How To Organize Photos in the New Year

How To Organize Photos

So we are off and running in the new year. Hopefully we'll all be taking a lot of great photos this year whether they are of friends, family, or as part of our business. I thought then that it might be helpful to share how I organize photos in case you are looking for a new system this year. While I've been using this method for my production work, it could equally be applied to your home photos. You also don't need to have any management software like Lightroom (although you could if you wanted to edit those photos later).

How I Organize Photos

Everything is stored in the folder structure on my hard drive. As an example, let's take a multi-day shoot happening on January 5th. Here's how the folders break down:









  Note that the folder and filename format is Year-Month-Day. This keeps everything ordered correctly in a list.

As an alternative, you can replace the D2 entry with the setup name or number. So if you have 4 setups in your one-day editorial shoot, you could reference them like:

20150105-S1-0020.CR2 or 20150105-S1GreenWall-0020.CR2

  That way when it comes time for client proofing, all of your images will be ordered by date and setup, making it easy to organize on your proofing site.

This method is great for general organizing of your images, whether client work or family shots. Another reason it rocks is that the images are organized within the filesystem (not within Lightroom or Capture One). You can still use those tools, but you can also access your images directly with Bridge or Photo Mechanic and know where to find your work.

Speaking of Photo Mechanic, if you haven't already, I highly suggest taking a look at that software for browing images. While it's not the most beautiful app out there, it does have something the other apps don't: speed. It uses the embedded JPEG preview in a RAW file to show a thumbnail image, meaning you can quickly cull your images without waiting for a RAW preview to render.

So how does this system hold up for family images? Pretty well:








There's one part missing from this system that you would get with Lightroom: tagging. It's great to have all of your images organized, but sometimes I'd like to search for "all images of my son from January-March of 2014".

I’m just starting to implement a solution for this. What I'd like is to be able to tag an image and have that tagging information stored in the RAW file/associated XMP file. I don't want the tagging details stored in a separate app. Right now this has me leaning towards tagging the images in Adobe Bridge, as it stores those details in a separate ‘sidecar' file (Lightroom does this as well with some additional options turned on). But browsing this information on various machines (especially over a network) is slow (since there’s no database, opening Bridge on a laptop and searching for keywords requires indexing the entire folder structure.) If you have any thoughts on this solution, I'd love to hear them.

Another app you might want to check out is called Hazel. It’s a menu bar item (Mac) that watches a folder, and then does things when items appear in that folder. For example, you could set it up so that whenever photos are placed in a temporary folder (say iPhone shots), Hazel will move them to your master iPhone folder, renaming them as listed above. That’s just one of the things you can do with this amazing little program.


Once all your images are in the right folders, you’ll want to make sure that you have a great backup strategy in place. A strategy you may read about on the web is called “3-2-1 Backups”. This simply means that for any important file you have at least 3 copies, in at least 2 locations, with at least 1 of those being offsite. In my case, I use Backblaze to do immediate backups to the cloud of my image drive. I also do nightly backups via Chronosync to my home drive. I also do periodic backups of everything to a storage locker offsite. Including my office drive, that covers my 3-2-1.

I hope these tips are a good start to helping you organize photos in 2015!

Santa In Carbonite


Announcing our 2014 Christmas card - Santa in Carbonite!

At the end of every year we collect all of the cool card ideas that we thought of during the season. I then create a calendar event for the next November, listing out the ideas we thought of. Last year we came up with a Star Wars Christmas card idea with the boys guarding Santa Claus, frozen in carbonite. Call them Imperial Elves.

Building A Set

To create this image I decided to build a miniature set in my studio. It was about 18 inches tall, and I used mostly balsa wood to build it. For the platform lighting I connected some USB led lights and then gelled them orange.

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 2
Star Wars Christmas Card Image 3

To get the concrete texture, I used a product by Liquitex called Ceramic Stucco. It’s great at producing a gritty, concrete-like texture to a surface. After applying it, I used a combination of Liquitex Basics paints and airbrushing to get the worn effect.

