I can remember the days of shoeboxes full of pictures and negatives which were waiting for that never coming day when they would find homes in photo albums destined for closets. Boxes of 36 Kodachrome slides dragged out once in a blue moon. The great thing about digital cameras is the fact that you can shoot lots of pictures. The downside of digital cameras is you can shoot lots of pictures. The sheer volume causes new problems, but the same old one as well. How do I find the picture I am looking for quickly and easily? So today’s posting is the first of three focused on organizing your pictures. What we are talking about applies to pretty much all of the photo management tools—Picasa, iPhoto, and of course my application of choice Adobe Lightroom. So I am going to stay pretty generic, at least for today Part 1. Importing and Physical storage
Part 2. Metadata and Tagging
Part 3. Collections and Smart Collections
Odds are you have pictures scattered all over your hard disk with such useful file names as DSCN19252. The next two statements will seem to be contradictions, but just hang in there. The first step is realizing that physically it doesn’t really matter where your pictures are stored. That being said, it makes a great deal of difference when you are trying to ensure you have them all backed up; these are your “negatives” and must be protected. Both Roger and I are data cowards, and back up everything. Starting when we import our pictures from the memory card, one copy goes to the computer, and another goes to an external hard drive, where it remains untouched—forever.
Out of personal preference I store all my images in folders by year, with each shoot in a separate folder by month and day. I take advantage of the ability to change the file names from the camera’s and actually name them something useful + an automatic sequence number. If you name them based on the content they will be a lot easier to find with simple search tools months and years later. As I shoot camera Raw, I also convert them to the approved Digital Negative standard, .DNG. Each manufacturer has a proprietary and evolving raw format, so the International Standards Organization (ISO) has defined .DNGs so 10 years from now I can still open my files.
So my files look like this
So now when I back up my data, I can just quickly look at the last date and back up those ones which I’ve added since.
Once the pictures are on my computer, I can move on to the next and far more important stage, the application of metadata and tagging, which will show you why their location doesn’t really matter. As a teaser there is a great book, out called “Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder” by David Weinberger http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Miscellaneous-Power-Digital-Disorder/dp/0805080430.