Disperser Workflow

I was reading another blog and ended up leaving a long comment . . . which I did not want to waste. Ergo, this post. 


Original file

By the way, there is only one photo in this post . . . repeated another 11 times. Each version represents a different post-processing of the original using a Topaz Plugins. There are a few screen captures, but those are not photos.

You can click on each photo for a larger version. Or, if so inclined, you can go to the SmugMug Gallery HERE for a tad larger version yet. Honestly, because it’s a crop, the Original is only about 25% larger than what you get by clicking on the photos. 

Anyway, on with the post. 

Workflow refers to my process for handling, storing, backing up, and processing photos. In other words, the trip from the moment I press the shutter release to when a photo appears in one of my blog posts.


It all starts with me raising my camera — with a lens attached, cap off, and memory card in place — and clicking the shutter release button. I like to say “click” as opposed to “press”. People look at me weird when they hear me say “press” but ignore me when I say “click”. Go figure.

Then, this happens. 

The mechanics of storage:
I download from the camera using Nikon View. This allows me to quickly go through the photos once on the hard drive (drive G:) and get rid of the crappy photos. It also has various options for renaming and adding keywords to the photos. I prefer to download them first and then add the keywords using the interface below. 

view-nx-2Over the years, I worked out a system where I arrange photos by camera model, year, and date taken. For example:
G:\Nikon Originals\D200_2010\MISC_030610_1 contains the photos from March 6, 2010. It’s a subfolder of the D200_2010 folder which has all the photos I shot in 2010 using my D200 camera. That folder is itself a subfolder of the Nikon Originals folder which holds all of the photos I’ve shot with all my Nikon cameras. The “_1” suffix identifies the directory as a photo directory. The “_2” suffix identifies the videos directories. 

I have D200 folders for the years 2009 through 2015. I have D700 folders for the years 2011 through (now) 2017. The D100 folders are all in one directory spanning 2002 through 2009.

Once I download the photos and get rid of the obvious crap ones, I copy the directory to a corresponding file system on my drive H: (both drive G: and drive H: are on the same machine). Only after I have two copies do I format the memory card in preparation for the next set of photos. If I’m pressed for time and can’t make a copy right away, I store the card with the photos until I can back them up and meanwhile load a blank card into the camera.


Once a month (or thereabout), I attach an external drive and copy the new photos for the month onto the drive. Then, I attach a different external drive and copy them there too.

Newly added procedure: If you are a Prime member, Amazon Drive (or Prime Photo) offers unlimited storage for photos and 5GB for videos. I believe there are some restrictions as to what they call a “photo”. HOWEVER, for $60 a year, you get unlimited storage, period. Photos, music, videos, documents . . . if you can upload it, you can store it there, no limits or restrictions. I’m in the process of uploading my whole catalog of photos onto Amazon Drive. It’s a little slow, but I got time and it will give me an offsite backup that I don’t have to worry about too much. I opted for this additional storage because I’m approaching 3TB worth of stuff I don’t want to lose.

Note: the reason I went with Amazon is that, like Apple, their terms of service state that they will not use or do anything with the photos or documents you upload. No targeted ads, they will not sample them, they will not mine them . . . they won’t do anything other than to keep them for you. Essentially, it’s like renting a storage unit in the real world; you can put whatever you want in there (almost – most rental places frown on the storage of dead bodies) and you are the one with the keys.


The above procedure is repeated for my Lumix Point-and-Shoot and for photos taken with my Samsung phone. The phone photos are also automatically backed up to both Amazon and Google.

My drive hierarchy looks like this:


Each of the subdirectories looks like this (.NEF is the RAW format for Nikon):


The Samsung directory structure is the same as on my phone. By the way, I have a 64GB memory card in my phone and I’m using about 40GB for the photos I have on there. 


So, that’s the storage process. I’ll mention the other graphic directories below. Ah, what the heck; I’ll mention them now. 

G:\Graphics — this hold miscellaneous graphics; cartoons, screen captures, stuff I download, temporary files I create using screen captures.

