This is the second part in a series looking at my photograohy workflow. The first part is here.

This post looks at how I handle digital asset management, backup, and digital obsolescence. These are things that are often overlooked early on, and wish I’d given more thought to before I had many thousands of files to manage.

Digital Asset Management

First of all then, digital asset management. I’m, currently, a heavy Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop user. I know there’s a growing dislike for the Adobe suite, particularly their licensing model. All I can say is the licence suits me, and the software is mature and excellent. I share concerns about the future, particularly of Lightroom. But I hope to be able to move to a different platform reasonably easily in the future should I need to (see the discussion on digital obsolescence below).

I use Lightroom to organise my files, held in a single catalog. I make use of tags and folders to keep everything organised. Generally I’ll work within a collection set for a shoot, with separate folders for processed and unsorted files, and finally a folder for print potentials.

New images enter my workflow one of two ways. Either by simple direct import from an SD card using the import module, or through Adobe Cloud Sync.

One of the really great things about the Adobe suite is Lightroom mobile. I have an iPad Pro, with an SD card reader. When I’m out and about (or just sitting on the sofa with a glass of whiskey) I load photos directly into Lightroom mobile on my iPad. From there they start to automatically upload to the Adobe Cloud. They don’t stay there for long, I only use Adobe Cloud as a nifty way to transfer files.

Lightroom mobile is a fantastic way to quickly shift through photos from a shoot, marking images as accepted or rejected. It’s also great for starting to post process images when you’re away from the computer. It’s not a patch on the desktop process, and colour management is all but impossible, but as place to start it’s great.

The really neat thing here is that all the images I import into Lightroom mobile get synced to Lightroom classic on the desktop. This includes all the meta data, tags, and any edits.

This mean that once I’m back at my desk all my new photos are synced to Lightroom classic and read for me. I move them from ‘All Synced Photos’ to a dedicated folder in my catalogue. I then delete them from synced photos, which removes them from Adobe Cloud and my iPad. This frees up space, and means I use my iPad as temporary place to sort and start to edit photos before they make it to the desktop.


Once files enter my workflow they’re backed up automatically. Because Adobe Cloud sync to the desktop is automatic this all starts to happen as soon as I load photos for viewing on my iPad.

A good backup strategy needs a number of things.

  • Files should be readily available
  • Files should be locally backed up in a redundant store
  • Files should be backed up to a second location off site
  • Backup recovery should be regularly tested

To do this I store all my files on a small local RAID array. This consists of two 4Tb drives configured using RAID 1. That way files are automatically mirrored across both discs. If one fails the other keeps going and I can hot swap a replacement.

Overnight files are backed up to Amazon S3. S3 is a very cheep cloud storage solution. I’ve configured S3 so I’m using Glacier. This is even cheaper in return for slower retrieval times. It might seem on to remove file form one cloud provider (Adobe CLoud) only to upload to to another (Amazon) later on. This was a deliberate choice. I have more faith in the long term likelihood Amazon will continue to provide quality of service in S3 than I do Adobe.

I use MPS360 to orchestrate my overnight backups to S3. This software is also good for recovery, which I test periodically. Files in S3 are not encrypted or compressed, so they’re easy to recover without any special software should MPS360 not be available at some point in the future.

Digital Obsolescence

Managing the risk of digital obsolescence is a concern. Just because I can read all my files now is no guarantee I will be able to in the future. Unlike analog negatives, my RAW files need special hardware to view.

The main concern here is availability of software to read the formats I store data in. For example, should Adobe decide to drop Lightroom would I lose the ability to read all my edits? To mitigate this I have Lightroom store a sidecar file with every image I process in the develop module. That way I at least have an open description of my edits that I can use in another editing package.

RAW files are also a concern. I’m an Olympus user. Olympus RAW files are .ORF format, which is in effect proprietary. While Olympus RAW files are readable by most RAW processors, I can’t be sure that will always be the case. Given that Olympus cameras seem to face an uncertain future this is especially worrying.

There are two mitigation’s for this. The ORF format is reasonably open, and we might hope there are sufficient Olympus users out there to make community (or commercial) support for the format viable, at least until we have a better solution.

Secondly photography is all about making images, which for me means making prints. Prints, of course, suffer none of these issues of digital obsolescence. If I’ve got a print I’ll always be able to enjoy the photograph. That is provided the print was made using archival standards and stored properly, which is a topic for a future post.