Thursday, January 12, 2017

My photo workflow while traveling - how I handle my images in Africa and on most of my trips

I am currently on the first of numerous flights on my way to Africa and thought I would take this down time to write a blog to explain my workflow when traveling. I get a lot of email messages from people asking for the best way to shoot images on vacation and manage them safely and efficiently. Well...this is my attempt to help you all out.

With that said, I am not saying that my way is best for everyone, but this has worked well for me, so you can use this as a basic roadmap for you.

First of all, let me start by explaining why photo workflow is so important during travels. If you are like me, you probably take a lot of photos when you are out and about. This means that you are likely filling a lot of memory cards (or your smart phone's memory) and need a way to store those photos and manage your storage. And even more importantly, you want to maximize your time so that you can be enjoying your time and not spending all your time dealing with your photos.

Regardless of whether you are on a trip to a nearby lake or traveling across the world to photograph an African safari, you want to make sure you come home with all your photos.


As I travel around the world, I have a routine that I stick to pretty religiously. It all starts with the downloading process. Every time I get back to my hotel room (or in the case of Africa, our tent camps) from sightseeing, I download whatever images I took to my laptop computer. And yes, I take my MacBook Pro 15" everywhere with me. I always feel more secure knowing that the images are on my memory card and my computer.

Culling and Ranking

Either at that time, or later in the evening, I will start the culling process. Using Photo Mechanic, I go through all my photos and delete the photos that are either duplicates, out of focus or uninspiring. Once I do this, I am left with all my "keepers". I will then make a second pass and rank the images I like the best by color coding them. I like the color coding better than the star ranking, because I find it much easier to see my selections this way.


If I have time, I will retouch a couple of my favorite photos. I usually want to retouch at least a couple of the photos to post to social media or just because I am excited about the photos and want to complete them. I do all my retouching in Adobe Photoshop, hence the reason why I carry my laptop with me everywhere.


I never feel completely comfortable until my photos are backed up and safe, and for this reason, I always make it a point to back up my photos to at least two others drives before going to sleep. For this trip to Africa, I have brought along 2 Western Digital Passport Drives and a Lexar Portable SSD drive. This way I can back up all my photos and have an extra drive for others to use, if they want. When flying, I will put the drives in different bags, lessening the chance that I will lose all bags and drives. If I have a good Internet connection, I will also upload my favorite retouched photos to my Dropbox folder and my Drobo 810n server at the house.

Reformat memory cards

Once I know that I have my photos on at least 2 different drives, I am now comfortable enough to reformat my memory cards in preparation for the next day of photography. As I stated on the blog last month, I always format my memory cards in the camera I am using them in. In case you missed the blog about the proper care and maintenance of memory cards, you can find that here.

Go shoot!

After I have completed the previous day's workflow, I am ready to go and shoot more photos and do it all again!

The Results

As I complete my trip, I like knowing that each day, I had already gone through my photos and I am going home with a good collection of "keepers". I don't need to cull through tens of thousands of photos at one time. If I have a long flight home, I will use that airplane time to retouch even more photos for eventual blogs, for prints, or just for my own satisfaction.

I hope that this helps you plan for your next photographic trip, both in what to take with you, and how you capture, select and store your photos. We just added more trips for 2017, including Cuba, Australia, Uganda, Alaska and Japan. Check them out here and join me on an amazing photo tour!


I will do my best to keep the blog posts coming in the next couple of weeks, but since the Internet isn't very good in Tanzania, it will be hit and miss. Stay tuned, as I promise share the experience with all of you!

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post.
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RAS said...

After editing your photos do you sync them with the images on the other drives?

rcortinas said...

Thank you so much Jeff for all that information. Have a great and safe trip !!

Aasha said...

Thanks for this blog. provided great information. All the details are explained clearly with the great explanation. Thanks for this wonderful blog. Step by step processes execution are given clearly.Know the details about different thing.