G:\Graphics – Lightroom — This holds all of the files for the various lightroom directories. I group them here so that they are easier to find and manage. I used to have them in the individual Nikon directories, but that got unmanageable as I moved things around and did other maintenance. Here’s what that looks like:


Notice there is no dedicated lightroom catalog for the Samsung photos. I typically will edit those on the phone. The ones I do bring into Lightroom are added to the latest catalog. 


I don’t worry too much about the catalog files. I don’t physically create a copy when I import files into Lightroom. I used to because that’s how I created backup copies. The problem was that it made managing the photos more difficult than it needs to be. I now just “add” the photos to Lightroom without creating a copy. 

G:\Graphics – Lumix — This holds photos and videos from my Panasonic PnS.

G:\Graphics – Nikon Originals — Already covered.

G:\Graphics – Samsung — Already covered.

G:\Graphics – Working — As the name implies, all my “working” files are stored here. This is what it looks like:


I’m only showing a few directories because the G:\Graphics – Working directory has 150 sub-directories. However, notice I am showing the 0000-2016 directory. That directory is about to be renamed to 2016 and a 0000-2017 directory will be added for this year. 

The reason I use the “0000” in front of the name is because I want those directories to show up at the top so that I don’t have to hunt for them. Those are the directories I work with most often . . . well, except for the Garage Sale, eBay Stuff, and Craigslist directories. I’m not doing much with them right now since we sold pretty much everything we own, but there are photos in there that I want to do stuff with . . . someday. 

It might seem like I’ve not processed much for 2016 . . . but here’s what just the Miscellaneous directory looks like:


And there are subdirectories below those. 

So, that covers the storage and organizational aspect of the workflow. Next up, the post-processing process.


The Process:
After the initial weeding out of bad photos, I consider each and every photo as worthy of publication. The only photos I delete are the obviously bad out-of-focus or shaky photos. On rare occasions — when I shoot bursts — I’ll clean up all but one or two of a series that are essentially the same.

Note: some might dispute it, but given today’s post-processing choices, I stand by my assertion that every photo can be made interesting and worthy of showing. THIS post has photos I had deleted as unusable. A few years after deleting them, I went through my CD backups and retrieved them because the processing tools got more powerful. Hey! I’m going to redo that post with the tools I have today just to see if I can do even better. Don’t worry, not now; that will be later this month.

Photos are imported into Lightroom in catalogs arranged by cameras and years. When I read them in, I have the import function apply a preset that will change the Camera Calibration to “Neutral”, change the sharpening to zero, and switch on the lens calibration.


I used to do all my post-processing in Lightroom. That means I have a large number of canned presets for all sorts of effects and tweaks. For instance:


Notice that the preset I used is one I had developed for a photo of the Moon. The names of the presets serve as reminders and not to limit their application. So, for instance, I might apply a hummingbird preset on a flower and a Hawk preset on a horse. 

I now use a different sequence. Individual photos are tweaked (if necessary) for brightness and contrast. Very light tweaks. From there, the photos I want to publish or share go through the onOne Effects module where I have a number of presets saved depending on the photos. Generally, I add a bit of sharpening and tonal contrast. 

Those photos return to Lightroom where I have a few post-onOne presets that will add additional punch the photo if needed.


At this point, I am ready to export . . . unless I want to play with some of my other programs (like the Topaz plugins). Generally, I do this on the spot for interesting photos and I save the results to a separate folder for use at a later time. Most of the Topaz editing is done on the processed files. The onOne module produces PSD files and the Topaz Plugins will produce TIF files. I also use DxO and it produces DNG files. I set things up like that so that I know where the various processed copies come from. 

All those files get very large — 60MB to upwards of 200MB depending on the processing. I like to do all the processing I need on those big files and output them as JPG files so that I can delete those huge working files right away. 


When I do export, I export at a 1280pxl resolution for the blog and at full resolution for Smugmug.

The template I use in WordPress will show a maximum width of 640pxl, but I link to the 1280pxl version so that if anyone clicks on the photo they can see a version roughly twice as large. I don’t limit the size when exporting for SmugMug. The originals (full) versions are usually available in SmugMug for anyone interested in really examining any given photo.


