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albert_e's avatar

Digital Photo Organization tips?

Asked by albert_e (529 points ) October 18th, 2010

I have a huge and growing collection of digital photos and am looking for an efficient way of organizing them.

My current process looks something like this:

After every photo session, dump all photos to a folder named “dd mmm yyyy – session description”.
... Example “20 Feb 2010 – Moon Shots in Atlanta”

This folder sits in a larger folder named “My Photos 2010 Part 2”

Each year is divided into multiple such “parts” in an arbitrary manner – each part roughly corresponding to one DVD (~4.7 GB) worth of photos.

All these photo folders sit in a portable hard-disk that I use as my master personal storage. Also, each “part” is burned to a DVD, labeled with the part name and the folder name on HDD is suffixed with ”- DVD WRITTEN” to denote whatever folder has already been backed up to DVDs.

I tried creating a MS Excel based catalog of all such disks but unable to keep it up to date.

Now this method is not flawless, there are huge gaps in between photo sessions, and some time delays before I download the photos, etc.

It is quite difficult to keep this process flowing smoothly.

It takes too much of effort everytime i sit to organize this stuff…. and still i do not have the peace of mind that I have organized all of my photos correctly without missing any of them.

Any suggestions to help me handle this better?

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6 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

It sounds to me like you have an excellent system. The problem you face is one you will face no matter what system you use. If you don’t keep it up, it won’t keep up.

There is only so much you can do. I am in the process of trying to copy my home videos from dv tape to my hard drive. I will then offload it onto a portable harddrive—I’ve got to decide what to get now because video takes up a horrendous amount of space. I hope to get 3 terabytes or more.

My tapes are labeled with date of start to date of end, unless someone didn’t put one of those on it. I hope to go back and separate out the different scenes—I noticed that we film birthday parties, school concerts and shows, vacations, and holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas). We also have some theme events that we have videod over the years: Halloween and azalea blooming (where we always take pix of the kids).

So you see, there could be two ways of organizing this material—by year or by event. What would be best is to actually have a database that holds these materials. That way I could organize it and play it any way I want, so long as I add in the necessary metadata.

I don’t know if Access can handle this. I know you can put objects in the database, but I don’t know if you can do video. You could probably do pictures, but we have so many of those that that would be an enormous project all by itself. Really too big to handle, unless you could add metadata for groups of photos all at once.

Ok, it sounds like I do have a sort of suggestion. I know what the software needs to do; now I need to know if the software exists. You want a database that allows you to add groups of photos all at once and it should be able to easily replicate the metadata across them. I don’t know if flickr or Picasa allows you to do this.

PupnTaco's avatar

Mac: iPhoto or Aperture
Windows: Picasa

BarnacleBill's avatar

Are you a commercial photographer. or are these for your own purposes? The first thing I would do is to divide your images into firsts, seconds and culls. The culls are the ones that you should consider deleting after a certain amount of time.

You should be able to use metadata tags to allow for the classification, sorting and retrieval of your images.

GladysMensch's avatar

Get yourself a copy of The Dam Book. It covers all the aspects of digital asset management, and provides multiple options to best suit your needs. I used this book when I taught Asset Management at a tech college.

notdan's avatar

The crowd organizes photos with tags. Many of the biggest digital image repositories in the world use the system. Look at Flickr for an example. In the end, does looking at the time stamp of a photograph help you pull that photo up when you’re searching for it?

What I suggest are tags relevant to the value of the photo. If the time the photo was taken is important, then tag it with the time stamp. If not, don’t bother. If you tag photos based on relevant aspects, when you want a picture of a dog, you search for pictures with the dog tag, and you will return with all the pictures tagged dog.

I guess I want to ask: How to plan to search for and pull up relevant photos with your current system?

Idknown's avatar

Get Adobe Lightroom. It’s iTunes for photos.

I’d go with what @BarnacleBill said. It’s a lot of work to do it backwards (as opposed to from now on) – but LR has a great feature where you go through it and just either leave it or Reject it. There’s no point in keeping bad photos.

LR will organize your library into catalogs. Just keep the photos on a HDD and let LR take care of ‘where’ everything is.

Don’t burn media onto DVDs – this is not a good form of ‘backing up’. DVDs are not reliable – I’d go for HDDs with a mirroring Raid setting. If you want it nice and easy (read: not technical) look up the Western Digital 2tb HDD – they have mirror Raid on them and that should do the trick. Own many of these – depending on your size of library.

Last tip I have is to change your dates to go year first. YY_MM_DD_Description
This way – if you have it all in one folder – your 20 Feb 2010 isn’t after your 20 APR 1999 – know what I mean?

But back to your question – LR will update your catalogue so you don’t have to keep track of it with Excel or Access. When you make a change – as long as you make it within LR (like moving a set of photos from Drive A to B ) LR will take care of minding the files for you.

Hope that helps.

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