Optimized Image Workflow

This page describes the general process for a workflow where the photographer is in charge of producing a final image – one that may require retouching, image compositing, and/or localized corrections. This is a workflow typical for commercial and advertising photographers, architectural photographers, and more.

Workflow objectives
Watch it in action
Workflow steps
Software used
File flow

Workflow objectives

In this demonstration, an entire shoot is captured, and downloaded to a laptop with an ingestion utility. Back in the studio, the files are transferred to a desktop workstation. The images are rated and adjusted, converted to DNG, archived, and added to an image catalog. A proof gallery is made and sent to the client. Once the client picks favorite images, master files are created and perfected. Delivery files are made and sent off, and the final images are cataloged and archived.

This workflow is appropriate for anyone who delivers Photoshop-optimized images, including corporate and advertising photographers, architectural shooters, and even fine art photographers.

Watch it in action

The embedded videos linked below show the entire workflow in action. You might want to watch them first, and then read about the workflow, or read first, then watch.

Figure 1 In the first video, the setup and process for the workflow is described.

Figure 2 The second video describes the ingestion steps.

Figure 3 In the third video, the raw files are processed and archived.

Figure 4 This video shows the creation of master and delivery files.

Figure 5The final video shows how to archive and validate the images.

Workflow steps

The bulleted list below outlines the steps for this version of an Optimized Image workflow.

workflow steps


Step One: Capture images to card


In this workflow, the ingestion is performed by ImageIngester Pro. It automates every step in this process.

Step Two: Download

Step Three: Rename

Images should receive a unique name. This can be done at ingestion.
Read more about file naming in the File Management section

Step Four: Apply bulk metadata

Images should be tagged with any information that is applicable to the entire shoot. This includes contact and copyright information for the photographer, as well as some basic descriptions of the shoot.
Read more in the Metadata Section

Step Five: Apply parametric image defaults

By applying settings on download, the images will come in looking more finalized. This can include a custom profile you create for your own camera.
Read more about creating a custom profile in the color section

Step Six: Convert to DNG

You can do his now or later. By doing it now, you add protection to the files.
Read more about DNG Validation in the Validation section

Step Seven: Backup

Two backups of the files are made during ingestion.
Read more about ingestion backup in the Backup section

Step Eight: Send to imaging software

Images should be visually inspected if data integrity is essential. In this case, we'll look at the images in Adobe Bridge, with 100% previews selected.
Read more about Data Validation in the Data Validation section

Working (raw)

Step Nine: Transfer to workstation

Back in the studio, the images are transferred from the laptop to the desktop imaging workstation, using a validated transfer utility, in this case provided by ChronoSync.
Read more about Validated transfers in the Data Validation section

Step Ten: Group/Add custom metadata

If the images would benefit by further division by subject matter, this should be done right away
Read more in the Metadata section

Step Eleven: Rate/Cull

Images should be rated as soon as possible. If rejects are to be thrown away, this can be done now.
Read more about Ratings in the Metadata section

Step Twelve: Adjust

Once the images have been rated for quality, you can spend the most time on the best images.
Read more about Image Adjustments in the PIEware section

Step Thirteen: Catalog

Catalog images with Digital Asset Management software.

Step Fourteen: Proof

Create a web gallery proof and send the link to client.

Step Fifteen: Transfer

Move the images to the archive using a validated transfer.
Read more about Validated transfers in the Data Validation section

Step Sixteen: Backup

After the images get moved to their "permanent" home, make the "permanent" backup.
Read more about Archive Backups in the Backups section

Working (derivative)

Step Seventeen: Create the master file

Open images into Photoshop and start the optimization process

Step Eighteen: Optimize

How much do we want to show here? Layering? Compositing? Sharpening?

Step Nineteen: Create the delivery file

Flatten and save, convert profile and save as 8 bit

Step Twenty: Send the delivery file to client

Archive (derivative)

Step Twenty-One: Transfer images to archive

After client approves the final delivered file, archive master files and delivery files. Use a validated transfer.

Step Twenty-Two: Create validation file

For derivative files, use ImageVerifier to create a validation "hash" to check on the integrity of write-once media backups
Read more about write-once media validation in the validation section

Step Twenty-Three: Backup

After the images get moved to their "permanent" home, make the "permanent" backup.
Read more about Archive Backups in the Backups section

Step Twenty-Four: Validate

The archive will need periodic validation. This can be a cursory validation, or a thorough one.
Read more about General Validation in the Validation section

Software used


ImageIngester Pro is shown. Additional options include PhotoMechanic and Downloader Pro.

Raw file conversion

Adobe Camera Raw/Adobe Bridge. Additional options include Capture 1, Bibble, Nikon Capture NX, Canon DPP, Apple Aperture and Adobe Lightroom.

DNG Creation

Adobe DNG Converter

Catalog manager and web gallery creation

Media Pro. Additional options include IDimager, iMatch, Extensis Portfolio and Adobe Lightroom.

Photo optimization

Photoshop. Additional options: you're kidding, right?

Backup software

ChronoSync. Additional options include SuperDuper! (Mac) and Acronis TrueImage (PC).


The hardware used in this workflow is significantly more sophisticated than the version shown in the Batch Output workflow. In this case, the photographer has a complete location kit (laptop with two external drives) as well as a dedicated workstation and a server to store the archive files.
Read more in the Storage Hardware section


File flow

In an optimized image workflow, raw files are run through an ingestion process and then evaluated to see which images should be further improved by working in Photoshop. The raw files can be archived once the proofing adjustments have been made.

The best of the raw files can be sent back to the working folder and saved as layered master files. Once these files have been finalized, they can be archived.

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Last Updated September 22, 2015