EP 58: Backing up Files & Workflow with Aaron Fraher

Natalie Jennings
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of the Photo Business Help Podcast. My name is Natalie Jennings and this is another “conversation episode.” If you've listened to a few of these in the past, I sit down and chat with someone about something photography-related in the hopes that it might help you out, or spark some learning on your end. So today, I am joined by Aaron and I'll let Aaron introduce himself and just say a little bit about his background in photography. And we'll go from there.

Aaron 0:36
So thanks Natalie, for having me. I got my start in kind of a hobby fashion. I got a camera given to me by a friend that was upgrading his camera bodies. So he gave me a pretty used and abused T3i, but it kind of got the bug implanted in me that photography is a lot of fun and ton of possibilities. It's kind of grown from there. I've been doing it for probably almost 10 years now. And I've been doing a lot more sports and events and then also transitioning into portraits now as well.


Natalie Jennings 1:10
That's awesome. I really like that you sort of got specific about the gear that you started with. I think for a lot of folks that I know tune into this show, that's [gear] something that I get asked a lot. You know, is my gear good enough to shoot? What do I need? I think that mastering any gear that you have, whether it's your your phone, or a beginner camera is still going to give you what you need.

Aaron 1:39
Absolutely, I mean, I see every once in a while they pop up like these companies and magazines. I forget what the term they use, but they gave all these professional photographers disposables and see what they come up with. And it's pretty incredible stuff. I don't even know if people remember using those anymore. I know I did. But there's zero features of those except for winding the crank, and hitting the button, and maybe you get a flash on there. Other than that there's zero features. So it just kind of goes to show that as long as you know how to use what's in your hand that goes a lot further than having, you know, a $10,000, DSLR.

Natalie Jennings 2:14
That's right. That's right. And I think it's kind of fun. I mean, even if you're listening to this right now, I think it's fun to challenge yourself, whether it's your phone or whatever, maybe maybe do a challenge like today or this afternoon with what you've got on you and see what you can come up with. Because that's always a way to sort of get the creativity juices flowing. So yeah, I'm glad I'm glad you brought that up. That's really cool. If you're really interested in photography, and it's a passion, and it's something that triggers a lot of creativity for you, it's not going to matter what you start with. It's going to be something that you want to continue with. Thanks for that. So, okay, you mentioned wanting to talk about files and sort of like either how to back them up or a workflow…

Aaron 2:58
The biggest thing I think is not so much the workflow, because I personally think I could be totally wrong, that the workflow aspect is going to depend a lot on what your personal style is. Like myself, I shoot to not have to edit, I usually just do a couple of touch ups. I'm not what some people would consider a digital artist where I'm doing a lot of compositing and heavy photoshopping, like tons of airbrushing or anything like that. I like more a natural look. So, you know, maybe tweak the brightness and the white balance and stuff like that. But I'm not not going an hour at a time on each photo and editing anything like that. So for me, it's more of the file management and how to back things up the best way to store them and really just be able to find what you need quickly whenever you need to.

Natalie Jennings 3:45
Right, right. Well, and I can I can speak to what I do, and I'd like to hear what you do as well.

Aaron 3:58
Yeah, that'd be great.

Natalie Jennings 3:59
Yeah, why don't you Why don't you go first and then I'll follow up.

Unknown Speaker 4:02
Yeah, so I use Lightroom myself. So I just import everything off the card and Lightroom does its thing with catalogging. The way I might set up is by year, month, date. And I keep the RAW catalog backups on a separate hard drive so that we have all those in case I need to go back to them for any reason. Then when I export I save the full the full session without deleting anything because I mean, sometimes you might find a hidden gem like a goofy kid making a funny face or something like that. So it's always kind of cool to have that to go back to. But then I also export all of what I call the working images or the ones that the customer chose to keep. So keep those in working folder in their RAW format. And then also any any working version of that as well whether it's you know, Photoshop edit or the fixed version in Lightroom. Then also a correspondence folder with any any emails or any conversations. You know, if there's any texting or Facebook messages, I'll screenshot those and save that set and as well as a PDF version of Gmail correspondence as well.

Natalie Jennings 5:07
Oh, that's awesome. I've never heard anyone do that. And that is a really great way to stay super organized,

Aaron 5:12
It could be a little more, you know, redundant than I might need. But I find that as long as you're naming your folders, everything properly, it definitely helps to be able to go back and be like, Oh, you know, Tammy from last week, wants to know, you know, what we discussed her, maybe there was a discrepancy in what she thought she was getting versus what was what was mentioned. And it's good to be able to go back quickly and be like, you know, this is this is what we described as what we talked about and what you agreed upon. Just that there's no no bumps in the road.

Natalie Jennings 5:12
Sure, sure. That's cool. That's really great. So one of the things that you were talking about was saving the photos that your clients choose or chose, do you do a proofing piece with with your business model?

