Processing my digital photos part 1

Over the past month I’ve been revising the work flow for handling my digital photos. With the purchase of my first digital camera back in 2000 I soon realized the need to develop a methodology that kept my photos safe while being easy to find and backup. Keeping the flow simple was important to ensure that I would keep using it for years to come without needing major revisions.

Although I’ve been trying for forty years now, I have never become a really good photographer. The advent of digital photography and scanning of old film and slides to digital formats has been a lifesaver. I can, and usually need to, retouch my photos without spending hours per image in the darkroom. With the easy retouch capability of today it is all too tempting to simply fix the original photos and just save it. This is tempting for its simplicity but my experience has shown that with any original data I regret this choice later on. Once you have overwritten original data you can’t go back so, for all types of digital data I enforce a policy on myself of only modifying copies never the original.

The next consideration is the compression used in many digital image file formats. It is not uncommon for me to go through many retouch iterations before I am satisfied with the result. Being all too familiar with the way PC’s tend to crash at the worst possible time, I like to save my work frequently while working on images. To prevent the loss of image quality I prefer to use a loss-less file format for images while editing and then export to JPEG after I’m finished.

These considerations led me to setting up the first part of my workflow back in 2000. When I add images to my collection, I start by creating a subdirectory under my main image directory. This directory is named with the original date of the images using a year-month-day format of YYYY-MM-DD. I then create two subdirectories below the dated directory, one named Originals and the other named JPEG. The directory structure looks like this:

D:My Pictures

Now I copy the images to the Originals directory and set the files to read-only using normal file management tools. By setting the file attribute most programs will automatically prohibit overwriting the original image. The few programs I regularly use that will overwrite read-only files at least give a warning message when I attempt to overwrite the file.

That’s just about all I want to write up for part one of this series of posts. The final thing to cover is how I’ve automated the directory creation process. It only took a few weeks of using this procedure back in 2000 until I tired of manually creating directories. First I created a simple batch file but it was a messy solution so I whipped up a simple VB application. The app prompted for the date name with the current date preset but editable. Then simply clicking OK created the date named directory and the two subdirectories underneath it. I used that app for many years until I started using the open source, GPL licensed, AutoHotkey scripting language.

Here’s my current directory creating script:

; Create dated directory structure for images
; By Paul Hutchinson released to the public domain 2008
; Revised 1/9/2008

#SingleInstance ignore

; Assign the full path to the root of your picture directory to RootDir.
; Be sure to include the trailing backslash!
; e.g. C:Documents and SettingsusernameMy DocumentsMy Pictures
RootDir = D:My Pictures

InputBox, DirectoryDate, Create new pictures directory, Enter the date to use for the directory name (YYYY-MM-DD), , 375, 125, , , , , %A_YYYY%-%A_MM%-%A_DD%

if ErrorLevel ;User pressed cancel

; Create the new directory and subdirectories
FileCreateDir, %RootDir%%DirectoryDate%
FileCreateDir, %RootDir%%DirectoryDate%Originals
FileCreateDir, %RootDir%%DirectoryDate%JPEG