As Photographers, Are We Backing Up Too Much?

Some nice and sane words about backups and photography.

I think one reason we tend to save everything is because we’re still new to this, we don’t really have a historical roadmap on what to keep and what not to keep. And because it’s so “easy” to keep everything, we do, even though in reality, the logistics of finding stuff later gets so complicated that in many cases the images might as well not exist.

Of course, this isn’t a new problem. I know people who kept every negative, every print, every scrap of paper. And yeah, it’s not much better than throwing it all out, someone has to go through it some day. It’s one reason I’m trying to become more thorough, rigorous and complete in my meta-data and editing, to save someone else the choice of plowing through things for the gems or throwing it away…

Photoshop Insider » As Photographers, Are We Backing Up Too Much?:

In a moment, I’m going to go over my backup strategy, but before we even get there, I honestly think I might be backing up too much. Here’s what made me start thinking like that. Terry recently did a portrait shoot where he took 710 photos during the shoot. His subject reviewed the images in Lightroom, and choose the shots she liked (around 70 initially, then she narrowed it down to her favorite 5 or 6). Then Terry picked his favorites, and he chose 5 or 6.

So, what do we all do next? That’s right, we back up all 710 photos, even though the subject has already said, “I only like these 70.” She looked at them all, told the photographer straight up, “I don’t want any of the other 640 images” but we back them all up anyway. Now, Terry asked me, “What are the chances that she is going to come back some time in the future and ask for one of the ones she didn’t like? Right. Slim to none. Yet, we still store ‘em, and watch them eat up our drive space, and add more complexity to our file management. Like Terry says, “Those 640 images are never going to see the light of day. I don’t have any use for them. She doesn’t have any use for them, but I’m backing ‘em up anyway. Why?”

In my case, I break things down into three categories: keepers, okay, and dings.

Dings get thrown away; no reason to keep a bad photo, period. Of course, sometimes you have to slow down and realize that it may not be what you intended, but it’s not a ding. On the other hand, if you do throw it out, would anyone really care? just to keep it in perspective

My keepers (basically, stuff I rate 3 stars or better) end up in my primary and end up backed up in six different places (no, seriously: my primary hard drive, my time machine OS X backup, two different bootable backups via SuperDuper!, one on my Time Machine disk, one on a bus powered firewire drive I carry on trips, and on S3 as my catastrophic backup). The Time Machine and SuperDuper backups to that drive are automatic, the one to the bus powered is manual and I generally update it weekly.

that would be the “70” photos in the group above, FWIW. the other 640 images go into a secondary firewire drive. In my scheme, they get backed up to the Time Machine disk, so they’re in two places. At some point, that’ll change, and I’ll shift that to cloning them to a 2nd drive stored offsite.

my Time Machine disks get cloned about every 4-6 six weeks, and those clones are stored offsite.

In my current evaluation scheme (which keeps changing), that 640 images would be split into 1-star and 2-star ratings. 1-star are “perfectly okay but not interesting or boring” images; nothing wrong except they don’t really work, and 2-star, which are images that on later edits of the 3 star, “lose out” to better, similar images.

For a recent shoot at Yellowstone, for instance, I took something like 150 images of Old Faithful during an eruption. throw out 20 as technical dings (“autofocus wigged”, “damn thumb in the way again”). 70 got into the 1-star folder. 60 go into the 3 star folder. When I re-edit the 3-star, I’ll end up tossing 40 or 45 of them down to 2-stars as being too similar to other photos to be worth dealing with further, leaving me with, say, 15 photos in my “primary set”. (for those curious, 4-star and 5-star ratings don’t happen here, they exist as subsets of “best of” and “killer” photos that I deal with later in the workflow.

But then Terry brought up a good point—how often do you really need 20GB for one client (or for one wedding)? He pointed me to an 8GB USB Flash drive, for only $29. If you only need 4GB of storage, you can get one for just $13.95. Heck, you might as well get two, and have two back-ups that hardly take any space at all. You could put them in a tiny zip-lock bag and staple them to your copy of the contract for the shoot. This changes the whole situation pretty dramatically; now its not eating up your main storage; you’re off-loading the finished job to USB drive (or external hard drive) dedicated to that shoot (and paid for by the client).

