Organizing your photos (part 1)

Trying to look for the needle in the haystack? Got lost in your archive? Want to know why the world is turning?

Hmm I’m reluctant to answer the latter, but I do have some ideas on the first issue.

Get organized, it is that simple.

You can do this several ways, but before I continue I have to make a distinction between a digital and an analog collection. I see no reason to explain how you could organize your films, negatives and prints. Because for me it would be a simple sollution because I am used to do it this way for 25 years. Put them in a cabinet and make sure you make contact sheets and don’t forget to number them. How you number them, how you place them in your cabinet, thats all up to you.

So lets focus on your digital work:

  • Every time you use your camera you download your pictures to you pc
  • Your library starts to grow
  • One day you want to show that very special photo to your grandma.
  • But you get lost in your own archive.
  • Nightmare!

So you need to get organized. You can do this on a simple way and most digital camera’s and their software offer an option to add a date or timestamp you your digital image. So now all you need to do is remember when you took the photo and look for that date and time…… Some programs even offer the option to download you images from your camera and place them on your PC in separate folders based on the date. So now you have a bunch of folders that look like this: “12th of March 2007”. Wow you got organised, of course you will remember the date of you wedding or your birthday. So if your best photos happen to be taken on those dates you are a lucky person.

Even one of my favorite writers on subjects like photoshop or lightroom, Scott Kelby, advices to structure your work in folders based on years (2001, 2002, 2003, and so on). I just don’t get it. I can’t remember what I did 1 year ago! And I don’t want to hurt my brains by going back even more. You need to find a way that makes sense to you. And for me it is hard to believe that this will be a date-based structure. But hey there are of course exceptional people in this world.

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Think about what will trigger your brain when you are thinking of a photo. In my case it is the following:

  • Cars
  • En route
  • Experimental
  • From Cam
  • Houses
  • Nature
  • Parties and Days out
  • People
  • Pets
  • Scans
  • Travel
  • Various
  • Webwork
  • Work

This list is in no particular order. And it is far from complete, but lets use it as an example. Most of the names will make sense to you, and you will be able to imagine which photos go where.

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There are two folders that I want to explain. First is the folder scans (image on the right). Here I place all my scanned negatives and within this folder there is my old structure based on the numbering I used for my analog pictures. That was a system that worked for me for over 20 years and is still working. So why change a good process?

The second folder is my “From Cam” folder. This is the folder that I use for downloading my photos from my camera to my PC. In this folder I create a new folder every time I save images from my camera. And I try to name them so I still know what the subjects are when I start to process them (in some cases weeks later). From this folder they will be placed in the main library, where my standard structure is.

So within every folder I create new folders. For example the folder People, contains “Friends”, “Family”, “Joan” (my wife), “Mom and Dad”, “Strangers”, and so on. As you can see the most important part is, that it must make sense to you.

next:“Organizing your photos (part 2)”

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