Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories

Started Jun 23, 2013 | Discussions
photogizmo Regular Member • Posts: 370
Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories
1

What tools are you using to organise your photos? ie. lightroom, bridge, etc.

Is there a particular method or system that you are using to help maintain being organised? ie. place all files once I check them in a category folder.

What categories are you using? ie. people, nature, etc.

How do you manage images that you post process in your whole file structure so that it is easy to retrieve? ie. do you change the file names, etc.

Any other advise to help people make the right choice about how to go about organising their photos so that it is easy to manage, retrieve, process, etc.

Lee Jay Forum Pro • Posts: 52,335
Lightroom categorized in hierarchical folders by event
1

I've got 200,000 shots in hierarchical folders with virtually no keywords. Now, I wouldn't mind it if they were keyworded, but I just don't have the time to deal with key wording them.
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Leonard Migliore
Leonard Migliore Forum Pro • Posts: 14,930
What I do-not a recommendation for anyone else

photogizmo wrote:

What tools are you using to organise your photos? ie. lightroom, bridge, etc.

I put every shooting event into a dated folder with a descriptive name. Then I import them into Lightroom with keywords.

Is there a particular method or system that you are using to help maintain being organised? ie. place all files once I check them in a category folder.

Not sure what you mean here

What categories are you using? ie. people, nature, etc.

I don't use those as keywords. I'll use something like "Point Lobos" or "Chickens".

How do you manage images that you post process in your whole file structure so that it is easy to retrieve? ie. do you change the file names, etc.

I don't manage post-processed images. If i like what I've done, I'll save it as an instance.

Any other advise to help people make the right choice about how to go about organising their photos so that it is easy to manage, retrieve, process, etc.

I think that this is a personal thing and you have to construct a system that's congruent with the way your mind operates. I can get anything I've done pretty fast with my system but I would expect that others would gag on it.

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Carey Brown
Carey Brown Senior Member • Posts: 1,494
Re: Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories

I use Lightroom.

I name my photos with the date and time they were taken and put them in folders for the year and the month. Early on I tried various other naming and folder schemes but they quickly got out of control. This is simple and consistent. To offset some of the handicaps of this approach I use keywords and captions, usually selecting a number of photos to be tagged at the same time so that it doesn't take me forever.

I suggest reading The DAM Book (Digital Asset Management). This book gives you lots of good pointers but you have to read it with an eye towards what will work for you. As an example it recommends using the DNG file format which I personally don't think is a good idea (too Adobe specific).

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JudyN Veteran Member • Posts: 4,514
Re: Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories

A lot of your issues would be solved with Lightroom. Categorizing (use keyword tags and/or other metadata tags). Edited images? If you edit them within LR itself, you don't save them. The non-destructive edit informatoin is just saved in the database (and in or with the file if you so specify). If you edit outside (e.g., Photoshop), you can "stack" them with the original and it gets a new name based on the old name.

I name all of my images by a date/time format. No thinking involved and they sort properly. When I export from Lightroom, I name them by the "title" (or "caption", whichever you prefer to use as the primary name) so I know what they are by looking at them. I only export files I'm going to show, upload, or print.

I keep a directory structure that works for me. It's not required for Lightroom because you can find image by other means, but I prefer to work that way. Mine is a mixed system but that's personal and I don't necessarily recommend it for other people. For trips, I make a directory structure under the country and sometimes the state for that entire trip. For when I'm home I have directories named by the season. I have ubdirectories for organizational pictures I take that are not really my personal pictures (art leagues, etc).

If you are going to use a keyword structure, it's best to think through your structure before you start.  Photoshop supports keyword hierarchy.  I also use other metadata fields, actually more than keywords, title, the location fields, and a few others I've taken over for my own purposes.

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Jeff Veteran Member • Posts: 5,087
Another vote for the DAM book

Carey Brown wrote:

I use Lightroom.

I name my photos with the date and time they were taken and put them in folders for the year and the month. Early on I tried various other naming and folder schemes but they quickly got out of control. This is simple and consistent. To offset some of the handicaps of this approach I use keywords and captions, usually selecting a number of photos to be tagged at the same time so that it doesn't take me forever.

I suggest reading The DAM Book (Digital Asset Management). This book gives you lots of good pointers but you have to read it with an eye towards what will work for you. As an example it recommends using the DNG file format which I personally don't think is a good idea (too Adobe specific).

Currently I've got about 60,000 photos in my Lightroom catalog. Over the years this has migrated from a system of folders to, first, Adobe Bridge, then Microsoft Expressions, and finally LR. Keeping the metadata in the image files (rather than a central catalog) has made it possible to migrate these images over time.

