New Year Photo Housekeeping – 5 top tips to give you peace of mind!

New Year Photo Housekeeping – 5 top tips to give you peace of mind!

The start of a new year is always good a time to take stock, look at how you are doing and make changes for the better.  Reviewing your computer and photo setup is time well spent to set yourself up for better efficiency and peace of mind for the year ahead. 


Backup – Organise – Convert – Update - Connect

These 5 tips will get you going into 2016 ready for whatever new photo challenges lie ahead

1) Back up.  If your computer died right now, would you lose anything?  If the answer is yes, your backup system needs improving.  DO THIS TODAY – DON’T PUT IT OFF.  These days, there are many options for constant, automated backups which just happen in the background and give you peace of mind that if your computer or disk fails, at least all your data and photos will be accessible and ready to reload onto your new or repaired system.  You should have 2 separate backups of ALL your data – photos and documents, emails and user settings of all your programmes, in separate physical locations.  If you don’t have this set up now, DO IT TODAY, or at least call us for some help J!

As Mac users we generally have a 2Tb external drive attached to each of our computers when working at home, with Time Machine running in the background backing up any changes we make in the background.  There are similar products available for Windows too.  This has saved our bacon on several occasions!  We also subscribe to a cloud backup service called Crashplan – for $150 a year we can backup up to 10 computers, unlimited data, so it runs in the background on all our computers and laptops, constantly saving all our work into the cloud, from where we can log in through a browser from any machine anywhere to restore or pull down single files, folders or complete restores.  There are cheaper and even free solutions as well, offering varying levels of protection.

2) Organise - get your filing system in order.  With the number of photos we take these days, if you don’t have some way of organizing them efficiently, it can be very difficult to locate them months or years later.  Going back and re-organising previous years is not a job anyone wants to face, so why not just go from today?  Set up an organized system of folders, file naming and key-wording as you import your shots, and use it from now on.  Hey – you might even find that once it’s all running OK, you do start to bring some of your older shots into the system, but if not, you’re still better set for  this year onwards J.  As an Adobe Certified Expert in Lightroom, this is a session I regularly run for people who book a 1-1, where we go through their photo filing system and update it to something more efficient.

3) Convert to DNG.  If you shoot JPG, then you should really be shooting in RAW – there is so much more processing latitude in a RAW file as well as far higher quality.  And if you do shoot RAW, you should consider converting to DNG as you import your shots to the computer.  Lightroom can do this automatically, and you can also run a (free) DNG converter on older RAW files and folders.  Why do this?  Well, DNG files have all the data of the original RAW file, but are typically about 20% smaller – the DNG file format is more efficient.  DNG files also store all the changes you make in Lightroom within the file, rather than needing a separate .XMP file, which if it ever become separated from the RAW file, means all your edits will be lost.  DNG is also a more “open” format than the proprietary RAW formats from the main manufacturers, so you are likely to be able to use more programmes to open a DNG than a NEF (Nikon) or CRW (Canon) RAW file for instance.  The Adobe programmes such as Lightroom and Photoshop also open and process DNG files faster than other RAW file formats.

4) Update to the latest software/hardware.  New technology is being released every week, and it is impossible to keep up with everything unless you’re a millionaire!  But with New Year sales often comes the opportunity to update your systems at significant savings on “normal” pricing.  The latest cameras have faster processors, better low light and auto-focus capabilities.  Investing in really good lenses is never a bad idea, as good glass will last you a lifetime and really does give you a different class of image to kit lenses.  If your computer is aging, maybe now is the time to get a new model – the speed will likely be amazing compared to your sluggish current one!  Or maybe just upgrading the hard drive from an old spinning one to the new SSD (solid state drive) – this makes a HUGE difference to the speed of a computer, and combining this with some new fast memory can revitalize an older machine.  And the advances in capabilities of software for post-processing your shots are amazing – if your software is more than a couple of years old then you are missing out on some serious opportunities for both recovering shots you might otherwise discard, or improving your masterpieces even further.  And increasingly, much of the photo software out there is able to talk to each other, so if you use Lightroom for instance, most other processing software can act as a plugin and be called from within Lightroom as you work on a shot to apply a specific look – I use Nik Silver Efex for much of my black and white work for instance by calling it to edit a shot within my Lightroom catalogue.

5) Connect yourself to new inspiration.  My last tip will probably cost you nothing at all, but might be the most important one in helping you develop as a photographer.  Many of us are plugged in to social media, blogs, podcasts – there are many channels we consume daily for our fix of news and information.  So for the New Year, clean house a little.  Cull those feeds and get rid of some of the stuff you no longer really want to see or hear, and find some new voices to inspire you.  Ask around for ideas on amazing photographers to follow, go search the podcasts catalogues for some new listening, add a few new blogs to your feed – this will revitalize your inner self in ways you may not expect.  Always try to view really good photography – as we build up our mental data bank of viewed images we can then draw on these in our own work as they inspire us to greater efforts.  Maybe join a camera club – we did this in KZN last year, and it has really opened up a new world for us of both friendship but also creativity and opportunities for great photography – thanks Hibiscus Coast Photography Society!  And lastly, check out the web for amazing teaching on photography – there’s loads of good free stuff out there on Youtube – I follow Serge Ramelli, Tony Northrup, Mike Browne, Scott Kelby and am always picking up stuff from them, and Houghton Photo also has some videos there, but there are many others as well who will add to your knowledge whatever level you are at.

We can help!

If all this makes sense but you don’t really know where to start, Houghton Photography can help you review your current setup and advise on changes plus help you put them in place – feel free to contact us for a quotation – just email  In Ireland, a half-day (up to 4 hrs) session at your home is charged at €300 (plus expenses for travel outside the Dublin area).  In S. Africa, we charge ZAR 2,500 for a half-day in the Ramsgate, KZN locale.  Joe is a pro photographer and lecturer in business at one of the world’s top 100 business schools, and in a former career was a global IT manager with some of the world’s largest multinational companies, so you can be sure that our advice will be relevant and geared to your specific needs.

We hope these ideas have given you something to think on – happy shooting, and we wish you a healthy and successful 2016!  Please share or forward this on to your friends – we’re trying to connect with new people too!

Joe & Penny