Managing All Those Photos……

Being an “IT person” who has more than a casual interest in photography, I was doing some photo sorting, prepping stuff for this blog and my other one, and doing a bit of off loading from my cameras to my server and also doing a few things for my wife, I got thinking about managing photos and a couple of “computer things” and while I had the thought….. Smile

I’m going out on a limb here and taking a guess, that if you are into digital photography, you obviously will have a computer of some sort to off load those photos.  IF you also have internet access, you may or may not have a dedicated server to store “stuff”, part of which will of course, be your photos.  A server you say?  For the uneducated – a server is simply a storage device that sits on your personal network.  They are easy to install.  Let’s go into a bit more detail.

If you have internet access, one of the devices that connects you to the internet will be this device called a router.  No not the cable modem, but a separate thingy that you will have to buy separately to whatever the cable company provides.  Now this router can come in a variety of shapes, sizes & prices, but most of them will come with “ports”.  There’s a separate one that connects to your cable modem, and the rest of the ports will connect your other devices.  Many of today’s routers will allow you also connect wirelessly.  You do need to set up your own home network and it’s actually relatively simple and most important for the sake of security, password protect your router AND your home network access!!!

So…. one question that is probably twigging in the back of your mind would be why?  WHY would I want a separate storage device away from my PC?  Well there might be a couple of reasons – first, computers won’t keep running forever – hard disks do fail.  I’ll go a little more into management in a minute.  Usually, if a computer fails, the hard disk in it will likely retain all the data, in this case, your photos.  You may or may not be able to run your programs, but for all intents and purposes, your data will still be there.  It might take a bit to get this data moved off and onto a new machine, but it can be done.  Been there done that.  Sometimes it’s a bear…..  One thing I’m trying to get at here – your programs can always be replaced – your data can’t.  Data can also be recreated if you REALLY REALLY needed to, but your photos…. well, that’s a different story – in the age of digital, those memories can all go away with a single crash of the hard disk.  One of the nice things about servers, actually a couple – they run independent to your computer.  If you stay with brand name servers, they will outlast your PC, in all likelihood.  You see, they are made to store data and tend to be built a lot better than say a stock PC.  They are made to run 24/7 365.  Even the home ones.  They have reached a point where they are quite inexpensive – typically you can now get a couple of Terabytes for under $150.00.  For the piece of mind, it’s a cheap investment.  Easy to hook up?  Yup – plug it in for power and connect the cable to your router and look for it in your file explorer.  There might even be some management software there to install.  Easy peasy Smile  You might even want to password protect it.

One question that I do get asked a lot about on servers is whether or not to actually use the server when you are doing image processing.  My answer to that – it depends Smile  If you have a fairly quick machine to begin with, the time lag in pulling that photo from the server against your local hard drive, may not be noticeable.  If you are working with say RAW or large JPEGS, say anything over about 5 MB, it can become noticeable.  My preference is to do work on my local machine and then back up my work to the server.  The techy term would be “workflow” to a certain degree or maybe the “process”.

Multiple Servers?  Well, again, this is a “depends thing” and what you are going to be going.  If, for instance you are going to store movies – my personal preference would be dedicate a separate server specifically for that and another for “data” data.  BUT, it’s personal preference too.  It’s reaching a point where you, depending on what you are doing or planning to do, it’s pretty easy to have one single server do everything.  I actually have 3 servers on my home network.  Here’s the thinking :

Primary Server – OK – this one is one is used for both business data and finalized photos for the most part.  Now I say finalized, because depending on situation, I may load directly down to it from a camera.  I also have a second server to back up my Primary.  Yes, I’m paranoid Smile  How often do I back up?  Well, it depends on activity.  If I’m doing both accounting and we’re doing a fair amount of shooting, typically once a week.  Sometimes only once a month.  BUT for my accounting, I’ll back up the accounting files after each entry session.  We also have two offices in our home.  One office is used primarily for accounting and what I would call print services – this system also handles our two inkjets and a laser all-in-one printer.  One inkjet and the laser are tied directly the PC..  The newest inkjet – we’ll probably attach it directly to the router and make it a “network” printer.  This one is an Epson R2000  – we got it handle larger prints.

The third server – this server is attached to our PC upstairs.  This was a very deliberate plan on my part.  I needed a larger screen and in the end, I opted for an HP TouchSmart machine, an all-in-one type, to save space.  The intent here, was to have a fairly quick machine that we could keep upstairs for easy access.  We decided to convert one of the bedrooms to an office and in the end, we also put a wireless laser printer up here, plus added desk space for our notebooks.  Now, the TouchSmart already came with a 1 TB drive in it.  The intent behind this machine, was to use it as my “go to” machine for most things NOT accounting related.  It was also set up to run wirelessly on my home network, but we don’t necessarily have the accounting system on that much.  Only when we need to do work work.  I didn’t want to keep running downstairs to turn on the main server, so I decided to direct attach another server to the TouchSmart as an “intermediate”.  The other big reason for the second office, was convenience. It’s upstairs and it made it easier to access. 