Mistake. those aren’t archival. You could well go back in 2 years and not be able to read some of the data. or any of it. This is just asking for problems. (you might want to burn an archival DVD for a baggie for the contract, but I wouldn’t build my library around this).

Instead, My process is that about once a year, I buy a new hard drive (500 gigs, good quality, USB 2.0 — about $150), copy my libraries out to it. That stays in my home as backup. The previous year’s version (reformatted and refreshed to the current data) goes offsite. The N-2 version gets reformatted and used for something non-archival. More convenient AND cheaper with greater storage than a dozen of those non-archival flash drives, and every year the files get copied to a fresh drive and fresh media to minimze the chances of being unreadable or alpha particles or whatever. And if something comes along and replaces USB and/or hard drives, then for the annual refresh, the copy is to that new media/technology, thus avoiding the “damn, I have nothing that reads 9track tapes” problem. Or at least minimizing it. An annual refresh might take two or three evenings for a large library, but it’s maintenance well worth scheduling and budgeting for.

Ultimately my collection will get large enough to span multiple drives, even really big ones, but this plan scales pretty well, and at some point, I’ll actually decide I don’t need those 1 star images any more and trash them; but for now, they’re there, just in case. But not clogging up my main workflow, because that isn’t time or cost effective, adn slows down my “real” work…

Posted in Photography

western conference predictions

well, it’s prediction time, because, well, if I guess right, I can be loud and “cherry-esque” about how good I am, and if I’m wrong, we can hope everyone quietly forgets I said anything…

The western conference is going to be a real mosh pit this season, lots of interesting hockey, and there are going to be some good teams missing the playoffs. A three or four game losing streak could mean the difference for some teams, or a key injury. Almost scary, if you’re a contender. There’s no margin of error here.

So here are my thoughts on the west:

Conference winners:

Pacific: Sharks(1) — the change in coach will (had better) put this team over the top. If not, what do we do, blow it up and start over? Maybe.

Central: Detroit(2) — and I AM including a “cup hangover here”, or they’d be my #1 seed.

Northwest: Calgary(3) — I’m not sure why, but I don’t particularly like the Northwest, and Calgary seems the best of a fairly weak lot.

playoff locks:

Dallas(4) — last year, I expected them to fade. this year, I expect them to make the conference team’s lives miserable.

Anaheim(5) — window has closed, fading fast. Still dangerous, but not a division-champ caliber team, and probably a 2nd round in the playoffs at best.

On the Bubble:
8 teams playing for three playoff places. Not good — for five of them.

Minnesota (6) — probably over-rating them, and my candidate for “most likely to slip down the ratings”, but Jaques LeMaire knows how to minimize the damage and keep a team in the hunt. even if it bores you to sleep watching.

Edmonton (7) — maybe over-rating them, but something about them encourages me. The 2nd most likely team to slip out of the playoffs.

Nashville (8) — should be higher than 8th, but this is a tough division and tough conference

Chicago (9) — probably deserves to make the playoffs. Probably won’t, unless a team or two falters

Columbus (10) — probably deserves to make the playoffs. Probably won’t, unless a team or two falters.

Colorado (11) — will do what I expected Dallas to do last year. Time to blow up and rebuild. But could over-perform, and if other teams slip, could sneak up the standings.

Vancouver (12) — after luongo, well, what? Could go as high as 9th.

Playoff Misses:

Phoenix (13) — better. good? maybe. Playoff good? not in the west.

St. Louis (14) — ouch. another year or two.

Los Angeles (15) — seriously ouch. it’ll be a year or two before this team is a year or two out. maybe.

my choice out of the west: it’s a coin flip between san jose and detroit. I’ll take heads. (san jose)

Posted in Sports - Hockey

Drop the puck!

It’s hockey season again, so we dusting off the blog and getting back to work…

Hope you all had a great off-season!

With the baseball season ending here in the household a couple of days ago (Cubs lose! Cubs lose!), I’m now officially ready for hockey to start.