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 4

With all of the texturing and painting done, I tried out a few angles to see what worked best (you can see one angle with the camera below). Ultimately I decided on a front view, as it provided a nice symmetry to everything.

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 5
Star Wars Christmas Card Image 6


For lighting, I looked at stills from the original movie. There were overhead vents that had light spilling through them, raking across the walls, hitting the floor. To accomplish this I created a simple roof with the vents cut out. I placed a 580ex flash overhead with no diffusion, and adjusted the ceiling and light location until I got just the right amount of ‘rake’ across the walls and floor. I placed a flag over the sit to keep the light from the 580 from hitting the rest of the area. I just wanted it to come through the overhead vents. I also had a soft front light to serve as a general fill.

The exposure was long - 3.2 seconds, f/10, ISO 100. This gave me a good balance between the flash light coming in and the glow of the USB lights. Here’s a diagram of the lighting setup.

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 7

Creating Santa

To create our frozen Santa, I found a 3D model online of Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite. I took that model into Cinema 4D and used its sculpting tools to turn Solo into jolly old St. Nick. I left some of the face details so that it still looked like Han a little bit :)

In Cinema 4D you set up a camera and lights like you do with a real shoot. So, I simply matched everything to how I had lit the set (shot at 35mm). I also added in two glow lights (one at his feet and one to the right side to mimic the light coming from the control panel).

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 8
Star Wars Christmas Card Image 9

'Principal Photography'

Photographing the boys was pretty straightforward. I had a soft light for fill. I also ran an overhead strip to simulate the vent light, as well as an orange-gelled floor light to simulate the glow from the platform behind them.

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 10

Once all the elements were photographed and rendered, I took everything into Photoshop for compositing. I did some touch-ups to the walls and platform grates, and I added some smoke from the top. Here's a shot of how the retouch was coming along before I cropped it:

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 11

And here's the back:

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 12

Would J.J. approve? I hope so!

This was just one of the cards I created this year over at Be sure to head over there this week as voting officially begins this Saturday for the coveted 2014 Refrigerator Award trophy!

Star Wars Christmas Card Image 13
Star Wars Christmas Card Image 14

A New Site!


I’m super-pumped to announce that a redesigned website is online! I’ve been doing some major renovations around here. Here are some of the details: First up, a new look and feel. That one is obvious. The blog is now part of the site (rather than in a separate directory). This means that I can link between blog posts and portfolio images much easier. You can start from the portfolio image and check out the matching blog post, for example.

Next, a lot of the portfolio images have descriptions/anecdotes of the shoot. I thought it might be nice to tell a little bit of the story of each image, rather than just show you an image and have you figure it out. Currently, all of the images in the Portraits section and some in the Editorial section have this information. Here's an example.

I’ve also got some new fine art products launching in about a month that I am very excited about. This will be a new project for me, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to ‘speak’ in this new art form. If you want to be the first to know about the new products, take a moment and sign up for my mailing list.


Thanks for checking out the new site, and for your continued support!

Herding Cats For Mother's Day

Mother's Day Photo Idea

With my wife out of town for a few days last week, I decided it was the perfect chance to create a fun, memorable photo for Mother’s Day. I wanted something that had our whole family in it, including the crazy pets. I normally steer clear of shots like this for the simple reason that it’s near-impossible to herd the cats. It’s just very love/hate between our three pets, so the only way this was going to work was if I shot a composite.

After school last week, we loaded everyone up in the car and headed to my studio to take the shot. I set up an overhead camera rig about 8 feet off the ground, shooting wide at 16mm. For lighting, there’s a bare bulb flash in the upper middle and lower left of the frame. I also added an extra bare flash in the lower right to kill some of the c-stand shadows that were showing up. We used 5 photographs to create the final image.

