We recently returned home from a three month road trip through the Western United States. I thought it might be useful to go over the basic workflow I have for dealing with gear and photos after getting back home.
The very first thing I do is backup the photos and videos. During our trip we ended up taking about 1.5TB worth of photos and videos. Throughout the trip the photos had already been backed up to several portable external hard drives, but when I get back home I transfer everything to our main storage server. We actually have a whole tutorial on photo backup called Backup or Die which you can find here. Tip: I use a program for Mac called Chronosync to transfer the files. Chronosync has an option for verifying the file transfer (the program reads each file after it’s transferred and compared it to the original to make sure every bit was copied correctly).
After the main backup is done my next priority is to do an offsite backup. I copy all the photos to another hard drive (again using Chronosync) and I take that hard drive to our offsite location (our bank safe deposit box). Tip: Avoid reformatting memory cards until you’re sure you have your photos on multiple hard drives (preferably in multiple physical locations). After I’ve done the offsite backup then I reformat memory cards (or in this case the portable hard drives I had the photos stored on). I’ll save our mobile backup workflow for another post.
I like to start out by basically unpacking every thing from the various camera bags we’ve taken with us. I organize it all on our workbench, and take inventory of the gear we used most frequently during the trip and any gear that we didn’t use enough (which will help me cut weight on future trips). I also make not of any consumable stuff that needs replacing or any new gear that needs ordering (lenspens, lenscaps, memorycards, batteries, etc.). It’s also a good time to check wear on neckstraps and wrist straps. Tip: Last year I setup a photography workbench (kind of a combination of shelf, with worksurface, pegboard, and overhead lights with lots of power outlets for chargers. Having a place dedicated to just camera gear has made it a lot more enjoyable dealing with it all.
Once all the gear is cleaned and batteries charged that I put everything back away on our storage shelves.
Clean and Charge
While I’m unpacking I’m usually simultaneously cleaning lenses and cameras, as well as setting up chargers with batteries. Having some microfiber towels, lens pens, rocket blowers, and compressed air on hand is really useful.
Clean our Office
When we leave on a trip I usually end up leaving our office in a pretty disorganized state. I don’t feel like I can really get started working until I bring things back to a reasonable state of order.
Photo and Video Review
I feel like I don’t usually get to reviewing photos fast enough. Partially I think I need some time before diving into things. But also I feel most comfortable when the above workflow is completed first. This most recent trip was a pretty big one so it probably took me a few solid days to work through the backup and and unpacking process.
The Photo and Video review process will be ongoing. It’s really valuable to go through all the photos rating them, and keywording them. There’s also a lot of photography lessons to be gained by looking at your photos (and understanding what you could have done differently). We try to do a bit of photo review while we’re traveling, but it’s difficult to keep up with on the road (which helps a lot!). Still, it will likely take us weeks to slowly go through all the photos.
Are there any specific tips you have for returning home from a photography trip? What’s your workflow like?