We missed the first two pre-season games in San Jose while we were in Yellowstone, but made the third, and to be honest, I like what I see. Aspects are a work in progress, but it’s definitely not Ron Wilson’s team any more. More aggressive, offensively focussed, puck control. Just like (gasp) the Red Wings.

And to be honest, much as I liked Campbell, Boyle was my first choice. Now he’s a shark. So is Rob Blake. Will Jeff Friesen? I have to admit, I’m rooting for him.

I am so very much looking forward to opening night on Thursday, to see how the team handles things when it’s for real.

I have plans to contribute more regularly here now that the season has started, and I have some interesting things (at least, interesting to me, hopefully to you as well!) that I want to do this season, if life cooperates — many of them are things I planned last year, but life simply didn’t allow. This year, we’re thinking, will be less — complicated, so we can move them forward.

The one thing I’ll admit to here at the start of the season — I’ve got a series of postings I’ve been working on under the overall theme of “how to make the NHL better”. Note: not “how to fix the NHL”, because unlike some, I don’t consider it broken — but it can always be better. some of the things I’m going to talk about are pretty straight-forward, some of them are obscure, and some of them are going to be either silly or outright flamebait, but hopefully, it’ll get people thinking and talking.

Stay tuned, and we’ll see if you agree.

Posted in Sports - Hockey

To delete or not to delete, that is the question….

Vincent Laforet’s Blog:

So back to deleting – sorry – I’ve gotten off target a little here. Without exception, every time I’ve gone back to do an edit – whether it’s after a 15 minute break, a 15 hour brake, a 15 day break or a 15 month break – my view of what images matter has dramatically changed. So much so – that I just can’t justify deleting images (unless they’re completely out of focus, or over exposed or under exposed beyond recovery (but hey – who knows what software they’ll write in 20 years that could potentially fix those images – you see where I’m going…???)

Think about a lot of the classic images we look at that were shot 20, 50 or 100 years ago – while some are true classics, let’s be honest: some of them really weren’t that spectacular at all when they were shot. But with time – even the most banal image – is fascinating to look at. I love to look at what people were wearing in the 1920s or what the streets looked like in New York City, how the signs in front of stores were hand painted etc. And the same will be true of what you’re photographing today – that’s a lesson my father taught me very early on – and one that I’ve never forgotten – and a big part of why I don’t delete anything if I can help it.

I’ve been meaning to get to this issue for a bit, and finally getting there. It’s a tough call.

I find myself on the other side of this fence for the most part, and the reality of the “keep it in case” mentality has really struck home recently.

As I’ve mentioned, my dad died in June, and I’ve been very involved with helping Mom get set up to move forward living alone and getting the estate issues worked out. I’ve also taken on the responsibility for going through and figuring out what to do with Dad’s stuff. This has involved multiple trips down to LA. Last trip down, I spent two days going through and clearing out dad’s office, pulling together his papers and the family photos, and throwing out all of the crap.

Dad was, shall we say, a bit of a packrat, and I say that with the greatest fondness. The rule was, nobody went into dad’s office, and dad’s clutter didn’t attack the rest of the house. It worked for everyone. By the time I was done, my car was full (for the second time) of boxes of papers, photos and stuff, we’d put some stuff in the garage, my sister had taken some, we’d given furniture to friends and others — but most of the office was on the driveway, where the nice 800-Got-Junk people hauled it all away; we filled about half the truck

How’s this relate to photography?

Today’s “disk is cheap and getting cheaper” mentality lends itself to this pack rat mentality. Keep it, in case it’s useful later. You never know.

The problem with is that it doesn’t just have to exist, it has to be findable. If you keep everything, then you’re putting a lot of strain on the filing and organization system to help someone dig through the masses of material. And chances are, your filing system isn’t up to the task. Which effectively leaves behind an opaque mass of bits. One that depends on someone having the time, energy and motivation to find things in it.

Chances are that won’t happen. Think about the reality of what happens after someone dies. One of three things is most likely to happen:

1) it all gets stuffed in boxes to be dealt with “later”. Later may well be the grandchildren, great-grandchildern, or some random person dealing with the estate because someone had to. The chances they’re going to dig through everything in every box looking for hidden treasures, vs. grabbing a few key things in a few boxes and sending the rest to Goodwill or the dump?