I use the basic concepts of the DAM book, particularly regarding batch import with conversion to dng and basic metadata, keywording, and file naming. The file names are generated automatically on import in the format 20130623_hhmmssff where hhmmssff comes from the time stamp.  This permits combining images from multiple cameras provided the clocks on the cameras have been sync'd. rsync on MacOS works well for backup to an external drive.

After several false starts on keywording,  the 'controlledvocabulary' http://www.controlledvocabulary.com/ plus additional keywords for names of friends and family works best. IMHO, keywording adds huge value to the catalog and is well worth the time spent.

Confused of Malvern Senior Member • Posts: 1,212
Re: Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories

I structure my image folders by location or event - some people seem to do it by date but I'm more likely to remember where I went rather than when I went there :-). If I revisit somewhere I'll just add the new photos to the same folder. It's whatever works for you. I end up with something that looks like this:

USA

New York

Empire State

Grand Central

Personally I don't find any need to rename individual files.  The original file names are sequential and so this keeps them in chronological order within my folders.  Also, I create backup copies of all images as they come out of the camera/when I import into LR - by sticking with the original file name I can always go back and identify the original backup version if need arises. I always add keywords in LR - these relate to the subject matter of the image e.g. 'waterfall', 'Church', 'night-time' - this allows me to search across folders if I need to.

Confused of Malvern

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Mike_PEAT Forum Pro • Posts: 12,919
Windows Explorer/Mac File Manager is all I need!

Leonard Migliore wrote:

photogizmo wrote:

What tools are you using to organise your photos? ie. lightroom, bridge, etc.

I put every shooting event into a dated folder with a descriptive name.

That's all I need to do.  If I need to find a day's images, I use Windows' or Mac's Find command to search for a particular keyword.  Processed images from that day's shoot are in a subdirectory from that day.

Anything more than that is going overboard (for me).

Also I certainly would NEVER use a program like Lightroom to manage my files...I've heard too many horror stories of lost images due to Lightroom.

Lee Jay Forum Pro • Posts: 52,335
Re: Windows Explorer/Mac File Manager is all I need!
1

Lost images? Lightroom doesn't lose images. The images are always still in folders as always. You can delete LR and the catalog and the images remain.
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Lee Jay Forum Pro • Posts: 52,335
A vote against it

Folders by date is nuts. It's nothing but redundant metadata in the most important and compatible metadata field - path/filename.
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Jeff Veteran Member • Posts: 5,087
You're saying the same thing ...

ljfinger wrote:

Folders by date is nuts. It's nothing but redundant metadata in the most important and compatible metadata field - path/filename.
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Lee Jay
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That's what I said, and is part of the DAM Book approach. Folders are only convenient 'buckets' for holding files, and their names should be irrelevant. I happen to organize my owner (me, wife, others), then by year, and sometimes a bit more.

We've said the same thing.

hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 18,250
Re: Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories

As you see there are no "right" answers. I'm a photojournalist with thousands of assignments, hundreds of thousands of images. But I can find any image/assignment in about 60 seconds using my PCs "Search" function. For each assignment, vacation, etc. I create a new file with client/date/subject. For instance:

bloomberg 06-12-12 enron

chron 07-04-13 star of hope

vacation 06-25-13 yosemite

Everything goes into each file: RAW, jpegs, .xmp,, video, sound clips, even assignment and caption information.

I don't use Lightroom, so I can't comment beyond saying that I have read a fair number of threads from folks who have lost their catalog for one reason or another. It seems to work great--until it doesn't.

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Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 19,064
An alternative solution to Lightroom. . .

I moved away from Lightroom about a month ago for ACDSee Pro 6. One of the things I found was that Lr made it too easy to simply not care about the physical organization of my photos, I tended to dump everything into one folder and let Lr sort it out.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51495281

That works, but I worry about disaster recovery.How do I find stuff when the sh. . er "stuff" hits the fan and the Lr catalog is missing and can't be reloaded? If you know anything about Disaster recovery, you HAVE to consider this possibility.

Anyhow, I decided that Lr was not a viable product for me for this and other reasons not pertinent to this discussion. I wanted something that made it easier to maintain a physical infrastructure as well as a logical infrastructure, so I settled on ACDSee Pro 6. I had a real organizational mess on my hands.

It has taken me about a month to get things straightened out, and I'm still not done, and I may discover a need to tweak the system some more, but this is how I currently do it.

Within the My Pictures folder, I have 3 sub folders.