Note that I export using 72dpi since that’s the maximum screen resolution. When I print anything, it’s at 300dpi. I also compress to about 80% quality. I could go less and in most cases it would not matter, but for certain photos the higher compression becomes noticeable.  

There is one final step . . . I put a digital mark on each photo using the Digimarc Plugin in Photoshop. I run it in batch mode before posting the photos on the blog. The Digimarc signature allows me to monitor if anyone is using the photos without my permission. 

Not that anyone would steal my work when so many photos are out there available for free, but these are my photos, and if anyone is going to make money from them, I think it should be me. 

And, that’s it. Time-consuming; some might even venture to call it anal, but that’s how I roll. 

Now, the problem is that I have additional photos and I’m all out of words . . . I’m just going to paste the photos. Hopefully, my readers won’t mind. 






That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


Note: if you are not reading this blog post at DisperserTracks.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.


Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Finally, if you interpret anything on this blog as me asking or wanting pity, encouragement, or advice to better my life, know my subtle mix of irony, sarcasm, and humor is blowing right by you.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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9 Responses to Disperser Workflow

  1. mvschulze says:

    Desire, comprehension, intelligent organization, reward. And we’re all the benifactories! Just shows …life can be good, and fun! M :-)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. oneowner says:

    First, Let me state that I love the leaf photo. It’s great even without the plugin versions (which are also nice).
    I don’t use the Nikon software at all. Just Lightroom. When I import into LR the files are converted automatically to the .dng format. This is a great archival format and it reduces the file size by about 1/3. The Nikon format files are discarded.
    I am looking for a way to embed a larger file size in the WordPress post but I need to do a lot more research on this. I like your SmugMug gallery so I may go in that direction. TBD.
    My file structure is very simple compared to yours. I rely heavily on shot date and pay no attention to the camera used. I don’t have many cameras anyway but now I’m relying more on the phone. All the phone photos are copied to a Google gallery automatically, which is nice.
    Another thing I find interesting is your Amazon backup. I have been meaning to look into this and try it out for 2016 photos first. Question: Is it easy to retrieve photos from Amazon once upladed? And is there any compression added to the files?


    • disperser says:

      Thanks you, Ken. I used to do the dng conversion when I imported files into lightroom and those files were in a different drive, but it got difficult managing two different sets of files. Also, when I converted to DNG I always embedded the original NEF file (which increased the size of each file).

      The reason I did that is because the DNG conversion changes the RAW file data.

      Here is an article on both DNG and Lightroom.

      The author is a proponent of Capture One but the argument for the original RAW versus the DNG remains the same. I mostly went to DNG+NEF to give me the widest possible choice in the future, but there is little chance that Nikon will go out of business (or Canon, or Sony, etc). I now save strictly NEF files because it is the native format from the manufacturer.

      As for Amazon Drive, there is no compression; the file size remains the same and the files are saved with the same file structure as in the hard drive. Downloading them is a right-click, much like saving any file from the web. The downloads are much faster than the uploads (a function of the ISP speed, not Amazon). My D100 folder has 92GB of data and that took two leisurely days to upload. I did it in chunks because the occasional file fails to load. I get a warning of which file failed and I go back to load them individually. That’s more manageable in small chunks than handling all 11,331 files at once.

      Of the 11,331 files, twelve failed to load. It also knows if the file was loaded before and asks you if you want to overwrite it, skip it or rename it.

      One thing, raw files are not shown at full resolution online. You get the carrier preview embedded in the RAW file. So, while you can see what the photo is, it’s not good for examining it closely. JPG files you can see at full resolution.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The leaf on the snow is beautiful in each and every photo…jewel-like in some of the photos!
    And it is has important analogies to life. I won’t go into all of the ones I’m thinking about right now. (I’ll spare you! :-D ) But, just one is that we all have purpose, value, and beauty in each season of our lives…even in the final season…and purpose beyond the final season.
    HUGS and hope you have a happy whee-kend, Emilio! :-)


  4. Too much hard work involved for my liking, so I’ll just leave it to you; Life to short, and anyway I don’t have that much left.


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