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Tips on Basic Digital Photography Workflow

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/9/2010

An efficient digital photography workflow can save you time and frustration. Here are some quick tips on how to streamline your workflow, from getting your camera settings right to finding the right image editing equipment and more.

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    Camera First

    Make sure all your settings are exactly where they need to be. This means reading that manual. Really, actually read it. Camera companies don't just hand it out with the product to waste paper! You'd be amazed at the sort of capabilities built into your camera that you might not even be aware of. Intimate familiarity with the camera is the most important thing for a photographer to develop, and cannot be replaced by any amount of editing savvy.

    Perhaps most importantly for purposes of a good workflow is to familiarize yourself with the different modes of your camera. This can save some serious button pushing when switching between different environments—night and day, city and nature, aquarium and zoo, the like. This will greatly increase your efficiency out on the field, giving you more time to explore the scene and set your shots.

    Before going out in the field, keep a mental checklist of any equipment you use while out and about, and make sure that they are close at hand. A camera bag that allows easy access is a must, and as well as a good battery care ethic. This will keep any undo mishaps from interrupting your work.

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    Image Storage

    Make sure you dump photos as often as possible, preferably after every shoot. There is precious little worse than being out in the field having a fantastic shoot and suddenly staring at a “memory card full” warning on your screen! That being said, if possible, keep a spare memory card in your camera case while out and about. Better safe than sorry!

    Keeping all your files organized may be a hassle, especially if you take photos quite prolifically. Make sure you have some sort of software that can tag your photos for easy retrieval later—and don't forget to shop around to see what will suit your needs best. It will be well worth your time, literally, considering the sort of black hole of time waste good organization can sometimes be.

    Using an external hard drive might be a good idea if they're starting to eat too much memory from your computer. At least one back up hard drive is a good idea: there are too many sob stories out there of whole years of photography being lost to a spilled glass of water.

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    Image Editing

    The sort of editing that you do is entirely a matter of personal style. However, make sure that the digital editing software that you use is really the one that is best for you. The time spent looking through the competition will be time well spent. Once you've selected your software, it'd be a good idea to spend some time exploring the software, as well as just looking through tutorials to get an idea of the creative ways other people use the product.

    Some basic things to consider are cropping, curve adjustments, and color balance—but again, it's your style, and entirely up to you to develop it. Check out this article for tips specific to developing a photo editing workflow.

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    Some people take photos just for fun, some do it professionally, most do it somewhere in between. Look around online: there are so, so many communities out there dedicated to photography, from amateur to professional, from nature to portrait to abstract. Anything that you can do with a camera is bound to have a community of enthusiasts. Infinite amount of time could be spent exploring the niches of the internet, inspiring and being inspired by other photographers. While I personally wouldn't recommend an infinite amount of time, meeting and communicating with your fellow cameraphiles is a wonderful experience, and one that can translate to whatever you want, be it the furthering of a professional career or just some fun with a lens. This could involve forums, websites, galleries—the internet is yours to explore.