my flickr photostream

Monday, January 11, 2010

Managing Vacation Photos

Ship Ahoy!
© 2009 Simon Hucko

I've already written a bit about managing your workflow, but I thought I would talk specifically about how I handled photos on this trip.

I have a relatively small amount of card storage available to me, and I was certain I would go over capacity pretty quickly. Rather than go buy new CF cards that I'll likely never need again, I decided to bring my laptop and a card reader and use it to dump my photos onto every day. (There are specific devices that are basically a hard drive with a card reader attached that will do the same thing, but they're even more expensive than new memory cards.) After setting up a series of dated folders, I was ready to start shooting.

Over the past year my shooting style has evolved a bit. I tend to avoid pressing the shutter unless I'm reasonably confident that I have a good photo in the viewfinder. Often I'll adjust exposure and take another shot (learn to love your histogram), but keep the same basic framing. This philosophy greatly cuts down on the number of photos that I take to begin with, helping me not to fill up memory cards and cutting down on processing time later.

There are a few exceptions to this, though. Sometimes I think "there's a great image in there somewhere," and will spend a few minutes trying different approaches to the subject until I find it or realize that I just can't get it due to lighting, timing, physical obstacles, etc. Also, when I'm shooting people I'll often take a few quick photos in a row to make sure I capture the expression I want with their eyes open. (I think people have a sixth sense about cameras and manage to blink right when the shutter is tripped.) I also tend to shoot short bursts in low light to ensure that I get a sharp shot.

I don't usually recommend deleting photos in camera, but to save space I would delete shots that I knew right away were bad (missed exposure, obviously blurry, bad timing and whatnot). By being picky with what I shot and deleting the FUBARs, I never even came close to filling up my cards for the day.

When we finally got home, I realized I had no good way to get the 9GB of photos from my laptop to our iMac. In a perfect world I would have a networked folder on the iMac that I could upload all of the photos to. In the real world, I decided not to mess around with any of that and just used a thumb drive to move photos over 1GB at a time. A little bit of foresight would have saved me a good amount of time here, so learn from my mistake and have something set up for transfer.

I created a new folder in my Aperture library for the trip, and created several projects within the folder: one for each day (dated and labeled with where we were), one for bracketed shots that I took for some HDR images down the line, and one for a few panos that I'm going to stitch together. These got separate folders because I didn't have time to work on them right away, and this way I can find them easily and don't have to go digging through the rest of the photos.

Final photo count for the vacation? Just under 1000, which is about half of what I expected I would shoot (not that I'm complaining). After sorting and starring, I ended up with just under 500 to share with friends and family. Of these 500, I expect only about a dozen will make it to flickr.

Editing 500 photos was no fun task, but I made good use of Aperture's "lift and stamp" functionality. Because I shoot in RAW and have a preferred style of editing, every photo gets the same basic treatment (slight contrast boost, little bit of vibrancy, mild noise reduction, sharpening, small amount of vignette). By editing one "average" photo and lifting the adjustments, I saved a lot of time and was able to fly through most of the images. With these basic adjustments lifted and ready to go, I would adjust white balance if necessary, clean up exposure and highlight recovery if necessary, straighten and crop if necessary, then stamp the adjustments. Obviously, not every photo will benefit from this basic processing, but I could handle those on a case by case basis. I know that Lightroom has presets available, where you could do something very similar (and better, IMO, since you can set up a few different presets for different situations like landscape, portrait, low light, etc and have them ready to go). I'm not sure about other photo editing applications, but it's worth doing a little digging if you're going to have to process a high volume of images and have a somewhat standardized set of adjustments that you do to each one.

Sorry for the rather lengthy text-filled post, but there are a few good take away lessons in there. First, make sure you plan ahead and have enough storage space for all of your photos while on vacation. Second, make sure you have a good way of getting those photos on to your primary computer. Third, try to mean it each time you press the shutter, it will save you space and editing time. Finally, lift and stamp or presets make editing a lot easier and faster.

Plenty more to come about the trip. Stay tuned!


[title of blog] on flickr


  1. Great post with some helpful steps for shooting on vacation.

    I just have one more to add about the laptop -- bring a small form-factor backup drive as well, because once your images are on the laptop hard drive, if that disk were to fail (which, is a higher chance since you're traveling) or you drop the laptop in the water, or you forget it on the plane, you have another backup drive with your stuff on it. I'd offload to the laptop, backup onto the drive, then delete from the card, then put the backup drive someplace else - just to be sure.

    A pain for sure, but I've seen too many people lose important stuff to let that happen to _my_ important stuff.

  2. @ Matt - good point. I should have had a backup, but I don't own one of those nifty small form factor external drives and I was being cheap. Penny-wise, priceless data foolish, I know. I'll have to keep my eye out for an inexpensive little external I can throw in my laptop bag.

  3. Great cruise shot!

    I do the same thing: If I'm going on vacation and know I'll be taking a lot of pics, I just bring my cord and dump them onto my laptop at the end of each day. (Then again, I almost always have my cord and my laptop on me, sooo...) And yeah, editing even 100+ photos gets to be tedious. I've stopped doing as much post-processing again; just picking out a couple to work on and letting the rest go as is.

    I've also decided that when my Panasonic dies, I'm going back to a Canon (probably in the Powershot family). My Panny is great for what it is, but I never felt as much need to process the shots I got with my Canon.

  4. Solid post! I also like the insight into your general workflow - read that post as well. I've been thinking a bout putting up my workflow for the world to see - looks like that's my blog for today over on

  5. @ Kristan - Canon makes some very nice little point n shoots (I have a little Power Shot as well, makes a great "throw it in your pocket" camera). You might want to look for something that gives you some control over exposure modes, though - I think a full-auto camera (like my point n shoot) can be very limiting when it comes to creative shots. Doesn't usually bother me because I can pull out the DSLR, but as your only camera you might want to consider something a little more powerful. (Or not. Totally a personal decision)

    @ Matt Beaty - I know that I found these types of posts very helpful when I first got into photography. It's easy to get lost when you're trying to figure out how to manage your photos, so reading about what other people do gave me a good place to start. Looking forward to reading about your workflow.