Managing image assets has become a necessary task for photographers, and is even a more daunting task for illustrators and designers. Here I'll talk about some things on the photo end of things, in particular my ruthless photo selection and editing.
For my photo work, things for me are relatively simple. I keep a master file bin with raw camera files separated into folders with date of shoot and subject. The files are renamed and given a unique ID. Part of what streamlines my photo work is that I tend to treat my shooting as if it were film, really thinking about each shot, shooting less, and winding up with perhaps 4 raw files of a subject such as a landscape or a particular flower instead of 24. If I have to shoot that 24 for insurance, such as when there is changing light in a sunset, then I am pretty ruthless in editing after I dump the card into the computer. In shooting a sunset scenic, I rarely wind up keeping more than a dozen shots unless there are architectural elements involved that need special treatment, like different framing or camera angles. Even when I take a high number of shots though, it's the ruthless editing that helps me keep my sanity.
Workflow then depends on what I intend to do with the images.Unless any are going immediately for stock or are for a client job, they'll usually just lay there until they are needed. I don't process every single Raw file. The convenience of Adobe Bridge allows me to preview all of my Raw files, do my culling of files, and keep only what I need. The little color label feature in Bridge lets me designate photos with a color code if needed. I use one color for client, another for stock, and a third for exclusive rights sold, meaning I need to leave the exclusives alone. In the case of a stock photo, I'll open up in photoshop with most adjustments already done via the raw processing, meaning white balance, exposure, and basic noise reduction. I try my best to get images correct in the camera, so rarely is there anything more needed in Photoshop. The master is saved as a PSD file within the appropriate subject folder with any additional needed adjustments. Then it's just an output to jpeg for stock or tiff for client use. So you ask, what about cloning and all of that other fun stuff? Well I rarely do any of that anymore. I look for the distracting elements and pay more attention while shooting, which in the end saves me work time.
Note that this is for static subjects, and does not apply to sports, some studio shoots, and nature shooting like birds in flight or night experiments like fireworks. This is where more variables come into play, but ruthless editing helps me out here a lot. I stopped being a digital packrat about two years ago, and it has made life much easier. Do you have a hard time letting go? If you feel that you have improved your shooting over time, take a look at some of your old archived photos, and see if they are now "all" truly worth keeping. Is that 500 shots of the same lighthouse on the same day taken in the same hour really worth the hard drive space? De-clutter even just a little, and make your life easier.
For stock shots, the final jpegs, with the unique ID still intact, goes into a folder called "Stock Pool" where they are then keyworded. Client shots go into a different folder called Client Output. A simple spreadsheet is kept for both the Stock and Client folders using the unique image ID, date of output, and any notes. I also have a folder called "Snippets", little utility images that could easily be cut with the pen tool for composites and digital art. At the end of a work session, everything is then backed up onto multiple external drives, one of which is rotated to an off site location, and I never format the camera cards until my backups are done.
Photo credits: Ctacik.