Aaron 5:53
Yes, what I do is I put the full gallery up with just a big like 30% watermark across the middle of it. So that way, even though my website has the right-click option disabled, sometimes you will find a workaround. I think like some phones will let you do it, it doesn't recognize that it as the right-click option. But that way, you know, at least know where the photo came from if you try to do that, and then I typically tell them, just let me know by image name. So whatever the designated name is straight off of the camera. So in my case, I just use IMG and then underscore whatever. So like, image number 25, I'll just save those. So if they pick five, you know, it's image 25-30. And I'll keep those in the working so that way, I don't have to keep going back and forth with all the emails of which ones they picked. I just know that those five in that folder are the ones that they chose to go with. And you know, if I edit too much, if I screw something up, I can always go back to that base and start over if I need to.

Natalie Jennings 6:42
Sure. Sure. That makes sense. That's great. And are doing this through your website, you said are you using, like SmugMug or something like that?

Aaron 6:51
Yep. So I use a SmugMug website. And then it's just a typically an unlisted gallery so nobody can see it. And then only accessible with the link and password.

Natalie Jennings 7:01
Cool, cool. And so you've been this work for a little while. Is there something that triggered this kind of inquiry into how how to do it and anything that's tripping you up or causing you a little bit of a headache?

Aaron 7:13
I don't think anything is really tripping me up. It's just kind of the ongoing search for the best way possible to do it. And the quickest way possible, because I mean, to be honest, everybody could definitely use some extra time in their day here and there. So anywhere we can make it up. This is better.

Natalie Jennings 7:28
That's right. That's right. I think one thing maybe to look into and might be overkill, depending on how busy you are, is just looking at like a CRM. Something like Honeybook or something like Dubsato to just track all of your client stuff in that one spot. You do have to pay to use those services. But then that way you're not worried about where all the correspondence is going. It's just kind of like directly related to that client. But if you're disciplined enough to do screenshots or whatever you're doing to keep those files organized, that's great. I usually just search in Gmail by name so and I have a bunch of different labels in Gmail and it really does depend on your business model and how busy you are. So that's like the first thing that jumped out at me.

Natalie Jennings 9:09
So for me, I started using Photo Mechanic a few years ago. And one of the things that photo mechanic does when you're ingesting is is just shows you the XMP files. Basically, you can go through and cull at a rate that's wildly fast compared to Lightroom because nothing's being drawn into this bigger larger catalog where you're going to edit from there as well. And I know you can do smart previews and all this stuff, but I've still found that just the process in general is a lot quicker. I like Photo Mechanic. I like that I can sort of have all my RAWS somewhere else and then pull stuff into Lightroom in a way that's really separate. I did do a regular impor into Lightroom one time with the same wedding. In Lightroom it took me like an hour and a half to do the culll and in PM and it took me like 45. So there was something about the way that that's all arranged that was a lot quicker for me, but I'm doing like really high volume stuff a lot.

Natalie Jennings 10:20
So I just did an interview that's going to be coming out in a little while about using the same catalog in Lightroom. Some people will use like the same Lightroom catalog for a really, really long time. I tend to sometimes divide them up and name them differently. Sometimes I'll just work from the same one for like a month or longer and then just save that whole thing and that folder. The way that I have everything arranged on my hard drives is by year, month, and client name and inside each client folder is the RAW selects and then the finished high-res jpegs. Those jpegs also are up on SmugMug as well. So that's basically how I back everything up. I'm not sure if that was a comprehensive enough answer for you.

Aaron 11:10
I have a friend that does a lot of professional sports around the Twin Cities as well. And I know he uses Photo Mechanic. And I just don't know, volume-wise, it makes sense for me. That being said, if things pick up and take off the way that I kind of hope they do, I probably have to look into it a little more.

Natalie Jennings 11:29
Yeah, yeah. And it's not super, super expensive or anything. But it certainly has, you know, sped up my culling for whatever reason. But I again, I'm doing really, really high volume stuff. The thing that has helped me stay organized the most is organizing my hard drives by year, month, and client name so every time I do anything–in fact, just today I went back to a holiday session that I want to blog from a couple of years ago, and so I was naturally just looking at December 2017, it was super easy to find. And it was right there and I just imported the catalog back into Lightroom. So stuff like that can really really save you a lot of time you are going above and beyond with with the, with the correspondence, which I think is awesome. I mean anything to save you time, when I used to teach my Escape the Cubicle class years ago, I used to talk a ton about folders, you know, just take the extra two seconds to label something. So if it's, for me, when I have certain correspondence in Gmail, I just add the label if I'm not using a CRM, like Honeybook or something, and if I finish a photoshoot, I just make sure to back it up the way that I've, you know, set up to back it up. And I think the way that people get hung up is is just that they let things go let things go. And then it's like, four months of photos that they have to organize and it just becomes a bit of a headache. So stay on top of it. Each time you do a shoot is like you know, I'd say lesson number one and organization.

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Aaron 13:00
Yeah, and then kind of touching on what you said to about the the catalogs and how much you stay on top of it. Like I personally as soon as I'm done working on them, I take them totally off my computer because I just have the 256 gig hard drive on mine. I keep everything else on on standalone drives because the computer runs a lot faster that way. Especially if you're trying to do a bunch of editing and exporting all the same time you have, you know, 20 gigs spit free space on there, it's really going to bog everything down and take a lot longer so I find that the more free space you keep on your computer, the better is going to perform.

