When I'm working on multiple projects simultaneously, it's easy for my desk to build clutter. But having an organizational system ensures I can find everything I need.

Photo: Jason Hendardy

I'll be the first to admit that my personal organizational and archiving system is still a work in progress. I hope that as I continue to learn from my peers and suggestions from readers, I'll be able to adopt new approaches and techniques that my future self will be grateful for.

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Organization is not something that comes naturally to me.

I say this because it took a number of past experiences, including losing years of work due to a hard drive dying, to make me realize that knowing where your work is stored is just as important as getting the shot or finishing the project. Additionally, having an integrated, organized workflow with built-in redundancy helps me avoid project paralysis and lets me sleep a little better at night.

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As I began to work in-house at larger organizations that (no pun intended) lacked organization, I realized being able to find a specific photo, video, or asset quickly is not necessarily something everyone can do or even cares about.

That point of separation is a value proposition that I believe has aided me in continually getting work. A photo editor, producer, or collector may suddenly ask you for something, and if you’re struggling to remember where it may be or, dare I say, it no longer exists for whatever reason, it doesn’t really matter how perfect that photo or video clip you initially captured was.

Here's an example of what my folder structure has evolved to look like over the years. Having something uniform lets me know where to look when I need a particular asset, and helps me easily see what exists at a glance.

Illustration: Jason Hendardy

So, here are a few tips I'd share with a friend who may be looking to bring some more organization into their photo or video workflow, which you can take or leave.

  • Have an organizational system that works for you and is easy to keep up. Sometimes simplicity outweighs extreme compartmentalization.

  • Try to build redundancy for everything you care about or may one day care about. Perhaps that means having some final assets live both on a drive and in the cloud or for me it's a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device in addition to external drives that live off premises.
  • Having something in the cloud isn’t foolproof. It may be a good location for one point of redundancy but it doesn’t beat owning fast access to your own data and media. Plus some cloud storage options can be expensive if you have many TBs worth of data.

  • I personally like to have my filenames start with the year. I have my export settings in Capture One set to "[Image Year (yyyy)]_[Image Month (mm)][Image Day of Month (dd)]_[Image Name]," which gives me filenames like 2022_1101_DSCF4300. For me it’s nice to have my files chronological as to when I shot it, and it helps re-tell a story if I ever go back to photos several years later.

Every person or workplace may have a different style when it comes to organization and archiving, but one thing common to all of them is that it takes time, dedication – and sometimes a lost hard drive – to initially get the system set up.

Do you have a specific organizational system you use to archive all your photos, videos, media or personal and/or client work? Let us know in the comments what works for you so the community can learn from each other and explore different approaches.