Houston, we have a problem...why workflow and backups are important!

Here is the second installment of my photography series on the Etsy Treasury Team blog - Houston, we have a problem...why workflow and backups are important!


Okay, so since you have been practicing and reading your manual, it might be a good time to bring up file organization (i.e. a file structure, naming convention), workflow and backups.

I know I can hear folks saying "I'm just taking pictures, why do I need a file structure, naming convention, a backup strategy and a workflow? I'm an artist not a file clerk...."

Fair enough but as my high school principal put it quite simply "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  This is your business and you have to do what you have to do for your business. You need to prepare today for what may come tomorrow.

The reality is that there are parts of our jobs as Etsy sellers that we love right? We love creating things and sharing them with our customers. But in order to sell our items, we need to show them off. And to do that, we need to take pictures and be able to access those pictures when we need them.

Additionally, we need to prepare for the day that our computer fails and we have to have it fixed. When computers go bad, there is always the chance that data will be irretrievable. Backing up your Etsy files is where emergency preparedness meets Etsy.

A Case for a Workflow/Naming Convention/File Structure & Backup Strategy

Reason for a File Structure - You want to make sure you know where your original and edited files are located the next time you need them for a listing or promotional piece. The last thing you want to do is overwrite your edited copy of a file while you are trying out a new crop or edit style.

Reason for a Naming Convention - When you copy your images from your camera they are called something really descriptive like DSC_9876.jpg.

After you initially transfer your files from camera to PC, you should rename your files.  When you edit the image, you should save it with a new file name so you have an original and a edited file that is ready for Etsy.

Say I'm photographing a cardinal pendant - I understand CardPendOrig_FullShot1.jpg over DSC_9876.jpg.   Basically, your file names should have some relation to describe what it is (cardinal pendant), it's place in your workflow (original), and ideally the type of shot (full shot, group shot, size shot etc.).

These are just examples, name them something descriptive that you and anyone helping you will understand.  If need be, create a document with your workflow and naming conventions.  Laborious yes, but effective.

Reason for a Workflow - A workflow is a repeatable process.  This means that if you are shooting many products at once, there is a place for each file.   If you hire an employee or have  a friend help you out, you have a process in place that can be followed and repeated.  Things tend not to get lost if there is a process...just like when you create a product or package a sold item.

Reason for Backups - You want to make sure that if the day comes that your computer has a hiccup and won’t turn on, you should have a backup of ALL your files, not just your Etsy product pictures. It's just good business practice.

Believe me, there is nothing more frightening than starting up your computer and you get a blank screen that says “missing operating system” or you try to access a file on an external USB drive and that drive has ceased to function.

Been there, done all these things. Workflow and backups will help you in the long run.

Defining your workflow

Please don’t let the word workflow scare you. You need to determine how you want to work. You probably have a similar work flow to how you create your product. The only difference is you will be determining how you want to process your images.

At a very high level, look at how you want to process your files.

It may probably look like this:

1) Take photos

2) Copy files from camera (either via a connection cord or memory card) to computer and ideally rename them using a standard naming convention (i.e. RedCardinalPendant_SOOC_1.jpg)

3) Edit files

4) Save edited files with a naming convention (i.e. product name_workflowstage_shotnumber.jpg so for a White Flower Pendant that is the first shot in my listing and has been edited might look like this - whflowerpend_edited_shot1.jpg)

5) Backup files to a specific spot such as i.e. USB, backup drive or DVD - basically somewhere other than your C drive

In order to figure out this basic work flow, you need to know where you want to place your original straight out of the camera (SOOC) originals as well as your edited copies. Many cameras are shipped with transfer software or you can directly copy/paste from your camera using its USB cord or its memory card to another location using Windows Explorer or Mac equivalent.  But you already know how to do this because you read your manual....

Whatever your workflow is and wherever you choose to house your files, as a general rule of thumb it’s a) not on your C drive and b) it’s backed up off your computer onto a usb drive or usb drive and DVD or USB drive, DVD and USB thumbdrive in  a fire proof safe....There also are backup companies that you can use like Carbonite, BackBlaze etc. (please note these are not endorsements, just suggestions!)

So why can't I save things on my C drive? 

It is always recommended to not store any important documents on your C drive.     The reason being why a non C drive location is key is that if your operating system ceases to function etc., you will likely need to reinstall your operating system. Reinstalling the operating system means that everything on the C drive will be erased. Additionally, if your hard drive doesn’t work, you can’t retrieve anything before the drive is erased or replaced.

You can never have too many backups but those backups need to be organized and you need to keep track of them.

Take a step back, look at your situation

Now, if your head is swimming with all this info, take a step back. Look at the above example and try to think about how it can be applied to your situation. You need to figure out what works for your situation.

Until next time! Karra from Islay Corners Photography (www.islaycorners.etsy.com)