Achieving the Ultimate Clutter-Free Archive Before Lunch

Achieving the Ultimate Clutter-Free Archive Before Lunch

It’s officially our second #WorkLessWednesday post (In case you missed our first one, check out tips to get a beautiful website in minutes). This week we got in touch with three of our organizational heroes to tell us how they make sense of their archives. Because, let’s be honest, this is a top area of procrastination for so many of us. While we know having a clutter-free archive will make life easier (for clients too), it’s not exactly top of the list of fun things to tackle. In this post, photographers break down their process to help you start off 2016 on the right organizational foot.

Here are some starter tips:

  • Don’t worry about all your old images. Start fresh with a new system moving forward. And then spend 30 min once a week (time you actually block on your calendar) organizing your older work.
  • Think about your system before starting. What file naming works best for locating your images the fastest? How can you fit organizing your work into your daily routine? It helps to write down the steps.
  • All the gear you need in one place. That means, cards, hard drives and software (e.g. Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, PhotoShelter). And set up a similar folder structure across them (we make it easy with our Lightroom Publish Tool!).

Read on to learn how some of the masters make it happen and #MakeItSimple.

Brian Schneider – advertising/editorial photographer


Brian is an advertising and editorial photographer who creates dynamic, engaging, and story-telling visuals for his clients both on-location and in-studio. His extensive client list ranges from lululemon athletica, Enterprise Car Rental, Lacrosse Magazine, a host of universities – and that’s just to name a few. Check out what he has to say about his commercial/portrait photoshoot workflow and archiving from start to finish.

During the shoot:

“When I’m on-set with a client, I shoot with my camera tethered to my laptop for immediate client viewing. A digital tech/assistant organizes the images throughout the shoot in Lightroom so we’re one step ahead when we get back to the office. While we’re on-set, we’ll back up the images to an external HD and I never format cards during the shoot. This gives me 3 backups of my images right off the bat.”

After the shoot:

“I move all the images to my main editing machine in the office and make an initial copy to my internal NAS (Network Attached Storage) RAID. I then use the Lightroom publish tool to upload my RAW images to my PhotoShelter archive. There, I will create a collection that looks like this: YYYY-MM-DD Publication Name: Contact Person or other identifier. We’ll then name the files based off the client’s shot list and with a sequential number that looks like this: YYYY-MM-DD_some-unique-name-for-the-assignment_001.jpg.”

Client Delivery:

“I use the client proofing tool to receive my client selections and they (along with the agency and my retoucher) have access to the gallery and images as needed. I’ll save their selects into a new gallery and then start post-production on those. I’ll do post in Lightroom or my retoucher will do her work. When finished I export to a PhotoShelter gallery inside their existing collection named FINALS, and then to my hard drive.”


“Once a job is complete, I’ll copy the job to my external NAS RAID and move it off my editing machine. I’ll then archive it on PhotoShelter to a base year collection.  My PhotoShelter archive and NAS RAID archive is organized in the same way.”

Anything other tips or advice?

“I love repeatable processes and firmly believe you can never have enough copies. It comes down to protecting your work product and the client, and this system works well for me. I plan on moving all of my RAW files from when I started over to PhotoShelter collections now that there is unlimited storage.”

Gavin Gough – travel and editorial photographer


Gavin is a freelance travel and editorial photographer who works on assignment for editorial, commercial and NGO clients and has photographed in over 50 countries around the world. His images have appeared on everything from postage stamps to billboards, magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, advertisements and a whole lot more. You may have seen his work in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Travel, Lonely Planet and a myriad of other publications. Read on to hear how Gavin uses Lightroom and PhotoShelter for his archiving needs.

Post Production:  

“I primarily use Adobe Lightroom for cataloguing and archiving. Lightroom’s customisable templates allow me to create a standard import procedure, so there’s built-in consistency right from the start of the production process.”  

File Naming:  

“I rename files with the date and time that the image was made, YYMMDD-HHMMSS followed by some identifying text, perhaps the assignment name, location and country, which can help images be referenced by search engines.”


“I build galleries around specific assignments, stories and locations and keep my Photoshelter galleries as exact, mirrored copies of the galleries in the Publish panel of my Lightroom catalogue.

