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:
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!