2) that happens, only it happens right away. The relatives come in, grab a few things they want, and then the rest “goes somewhere” and everyone moves on.

3) someone actually takes the time to go through and figure out what’s worth keeping and what isn’t.

Do you really want to depend on (3)? Even if people start with the best of intentions, it’s a lot of work, and it’s difficult. I’m second-guessing myself constantly, so I’m taking it slowly and I’ve been thinking this through on how to do what we decided we wanted (which is to make sure we create collections of stuff that are relevant and interesting to family members and friends and get those to them, and focus mostly on what helps us remember dad and the family moving forward — effectively re-editing the collection into one that honors our memory of dad, instead of being a collection of stuff dad thought was important. It’s a significant shift in intent, but one that helps us keep that which has meaning to us)

I’m about five boxes in, with 20ish to go (and four feet of photo albums staring at me). I’m trying to finish up most of it by christmas, but it’ll be a challenge (and there is still the garage to clean out, and a storage building. I’m expecting most of both to make the 800-Got-Junk guys happy, but we’ll see).

Having to come to grips with how to — effectively — curate my dad’s effects has had me thinking about what I leave behind, and how to structure my stuff so limit this kind of thing. And the photo is a part of that.

I started a project last January to revamp my photo library from scratch; took me four months, learned a lot, pulled a lot of crap from the library, as I’ve gotten to be a much better photographer in that time. My flickr collection went from ~4000 images to about 1100.

I do actually cheat somewhat in my “delete early and often” strategy, though. I delete the dings and bad photos, because I simply can’t see the utility of an out of focus bird picture, no matter what technology does to the workflow in the future (any technology improvement that can save a bad picture is probably better used to make a good photo even better!)

But there’s a huge chunk of my photo set that aren’t dings, but aren’t really all that interesting, too. So these are now being archived into their own library. My workflow is set up to add basic metadata to them, but then they get sent off to a hard disk to live, where I fully expect nobody will ever look at them again. I currently have about 12,000 files in my “archive” library, and about 2,500 in my “primary”. Ultimately, that secondary archive will be stored somewhere (two copies, two locations), and every so often refreshed to a new disk, and ultimately, I expect to have multiple disks of archived photos…

But in reality, when you “Think about a lot of the classic images we look at that were shot 20, 50 or 100 years ago”, the chances are those images are going to be found in that smaller, primary library. The chances of an image coming out of the “not quite dings” archive to go on to be classic is tiny — if only because someone has to be motivated enough to find it.

By doing this kind of edit yourself, you set up the roadmap for others who might go looking later to make finding that classic image easier. More than that, you make the job that much easier for others. If I toss you a disk with 15,000 images on it, that’s going to be a lot more overwhelming than one with 2,000.

Digital photography and current camera technology makes it a lot easier (and cheaper, and faster) to take many more photos than the days of film. Current computer technology makes storing them easier and cheaper. All of this encourages us to think in terms of “keep it, just in case”. But when you step back, it’s not about storing it, it’s about finding it and using it. If you can’t find it, you can’t use it.

And making something findable is the tough part, not something we’ve found a way to automate well yet. It’s about good organization, good metadata, and keywording it well. Another aspect of being able to find something is to not clutter things up with a lot of stuff that makes it hard to find the better stuff.

That makes me think that over time, we’re going to realize that editing and deleting is a key component to managing a photo library. The only reason I’m keeping that secondary archive is that I’m not yet confident enough to have the guts to toss it — but just like my first round of edits to my collection I did at the start of the year, I expect I’ll keep doing collection edits as I continue to improve my craft, and more and more photos will be archived — and more and more will get outright deleted.

Just as I’ve done with the photos from dad, wher I’ve taken four boxes (so far) and edited them down to a few hundred of the best and most relevant. Because the reality is if I just kept the four boxes around, eventually the most likely result is that someone will pull them out of storage and throw them out — and the best would have been thrown out with them.

