, re-names ALL the files on import like this:

{owner}_{year4}{month0}{day0}_{filename}

The file name is that 4 dig number from the camera.

Once the project is ready for export in LR.. all files are then re-named "Travis Harris_0001" 0002, 0003, etc.. this way I can always reference for an album or further paid edits.

Hope that helps!

Alexandre Mayeur's picture

Hi , thank you for you explanation
But , it makes me wonder ... if you rename all files before exportation.... what's the point to rename them at the first importation from the card to the HDD ?
You could simply wait to have them ready and rename all them before exportation ? no ?

Travis Harris's picture

Hey Alex.. yeah, no worries. So, the reason here is this.. that I have different cameras being used, and also my assistants camera (Nikon) with has it's own image system. There is not any actual step in the re-naming process on import with Photo Mech. It is a one time thing you select.. and.. then... from that point forward every image that comes in, will be the --exact-- same format. This is helpful to keep things consistent. It takes no time to do, and.. is nice to have right up front.

Rob Mynard's picture

Hi Travis, awesome video with a lot of great information and a couple of extra steps that I'll be implementing into my workflow. One thing you didn't address, and probably because it doesn't affect your workflow, was whether you ran you xmp files as part of your catalogue or as sidecar files to your master images.

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