Ok so this year is coming to an end very fast and 2014 could be that big year for you. It could be the year you finally get your ass in gear and organize your photos. I know you have photos scattered all about on separate computers, CD’s, memory sticks & cards. Oh yeah and some are on that external hard drive and some are on the laptop too. And the phone… there’s a bunch of photos on the phone… and yes sadly enough the old mobile phone has photos on it too. Why it looks as if you have photos scattered in more places than Parris Hilton has had boyfriends. So let’s do it, let’s get all those photos organized and put into some sort of organized order that you can understand and be able to find them.
So depending on how un-organized you are and how many photos you have, you may need to take this whole process in baby steps. But let’s face it “if you are going to keep snapping that shutter you really do need to get organized.” Now I will be the first to say that I am the most unorganized person when it comes to most things in life. But there are two places I shine, email & photos. I have all my email saved in folders by year for my catering, photography and personal. If it was important I saved it. All my personal shopping, I know it sounds crazy but when I want to find where I purchased something is 2003 or how much I paid for it, it may take me a few minutes but I can find that info because I saved it in an organized fashion. In the beginning of my photography I too had photos scattered and lost. But one day a few years back I sat down and organized everything. Today we have many options available to help with this process.
So how do I do it? First you want to start by locating all your photos. Think about where they are, for some people they might be on one computer but they are not in any organized system. For other people you may have them spread far and wide as I have described above. If you fall into the scattered far & wide group take the time to just sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, relax and write down all the locations you have photos. This will greatly help you and give you a guide as you move through the organizing process. Now we have the current locations figured out let’s look into our options for an organized storage.
You have a few options here. I will take you through the one I use, but please know this may not work for everybody, however it is a common system for organizing your photos. I organize by the date the photo was taken. I will store photos in the following way; Folder 2013>sub folder>day photo was taken. Example a photo taken on Christmas day 2013 would go in folder 2013 (sub folder) 2013_12_25.
I use two external hard drives and one desktop computer and here is the workflow from beginning to end.
- Photos have been taken with camera and are on the SD card in the camera. SD card is then inserted into the card reader that is plugged into a USB port on the desktop computer. Your computer may already have a card reader built in for your kind of card.
- I use a software program (more about software later) that is really helpful with the download process. It will download my photos to the yearly folder on my computer and in the background it will make backup copies to an external hard drive. The backups are only there if my computer crashes and I need to recover.
- As the main folder in my computer starts to take up too much space and slow my computer down I will move some photos to the second external hard drive. At the end of the year I will move the remainder of what is in my yearly folder to the second external hard drive where the photos will live.
So there you have it.
- Computer has current photos
- External drive #1 has backup files
- External drive #2 is an over flow for main files when the computer becomes full.
I keep all external hard drives physically labeled and they are set in a way that they can be easily & very quickly disconnected from the computer if I had to vacate my home at a moment’s notice. You never know when a situation may arise that would cause you to evacuate your home. It is in good practice to teach everyone who lives in your home that in the event of an evacuation that if at all possible please grab the hard drives as they head out the door. It is not just about the photos, I have other important personal information stored on my hard drives. Let’s face it; we live in a digital storage world now.
Now above I talked about software for downloading and all cameras come with software and we have many cloud based options for our phones such as Dropbox and many others. I use Dropbox (the free version). I keep the Dropbox storage folder on my hard drive #2 and every few months will use the software to import and move to my main folder by date taken.
The software that comes with most cameras will let you download by date as I have described above. But it may not give you the option to make a backup copy to another drive at the same time. This can easily be done manually, but I beg you to really ask yourself; will you do this faithfully? I am going to talk about the software I use and why I use it. It is my opinion that Adobe Lightroom 5 is a really powerful program for photography organization. It obviously does so much more than organize. It could be the only software you need if you are an amateur photographer. Here is where Lightroom really shines; I have 4 cameras and I want to organize photos taken from all 4 cameras, but keep the photos all in one place. Sounds complicated but it is not with Lightroom. I assign a different profile to each camera and with that profile I assign a color tag. So I can view for example the event I attended October 23, 2012 where my wife and I both took photos and I will see photos highlighted with red, green, yellow and blue. All the red are my DSLR photos, the yellow highlighted photos are from my cell phone. The green are from my wife’s point & shoot and the blue are from my point & shoot. I can turn filters on and off to see just red or green and so on. And from Lightroom I can add watermarks and resize and export for right to Facebook, both photos & video. Or I can export to email so I can pick & choose what to send to someone very quickly and easily. I also have the option to do major editing such as remove red eye, spot removal and much more.
You have to be dedicated to starting this organizing process and setting it up. But believe me once you get it set up and in place it is a breeze. Imagine going on vacation or just a day trip, you come home with memory cards full of all the fun stuff you did and the places you seen and maybe from more than one camera. You could just sit down and easily download all those photos and have them organized. And… if you want to go a few steps further you can keyword and star rate your photos to really make them easy to find. I keyword my photos but I don’t get to crazy about it. Example; I went to a custom car show and I had my wife and a friend with me. I will keyword the whole download with words like car show, custom cars, my wife’s name and my friend’s name. If there is a really important photo of something special I might keyword that particular photo. I do however “star rate” from 1 to 5 when I first view the photos and this is easily done by making 3 stars a preset upon download. Then when viewing if I like it I hit 4 stars if it is not so good I make it 1 or 2 stars and I reserve 5 stars for very special photos. And of course I will black flag blurry or any unusable photos and delete to keep maximum room and space on the storage or drive. Deleting unusable photos is a “must do” task and should be done upon completion of download.
As I stated earlier if you have a lot of photos in a lot of different places you may have to do this in baby steps. First locate, then decide where and how to store. This may mean purchasing an external drive or two (I purchased mine over time). It may also mean purchasing software. Many photo software programs will have a 30 day free trial for you to see if you like the product. This is how I first became familiar with Adobe’s Lightroom software. I was using Canon’s software that came with my camera and it automatically organized in the system I stated above, but did not make a backup and it had a horribly slow way of adding keywords. So after my 30 day trail of Lightroom I was really missing being able to use it and I purchased it and have been using it since 2009. Either way if you are going to take photos you need to organize them. Please organize them; you’ll be so glad you did.