Lightroom workflow with automated backup

Ever since I started using a digital camera, I’ve been trying to optimize my workflow of processing, archiving, sharing, and backing up my photos. A lot has changed since then. However, for a decent amount of time now I’ve had a consistent and quite efficient workflow – at least a find it like that.

There are plenty of great articles out there on photography workflows. I find that they are mainly focused on the tasks of professional photographers. But I am just a regular family father that fills memory cards with everyday photos of my kids, our vacations and the like. My clients are grandparents and other family members that loves to see what my kids have been up to.

There are a few things that have had a high priority to achieve:

  1. As few manual tasks as possible
  2. Full, automated backup
  3. Easy sharing to family members

The workflow I’m currently using is that depicted below. As you can see, it seems pretty complex. However, I’m convinced that it is one of the easiest ways to achieve all of above – just notice how many of the arrows are dashed, meaning it is automatic!

Photo flow

The process in details

Let me just walk you through the process. All arrow are marked with a number that is more or less telling the order of execution. Furthermore I added a little colored box to indicate with group of files the arrow concerns. There are 3 file groups:

  • The Lightroom catalog file (single 0.5GB file – more or less)
  • The RAW files straight from the camera (typically 20-30MB files, but can be JPG when I use my phone)
  • The processed JPG photos (usually around 0.5-2MB)

Step 1 – import from camera

First step is to get the photos onto my computer. That is fairly easy – I just use a Card Reader and the Lightroom import tool.

Step 2 and 3 – back up the imported photos and catalog

As soon as the photos have been imported, the first backup step takes place. These are arrows 2 and 3 on the drawing. Clearly the photos just imported must be backed up. This is handled by Cloud Station which is an application offered by my Synology NAS. It works similar to Dropbox and Google Drive except that files are kept on my own NAS instead of somewhere in the cloud. This has the major advantage of speed – a photo import can easily be +10GB and that is just faster to sync on internal network only.

So, why not use Cloud Station for the Lightroom catalog you might ask (in case you studied the drawing). It is actually quite simple: I found that Cloud Station was not really stable in syncing that file. I assume it has to do with the fact that Lightroom has it open and it is somehow locked. Luckily Synology announced support for Volume Shadow Copy! For now I use Dropbox, though. It handles the frequent updates to the catalog file great and it even gives the option of digging out an older version – just in case.

Since backup of both catalog and RAW-files are done using syncing, all sorts of editing the photos in Lightroom are backed up almost immediately.

Step 4 and 5 – publish processed photos

Before this is the actual process of selecting, tagging, and post processing the photos – that part is not really relevant in this post.

Assuming photos are ready to publish, I’ve set up some publising services in Lightroom with some Published Smart Collections that – based on metadata – selects the photos relevant for various folders/albums. I use 2 publishing services

  1. Hard Drive – built in to Lightroom
  2. jf PicasaWeb – I bought that one from here and it is highly recommendable

They both work the same. Only difference is that the first one dumps the exported photos to my HDD whereas the latter uploads to Google Photos. After photos have reached Google Photos I can go there are share. Just recently it got even easier with the launch of Shared Albums.

Step 6 and 7 – even more backup!

These steps might not really be necessary from a data security point of view. Step 6 is very easy, though. I’ve pointed the HDD-publisher from step 4 to a subfolder of my OneDrive. Hence they are automatically synced there.

Step 7 servers two purposes:

  1. Ensure an (almost – LR catalog is actually missing) complete data set on the NAS
  2. Enable me to access my photos using the Synology Photo Station

The first purpose is due to the final step 8. On the drawing it is said to be manual while in fact I have a small scheduled task that copies the entire photos folder from my OneDrive to the NAS-network drive.

Step 8 – backup everything to dedicated cloud backup provider

So far, only my LR catalog and my processed photos have been backup outside of my house. The final step is here to take care of the off-site backup. For that I’m using Crashplan installed on my NAS by following this guide. I have a subscription with Crashplan that gives me unlimited storage. After having installed Crashplan on the NAS and configured it to backup the whole thing, it is just a matter of leaning back and receiving weekly Backup status mails that all is good.

Areas for improvement

I’m very aware of finding ways to improve my workflow as new features are added to my existing providers or new and better providers show up. I’m currently keeping an eye out for the Synology DSM 6.0 beta. What have been revealed so far sounds promising for an even greater level of automation. I’m especially keen on the already mentioned Cloud Stations improvements for syncing files in use. But I’m also looking at the Cloud Sync, that seems like it will be able to replace my locally running scheduled task for copying files to the NAS with a direct sync from OneDrive.

Currently I’m also trying out Google Photos Backup app for desktop. It seems like a nicer approach, but it adds the manual task of putting new photos into the right albums – a thing that my Lightroom publisher is capable of doing directly.

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