Backup, Import, Backup

There are so many details to think about when deciding how to store images, how to label image files, how to backup images and which images should be imported into a library program. This article discusses an overview for the method of getting images from a camera (or scanner) into a Adobe Lightroom while maintaining an appropriate level of backups. This article will not discuss the pros and cons of different media, but overview the need for using multiple medias as backups.

The title of this article is really the summary of the entire workflow. Backup, Import, and Backup again. The order is also important, but mostly because of a limitation of many digital camera interfaces today. This article was also developed based on some of the other detailed work done in importing images into Lightroom and to give a further framework in the Image Conversion Workflow.

The speed of many digital cameras is very slow when uploading images. Only a negative scanner seems slower. Be that as it may, Adobe Lightroom seems to magnify the slowdown when importing directly from a camera. Thus, the first step: Backup.


The first step in our workflow is to backup the images from the digital card. If you use a negative scanner, then the first step is to scan the image to a backup medium. In my case, the backup is a USB mirrored hard drive attached to my workstation.

I use a Leica DLux3 which is a remarkable pocket camera that takes RAW images. I use the SD card reader in my computer, insert the SD card and copy the images to my external hard drive. See the article I wrote on naming directories for digital negatives and slides to determine how you will organize the image files. This is the fastest method for copying images from a camera – no additional processing in between. Next, we import.

10/13/2008 EDIT: Also see the article that discusses Backing Up Rejects.


The importing function in Adobe Lightroom is a powerful tool. With a little practice and some digging, many options are available through the import dialog. If you copied your images to a backup in the first step, then the import step should use the ‘copy the files to a new location’ option.

If the files are RAW then you can also check the option to convert the files to DNG. Adobe’s Digital Negative format continues to undergo improvements. The two primary reasons to consider using DNG formats are a) Adobe has made the format open source and it should be around for a long time to come and b) DNG formats are smaller than RAW formats because of some lossless compression routines. For TIFF files, JPEG formats and others, the DNG format doesn’t offer much, but for RAW files, DNG is worth a look.

At this point you can also choose a MetaData preset or create one on the fly. Thus, we can be importing images from a soccer game shoot and automatically set the photographer’s information as well as the soccer match information in the MetaData. Presets for MetaData are like bulk copies. They instantly make an array of changes to a group of files while they are importing. This saves mutliple selections and later typing.Also, keywords can also be added at the import stage. Similar to the MetaData presets, images can have basic tags created to get started.

This is not to say that further refining will not be necessary. In fact, changes should be necessary. There should be some title and description information put in the MetaData for each image. There should also be some keywords that will apply to some images and other keywords for other informations. The point is that much of the repetitive information can be input easily for all the images. This is the whole idea of an efficient workflow.


The last section almost could have been labeled Import-Backup. The importing dialog is the perfect time to make a copy of the images for our last backup. Simply setting the end of the dialog to copy the files to a CD when finished will add some time to the process, but will provide us with a moveable copy that could even be stored off site.

The copy to CD routine in Lightroom 1.4.1 seems to copy the images to a temporary directory and then burn them to a CD. However, the temporary files are not removed from the disk directory. Yet, when you export a new set of images to burn to a CD, Lightroom removes those old files first.

Exporting to CD can be done at a later time, but backups tend to get delayed if they are not completed when the images are added to the library. Then you find yourself getting busy and wanting to review the images. Who needs another backup? Well, the first backup is on a hard drive and the working copy is on another hard drive. Hard drives are prone to eventual failure, or in my case, prone to electrical failure from lighting strikes. So, to truly protect your images, using a backup that can be separated and that is not prone to descrtuction like the others.


The whole point of this article is to let us sit back and evaluate our current import strategy. Using the concepts above we have several advantages. First, we make a quick copy of our images and secure the location they are stored. Then we import them using presets to save lots of typing and reviewing. Finally, we make another backup to a CD or DVD as the import is taking place.

Next, we will delve into the details and choices available in the exporting dialog. Stay tuned!!

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