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My Photo Flow | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

My Photo Flow

The assumption is that the smart phone has supposedly made it easier to take a photo but is that really the case? It seems like people are pulling out their phone all the time to capture something but what are they doing with it afterwards? Are they uploading it to Instagram, tweeting or sharing it within a private network? Taking the process one step further how are they actually finding that image at a later date? For instance a person wants to see what they did on their birthday two years ago. Are they looking through their phone’s archives, using their favorite desktop program or something else? Simple questions with many potential outcomes.

I probably make it more complicated than it needs to be but I wanted to map out my process. To start with I started a flow showing the steps.

Photo Flow

Shoot > Edit > Upload > Backup & Publish
Shoot: I’ll Usually start with using my Sony RX100 II, a great pocket size camera that is NFC enabled. Beyond the size and photo sharing capabilities the camera shoots amazing images.

Edit: After pulling my camera out of my pocket I’ll tap my HTC One and camera together to get the selected image on my phone. My phone serves two purposes, first to edit the image and secondly send it online to specific networks. A majority of the time I’ll start editing the image with Snapseed and push the image to VSCO for some minor tweaks.

Upload: Once the image is ready I’ll push it to both Instagram and Flickr. They both have benefits that compliment each other that I’ll talk about shortly.

Backup & Publish: I use IFTTT in the background. Every time I upload an image to either Instagram or Flickr it will automatically save a copy to Dropbox. I do this to backup all my images in case something happens on either network. From there I might publish the image which I define differently from just uploading to Instagram and Flickr. For me, publishing means either sharing the image on Twitter, VSCO or potentially my blog. Instagram is much more of a social network where as Flickr provides more options for archiving, search and formats.

Formats, Square vs Infinite Proportion
Most of the time I don’t think about shooting in a square format so I like that Flickr gives me the ability to use an infinite number of proportions. With that said I’ll upload to Instagram first so I can see what the image looks like as a square. When I move on to Flickr if I don’t like the natural proportion I’ll use a square.

Photo Formats

It’s fascinating to compare some square images to their natural format. Sometimes it’s better as a square, sometimes it’s the other way around.




Proportion formats is but just one feature of an application that allows a person to display an image. From there I looked at a couple other features and compared them with Instagram, Filckr and VSCO. I broke out four prominent features and ranked them as low, medium or high in terms of benefit for each service. Archives refers to how easy is it to find an image after a period of time. Format is what options a person has to place the image in a proportion. Filters are pretty self explanatory in that they allow adjustment to the image. Final benefit that I ranked was social. This is based on how easy it is to follow people, people to follow back and interaction between people.

Photo Matrix

Looking at each feature independently, each service is better in some and worse in others. For me personally if I rank it feature as important as the other it’s hard to give a clear cut “better” service. For me I find this interesting in that there are so many options out there but to get the best experience they need to work together within my flow to be beneficial. A year from now I wonder if that will still be the case.

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  • David Crompton

    Your point about the smartphone (and tech in general) making it ‘easier’ is good one. Making images has never been less complicated. For me, everything after that moment seems more complicated than ever. My current flow has similarities but also involves Dayone, Lightroom and Picturelife/Loom (I’ve been testing them both for a few months.) In your case, nothing ends up archived in Lightroom or Aperture? Or is that a separate flow?

  • Michael Surtees

    You are correct in that nothing is archived in Lightroom or Aperture. Those programs seemed constrained to the desktop. Rarely do I do anything with my photos there so it was never part of the flow.