Image File Naming

A recent question from a client:

“I have already confused myself in my own naming conventions and would like your advice. For FolioSnap (my website) I have been putting the state first, card name (for my named cards), or State, subject, year and number (if applicable). But then getting into it for my designer and GuestGuide site, I seem to be all over the board. I then put SM_season_year_what_number, so SM_winter_skiing_01 (if I had more details like family, kids, or location, I would put that in as well. No one way seems to be correct for all uses- yet I could be starting a real mess here. Any tips on this??”

My answer:

“It’s quite possible that your “internal” naming convention might not be suitable for all outside uses; other people might want you to use specific conventions. This is fine.

For your original, working or master files, do what makes sense to you. When saving your derivative files for specific usage you can use alternate naming schemes. Lightroom’s File Naming Template make this easy.

Also, if you rename files from within Lightroom, LR will keep track of the “original” file names, on the Metadata panel.

Keep in mind that you should use keywords to describe the specific subject matter of a photo. Don’t worry about making your file name too specific; usually date and location is plenty. For example, you can always find your winter skiing pictures later, using keywords.”

Resaving JPGs from original JPG captures

A recent question from a client:
“I am still a bit confused on the whole ‘don’t save a jpeg to a jpeg thing’ when before I switched to RAW, my files are all jpegs, so if I want to save an image for the web, it will be a jpeg from a jpeg. Is this still OK? Can you help me with this?”

My answer:
“In this case, you have no choice, so don’t worry about it. After your editing is done, go ahead and resave your derivative JPGs from the original JPG captures.

Saving a new, derivative JPG from a JPG master probably won’t be a problem if you only do it once and use high quality settings on the re-save (quality 80 or higher). But you don’t want to keep saving a single JPG over and over, because each time data is lost.

So if you’re opening your original JPGs into Photoshop to work on them, immediately do a Save As first, and save the new master file as a TIF. Going forward, all work should be done to this TIF, and all derivatives saved from it. In this case the original JPG capture is no longer the working master and is only saved for archival purposes.

Save your new, final JPGs only after all your editing/processing work is done on the new master TIF, and when you need to generate JPG derivatives for specific purposes.

And of course, from now on, only capture RAW.”

Migrating Photo Library to Larger Drives

A couple of days ago, I moved all my photos and Lightroom catalog to new hard drives. It was easier than I had anticipated; let me tell you how it all went.

First, some history. As outlined in my Lightroom book, I work from one main drive that contains all my image files as well as the master Lightroom catalog. This master drive is frequently synchronized with two identical drives; one which remains on my desktop and one that is stored securely in a fireproof box. (I am considering renting a safe deposit box for this, instead.)

Up to this point, I had been working with 500 GB drives. And I was running out of room; down to about 16 GB free space. (more…)

Photographers: Protect Yourselves

There is a lot of information floating around about how to be successful [in business] as a photographer. Whether you are just starting photography as a hobby or shooting every day for clients, you need to adopt some basic practices to secure yourself and your work against catastrophe. Here is some info about protecting your most valuable assets:

1. Equipment Insurance
You’ve absolutely gotta have your gear covered. Ask your insurance agent or check out Hill & Usher.

2. File Backups
After every work session, synchronize two or three hard drives so you have mirror copies of all your files. If you don’t use RAID (I don’t), there are software utilities that make this easy; On Mac I use ChronoSync; on Windows I use RoboCopy. (more…)

Mac vs. PC debate continues…

A recent question from a client:

“I’m about to upgrade computers.  I need something portable, so I’m going towards a laptop at the moment.  I’m currently stuck on the PC vs. Mac fence.  Are the benefits of going Mac still manifest or are PCs becoming as reliable?”

My response:

“Over the past 20+ years, I’ve used both Macs and PCs (and Unix workstations) in my digital imaging work. I’ve used all kinds of laptops and desktop machines, plus servers of various flavors. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Historically, Mac’s disadvantage has been cost. Windows disadvantage has been stability/reliability. (more…)

Lightroom Tip: Prepping Photos for Printing

If you print your photos from Lightroom, you may notice that with different papers, the color and tonal output varies, even if printing on the same printer.

