Workflow Step #2 – Image Download

Image download is the simplest and most straightforward of all the workflow steps.

There are two basic approaches. They differ only in the way the camera’s memory card is connected to the computer. This link describes both from the viewpoint of a Windows user – Mac folks can easily translate since their computers are by definition “user friendly” 😉

  1. Connect the camera directly to the computer. Your camera usually has a USB port for this purpose.
  2. Remove the memory card from the computer and insert it into a memory card reader (attached to or a part of the computer).

Once the memory card is attached to the computer via either of these two methods, the memory card will show up on your computer’s file storage display – typically as a removable disk drive. The files from the memory card (consider the card to be a disk drive or folder for this purpose) are transferred in exactly the same manner as any other file transfer.  If you know how to move and copy regular files from folder to folder then you know all that you need to know – image files are no different. If you don’t – it’s time to learn to use your computer as this isn’t a photography unique topic.

An aside – If you’re into hi-tech (who’s not?) you can skip both of the “connect the memory card” methods cited above. Eye-Fi memory cards (SD only) are wireless so there’s no USB nor card reader needed.

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I mentioned in step #1 that memory card speed also could have an impact in a later step, but not worry to about it. This is the step. Obviously the  faster the card, the shorter the download time. I also mentioned that the percentage of time taken here in step #2 is minuscule in comparison to the total workflow time – so don’t worry about it. Have a cup of coffee while you wait.

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A few additional points –

File organization is an important consideration. You don’t want to download every image with a camera’s non-descriptive file name – and always  into the same folder, to boot. Some day you may need to locate an image and finding it in the same shoebox folder among several thousand others all named something like DSC_xy1234.jpg won’t be easy. We’ll discuss solutions to this problem in workflow step #3 – Image Organization.

At some point, after downloading your images, you need to do several things (in addition to organizing your images).

  • 1st – Back up your images. I’m not going to go into a long sermon on back ups. I’ll just say that you shouldn’t reformat the card you just downloaded (or otherwise delete the images) until you are certain that they are on your computer’s hard drive, that they are readable, and that there is a copy of them somewhere (preferably NOT on the same drive to which they were downloaded).
  • 2nd – Reformat your memory card. Note – I did not say delete the images from the card (although reformatting does that among other things). I said to reformat as it has advantages such as improved performance of your card and lessens potential problems with card corruption. Further, I strongly suggest reformatting in your camera and not via your computer. Read here for an overview of this topic if you crave details.

My images are backed up within minutes of being downloaded via a card reader. They are reviewed in the same time frame. The memory card is placed back in the camera following the  download/backup/review steps and reformatted immediately (reformatting takes less than 5 seconds on a Nikon DSLR). I have three camera bodies and six cards. I rotate the cards occasionally from “spare” to “active” – not for any specific reason; it just seems like a good idea.

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Next – Workflow Step #2.5, Image Download.Organization (overlap)