My Photo Filing System

Being a digital photographer alot of people asked me how I keep my photos organized.  I guess I am just ol’ fashion about it since Picasa and tagging wasn’t around when I first started out so here it goes…

I do everything chronological.  I love doing it by the date because it simplifies looking anything up, and that is how I like to scrapbook through the years.

Work flow:  Let’s say I got out to a family event and take pictures, when I get home I try to transfer the images off the card before I even look at them so the next time I grab the card it isn’t second guessing whether they are on the hard drive or not.  I also cut and paste,  if I copy and paste that gives me all the more reason to second guess myself.

I use an external hard drive for all my family and professional pictures.  I am not so trustworthy of digital so I always have to have two backups, well 3 if you want to include prints.   With my personal pictures I have them on an external drive and I also burn them to DVD-R at the end of the month using NERO software.  I never use the rewritable because DVD’s are a dime a dozen and it is worth knowing I can’t erase over it.  Anyway…  If it was a sad month of hardly any pictures (usually January and February) then I may wait til the next month so I can have the DVD at least 1/2 full, depending on what happened and if there was something special I want to save, then I store them in a DVD binder that has the sleeves with several slots in them.  You may be thinking HALF FULL on a SLOW month?  lol…  I shoot in a larger file format  on my DSLR that takes up much more space so a DVD gets loaded fairly quick!

When the external drive is 3/4  full, I take it out and store it then buy a new one.  Ya never want to store a hard drive to its limits.  You can check it’s status by right clicking on the drive in “my computer then select Properties and it will tell you how much space is available.

This filing system provides two sets of digital negatives of every picture that has been taken.  I am very thankful for the person who embedded this in my head that it had to be done.  I had an external drive crash last year and it had at least a year’s worth of pictures on there.  Thankfully in my cd case, they were all safe.  It isn’t as fun working from a cd but it would have been devastating to loose it completely.  I have slowly but surely have been restoring them back onto a new external drive for the same reason I originally started the process and it is much more convienent to browse through a drive then it is digging out cd’s.  My digital negatives may not be edited or cropped but they are safe and hopefully I will never have to worry about using the DVD’s again.

At the beginning of the year I name all my folders for the year.  Like this.

Inside those folders I make two sub folders one for RAW and one for JPEG’s.  I have always shot in RAW not only because RAW rocks but I can not save over that file type.  I never ever save over an original because once you do, that original has lost quality and you can’t get that quality back.  Now I will be ready to go into the RAW folder with the date and a short description of the event.

I can then open them up in Photoshop file browser and view them, rate or flag them by color and get rid of the ones I don’t want.  Once I have sorted and edited the RAW files they get converted to .jpg and put them into the folder labeled JPEG that is just above the RAW folder.  When I do this, the whole month of Jpegs get stored in there, not by date or any organization, just everything that I took for that month, those are ready for print.  When I upload them to my favorite online lab, I have the option before “checking out” to put custom text on the back of the print.  I will make seperate orders for every month that I print so I can have that custom text in tact with month I am printing right on the back of the photo.

It’s a pretty solid system and neirly bullet proof if it is followed correctly.  I feel fortunate to have learned this early in my craft, I have yet to be the one I see online really upset because of a computer failure and lost all their pictures since going digital.  I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.  Yes, it is more work but worth it to me.  Soon enough it is just standard procedure.

One last thing, when posting to the web most of us know how that we have to downsize the file to upload them without them being  huge pictures.  For this I have a folder called “WEB IMAGES” in My PICTURES on my main drive.  This is where I save anything that goes to, or came from the web so I know these are not printable files and they do not get mixed in with printable files.

Well that is all I have now, I hope this is useful but everyone has their own way that is comfortable to them.  Some people love to save things by category and events and some have other qwerky ways but it is your way that is important to make it easiest for you.  You are the one who has to work with these files, this is just what I do and wanted to share to give out ideas to those who haven’t discovered or looking for something new.

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