Keeping a Digital Print Archive

I shoot RAW with my digital cameras, and edit in Lightroom CC. Non-destructive RAW editing is awesome, but the only good way to actually see the edits is by using Lightroom (or whichever app was used to do the editing). What happens if one day I stop using it?

Historically, I’ve exported each processed jpg file right next to the original RAW file. Switching to Lightroom CC has made this tricky because the originals are kept in Adobe’s cloud and CCs export features are rather basic.

To help remedy this, and to ensure long-term viability of my photos, I’m creating a Digital Print Archive”. Any photo worth editing is exported to a separate jpg file in a YYYY/MM/ folder structure on my main drive. I think of each exported image as a digital print”. 

I manage this process using my Rating system for photos in Lightroom CC.

Lightroom CC does not have color labels, so I’ve had to modify my system a bit. I used to use labels to indicate process/export status but now I’m using star ratings instead.

Here’s how my star ratings work in CC:

  • ⭐ — Pay attention to this image
  • ⭐⭐ — Has been processed/edited
  • ⭐⭐⭐ — Has been exported to the Digital Print Archive
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ — A favorite

This system gives me a curated, organized set of burned” copies of my original RAW files and requires no specific software to view or manage them. I’m testing Photo Mechanic Plus” as a way of cataloging the archive, and it’s working quite well.