This is because all different printer/paper/ink combinations result in varying range of colors and tones that can be accurately reproduced.

In other words, if you print the same photo from Lightroom (or any other program, for that matter) on glossy photo paper, cotton rag art paper and canvas, each print will look different.

So what’s a photographer to do?

The answer is simple, but the implementation is not: you need to make adjustments to the photo for each substrate prior to printing. (more…)

Search engine optimization for photographers

Recently, someone asked me for advice on optimizing their web site for search engines.

Being a former web developer and consultant, I have quite a bit of experience with search engine optimization (SEO). Over the years I’ve optimized many of my clients’ sites and my own web sites with very good results, and I’m happy to help other photographers and artists with this however I can.


What paper (or canvas) to use?

A recent question from a client:

"I’m a landscape photographer (not professional) interested in making large prints of my personal collection. They would be mainly for framing in homes. What would be the best medium to print large framed photographs? Can photos only be printed to paper, or do they look good on another medium with giclee. I would love to order some large prints of my photos."

My answer:

"I do a lot of fine art printing for landscape photographers. Most prefer "photo papers" for their work; that is, papers with either a satin or gloss finish. These papers show the widest range of tones and colors and hold detail very well. These prints are typically matted and framed under glass, but can also be laminated to rigid board (ie "plaque mounting") for a different look, usually without glass. My favorite photo papers are Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk (satin) and Harman FB AL (gloss).

I’ve also made a lot of fine art nature prints on canvas. On canvas, the colors don’t pop quite as much, and the blacks aren’t quite as deep as with photo papers. However, for certain images canvas really looks great. (more…)

Copyright 857 photos at one time

Last week I finally got around to submitting for copyright a large portion of my photographic body of work. I regret that it took me so long to do it! But with the new eCO system the copyright office has set up, I’m glad I didn’t have to go through it the old-school way (with paper and mail).

The process was simple; here’s what I did:

1. In Lightroom, identify all the images I wanted to copyright. I made sure that all photos that I’ve put on the web were included, plus some other recent work that nobody has seen yet. I made a collection to hold these selected photos. (more…)

When to print from Photoshop vs. Lightroom

Question from a client: When would you use PS for print with preview versus printing directly out of LR?

My answer: Re: printing from PS vs. LR – the Print with Preview in Photoshop is not the main attraction here. It’s the soft-proofing beforehand, and the ability to make adjustments specifically for that print.

If I want to make sure to get the absolute-best-possible print, I will still use Photoshop. I soft proof the file against a reference, make adjustments for the print conditions, and print directly from PS.

But this only is really beneficial for certain images, on certain papers. For example, if I am printing a photo with lots of rich, deep, saturated colors, and it’s going on matte paper, I’d want to soft-proof and make adjustments in order to retain as much quality as possible.

For most images, on photo papers with wide gamuts such as gloss or luster, the colors in the photo will fall within my printer/paper/ink’s gamut, and major adjustments aren’t necessary.

When printing from Lightroom, I might make minor adjustments based on the image, such as opening up the shadows a bit (try Fill Light and Brightness) and boosting the Saturation by +5 to +10.

As for the actual printing process itself, with the correct settings, there should be no difference in quality in PS vs. LR.

And you can also sort-proof your files and prep them as necessary, then print them from Lightroom. Lightroom’s layout capabilities make it the clear winner when you have many images to print.

USB Flash Drives for Image Archival

My buddy Monte and I were discussing the ever-present issue of data storage for our digital photography systems; we have both done several significant migrations to larger systems for our digital photo libraries over the past several years.

Monte explained that he had some tens of gigs (maybe 30-40GB) of client wedding photos that he wanted to offload from his working system and archive. We got into the discussion of what would be the best approach. After just a few minutes, an obvious answer appeared: flash media.

When archiving digital photos long-term, removable USB flash drives (thumb drives, jump drives) represent the current best solution.

The primary consideration for choosing a storage medium is how it will stand up against time. Hard disk drives, with moving components and magnetic data, cannot be relied upon for archival.