  1. Intake - This is where I store unedited photos just loaded into the PC. It has subfolders divided by year, month and day. Photos get loaded into folders by the day the photo was taken. The Intake folder NEVER gets smaller and gets backed up regularly. This is my primary photo repository. If I lose this folder my work is gone! This is also where I do initial culling, adding keywords, and setting priorities for what gets edited first.  When I occasionally have customers or events that I need to track, they get added as a keyword in a batch update mode.
  2. Works-In-Progress - When I start to edit a photo, I copy a photo to here. This is also where I might store different copies with different edit versions, notes on things I want to try or remember. I'm thinking about adding subfolders, I'm having trouble keeping notes and versions straight, I might need some better organization here. This gets backed up, but I'm not as paranoid about it since this my "Thinkie" area and thoughts are hard to back up.
  3. Done Photos - This mirrors the Intake folder. But when I have a photo that I want to share with others, I move it to this folder from WIP. (I may still have other versions of that image in WIP, that aren't done, but THAT version is done). It also has subfolders divided by the same YYMMDD structure as Intake. I've kept the ymd parameter of "Date photo taken" It is smaller than Intake since it only has 'done' photos. It tends to grow over time, but theoretically photos could be moved back to WIP if I wanted to modify an image with a done photo as a starting point, or decided that a 'done' photo isn't really done. Its back up priority is as high as Intake folder since this represents (theoretically anyway) the stuff I want people to remember.

I like ADCSee because it has a calendar option that can display photos based on date taken. I can quickly ID photos within ACDSee Pro 6 that were taken on a specific date, but I don't NEED ACDSee for that function if I have work outside the ACDSee database.

True, you could work this same organization within Lr. But I found that manipulating files within Lr to be a non intuitive process and not the simple drag and drop process found in ACDSee. No wrong answers here, just what works for you.

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Jeff Veteran Member • Posts: 5,087
Re: Organizing your photos - software used, best methods and categories

hotdog321 wrote:

As you see there are no "right" answers. I'm a photojournalist with thousands of assignments, hundreds of thousands of images. But I can find any image/assignment in about 60 seconds using my PCs "Search" function. For each assignment, vacation, etc. I create a new file with client/date/subject. For instance:

bloomberg 06-12-12 enron

chron 07-04-13 star of hope

vacation 06-25-13 yosemite

Everything goes into each file: RAW, jpegs, .xmp,, video, sound clips, even assignment and caption information.

I don't use Lightroom, so I can't comment beyond saying that I have read a fair number of threads from folks who have lost their catalog for one reason or another. It seems to work great--until it doesn't.

I'm not a professional, so obviously defer to your experience on organizing images for that sort of use.

With respect to Lightroom, there were a couple of times way back in LR Version 2 days where the LR catalog was corrupted. Fortunately I had set options to so  metadata is stored in the image files rather than the catalog, which made it possible to rebuild the catalog complete with edits, keywording, etc. from the image files.  The collection data was lost, but the rest of the information was preserved.

These days I do catalog backups at least weekly, and haven't had any problem in years. Imho, it is still wise to set LR to embed the xmp data in the image files. I like the insurance policy of being able to rebuild a catalog if a catastrophe should strike.

Jeff Veteran Member • Posts: 5,087
Interesting ...

Glen, those are interesting comments, some of which really strike home.  I use color labels to track 'work-in-progress', but it's very ad hoc and not the well organized approach you've laid out.

A couple of questions.  Are you doing your image editing in ACDSee as well? If so, are you happy with it relative to LR?

When you're making derivative images, do you use virtual copies as in LR?

TIA, Jeff

Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 19,064
Re: Interesting ...

Jeff wrote:

Glen, those are interesting comments, some of which really strike home. I use color labels to track 'work-in-progress', but it's very ad hoc and not the well organized approach you've laid out.

A couple of questions. Are you doing your image editing in ACDSee as well? If so, are you happy with it relative to LR?

The raw conversion is excellent, every bit as good as Lr.  It also has a pretty good bit mapped editor built into it as well. but it doesn't have layers or use Photoshop Plug-ins.  Like all bit mapped editors, it has its own set of strengths and weaknesses.  I also just converted to PaintShop Pro for the "extras".  It has PS plug-in compatibility, and its own scripting language (actions) but the PSP Scripts are not compatible with PS Actions.  There is a large supply of free and commercial third party scripts available for PSP.  I'm pretty happy with the combination, but I try to do as much as possible within ACDSee Pro 6 as possible for workflow issues.

When you're making derivative images, do you use virtual copies as in LR?

Lightroom uses a third party relational database called SQLite as the database while ACDSee uses a simpler proprietary database, so Lr allows for a much richer set of database related functions.  Unfortunately Virtual copies is a function of a relational database, so ACDSee can't do Virtual copies.

