What is Your Archiving Workflow?

In my last post I talked about my method of backing up my archived photos. I discussed the various media I used to ensure I will always have at least one copy of every photo.

I have talked about my workflow with regards to archiving in other posts, but I feel I should provide a new updated version of the workflow. In this post I will outline the steps I use to create, backup and edit my archived photos.

Creating the Archives

The first step is obviously creating an archive file of a photograph. This process is probably the most complicated process with regards to archiving the photos. The reason for this is because there are many parameters in play when archiving a photo. I will try to outline how I archive the photos. I won’t go through the exact steps I take within each application, but will instead provide an overall workflow.

The following application is used during this process:

  • Vuescan (http://www.hamrick.com/) – this is a third-party tool that works with many scanners. It isn’t expensive at $79.95 for the professional edition, which includes free lifetime upgrades. It is very powerful, supports 48-bit files and includes many features. It takes some time to get used to, but once you have learned how to use it, the scans you end up with are top-notch.

My workflow for archiving is as follows:

  1. I place the photo, slide, or negative in my scanner and load up Vuescan.
  2. I use the following settings for my scan:
    • DPI:
      • Photos: 600dpi
      • Slides: 3600dpi
      • Negatives: 3600dpi
    • Colour settings:
      • Bit depth: 48 bit
      • Profile: Adobe RGB (1998)
    • Output file: TIFF

    The DPI choice for slides and negatives is up to you. At 3600dpi I usually end up with a file 90-100MB in size.

    The settings above gives me a great output file that provides the most editing headroom without any loss of quality.

  3. I adjust the colours of the photo to try to get the best match to the original colours, and try to avoid clipping in both the shadows and highlights.
  4. I perform the scan and save it to a directory on the local hard drive.

Storing the Archives

Once I have the scans of my photos, I make backups of the files before I begin the editing. My backup workflow isn’t complex and includes the following steps:

  1. Copy the archive files to my external hard drive. This is my first source I would go to when I need to edit the files. I make archived files on my hard drive read-only to help prevent any accidental changes.
  2. I burn the archives to two DVDs and then (eventually) take them offsite. If I lose the entire collection that is on my external hard drive, I will use the DVDs to restore my collection.
  3. My online backup software will automatically find and backup the files. If it isn’t scheduled to run for a few more hours, I sometimes start it immediately. The files backed up online will be used if I need to replace a few files, but not the entire collection.

As you can see I have a least four copies of each photo I archive. This should provide protection for my archives.

Editing for Printing

I enjoy this part the most, since it is a great feeling to restore a severely damaged photo to make it look like new again. This part takes the longest to perform out of the entire workflow, depending on how damaged the photo is.

The following application is used during this process:

  1. I copy the photo I want to edit to my local hard drive.
  2. I create two folders in the same directory of the photo. One folder is called “Edit” and the other called “Print”.
  3. After opening the photo in my editor, I then make my changes. I correct such things such as colour, damage, contrast, and size.
  4. When I save an edited version, I save it to the “Edit” folder in the TIFF format.
  5. Once the image is ready to be printed, I first convert the image to the sRGB profile, and then set the bit depth to 8 bit. I then save the photo in JPEG format in the “Print” folder. I keep the quality of the JPEG at 100% to reduce the amount of compression.

Once I am done, I have the original in one folder, and the edited and print versions in subfolders. This allows me to go back to any version and start from that point. If you choose to edit the original copy (the one stored locally), you can just duplicate the background layer to preserve the original.


This post has provided the overall steps I take to creating, storing, and editing my photo archives. I didn’t go into great detail about each step, but tried to cover the main steps I take to archive my photos.

Have Your Say

  • What steps do you use during your workflow?

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