Where Did I Put That Picture? A Guide for Managing Your Image Files
The other day I was looking for an image of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. To find it I simply went into my photo organizer and searched for “Stone Arch Bridge”. Instantly images related to that search term filled my screen. How does that work you ask? I’ll explain…
There are many programs today that will help you organize your photos. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy something.
Many computers come with features to help you organize your images. Most cameras come with basic organizing and editing software and there are also dedicated programs, some of which are free. I use ACDSee software (they have basic and pro versions.). Photoshop Elements also comes with an organizer. If you have found one you like, share it in the comments section below.
The first thing to consider is your folder structure. I already mentioned through trial and error I've ended up with one that has been working for several years now. See the screen shot at left. It’s a simple hierarchy based on year and month. All the images from a given month go together in the same folder. However, I do create sub-folders within a month if I have a lot of photos that belong together. Photos from a big event or particular occasion where I took many pictures. I also create a separate folder within a month to contain the shots I take for church ministries. You may find a structure that works better for you, there are numerous ways to approach this.
You will haave to decide what works best for you. The best thing to do though is to get some kind of structure going and stick to it!
The structure created the buckets, but you still need a way to find your photos easily. You do this by assigning keywords (tagging) your images. Every program is different, but the concept is the same. For a given image you assign words that describe it. Those are the keywords you can later use in a search function to find what you’re looking for.
I also use caption fields and note fields from time to time. I use captions for describing the image to others. Notes for my own personal reference, or greater detail on what went on in the image. Not every image gets a caption, far fewer get notes, but all of them get a tag (keyword).
It may seem like a lot of work to tag all your photos, but it really isn’t. Many programs allow you to select many photos at once and assign a common tag to all of them at the same time.
Did you know?
One thing I learned is not to put photos in their "month bucket" until I tagged them. So what I do is import my images into a folder titled “A – Yet To Process” (the ‘A’ keeps it sorted to the top of all the folders). When I import my photos, my program automatically creates sub-folders for the date I imported the photos. When I have time I go into the folders, tag the images, perform any post processing (edits to the images), then I sort them to their permanent buckets once that is done, or when I have time).
After I move the images, I then delete the empty folders under my “A – Yet To Process” folder. This has worked great for years, and I can easily find my images with the tags.
Part of my tagging routine which I won’t go into great detail on right now, is to populate IPTC fields in the image data. Many online sites read these fields, so I actually include a process to populate my captions and keywords to those fields automatically. Then when I upload my images those fields are automatically read and displayed by the online site for others to see. Some photo organizers actually populate those fields directly, while others use their own database structure, in which case you can run a quick batch process to fill the data fields in IPTC.
Find Your Images
With my images tagged, I can easily search using common search strings. I can even search for multiple tags at once. For example, if I wanted to find that cute picture of my daughter with a messy face, I would use ‘Grace + Messy’ in the search field and all the pictures of my daughter where I tagged her as messy would show up in the search results.
Some programs also let you search by a date, even by clicking on a calendar. Some photographers use data already in the image to find photos by f-number, shutter speed, or even focal length.
What tags should I use?
Whatever works for you and makes the most sense. Any word that describes the image is a good idea. Early on my mistake was to use too few words. I have since gotten better at using tags that will make the image easy to find again.
The first thing I usually do is select several images and tag with an event or place description, then with names if appropriate. Then I start getting specific.
Anything you can think of to help you find the image again. Some examples (not including names) are:
This should get you started. There certainly is a lot more that can be said about it. Enter ‘Digital Asset Management’ (DAM) in your search engine to learn more.
It seems daunting at first, but it really is worth it to know where your pictures are. Especially as your collection grows and grows! In a future article I'll write about how to protect and back-up your photos.
What about Catalogs and Categories?
Some of you may have noticed I didn't discuss catalogs, categories, color labels, rating, etc. The goal of this article was to introduce some basic ways to get started organizing. Many image organizing programs allow you to assign and organize in many additional and powerful ways. I do use some of them, I just didn't go into detail here.
How do you organize your files?
Keywords: Post Processing
No comments posted.
Recent PostsHow to Take Great Birthday Party Pictures Taking Pictures in the Snow How to Take Night Cityscape Pictures Use Fill Flash for Better Outdoor Photos Where Did I Put That Picture? A Guide for Managing Your Image Files The Decisive Moment (When to Click) How To Photograph Fireworks 8 Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Your Photos AFTER the Shot - A Beginner’s Guide to Editing How to Take Sharp Pictures ISO (Exposure Series Part 5 of 5)