You've probably heard the term workflow being bandied about in photography circles but for those among you who are a little sketchy on the details let me introduce you to the basics of giving your photography work some flow.
What is it? Quite simply it's the steps involved in getting your photos from conception to finished product. Professional photographers (and experienced amateurs) will often have a well honed workflow that allows them to edit their photos quickly and efficiently.
Quick and efficient sounds good, but how do I make it happen? Glad you asked, this is something that doesn't happen instantly. You need to develop your own workflow, as you become a more experienced photographer you will most likely start to develop some sort of workflow naturally. To make it quick and efficient you need to think about it and give it a bit of structure.
Ok, so where do I start? With taking the photos. Decide if you want to shoot in RAW (if your camera gives you the option) or JPEG (and which size JPEG) and if you want to use manual or automatic settings. Making these choices doesn't mean that's what you have to do every time you take a photo just that those are the settings you will use most often. For example I nearly always shoot in RAW but if I find myself desperate for memory card space I will switch to JPEG to get it.
Awesome, got the photos now what? Get them on to your computer in an orderly (ish) manner. It's tempting to dump and run with digital cameras but be warned if that's your method you're pretty quickly going to have an overflowing hard drive (or ten). How you organise your photos depends on the programs you use for importing and editing and your own preferences. I personally keep it simple and import using a card reader direct to a folder labelled with date and rough location (e.g. 11/08/09 Volksgarten Playground) but programs like iPhoto will offer to organise for you and use fancy technology like geographic tagging and face recognition to make it uber-organised!
All organised, what's next? Get selective and back up. I create a new folder inside the dated folder and name it "potentials" then I drag in all the photos I think have potential. Anything the doesn't make the cut gets deleted. Next I back up the photos that did make the cut to an external hard drive (I have my computer set up to automatically back up so I never forget to do it, if you have software that can do this it's worth setting up). I recommend backing up (to an external hard drive, DVD, or online storage site) before you clear the memory card. Once everything is backed up you can move straight on to editing or, like me, you can do a bit more organisation first. I make a second folder marked "4/5 star shots" and drag in photos that look like the cream of the crop from that particular batch.
Culled and back up, are we done? Not yet. Next comes editing but that's a story for another day (check out part 2 coming soon).