For every image a photographer shares with an audience, there are many others sitting unseen in personal archives – some stored, some discarded and some forgotten. But as a photographer's archive is a valuable resource, a reliable and efficient photo management system is an important business tool, both for unearthing hidden gems and forging new opportunities.
As a full-time professional photographer and filmmaker, Canon Ambassador Clive Booth has amassed huge numbers of images working on advertising campaigns, commercials and short films for corporate clients including ASUS and Intel, fashion labels such as House of Holland and luxury brands Hackett London and Aston Martin.
"I'm sitting on tens of thousands of images," he says. "At the office I have an 80TB mirrored RAID with back-up." Clive, who originally trained as a graphic designer before working for the BBC as a cameraman, has learnt the importance of having an effective photo management system to easily access his diverse image archive, from fashion and beauty to portraiture.
Here he reveals how he conscientiously organises his extensive image library, and outlines the benefits of having a reliable back-up strategy, while Chris Cartledge, Product Marketing Specialist at Canon Europe, shares the benefits of Canon's new cloud-based photo platform, image.canon.
Like many professionals, Clive takes full advantage of both local and cloud-based storage and editing. "I always shoot in RAW," he says. "I use a non-destructive workflow [making changes without overwriting the original image data] across desktop and cloud, so I can jump straight from my laptop to my smartphone and continue to edit. Everything I can do on the desktop I can do from the palm of my hand.
"There's a really great argument for using files this way. I shot some images the other day and I can go through any of the galleries on my phone – all the RAW files sit in the cloud – and the adjustments to the previews are in sync with my laptop."
New service image.canon offers photographers free cloud storage and seamless transfer of images, straight from a Canon camera. Replacing Canon's iMage Gateway, image.canon provides a centralised hub where photos and movies – including RAW images and 4K clips – can be safely stored and readily accessed for 30 days.
"Almost all Wi-Fi-enabled Canon cameras are compatible, and cameras released after the launch of image.canon will automatically transfer images and movies to the service when connected to the internet," explains Chris.
"The initial version of the image.canon service will allow users to store up to 10GB of photos and movies in long-term online storage, and transfer an unlimited number of photos and movies to a connected service such as Google Drive and directly to a home computer," explains Chris.
image.canon provides long-term storage of an entire photographic library in social media size, plus 10GB available to store the most important original pictures in full resolution (including RAW). The cloud-based service is set to expand during the year to further complement Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) editing software.
Clive keeps every image he takes, doing varying degrees of edit depending on his preferences. "I never delete a file, RAW or JPEG," he says. "I'll do a one to five-star edit. The five, four and maybe three-star selections are the photos I'm sure I want to keep."
When developing a photo management system, it's crucial to build in protections, including embedding copyright information into each image's EXIF data and ensuring files are named appropriately for ease of use.
"Images tend to end up everywhere in this day and age, so it's important to include your copyright and other relevant information – usage instructions, contact details and agent's details if you have one – on every single one," says Clive. "I add my copyright information and then categorise them in named folders on a drive.
"What I should do, and I know I should do, is keyword everything – but I don't. I think a lot of creatives are the same – I just want to get at the image files." If adding keywords to all files seems too daunting, it can be incredibly valuable to add just a few to help when hunting for specific images at a later date.
The key is to keep them relevant, says Clive. "Make the extra effort and put in a few keywords, such as people's names."
Whether you're working in the studio or shooting on location, Clive stresses how essential it is to make a back-up and then a second – and keep them apart, ideally storing one off-site in the cloud.
"I can tell you some horror stories," he says. "One photographer had an intricate scale model of an oil refinery built in the desert. After the shoot, the model was taken down. That night their vehicle was broken into and the image drives were stolen. The team had to completely rebuild the model and reshoot it. Imagine how you and your clients would feel if you couldn't reshoot – if it was one-off, like a wedding…"
"If I'm working on location with my laptop, everything gets backed up to two ultra-portable 2TB SSDs, which I then separate in case something happens to them. The worst mistake you can make is to delete a folder that you haven't backed up. My biggest fear is losing data, which is why cloud storage is so important."
*As of May 2020, cameras that use the CR3 RAW format can transfer RAW images to image.canon. RAW files from cameras that record in the CR2 format may be supported in a future service update.