My Complete Photography Data Workflow


I remember six years ago when I was ready to invest big in a computer system, that the one and only thing I really truly cared about was absolute data integrety.

This is, and always will be the most important thing in my business. Period.

A photographers data workflow (wether they realize it or not) is the backbone of their existence in a purely digital age. So much rides on ones ability to capture content, process, deliver, and then manage in archives for future reference. One slip up anywhere in that infastructure, and it could cost thousands of dollars paid in commissions, possible lawsuits yet worse your reputation, and very easily your entire business in this “social” media time where word spreads like wild fire.

Get called out for loosing a bride and grooms wedding photos.. and it wont matter who you are, how good people think you are, how long you have been doing business… your.. done. …and… frankly, rightfully so.

This is YOUR responsibility as a professional.

Forget even saying “photographer”, this has everything to do with running a business, and protecting your clients as well as yourself from severe liability in the form of,


Over the past several years, I have spoken to many photographers as well as other creative professionals and when we chat about workflows, I am generally always shocked at the amount of afterthought that they give to ensuring everything is safe and secure. Worse yet, is that lack of understanding on what IS in fact good, and bad practices.  Many people just don’t understand how all of this works, after all running the business side of things altogether may not be a strong point of theirs and this is very wreckless in my not so humble opinion.  When I then share my process, I generally get hit with a few common comments such as “wow, you do all that?”  or..  “OMG, I need to re-think how I do this”.

So, as a result I have toyed with the idea of making a helpful, educational video that is very detailed, and goes over my personal data workflow process.  If I can inspire a few photographers that truly want to get better, and perhaps get them to make some changes to what they currently do.. and this in turn helps out the industry then I get to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and I am convinced that this will also benefit me down the road in some way.

SO…. FINALLY after 6 years and over ONE MILLION RAW images processed inside of my workflow..  I give you, free of charge.. my first educational video on my data workflow.

Enjoy 😉



*** UPDATE  I am so very excited to have learned that this video has been featured on one of the most popular photo websites / blogs in the world!  F-Stoppers.  Be sure to check out the article that they wrote up, featuring my process and video!  ***

7 thoughts on “My Complete Photography Data Workflow

  1. Thank you for taking the time to put this together (great edit on the video, one of the easiest to watch) – it has had an immediate impact on how I manage our photos; I only wish I’d seen it before setting up my lightroom workflow. I have my LRCC set up as a managed catalog, and having watched your video twice now I am trying to find out how to change it from a managed to referenced catalog. Can you help point me in the right direction?
    Thanks again,

  2. Hi Dave, and thanks for watching my video and connecting with me here on my site. Yes, it can be frustrating re-thinking a workflow that you have already started. I went through the same –exact– thing some years ago. I started with Aperture, and it was all managed as well. LOL. The best thing (and only why that I know of) is to simply start a new catalog now that is referenced. So.. for example, lets say you end your current catalog now.. wrap up any edits you have, and when all the projects are ready for archive you can then export as I described in the video for archive. Once everything is done, you can just focus on the new referenced catalog. To make things less confusing as time goes on.. I would name that new catalog something like this.. yyyymmdd_master catalog. This way, if you need to reference a shoot or whatever after the fact.. you can do it by date range. If the session happened prior to the creation of the new catalog you know it was apart of the old structure. Hopefully that helps!

  3. Was afraid you’d say something like that…! Thanks for the prompt and comprehensive reply, really appreciate it.

  4. Hi, hope you don’t mind me coming back to you on this, but can you help clarify some detail – how do I specify my catalog as a referenced, not managed catalog? I’ve been trying to find any guidance, but all other blogs and information appear to imply there is only one ‘type’ of LR catalog, describing LR as a non-destructive referencing system (and a result of this is the images and their locations are managed). I created a new catalog to see if it would become obvious, but there was no option to differentiate managed vs referenced. Thanks…

  5. Hi David, I’m in the same situation. As I understand it, say you are JUST using Lightroom and not photo mechanic to import images. You must have a external drive, prior to importing into lightroom, make a folder on your “external drive” > client > raw. Now when you go to import in the import dialog box in Lightroom at the top click on “ADD” this will not copy the raw image but a “REFERENCE”( hences referenced catalog) copy of your images. Your Lightroom catalog is now like a Kindle book reading instead of a room full of books on shelves.

  6. I am also in search of some answers about the above topic. I decided after watching Travis’ video that my system needed to change. Luckily I was at the point where I was ready to go set up a workstation in my office, and move away from my laptop as my editing computer. So I have a new computer with 1 TB internal drive, as well as 3 Seagate 2TB externals to get things going. And of course a brand new, unburdened copy of Lightroom, as well as a copy of Photo mechanic (new to me, but seems good).
    So, the problem I seem to be having is, I have the raw images onto the “warehouse” drive, I have imported only the selects into LR, using the Add setting in import window. (I believe this is the way to make referenced catalog.) But the problem is LR is absolutely sucking. It takes forever to do anything. Much worse than old computer, and old “managed catalog” that has 65 thousand photos in it.
    Did I miss something? Or do something wrong? The only thing that jumps out at me, is the Folders tab on the left side of LR in library module is showing the warehouse drive. Is that right? Shouldn’t it show the internal drive? Where the reference catalog is?
    Thanks for any advice, help, or info anyone can provide.

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