Organizing digital photos

Growing photo collections

It is increasingly easy to amass huge selections of photos and then find yourself spending long hours flipping through looking for a specific memorable image or trying to find one to illustrate a particular post or article.

I long ago lost count of how many images I’ve shot digitally.  PLUS I am of an age that I also have 20+ years of negatives and prints that I have been scanning to create printed  albums as a supplement to all the online collections.  My thinking is that getting the pictures in albums allows me to reduce the number of negatives and duplicate photos.

Making a system

Not long ago, I took advantage of a sale from a scanning service and had more than 1500 prints scanned, which was a big boost to digitizing my collection of old family photos.  Adding those images to my digital records is a good reason to review and update my filing system.

My own photo filing system is in serious need of review and refinement. Every time that I go to do a layout or gift project, I’m spending way to much time trying to find a certain picture that I have in mind, or waiting to be inspired by the right image for a project idea.  I have set a target to complete 4 of the photo books on my  to publish  list by the end of 2017.  To do that effectively, I need to streamline my process so I can spend time designing books rather than searching for the right photos.

Whatever system that you develop has to include backups.  It is devastating to lose pictures.  I speak from experience as last year I lost the better part of two years worth to a system crash.  I don’t like to think about it.  sniff.

Taming the image monster

Here are a few organizing tips for tackling your digital photo collections:

  • Plan a file naming structure that will make it easy to find images. For example, I used to organize by date but found that filing only by date didn’t work too well for me because I very rarely look for pictures on the basis of date. Consider a date AND a name in a consistent format that works.  If you do use a date format, year-month-day is the most effective way to keep chronological order. I still include the date but now put it at the end of my file name so images sorted by name are grouped by event first.  For example, Cathy1stBirthday-2017-06-02
  • Label all new pictures as soon as you uploaded from the camera.
  • Empty your camera card frequently, depending on the volume of pictures that you take.
  • Avoid edits when first uploading. Do that on separate editing session.  One exception, some people prefer to do simple batch edits on all photos at once.  For example, if the pictures were all in a poorly lit environment, you might want to do an action that corrects light on all photos before you file them.
  • Add keywords / tags to each of the pictures so they can be searched in different ways. Avoid copying the same picture into multiple files.
  • Batch changes – rename groups of files rather than one at a time.
  • Discard duplicates and near duplicates. Pick the best example of a series of similar images and discard the rest. Try setting a limit to a maximum for any venue or event.  Be selective.
  • Save pictures that tell different parts of a story – be sure that there are wide views, close-ups and pictures to provide context. Within reason, of course (see previous tip).
  • Avoid unfiled or miscellaneous photos to help minimize numbers of images ignored or forgotten.  Decide now to file.  You can always change later if it isn’t working but put everything somewhere.
  • Tackle a big organizing project in small bits. For example, work for a defined period of time or number of images sorted. Set a timer and move on when target is reached. If you open a file looking for a picture, label any identified pictures in that folder QUICKLY.  Don’t be sidetracked but do a quick rename with event and date.
  • Do new photos first and work back to the older pictures.
  • Do not feel that you have to work in a particular order if you are doing older pictures.  It is OK to work out of chronological order,

Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely [to the White Rabbit], “and go on till you come to the end then stop.
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I would love to hear your strategies and tips for photo organization.   Please share any tips or resources.

What are your goals for photo management.