Natalie Jennings 13:30
Absolutely, absolutely. And for me I work a lot off of my desktop but I have to external one terabyte hard drives and I just keep them mirroring each other one I keep at home all the time. And the other one I take with me if I'm traveling or something.

Aaron 13:46
I also use the The Time Machine feature on the Mac because it does save everything as opposed to just files. If you have presets that you use or you know set up saved on your desktop, it remembers how everything is or members that the files were there. And again, it could be a little bit overkill because it, you know, it might be too much to remember and won't take up too much space on a hard drive for some people. But the one time you need it, you're going to be glad you did it. Because like I actually had one of my laptops crash on me, the logic board for whatever reason, just failed and Apple couldn't figure out what happened. So I ended up getting the laptop I have now for free because they couldn't fix it. But had I not use the Time Machine I would have been in serious trouble.

Natalie Jennings 14:29
That's that's really impressive. And I think that's a good note to sort of wrap on in terms of what we're chatting about today. If if you're listening and you're doing a lot of stuff from your computer's hard drive, whether that's a desktop or a laptop, and you're not backing stuff up, please, please start backing stuff up as you're working! If I look at my desktop I've got about three weddings and with all my mini sessions and head I've got about 20 portrait sessions sitting on my desktop that I'm working from, because I'm a really visual worker. So I like to just have everything in, in folders that I can see. But all of that is obviously also on both of my hard drives. And so if tomorrow my laptop just died, or if it died a minute from now, at least I would have all that information. And when you're getting paid to do this, and when people are trusting you, especially with things that you can't reschedule or redo like a wedding, just make sure that you're you're backing them up. I have one more little anecdote about someone that I know that did a great job of backing stuff up but had taken everything off of their laptop and only had it on one external hard drive, which they accidentally just dropped one day and it it was unrecoverable. So I think I think it does happen to people and I've seen it happen to people so just make sure you're…you know, I like to think of it like I'm one of those people that brings my car in on time to change the oil like I I just like to avoid stuff that sounds like it'll suck if it happens. You don't have to go super overkill, but it's certainly important to think about stuff like that.

Aaron 16:13
Hard drives are so cheap too. I just bought a four terabyte Western Digital standalone solid state drive for 100 bucks.

Natalie Jennings 16:20

Aaron 16:22
I kind of think with with what you can kind of be making and photography and what you charge your clients, a hundred bucks for peace of mind and just one extra backup is not asking a lot and kind of a no-brainer.

Natalie Jennings 16:35
Not at all. That's I mean, it's part of the gig, you know what I mean? That is part of what I think is behaving and running a business in a professional way. So if you're telling yourself, I'm a professional photographer versus an amateur. That's one of the things is just treating it like like a business. So that was a super, that was a great chat. Thank you for bringing all of that stuff up. And I especially like at the beginning just just that little bit about you know, do do great work with whatever camera you've got and, and just enjoy yourself too. So anything else that you want to add at all or any random questions?

Aaron 17:12
I don't think so cuz I don't want to venture off on too many tangents and mixing, you know, it's another 20 minutes. But no, I think it was it was a great topic. Like you said, I definitely learned a few things. Definitely some some thinking points for me. Because like I said, I think we've talked before it's just it's good to hear other people's viewpoints and other people's experiences because there could be things that you haven't run into or you just don't think of, and it's good to see those and hear about those.

Episode 58 backing up files with aaron

Natalie Jennings 17:36
Sure, sure. Where can people find you? Most often on the internet? Where would you like people to?

Aaron 17:43
My website, Instagram and Facebook. My website is and @afray_photo on Instagram and Facebook.

Natalie Jennings 17:57
Awesome. Cool. Well thank you so much Aaron. It was great to chat with you. Really good topic one that I don't think there's a universal right answer to but…

Aaron 18:08
Yeah, no definitely I appreciate you having me too, Natalie. Thank you.

Natalie Jennings 18:11
Yeah, of course of course. So thank you for listening to that interview. If you would like to join our Facebook group our community where Aaron and I met and we're a lot of us are having these conversations every day you can head to Or you can just go to Facebook and search photo biz help with Natalie Jennings and answer a couple questions so that I know you're a real person, and I'd love to have you in the group. Thanks for listening. I will be back Tuesday and Thursday. next week with another episode. Remember and everything you want to achieve. consistency is key.

Transcribed by

About Aaron

I am a Minneapolis-based photographer that has been shooting for just shy of a decade. What started out as a fun little hobby for me quickly blossomed into a passion that allowed me to make some extra money on the side. After years of shooting whatever fell into my lap, I have begun pursuing new business and other types of shooting to attract new clients and expand my offerings. My specialties currently are event and sports photography, but I am expanding into portraits and working on making the leap into weddings! I love researching new methods of shooting, different editing styles and new trends in photography as they arise to keep challenging myself and growing my skillset. I am always looking for new opportunities to shoot and collaborate with other photographers as well! 

How to find Aaron:

  • Smugmug
  • Lightroom
  • Photo Mechanic
  • Canon T3i
  • Apple
  • Western Digital



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