One of the neatest aspects of the digital revolution in photography is the access you have with your images. Previously in the bad old days of analog photography, you probably had a shoe box full of processed images and negatives. From that you were supposed to find those all vacation pictures from Maui. Or, maybe you have this classic sunset image from the Grand Canyon and your wife decided to make a Christmas card out of it. How do you find it? In the shoe box scenario, the process is long and simple. You only have to plow through the whole box to find that one picture. While this technique is pretty simple, it’s not the easiest process. It definitely gets more arduous the more images you have and the bigger shoe box you have to get through.
There’s a better way. With digital photography, you can easily organize your images just about any way that you might want. Not only that, your organization doesn’t have to be the only way to precisely categorize your images to make finding the “one” that much easier. I’ve already written about Keywording--look here. You should know with keywords, it’s so easy to find that one image you might be looking for. Of course, taken to an extreme, if you’re effectively using keywords, you could almost organize your images in one shoebox styled folder and simply use a smart folder with keywords to find the images you want when you need.
With the magic of digital technology, how do I organize my images? Using Apple application Aperture, I simply make what’s called a Project and name it for the month I imported the image. For example, I have a Project named “August 2009”. Every image I have that’s imported into my photo library in August 2009 lives in that Project named “August 2009”. Oh, I also group all the 2009 folders in a folder named coincidentally “2009”.
Some less professional applications than Aperture like Apple’s iPhoto application kind of automatically does this for you by using what’s called “Events”. Every time you import images to your library, the application figures out when those images were made. Then the application groups them together by time into a group called an “Event”. The idea here is related pictures tend to be taken at the same time. Your cousin’s wedding images from two months ago would all qualify as an event because they were all shot at about the same time. Uncle Joey’s birthday part the next weekend would then get automatically grouped in a separate event. It’s pretty easy stuff.
The problem I have with this is if you’re like me and shoot thousands of images a year you’ll have hundreds and hundreds of events. After a while, managing all these events becomes a bit un-wieldy. In iPhoto for example, you can’t group these events in a separate folder like I can in Aperture. You can’t put all your 2009 events in a separate folder named 2009. Oh well. What you’ll find in my Aperture photo library is a series of folders name for years--i.e. i.e. 1999, 2000, 2001... If you drill a little deeper, you find in those year folders projects name for the month in the years--i.e. August 2009, July 2009... Inside those projects you’ll find the images I shot during that month.
I know some folks like to organize their images by subject matter. They may put all their family images in one folder, for example. Then they may put their Grand Canyon images in another folder and so on. This technique is very similar to what pro’s used to do when they shot with slides. They would categorize their slides by subject making it easier to find a particular slide. When a potential purchaser would ask for something like “give me a really awesome image of a horse in a field at sunset”. The photographer would simply go into his files for the horse images and pull out the ones that were of horses in fields and at sunset. This all sounds great in theory but with so many different possible requests by photo buyers, you could never properly predict how to organize your images to make the image search easier. Instead, I prefer to depend on Keywords as the way to narrow my search for just the images my buyers are looking for.
The basic technique I like to use when organizing my images is to sort them by time and put them in folders for the month I shot them. As long as I’m keywording my images like I discuss here, I can easily find the images I need when I’m asked. Pretty simple stuff. Oh, one more little piece of info. When I come to the end of the month and start a new project for the new month, that’s a sign that I can now archive all the images in that old month. While I already have backups of all image images wherever they may be, the archive process means I now make DVD’s and CD’s to defend against something really bad happening to my on-line files.
If you have any questions on this or any other subject, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.