Travel photography like any other business requires you to put in a workflow to maximize your efficiency. The other advantage of a good workflow process is that it will ensure that you keep your images safe whilst traveling. Over time every photographer will develop their own processes and steps that they will go through. The key to any workflow is that it works for you but don’t be surprised if over the time you end up tweaking it. So here is my entire workflow to help you develop your own version.
1. Preparation before a trip
My workflow starts a few days before I am due to start my shoot. I begin by charging all of my camera batteries and checking that all my memory cards are in working order. Then it’s time to clear them all and format my portable hard drives so that they are ready to use when I am away. I carry three small 250gb hard drives with me (they are colored red, black and blue – more on that later). I always pack the black one in my suitcase and the red and blue one in my camera bag.
2. Back up each day
When I am on location photographing, I follow the same workflow each day. If throughout the day I finish a memory card I turn it over in the memory card case that I have (this way I always know that if a memory card is turned over, it has photos on it). Once the day has finished and I am back at my hotel, I always back up every single card that I have used that day onto all three hard drives.
The reason I carry three hard drives is that the red one always goes into my camera bag which I carry with me whilst I’m out. The black one goes into my hotel safe and the blue one will either be stored in my rental car (if I have one and it’s not going to be too hot) or in my suitcase back in my room.
This might seem like paranoia but whilst having a camera stolen or damaged will be incredibly annoying and frustrating, nothing can replace the photos that I have taken that day. The conditions or that moment might not arise again so protecting your photos is vital. By storing the hard drives in three places at least you can rest assured that you’ll always have a backup of your photos.
3. Note down important info
The other key aspect of my workflow is that each day I make a note either in my post-processing software or in a notebook of any important information about the photos taken that day. Which temple was the photo taken at? The contact details of the person I have taken a portrait of and so on. One of the great features of my Canon 5D MKIV is that it has GPS tagging and so this saves me having to note down locations. But in some countries, you are not allowed to use this feature so I will also sometimes manually write the locations down. I try to do this every night whilst it is fresh in my mind rather than relying on my memory when I get home.
4. Packing to leave
Once my trip has finished and I’m heading home I follow the same logic when packing my hard drives. One goes into my suitcase to be checked in and the other two will be packed in my camera bag. You never know when a strict security official at an airport will take exception to your hard drives and ask you to leave them behind. It has never happened to me so far but I’d rather travel with the knowledge that I have a backup in my suitcase.
5. Transfer your photos
Once I am home I will transfer my photos from my portable hard drives to my main hard drives at the earliest opportunity. I use 2TB external hard drives that are always connected to my desktop computer. I also subscribe to Blackblaze as my backup provider incase of something going wrong. Once my images are on the main hard drive I can begin the post-processing part of my workflow.
6. Post-processing your photos
There’s no doubt that every photographer will have their own steps for post-processing. Mine starts by organizing my photos into folders using Lightroom by country, then location. So, for example, photos from Bangkok will be in a folder for Thailand and a subfolder called Bangkok. Once the images are organized I begin by looking through the photos and deleting any obvious errors liked blurred photos. Once this quick edit is done I then go back and flag the ones that I feel have potential. This is a pretty loose edit so the vast majority of the photos will be flagged.
The next step is to begin working on each photo and post-processing it to enhance it. Normally I will copy and paste settings on similar photos to save time from having to do it all again and just tweak them for each photo. Once the post-processing is finished I then go back to the start and begin to edit the photos down using the star ratings in Lightroom. I will go through each round by increasing the stars until I end up with a set of 5-star photos. These, in essence, are the ones that I will then send to clients or submit to stock agencies.
Some photographers will also re-name or number their photos once it is imported into Lightroom. I don’t do this as each client is different and requires a different file naming format, so I do this when I export photos from Lightroom.
7. Double check your photos
Before I do anything else with the final 5-star shots, I go through each one and check them at 100%. This is so that I can check that they are sharp, correctly focused but also free of dust and blemishes. If any require further or more extensive retouching I will do that in Photoshop and import back into Lightroom as I want all my photos in one place. I also use the color tag functions in Lightroom to color code images based on which of my regular clients they are being sent to. This is to ensure that I don’t send or use photos that are for a client somewhere else.
8. Descriptions and keywords
Before I export the photos to send to clients, I go through and add in descriptions and also keywords as required by the client. This is a really important step especially in stock photography as without good keywording your photos might not actually be seen by customers. Once all keywording and descriptions are finished I then export the photos using the preset I created for each client.
As you can see, most of this might seem pretty straightforward and might be things that you are already doing. Over time depending on your own preference and genre of photography you will develop your own unique workflow. But in the meantime, this list might help you on your way.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.