Also, the non destructive editing is much more limited than found in Lr, in ACDSee Pro 6, true nondestructive editing is really limited to raw. Otherwise, NDE is restricted to a single editing session. Again, you need a relational database to create and then keep track of sidecar files for every photo regardless of file type and virtual copy.  As a former DBA, I suspect it is theoretically possible in the more basic ACDSee database to emulate this process, but it would come at the cost of responsiveness and require your to "Import" photos before use.  I suspect most people who regularly use ACDSee consider this a fair trade off.

However, as compensation, you don't need to import a photo into ACDSee to work on it.  Instead, a database record is created for the photo when you open it.  And, as you get to the point of revealing data that can be stored in the ACDSee data base, it gets stored automatically.  And as you drag and drop photos in a move or a copy from within ACDSee, the database modifies or adds a record as required.  Copies are not virtual, but separate physical files. Orphaned thumbnail images are a thing of the past.  AND ACDSee Pro 6 is FAST!

As an ex Lightroom user, the transition was odd and at times a bit difficult.  I DO miss virtual copies but I feel the level of comfort I have in how I can control my photos more than makes up for it.  Is ACDSee Pro6 perfect?  NOPE!  But I am content with my choice.

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Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 19,064
Well, one pesrson's "Nuts" is another person's "Gold"

ljfinger wrote:

Folders by date is nuts. It's nothing but redundant metadata in the most important and compatible metadata field - path/filename.
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I've discovered that, especially, my older photos, have mysteriously had their metadata stripped from them and I' have had to recreate, as best I can that "taken date". If your access logic relies on Date Taken, this is a real problem. It doesn't happen very often NOW, but I do know that I don't have to worry about that issue now.

It really depends on your access logic and how you want relationships to be preserved in your logical structures.

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Jeff Veteran Member • Posts: 5,087
Re: Interesting ...

Glen,

Thanks for such a thoughtful response. I'm such a hardcore LR user that even contemplating such a move is a big deal, but that doesn't mean one can't try to adapt best practices.  Very helpful stuff.

Osvaldo Cristo
Osvaldo Cristo Veteran Member • Posts: 4,248
Who and how to retrieve?

As any data bank the most important question is "Who and how to retrieve?" followed by more technical questions as the size of the data base and the kind of relationship to be constructed in order to support the people that will retrieve the information according the chosen way.

So it is obvious the photo data base from National Geographic will demand different approach than the data base for family snapshots made by Uncle Ben.

In my personal case:

  1. I am amateur. The single user from my data base is myself. I do not care about what will happen with my data base when I eventually pass away
  2. I have only digital photography in my data base. It is quite different from digitalized one: digital photography has embedded into it information on date it was shot, Digitalized photos, per default, no: when digitalizing a film the date of shooting is not embedded into the file. I do not need additional data for date anywhere, either in the file name or other structures as folder
  3. I shot raw but I have JPEG edited version from each one: if does not worth to spend a couple of minutes in a raw shot, it does not worth to maintain in my data base. It is my criterions to avoid (much) crap. I store something between 25-30% from my shots. They are my "keepers"
  4. JPEG images are organized in folders according the overall subject. For a vacations with the family, for example, it could be a single folder "Vacations in Amazon" or distributed in more folders as "Vacations - Amazon River", "Vacations - Manaus", "Vacation - Fishing in Rio Negro" - it will depend of the amount of pictures and the level of my own interest
  5. Each 1,000 keepers also will generate one 100 pictures folder named Favorites xx, where xx is in chronological order
  6. My search criterions are date (Windows will find directly any data range you look for), Key words (part of the folder name) or visual using my "Favorites" as even it is not included into the several Favorites folders, usually I can associate with some one made in the same photo session and as all files maintain the same unique name (raw, JPEG large and JPEG small for the Favorites) I have direct access to all two or three versions from the same picture

I use this system since 1998 and my current data base has more than 52,000 original files, mostly raw. Usually I can retrieve any one very fast - just a few times I would need more than a couple of minutes and never I failed to retrieve any picture I was looking for.

I do not need any fancy name scheme and no data base with some crazy format to be maintained. Only the (crap) Windows system. Noting more.

On the other hand, if your needs for retrieve are different from mine, almost certainly you will need a different scheme.

Regards,

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Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 19,064
Re: Interesting ...

Jeff wrote:

Glen,

Thanks for such a thoughtful response. I'm such a hardcore LR user that even contemplating such a move is a big deal, but that doesn't mean one can't try to adapt best practices. Very helpful stuff.

I was too! But needs change.  Our views of what's important change.  This isn't something you take on willy-nilly, but it never hurts to reevaluate our insurance plans, our global views, and our software assumptions every so often!

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