I’ve actually outlined my complete post-production process in a book which contains free copies of the Lightroom templates I’ve created – the book is available for download at

Anything other tips or advice?

“I’m constantly making small tweaks here and there to fine-tune the process. I try to take a few days at the beginning of each year to review my working practices and make changes so I’m looking forward to working on that.”

Robert Seale – editorial, corporate, and advertising portraiture photographer


Robert Seale is a Houston commercial photographer specializing  in dynamic editorial, corporate, and advertising portraiture. A veteran in the business, Robert is known for his lighting skills and ability to coax multiple creative concepts from blazing fast shoots with celebrities and professional athletes. His clients include Sports Illustrated, Forbes, ExxonMobil, Pepsi – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Robert gives us an inside look on best practices for his production process.

Post Production:

“We first download work from cards using PhotoMechanic to either a 5K Imac (in the studio), or a Macbook Pro (on the road). Folders and files are renamed upon import with the year first, then the job title. Generally, I use stock symbol abbreviations and locations for companies we work with, then a location or job title, and then the sequence number that looks something like this, for example: 20151231_AAPL_Shanghai_00001.cr2. Then, we’ll backup to three external drives (We use G-Technology USB 3.0 drives on the road and various other brands in the studio).

The next step is to create a Lightroom library and let the previews build. And, from there, we’ll go on to do an initial edit and rough toning/color correction.”


“Once the initial edit is finished, we upload a PhotoShelter web gallery to the client for them to make selections. We then process, tone, and retouch the final file(s) and deliver securely to the client using a Photoshelter download link. This allows us to A) See what has been downloaded by the client rather than just having it float on a non-secure ftp space and, B) Create a daily workflow that disciplines us to push finished work to our Photoshelter archive.”

Archiving (RAW files):

“After the job is complete, we transfer RAW images from the laptop or 5K Imac by exporting the Lightroom library from the finished job to one of two Firmtek 5-bay eSATA enclosures. There is a mirrored RAID of around 6-8 months of our most recent work that’s easily accessible.  Older work sits in the enclosure on single drives and are not powered up unless needed. Backups are kept in a safety deposit box offsite.   These drives are named “JOBS_001, JOBS_002, etc. 

There are at least four copies of all of my work. Two from the initial mirrored RAID pair, and then off-site and on-site backup drives. I use a combination of brands and try to mix them up so all the backups aren’t from the same batch, but I’ve had pretty good luck with Western Digital Caviar Black and HGST drives. I use an empty bay in one of my Firmteks for making backups.”

Archiving (Processed files):

“I also have what I call the “ARCHIVE” drive. This contains client deliverables by client name and year, and also our portfolio photos.  All files on this drive are fully processed, retouched and saved as 16-bit TIFF files (and/or layered PSD files), ready to go. There are many backups of this drive in various places. If I had to grab one drive as a tornado approached, this would be it.  The firmtek enclosures are connected to a MacPro in the studio.  The main Lightroom Library on this machine currently contains around 500,000 photographs. This main Lightroom Library references all the previous raw shoots, as well as the finished material on the “ARCHIVE” drive.”

Anything other tips or advice?

“I try to make Lightroom collections of the best work in a given genre (Sports portrait, fitness, oil and gas, executive portraits, aviation, etc.) and do a “Best of” each year. Our goal is to push these to Photoshelter every so often.  If a stock request comes in, I can quickly pull up the relevant collections and look for a suitable file.  Collections also make portfolio editing and updating much easier.”


Our Final Tip for PhotoShelter Members (hint: Use Lightroom!)

Lightroom is one of the most popular, and efficient, ways to not just process, but also organize your work. What’s great is that you can sync it directly with PhotoShelter using our lightroom publish service. So, any change you make to your images in Lightroom will automatically be flagged and updated in your PhotoShelter account. You can also create galleries and collections for organization in your PhotoShelter account directly in Lightroom as well as update your metadata and view images already in your account. These are major time savors as there’s no need to jump back and forth as you’re organizing.  

Have your own archiving wizadry tips? Share them in the comments below!



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