By deleting, you may occasionally lose an image that might have some value to someone some day. but the most likely reality is that any image that has that value you as a photographer will recognize also. By focusing your collection on those best images, you increase the chances of those best images to survive into the future, by making it easier for you to manage and find them, but also by making it easier for others who follow you to do so, too.

So if you ask me, deletion is a skill that our current technology discourages — but in reality, we should be embracing. Just because disk is cheap and we CAN keep every image doesn’t mean every image deserves to be kept. And by keeping them, you cheapen the overall value of the collection and make it incrementally harder for the best images to stand out….

Posted in Photography

How Apple Should Handle the App Store Blacklist

How Apple Should Handle the App Store Blacklist:

I’ve been trying to decide if I wanted to wade in here, lest people thnk this blog’s turning into “all apple, all the time”. but what the heck, why not?

To a good degree, I agree completely with this piece, with a couple of minor caveats.

The question of how Apple should use the App Store blacklist has been bandied about lately and so far, no one really has the answer. Should Apple act unilaterally and remove apps without any warning? Should it ask for user input? The questions are numerous and the answers are in short supply. I think it needs to have a full-fledged plan that’s made available to the public so developers and users alike will know what to expect.

So what exactly should Apple be doing? It should first start out with a real policy. How can it summarily remove applications from the App store without warning the developer or user? It doesn’t make any sense.

Included in that policy, it should develop an understanding between both the user and Apple that makes both entities work together to achieve the lofty goal of making it a better service for all parties involved.

First and foremost, Apple needs to install a “report” button that lets the users alert the company to ridiculous applications like “I am Rich” and helps them sift through the good and the bad.

By doing that, it also helps create a rapport between Apple and users, who have been kept in the dark so far about what’s really going on when it removes applications like NetShare, Box Office, and others. Let’s face it – users are downloading these applications and they have every right in the world to know what’s going on with them. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

Secondly, Apple needs to set parameters for how apps should be priced. I have no problem with developers assigning prices to their work, but $1,000 for an iPhone application that gives you a mantra isn’t worth $1, let alone $1,000.


99% of the current complaints about what’s going on with the store are solved with a simple thing: communication. Whatever the policy for the App store is, it’s a secret. When something is removed from the store, the reason is a secret. what is cause for acceptance and rejection is basically a secret. “Magic happens” and you either appear or disappear from the store.

All that engenders frustration, and the developers and users are right. that has to stop. I don’t think Apple is “being evil” here as much as scrambling with serious overload, but honestly, they’re trying to work TOO fast and creating problems in their wake by what corners they’re cutting.

So my suggestions are:

1) get in touch wtih the developers; there’s an approval policy internally, somewhere. release it. explain it. At least let them know where the lines in the sand are.

2) remember the mobileMe blog? the one that magically went quiet again as soon as the crisis was over? (gee, funny that. nice conversation). How about an App store blog, so when something is removed from the store, users are told about it. AND WHY. Especially if it’s because of some kind of security or data leakage problem, which users deserve to know.

3) create and publish an appeal process for developers. there has to be somewhere for them to get a decision reviewed. right now, that’s a black hole.

do 1 and 3, and life gets MUCH better for Apple, really fast. Do 2 and you get even closer to the ideal state (to quote Bill Cosby: “Parents don’t want justice, they want quiet”. and what we want here, for apple, is quiet; justice would be nice, too)

as to reporting buttons? Not a huge fan, I don’t think they work well in real life, and they’re easy things to create and ignore and let someone think they’re being heard when in reality they’re being ignored.

Adn having Apple tell a company what to charge for their app? Nope. let th free market play out here. you trust users (with the button) to tell Apple about bad apps, but don’t trust those same users to tell developers they mispriced their stupid product? hey, if the users are smart enough for one, they’re smart enough for both. Let the users vote with their wallets.

my view on Apple managing the app store: you want Apple taking care of key issues, and that includes things like interface integrity, security bugs, data leakages and stuff that could really bork over a phone or it’s owner. but beyond that, the fewer things Apple is involved in, the better. I’d rather see 1000 stupid apps in the store die of neglect than one app not make it into the store because Apple thought it’d be stupid but really didn’t understand what it was all about….

Posted in Computers and Technology