Optical media woul be a great choice, but is still not widely available in large enough capacities to make digital media storage viable using optical media.

Enter flash, or solid state, storage. Impervious to all but the most extreme environmental conditions; you can put a flash drive through the washer and dryer and most likely will retain ALL the data.

Capacities are increasing rapidly and prices are dropping an average of 40% annually. Today, a 32GB removable USB flash drive costs around $75; a 4GB flash drive is now around $10. And for something that you’re planning to keep for years, the tiny size of these drives is ideal.

Like Monte, I’m currently in a situation where I have client projects I want to archive. CD or DVD won’t cut it. Hard drives are not archival. For me, spending up to $75 to archive several thousand dollars worth of client files is a no-brainer. And most client projects will fit on smaller drives, or multiple clients on one drive.

My largest client projects are just under 30GB. But I have many client projects that are just 3 or 4 GB. I can safely archive these with long term reliability-in duplicate or even triplicate-very inexpensively.

If you have projects that don’t need to be taking up resources on your working photo/imaging/video storage systems, offload them to USB drives. Buy larger capacity drives as they become available.

Set up a good labeling and organizing system so you can easily find something from within potentially many USB drives. (You can use Lightroom catalogs for this, too; more about this in a future article.)

Using USB flash drives, even a busy studio can store many clients’ projects for many years… safely and cheaply, while taking up very little space.

Converting to DNG in Lightroom

A recent question from a colleague:
I want to convert all the photos in my Lightroom catalog to DNG.  Should I check
the "delete originals after successful conversion" box?

My answer:
I delete all the original camera raw files after conversion to DNG but not everyone has so much confidence in DNG vs. native camera raw.

The way I see it, DNG stands as good (or better) chance of being supported years in the future than do the native raw files. But this remains to be seen.

I don’t see a need to retain the original camera files after conversion.

If you have any concern whatsoever about this, archive the original raw files before deleting them from your master library.

(You also have the option to store the original raw file within the DNG, effectively doubling its size.)

Adobe has more info about all this at

Adobe Releases Photoshop Lightroom 2

Major Software Upgrade Further Simplifies Photography Workflows

Press Release: SAN JOSE, Calif.  July 29, 2008  Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the immediate availability of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom 2 software, the photographer’s essential toolbox for managing, adjusting and presenting large volumes of digital photographs. With new enhancements such as dual-monitor support, radical advances in non-destructive localized image correction, and streamlined search capabilities, Lightroom 2 is a compelling upgrade that simplifies photography from shoot to finish. As Adobe’s first application to support 64-bit for Mac OS X 10.5 Macintosh computers with Intel® processors and Microsoft® Windows® Vista® 64bit operating systems, Lightroom 2 also provides improved memory performance for dealing with large scale images. (more…)

Epson R1900

These days the Epson R1900 is getting a lot of publicity and Epson is offering discounts.

One of my consulting clients sent me the following email:

“I’m interested getting up to speed with a good-quality printer at home. (Am planning to use you for higher-end printing.)  You mentioned some new technology is coming out.  When I see promotions like this, I figure new capability must be in the pipe soon.   I generally like to buy technology at then beginning of its lifecycle. Do you have any insight”

My response:

This printer is still at the beginning of its life cycle and represents Epson’s latest efforts/improvements; I don’t expect any newer technology advances from them in at least this calendar year.

Right now Epson’s latest offerings are the addition of orange and green inks on “prosumer” models and Vivid Magenta on “professional” models.

But neither represent a huge leap forward in color reproduction.

If you’re ready to take the next steps toward more “serious” printing this would be a good solution; even better would be the R2880.

I suspect the aggressive pricing in the R1900 is in response to market threats from Canon and to a lesser degree HP. I haven’t really kept tabs on these other printers; I’m sticking with Epson for the time being.

Click for more info about the Epson R1900

Using Lightroom for reproduction of original fine art

These days I’m doing a lot of “giclee” reproductions of original fine art in a variety of media including pastels, watercolor and oils.

