Lightroom archiving and backup revisited

A while back I described my Lightroom 2 backup routine. A couple of recent blog posts around the web have given me some new things to think about with regard to backup and workflow.

Thomas Hawk writes about his workflow and Eric Scouten follows up with some thoughts. A core part of Thomas’s workflow is quick development of any and all keeper photos from a shoot and immediate export of those images to JPG. He re-synchronizes those JPGs with his Lightroom library and moves all the raw images offline (to a drobo; Jon at blurbomat extolls the drobo’s virtues, too) , and doesn’t apply keywords and such except to the finished JPGs.

Reacting to this, Eric notes a couple of things that get my attention (his emphasis):

  • The act of choosing what’s in and what’s out becomes an affirmative process rather than a process that’s about rejecting photos. Why not make the selection process a happy one?
  • This means the “selects” catalog is always in tip-top shape whenever I need to show someone my current work. Right now, the “main” catalog always contains some number of rough photos that haven’t been filtered out to the archive catalog.

By quickly moving from raw to selected and and “finished” JPG, the process builds the catalog of preferred images and gets the unused images out of the way. And applying keywords and other metadata only to the keepers dramatically reduces the overall metadata workload.

Where does this point me? I have a couple of thoughts:

  • Moving raw images offline, leaving only the JPGs readily-accessible, is a great way to impose some discipline over the “ooh, I might use that one someday” tendency. On the other hand, I’m not shooting in volume like Thomas is; while storage is an issue, there’s definitely a creative trade-off here. Until I shift my raw images to my network drive (usually about monthly), I’ll revisit a folder half a dozen times or more to see if there’s something interesting there that I didn’t see before. Thomas’s workflow, and that considered by Eric, are very different from mine though there is something appealing in it.
  • What this really opens up for me is a little bit of thinking about the intent and purpose of the photos that I take. Making sense of workflow and eventual archiving is a way to be conscientious of why I take photos. Is it because I’m an archivist? Is it for artistic purposes? Is it because I want to build a portfolio? I suppose I have a streak of all of those in me. I like the shooting itself, and I like the workup in Lightroom as well. So for me, it doesn’t quite make sense to workup photos quickly and move them offline.
  • However, it does make sense to develop a solid “keepers” collection as a sort of middle road; this collection gets updated frequently, but whether to keep those images as raw or JPG isn’t something I’ve quite sorted out.
  • What about those “someday” images? I need to consistently flag images with some potential and return to them regularly to re-evaluate.

Thoughts? How do you manage the possibility of future image development with your goals, limited creative time and storage space?