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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Organization Will Set You Free!

Basic organization techniques to help you find, sort and catalog your images

Finding photos you've shot on your computer has long been a challenge. As soon as you have more than a couple hundred photos shot over time, which for many readers happens from just one trip—even one day of that trip—locating specific images as you need them can be problematic. Digital photography lets you organize photos much better than you could with film. Adobe Lightroom can help. (Many of the ideas I'll describe also will work with Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer, Adobe Bridge, Apple Aperture and a variety of dedicated filing programs.)

The Hard Drive As A Storage Room
In the past, you could have stored photos in a storage room, putting them into file folders, then into file cabinet drawers, then into file cabinets and so forth, as a way of organizing photos. Think of your computer's file folders as virtual file cabinets, cabinet drawers and file folders. (By the way, you should be storing your photos on a separate drive, not the main hard drive of your computer.)

Everyone files important information differently. Use the information here and adapt it to come up with your own system that works best for you. The most important thing is to have a system.

An Underlying File Structure
You need to have a file structure to help your software find your images. I've seen photographers start importing into random folders that have no consistent naming pattern or order. That can be a real problem to work with. If you've already done that and have a confusing file structure, it's not hard to fix, but it will take some dedicated time and work. It's a lot like dealing with cleaning out a garage that has had things randomly thrown into it for years. Also think about basing your structure on how you file anything in a file cabinet so you can find it later. Here are some ideas on how I do this.

Start by creating an overriding or top-level folder. I use a folder called Digital Images. I don't use the Pictures or My Pictures folder that comes with a computer for two reasons: 1) This is on the main hard drive, and no photos go on that drive; and 2) This folder is used by a number of programs to file things other than your photos. I want my "storage room" or overriding folder to have only my photos in it.

Next, what do you want in that folder? I use years as the next level of folders. This results in my Digital Images folder holding individual folders named 2012, 2011 and 2010. The Digital Images folder would be the parent folder for the years in this case, and the year folders would be parent folders for the next level of folder organization.


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