File Workflow Q&A

A reader named Dwayne sent me an email this morning asking some questions about my file workflow.  I figured that other people might be interested in the answers, so I've turned it into a post.

Question #1 - Your using a raid 1, so do all of your working files as well as backup files live there?

Yes and no, my RAW and PSD files exist on my RAID 1 array (one of two arrays to be specific)  That way they're always available to me.  I'm not the type of guy who shoots 10GB a day, so I can fit everything I've ever shot and kept on a couple 1TB drive arrays.

I also backup to external discs as well.  In the past few days I've started using Microsoft's free Sync Toy utility (I'm a Windows user) to keep copies of everything on an external drive. Currently that's a bare 1.5TB Seagate in an eSata drive dock.  I keep the bare drives in a waterproof Pelican case which I can grab if I need to leave my place in a hurry.

Question #2 - Do you at some point delete your working files and only keep the edited ones and backups on your raid?

Nope, I've set up my system so that I never have to 'archive' anything.  I like having it all available all the time.  You never know when you're going to need to go dig something up.  There may be a time when it gets impractical, but drive sizes and file sizes seem to double at about the same rate, so I think I'll be ok into the forseeable future.

Oh and there isn't a difference between my 'working' and 'edited' files.  I export my RAW to PhotoShop as a 16bit - ProPhoto RGB file and then save it with all the layers as a PSD which is my final file. They're big and unwieldy at times, but I like the quality and also keep my editing options open.  I do export my 'finished' image (whatever that means artistically) to a jpeg file which gets sent up into the cloud using JungleDisk as a last ditch backup in case my neighborhood gets arsoned, but I consider the psd the final file. Unless I have to flatten a copy for delivery to a client of course.

Question #3 - Do you backup your raw straight from camera files to dvd?

No, I don't backup to DVD. The capacity just isn't there for me and it takes too much time. Plus then you've got books and books of burned DVDs to deal with. 

I prefer to backup to external drives.  When I get home from a shoot I'll copy the RAW images to my internal RAID as well as a couple external drives just in case.  If I had my laptop on site, my assistant or I will often copy them onto it's internal drive drive and maybe an little 2.5" external if I'm feeling anal.  On really serious shoots I'll send these external drives home with other people (my assistant and producer usually).

If anyone has any questions or if I was unclear anywhere, let me know and I'll do my best to clarify.