Now, at this moment in time, this particular machine is used for my job searches, web surfing stuff, and what I would call the photo “front end” process.  That means basically any image processing or offloading.  The server I got for this is a 1 TB Western Digital My Book.  I have it wired directly to the PC via a USB 3.0 port.  Based on the tests I’ve run, there’s little or no difference to the local hard disk.  The local hard disk – Aside from my applications, I really don’t use the local one all that much.  I do use it keep my OneNote data and also, if I’m going to do some real “heavy duty” work where the difference between the local disk and the server (external drive might be another term) does make a difference.  This comes into play if I have an event shoot or something that I know I will be doing a bit more processing than normal, but usually, it’s not required. 

The majority of photos we take are usually downloaded to this server first.  For certain events that my wife takes photos for, they sometimes do get loaded down to the primary, but not all that often.  Because these photos need to be reduced down to “web size” for online publication, I usually load them onto my upstairs server first and then whatever my wife needs to do for the image processing side is done there.  Then, I do the conversion and then move them down to the main server.  I use FastStone resizer for my conversion and it definitely process faster locally than across the network.

Other things for the upstairs machine – the TouchSmart came with quite a few USB ports.  BUT one of the things I wanted to do, was be able to use this machine as my “sync” machine for my tablets, be able to connect my cameras, e-readers, whatever.  I also wanted the USB cables to be relatively permanent, per se.  Not enough ports for that, so I got a 10 port treefrog hub that I attached.  It wasn’t cheap, but I wanted a powered hub so I could drive additional external drives or USB drives if required. 

Hub_edited

One thing that I’ve found, is that it’s much faster to download via an SD card reader than going direct from the camera if I have a lot of photos.  ESPECIALLY if you have USB 3.0 readers, which I do Smile  I have the Lexar Professional one plus a Verbatim one that both work fantastic for this.  Don’t need them all that often, but when we’ve done some event stuff and we need to move anywhere from 200 to 500 plus pics, these readers are pretty handy to have around.

External Drives/USB Drives – Depending on what I need to do, I always have an external drive or two kicking around.  When I was commuting and wanted to offload photos during my noon hours, I would off load on to an external drive.  The latest one I got was the Seagate Slim Drive.  It’s super thing and depending on circumstance, I will use it to hold “stuff” so I can use it between machines.    USB drives are the same.  IF you need to look at or work with data across multiple machines these are handy ways to do this.

Managing Stuff… Photos in particular – Because I have two main servers where I hold information (actually more…), I try to keep the base directory folders the same.  IF I need to do a conversion for web use, I create a “web” folder and put the converted photos there.  For the most part, that routine doesn’t change unless I’m doing a blog entry that requires photos from several different folders.  In that case, I’ll move those photos to my Blog photo directory where I can have all of them handy.  Now, mine is slightly different here as I use a dedicated notebook for my blogging.  I have to do a bit more shuffling, but that’s what those external drives are for Smile

Multiple Machines/Multiple Cameras – I’m probably pretty different to most in that I do have more than several cameras and I also have several computers.  In it’s own way, it makes managing this stuff sometimes a little hard to keep track of, but at the same time, I feel that the efficiencies gained out weigh the time it takes.  I’m trying gain efficiencies where ever I can.  I’m not scared to invest a bit in an attempt to gain the knowledge.  My acquisitions, for the most part have helped me gain not only the knowledge I needed to get a bit more immersed in photography, but at the same time, I’ve gained even more knowledge on the HOW side of things.  Today, for instance, I took my hub photo with my Nikon S3400, which is a little pointy shooty but it’s bragging 20 megapixels in a unit that fits in your shirt pocket Smile  The hub photo here was taken with it.  Simple reference shot, nothing too spectacular needed for this.  A little cropping – convert to web – end of story.  The camera just happened to be sitting on my desk.  I got this one specifically to see what 20 megapixels looked like in this type of camera more than anything.  The last thing I needed was another one here – I have the Panasonic SZ1, a Nikon S3000 and wife has a Pentax P70.  But you know, if used the right way and within their constraints – they work not so bad.  I know a lot would think otherwise, but you know they have their place and they all do pretty well there.  I mean REALLY – it’s about capturing the moment.  I don’t need perfect color, I need close enough. 10 to 20 megapixels is going to be more than enough, even for those tiny sensors.  If I want serious, I’ll use more serious gear. 

The one thing that is becoming very apparent, though, is that understanding the computer side of things, or having the knowledge here can go a long way toward one’s enjoyment of the hobby. 

Onward….

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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