How I Organize My Digital Photos
If you are like me you probably have taken thousands of pictures with your digital camera. Digital cameras make it very easy to take photos, since you can view the photos immediately, and only keep the photos you like. Once you are done taking pictures, it is usually very easy to transfer them to a computer and then print them out.
Once you have transferred them, how do you organize the photos? There are many methods that people use to organize their photos, and I have my method, which I explain below.
My Organizing Digital Photo Organizing Workflow
I have explained my backup workflow in the past, but before I backup my data I first organize the files the way I like them. My workflow requires photo management software, which you can easily find for free with Google’s Picassa, but I prefer to use ACDSee, which is not free.
I always organize my digital photos into specific directories organized by year and then event. I don’t worry too much about the specific date, as I leave that to my photo management software.
My directory structure is organized as:
- [4-digit Year]
- [Event Name or yyyymmdd]
I use the four digit year because it allows me to sort the directories in order when viewing the top-level directory. As for the subdirectories, I would provide an event name that is easy to read, or if there wasn’t anything going on, such as I just shot pictures at home, I would create a directory using the date. I prefer to use the format yyyymmdd since it allows me to easily sort my pictures within Windows Explorer by date.
If my directory structure look like:
- At the Beach
I could immediately find the pictures taken at the beach. The children subdirectory indicates that the pictures below it are of my children, and the 20081030 (October 30, 2008) directory indicates it was just a day I decided to take pictures for no particular reason.
Digital Photo Tags
I have seen many organizing workflows that rename the digital photo files based on who is in the photo, the date, or the event. I prefer to keep the names generated by my camera, and let my photo management software do the rest of the work for me.
In the software I create three main categories:
Within each category I create subcategories that I use to tag my digital photos. A tag is simply a label I assign to the photo, and that information can then be stored in a database or file. My photos are never modified by the photo management software when I tag the photos.
Using the example above, I would create a Beach subcategory under the main Event category. If going to the beach is an annual event, I would create a 2008 subcategory under the Beach category. Then I can just add another year subcategory under Beach for each subsequent year I go to the beach.
I would create each family member under the Family category using the [last name], [first name] format. This allows me to keep members of the same immediate family together in the list. I do the same for the Friends category.
Finally I organize the Location category by country, followed by province/state, and then city/town.
An example of the organization structure would look like:
- Smith, Bob
- Smith, Mary
- Jones, John
- Jones, Will
The above structure allows me to find all photos of a single person, taken at a specific location, a single event, or photos for all years of a specific event.
Now that I have defined my directory structure, and setup my tagging in my photo management software, I can begin to organize my photos.
Organzing the Digital Photos
When I organize my photos I use the following steps:
- I insert the memory card into my card reader, and then open Windows Explorer. I create a subdirectory on my external hard drive similar to what was described above.
- I copy the photos from the card reader to the new subdirectory.
- Once the copy has completed, I open ACDSee (my photo management software).
- Using the category organization described above, I begin to create any new categories I need to tag my photos.
- I navigate to the directory I copied the photos into and begin to tag each photo with the correct categories.
- I then start my online backup to protect my new photos.
The above method works very well for me, and doesn’t take long to organize my photos. I now have the ability to find all photos of a specific person, event or place in a matter of seconds. I can also view all photos taken on a specific date by simply clicking on a day in a calendar, or view all photos taken on a specific month or in a specific year.
Gone are the days of unorganized pictures thrown together in unlabelled boxes, leaving no clues as to who is in the picture, when it was taken, or where.