How to organise your digital photographs for sanity!
Today I am going to give you my top tips for filing and organising your many digital photographs. Are you guilty of taking hundreds of photos and then when you want to find one you have to spend an hour searching your computer to lay your hands on it? Well stay tuned!
This week has been an absolute whirlwind! I launched ‘Master Natural Light’ on Tuesday which is so cool. If you haven’t already checked it out then you can do so right here. It is three hours of 100% actionable guidance on how to control natural light in so many different situations including using direct sunlight, golden hour light, window light. Not just with people but with still life subjects too.
It is only £35 (approx $50). I know – super cheap! But only until Sunday 27th March at midnight so there are just a few days left to grab it at that price. That’s not all. If you buy during launch week you also get a bonus 30 minute video where you get to watch me edit two of the images from the course in Lightroom and Photoshop. That is only available as a free bonus until Sunday so if this course interests you then this week is the time to buy.
Anyway – enough of that! I am going to get on with helping you sort out those digital photographs of yours! I know you have lots and I know they are lurking around all over your computer and on external hard drives and pen drives. Some of them are on your phone, some are on Facebook, some are in the cloud, I could go on…
If someone asked you to find one from a few years ago – let’s just say you would be busy for a while trying to put your hands on it, right?
And don’t even mention printing photographs! I mean who does that anymore?
But, secretly, I know you want to, don’t you? You want to regularly print your favourite photographs. You want to make albums and display them in frames and send them to relatives.
But life gets in the way doesn’t it? You have so many digital images all over the place that the thought of sitting down and looking through them all is pretty daunting! You will probably get caught up in it and be there all day so it’s best to leave it until you are off work later in the year. Yes you will do it then. But by then there are another five thousand photographs and the task seems even more overwhelming!
Before you know it you have one hundred zillion (what do you mean I exaggerate?) digital photographs scattered around the place that you never look at and not one single one is printed.
Does this sound familiar? If not, then you can probably sign off from this episode now. You are clearly a genius in the art of digital photo storage and organisation and you don’t need this advice.
For the rest of you – let’s sort this mess out going forward!
I am going to give you some good advice for making sure you can always lay your hands on any photograph in just minutes. Not only that, you will be printing your favourites regularly.
Now, you will hear lots of different advice from lots of different people on this subject. Everyone has their own way and their own opinions. Some will tell you to be tagging your images with keywords etc. I will not be going that far at all! If you are anything like me – that kind of advice is just not realistic! I find it hard enough organising my children for school in the morning. Tagging every image I take with a keyword is so far removed from who I am.
So I will share with you what I do. It is simple and realistic for you to implement – TODAY!
Upload your images the same day as you take them.
Come on – this isn’t difficult guys! This is totally do-able. Just because you have space for 5000 images on your memory card doesn’t mean that you should wait until it’s full!!! Imagine downloading all those images at the same time? What if the card gets damaged? And what are the chances you are ever going to look through all of those images? Slim to none, I’d say!
As soon as it is physically possible connect that card reader to your computer and get those images off the card and organised.
Which brings me to my next tip…
Store your images on an external hard drive and back up to the cloud.
Don’t upload your images to your computer – keep that nice and clean. If you fill it full of large digital images and you will soon find it starts to get sluggish. Is there anything more frustrating than sitting waiting on a slow computer?
But don’t stop there! Make sure you link your computer and your external hard drive to some cloud storage and back up all of your digital photographs there. This means if you lose your hard drive or it gets damaged somehow you will never lose these precious memories. We all know someone this has happened to – the risk is real!
There are countless options for cloud storage. I use Backblaze but I know lots of people who take advantage of unlimited cloud photo storage included with their Amazon Prime subscription so if you are a prime customer then that is definitely worth checking out!
Have a filing system – here is mine!
Don’t just upload your images to random folders. You need a good system to ensure that you can lay your hands on any photograph quickly.
This is what I do.
I have one external hard drive for each year. I place a sticky label on it with the year.
All that’s on that hard drive is photographs. That’s all. They are not mixed up with other files confusing things. So you open up my hard drive and what you will see is just twelve folders going from 01 JAN to 12 DEC. The reason I number the months like that is so that they stay in chronological order and not alphabetical order.
Then inside each month folder you will find my image folders. I name them so specifically. I do not have the folders named by dates. I want to be able to see at a glance what is in each folder. So I will open up 02 FEB from this year and I will see folders called ‘Joe’s birthday at Battlefield’ , ‘Long grasses at golden hour’, ‘Rugby Tournament’ etc. There is no mistaking which photographs are in those folders.
Now it is even clearer why you should upload AS SOON AS POSSIBLE isn’t it? Imagine going back through 5000 images doing this? You just wouldn’t. And then they might as well not even have been taken because no one will ever look through them!
So when I open up one of these very specifically named folders I see five more folders. These are ‘RAW Files’, ‘Lightroom JPGs’, ‘High JPGs’, ‘Low JPGs’ and ‘Favourites’
I have these folders empty as templates in my external hard drive so that I can just copy and paste them into every new image set folder ready to be populated with images.
The ‘RAW files’ folder is where I upload my raw images straight from the camera. I then look through these in Lightroom, pick a few to work on and export just those ones to ‘Lightroom JPGs’ after making some crops and basic light adjustments. After that I might work on those Lightroom JPGs in photoshop a little and then I will export the final, high resolution, edited images to my ‘High JPGs’ folder and I will also export the low resolution edited images to my ‘Low JPGs’ folder. The high jpgs are for printing and the low jpgs are for sharing online.
I then select my absolute favourites and pop them in the ‘favourites’ folder. This is so that I can send them off to be printed quickly or lay my hands on my best images in the future without any hassle.
Now that’s not to say that I do this for every set of images. Sometimes I just take a set and don’t bother editing them at all. I just export as JPEGs and use them. But the point is, the system is there and in place for when I do want to work through them like this.
Don’t cull – choose your favourites
This is so important. When you are looking through your images – don’t look for the rubbish and delete. Look for the ones you like and select them. I use Lightroom so I ‘flag’ my keepers but whatever software you use will allow you to flag your images in some way.
The reason you should do this when you are looking through your images is because it makes you feel great! Looking for the good stuff you have captured makes you smile. Looking for the crap makes you feel crap! Why do that? Just skim past those ones and forget they even exist!
I am ruthless and I delete the rest but I know that doesn’t sit easy with lots of people – so do as you wish. Hard drives are cheap these days so it doesn’t hurt to keep them all. As long as you have a good folder system and you keep them off your computer’s hard drive, it won’t matter that you keep all of your RAW files.
I have a folder on my desktop and it simply says, ‘To Print’. All my favourite edited images go in there and then I just upload them to DS Colour Labs or Loxley Colour and get them printed. I then replace photos in frames or send them off to grandparents. But I get them printed! We must keep printed photographs alive!
Another great thing to do if you have lots of photographs is to make up yearly photobooks. If you are like me and you can never find the time (nor the inclination) to design these – you can get them done for you! How great is that? You can upload them to your favourite printing lab, choose a photobook and get their software to populate it for you! It might not be perfect but does it matter??? They will be printed in a book forevermore on your bookshelf. How wonderful and special is that?
Let me know on facebook, twitter or in the comments – how are your digital photograph organisation skills? Be honest. Are you a messy filer or are you a dab hand at this? Maybe you have some other tips you could share with us?
Don’t forget to check out the video course – it is only a ridiculous £35 until Sunday and it is worth it I promise. www.masternaturallight.com
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