I’ve found that Lightroom is an ideal environment in which to work up my master images. In particular, the HSL panel is an extremely useful tool when it comes to matching colors in the original paintings.

I begin with a digital capture, either a raw image from a Canon 1Ds Mark III or a scan of a transparency (from  my Epson 750M Pro). Whether working with a raw capture or a TIF scan, I’ve found that I can match colors much more easily in Lightroom than in Photoshop.

For color management on my Mac, I use a LaCie 319 display, X-Rite EyeOne and Pulse. I’ve found that I really can trust what I see in Lightroom to match the print (of course, this also involves soft-proofing for the chosen media in Photoshop prior to printing.)

If you do fine art reproductions, consider integrating Lightroom into your workflow. It’s made a world of difference in mine.

*I will be publishing a white paper on Fine Art Reproduction with Lightroom this summer… stay tuned!

Lightroom Collections

If you’re not making heavy use of Collections in Lightroom, I strongly recommend you start. Collections are one of the most important aspects of an efficient Lightroom workflow.

Simply, Collections in Lightroom are virtual groups. A single image can be a member of any number of Collections. This means you can arrange your images in an infinite number of ways, without making additional copies of the actual files on your hard disk.

Collections only contain what you put in them. And you can put a single image in multiple Collections, depending on their theme, purpose… anything. I have Collections that I use for Web galleries, emails to clients, etc. These collections often contain images from a variety of different Folders. Rather than move or copy the actual file, the Collections within Lightroom reference all the files in their original locations.

I have many Collections, including some for

Exhibition Entries
Stock Submission
Email to Joyce


This allows me to keep my folder structure and file location independent from the final usage(s) of a given photograph.

Also, I often use Collections as the last stage of editing a shoot. After I’ve gone through all the images from a particular outing, and assigned Pick Flags, Stars, etc. I take all the highest rated/flagged images and put them in a Collection named for the subject or location.

You might ask, “why not just use the Folders source”?

Again, because I want to separate the content from its source. This is the main benefit of Metadata editing, or “instruction-based editing”. It doesn’t matter where the file resides, I can edit and distribute it in myriad ways easily from within Lightroom.

So take a closer look at Collections! You’ll find all kinds of ways to use them.

Matt Kloskowski has a video with an introduction to Collections here:

New White Paper on Non-Destructive Imaging

Peter Krogh, author of the popular The DAM Book, has posted a new white paper on the Adobe web site:

Non-Destructive Imaging: An Evolution of Rendering Technology
“With the rapid adoption of raw photography in commercial as well as amateur circles, the basic concepts of non-destructive imaging are increasingly important. But non-destructive workflows are not new. In this paper Peter Krogh leads you through a detailed outline of these evolving rendering technologies, and describes their relevance to every digital photographer.”

Click Here for the Adobe Site

Lightroom Backups

A recent question from a client:

Where do the LR backup files go in v 1.3.1. I have a “Backup” folder in my LR folder with a long list of LR backup files. However, since mid Dec (about the time I upgraded to 1.3.1) there have been no new backup files created. And I can’t find the LR backup file when I do a search from Finder. So to make sure I’ve got a backup, I’m manually coping my current lrcat file to my backup drives. Any suggestions?

Also, how many older versions of the backup files do you keep. I’m about to delete all but the last 5 backup files. Don’t see much need in keeping the older files. Am I missing anything?”

My answer:

“Each Lightroom catalog has its own settings for backups.

Go to File > Catalog Settings. On the General tab you will see the settings for backup frequency and location.

From here, you can determine if and where LR has been performing backups.

I only keep a couple of recent backups. A really old one has no use to me.

Also, the way you’ve been doing it – manually copying – is totally OK.

Sharpening Refresher

I just re-read Bruce Fraser’s excellent explanation of current best practices for digital image sharpening and highly recommend it for anyone needing further explanation of sharpening.

Click for Article


After using PSD for many years as the file format for my Master Files (with layers, masks, channels, etc.) I have recently become convinced to switch to TIF for this…. Jeff Schewe and Andrew Rodney make a strong case for TIF in a thread on the Luminous Landscape forum.
Click here to read the thread

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