The dust wasn’t dust at all, but rather a couple of passes with an airbrush using Corel Painter. I also added a chalkboard texture to give some nice additional contrast.

Loading up the pets for the ride:

Mother's Day Photo Idea 2

Here’s the shot of the boys:

Mother's Day Photo Idea 3

Here’s Queso (the dog). Note that I put down a pencil and a hairbrush to serve as simple markers of the feet location from the myself and the boys. The hairbrush works great for this because, sadly, it doesn’t get much use in my house anymore.

Mother's Day Photo Idea 4

Lisa loved the shot, and we all laughed at how huge the cats have become.


Austin Music Composer Portrait Artists are always looking for promotional images that reflect them on different levels. For this shot of Anthony (a composer here in Texas and the owner of Tranzducer Music), I wanted to create an image that worked well with the electronic, almost electrical, style of his music.

We had some discussions about options. We would get the standard head shot images for his promo kit, but I also wanted to explore this electrical idea a little further. Electronic music is based a lot on 'modifiers', meaning that you might start with a particular sound, but then you spend a lot of time tweaking frequencies, cutoffs, gates, etc to get the sound you want. And all of those variables change throughout the song. It can be a very hands-on/performance-based approach to music. When you see 50 little dials on a Nord keyboard, you can get an idea of all the parameters you can change in real time.

I pitched him on building a small set to illustrate this:

The idea was to have his head surrounded by LEDs. His head then became the 'conduit' between which all these electrical impulses were passing through. We thought some old pieces of metal would be great as a backdrop, but they were surprisingly difficult to find. Texas has some particular rules dealing with the sale of scrap metal. Basically, you can't sell it to an individual like me, probably because of liability. However, I was able to find a sheet metal cutter who sold me a couple of pieces of scrappy, rusted sheet metal that he wasn't going to use.

For the LEDs, I picked up 6 of those flexible USB lights. I then drilled some holes in the metal and ran a USB hub to power all of the lights. In the shot, the LEDs are illuminating Anthony, and then we added the extra electrical bolts and particle effects in post. Anthony was also lit with a gridded beauty dish so that we had some overall fill.

This was an incredibly fun shoot. We got some great images for Anthony and had a great time during the whole process. We've already started discussing ideas for the next shoot, and I'm looking forward to it!




Google Plus and a New Venture

Yes, it's been a little barren here on the Dogblog. I would chalk it up to the intense Texas heat which has forced all of us to retreat to the coolest parts of our homes for the last few months. Only now are we starting to emerge and go outside. First off, if you haven't yet signed up for Google Plus, I highly suggest you do so. It has been exploding since its introduction a few months ago, especially in the area of photography. The work being posted up there daily is incredible! You can find my profile directly at

Google Plus has this unique feature called a 'hangout'. It's a group video chat, and it also has become quite popular. You'll find hangouts covering all sorts of topics. It's a great way to meet new friends.

Using hangouts, myself and photographer Dustin Meyer have launched a new venture: Photog.TV. The idea is really simple: we host and record hangouts weekly covering photography. We talk about photo news, have interviews, show tips that we've come across, etc. I think of it as a social podcast. The format and schedule are set, but the guests are random (it's whoever joins the hangout) and the discussion can go anywhere.

So far, we've had 4 episodes. We've talked about the current state of photography, the legacy of Steve Jobs, working with clients, and tips/tricks for getting maximum engagement on your blog (Dustin hosted that last one, as I'm in no condition to pontificate on blog engagement lately).

We've also had some great guests join in: RC Concepcion and Pete Collins from NAPP, Trey Ratcliff, and even super-famous (about to be famous-er) G+ singer Daria Musk.

When you get a moment, head on over to Photog.TV, watch some of the episodes, and let us know what you think. If you want to be part of an episode, head over to Google Plus and circle myself and Dustin. We record it live on Google Plus every Thursday at 12PM CST. We've have some cool ideas of where this could go.