Monday, 20 April 2015

Photography Workflow (Again) - Part 1

Upgrading to Yosemite SP2, or whatever they call it, brought Photos to my Air. That made me take another look at how I organise my photo collection. I had a crack at that last autumn, but lost the motivation to carry on.

What did the old-school photographers do? The famous guys who shot actual film? Turns out that what they really did was shoot reels and reels of it, and then tossed them undeveloped into a draw. Even when they developed the reel, it was likely dumped into a box and forgotten. Seems that for many of the big name pioneers, photography was compulsive, and that it’s taking the shots that matters, rather than cataloguing, displaying and archiving them. All those undeveloped reels are then a sad story of what happens when we dedicate our lives to something, and the market moves on, leaving us behind.

And then they were, after all, professionals, and if no-one was buying, then why waste money on the work? The costs of printing, and the time it took to make a good print, meant that the professionals mostly left the reels as negatives, maybe made contact sheets, and rarely made actual prints. The point was to take photographs and then sell them, not to make family albums and scrapbooks.

That’s not the point for ordinary folk. Ordinary Folk want to use their photographs to show off what a great life they have share their experiences with their friends. Millions of gallons of oil are burned annually to cool data centres dedicated to storing and delivering photographs of cats, weddings and three girls striking silly poses inside a nightclub. Ordinary Folk want to walk look through their albums, or scroll through their Photos, to walk down Memory Lane.

Gratuitous photograph - cropped in Picasa
I’m not a professional and I’m not Ordinary Folk either. I’m not keen on Memory Lane, and my life is utterly boring. My photos aren’t about my life, but about what I see, so I guess that makes me an amateur photographer. That is, my attitude to photos is the same as a professional’s, but I don’t make money out of it. I’d like to find the better images I take, print them and hang them around my house. Maybe I’d put them on Flickr or Instagram. Some appear in this blog. I had hundreds of prints of film photographs I took back when I was using an OM-10 and one day went through them, kept the best and discarded the rest.

What I want to do is work on digital photographs. On my Mac Air. At the moment, the archive is on a 2TB Western Digital NAS, and Macs…. really suck at handling NAS. My Air won’t even automatically re-connect to one when coming out of standby or sleep mode, something Windows does automatically. Mac laptops are designed as stand-alone machines for use in cafes. Sure I can see the archive using cover flow in Finder and then inspect the picture in more detail, but that's not the experience I think I want. What I really want is Irfan View for Mac, but that’s not going to happen. Irfan View creates what amounts to a huge contact sheet, but without all the overhead of the usual photo-management packages.

The bigger photo-management packages use databases to handle thumbprints and editing actions, and to remember where the package put the original files and where it created any working copies. If users are allowed to move files around willy-nilly the management packages will lose track of them, pushing holes in all those albums and themes, and breaking links between a picture and the editing actions. Clearly the guys who designed Picasa and Photos don’t like the idea of having source files on a NAS device, and maybe for that reason. This can make these packages space-hogs.

At which point, I thought it might be a good idea to find out how large my archive is. And that, with its consequences, will be revealed in the second part of this post.

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