Lessons from the Shop: Now where is that photo?


by Stanley Leary

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“I know I put that photo in this computer, but WHERE did I put it?”
Is finding a filed photo like looking for something in your attic? You know it’s up there, but where did you put it?
If so, you’re pretty typical for most photographers. You may even have them filed in chronological order, but unless you are blessed with an incredible memory you can’t always locate the image you know you have taken. Frustrating isn’t it?
The combination of today’s cameras, computers and software can help you file and find just about any image a piece of cake – if you follow a few steps.
From the moment you release the shutter to the time you look for the image requires a simple series of steps along the way to make image retrieval easy. This process is called Digital Workflow.
Let’s concentrate on the part of Digital Workflow that covers cataloging your images.
The first step: be sure your camera’s date and time, are set correctly. You can use the date and time stamp as the file name for the photographs. Computers need unique names and this is an easy way give each photo a name all its own.
You will need to make a few notes about your photos as you’re shooting. If you are at an event with a program, like a children’s program, put some text information with each photograph about the children’s program.
After you make your images, the process of putting the images on your computer can speed up the process later when you search for images. I like to use the software PhotoMechanic to ingest the disks from the camera into my computer. 
There are two major parts of the workflow that PhotoMechanic helps. First I have photo mechanic help with renaming my photos using the date and time they were taken ({year4}- {month0}-{day0} {hour24} -{minute}-{second}). If any are shot in the same second it will automatically ad sequential number.
The second part PhotoMechanic helps in the workflow process is to apply text inside the photo. This is called metadata and for the camera file specifically it is referred to as IPTC Stationary. At this point I write a generic caption for the photo shoot, put my name as credit for the photo and many other aspects such as keywords are done at this time.
After ingesting the disk of images I can add or change the IPTC caption to be more specific for the individual photo as well as add more keywords.
While I am in PhotoMechanic I edit and pick favorite images. Once this is done then each photo has the identification in the photo. An editor can open the photo in PhotoShop and go to the <file info> and see: the caption; who shot the photo; and other information.
Next I make a CD/DVD of the images from the photo shoot. My software RecordNow turn burn the disk. Leaving the program on default uses date and time to name the CD. Again this gives me a unique file naming for the computer.
After it is done and the disk pops out of my machine, I launch my cataloging system MediaDex. You can customize it to recognize the IPTC fields used in PhotoShop and PhotoMechanic, which makes this so easy to use. Takes about 15 minutes to do.
Now put the disk back into the computer where it pops up on top of the MediaDex software. Drag the disk onto the MediaDex. It will ask if I want to ingest these files, say “yes.” When this is completed I put the disk in my files.
We’re almost through. There is only one other step I do. It has nothing to do with cataloging, but with protecting my work. I have an action setup in PhotoShop which resizes each photo in a folder and saves it in a second folder I call Copyright. Every three months I send in all the photos I have taken and register them with the copyright office.
Now I can search my database for photos I shot. When I find the image I can see a
thumbnail of it, also, which disk it is on is listed. Since the name is a date and time and all the disks are filed chronologically, it takes only a minute to pull the disk and put it into the computer.
I have thousands and thousands of images in my catalog and it grows daily. I can find any image I put into this database within less than 2 seconds after I enter a search phrase.  I hope you can too.