The fundamental problem with organizing digital pictures is quantity…there are simply too many pictures we have to organize. Unless you use an efficient and consistent method for organizing your pictures you will very soon be overwhelmed by the large quantity of pictures you are taking. This is all great, but what is the solution to this picture organization problem? How do I organize my pictures? Well, let me give you a bird’s eye view of the solution to organizing your digital pictures effectively.
Watch this video presentation in which I explain the solution to the fundamental problem
Do you love taking pictures ?
Of course you do! We love taking pictures, and we love looking at pictures! We all love images better than words. Our lives are filled with events, some more important than others. From getting up in the morning, going to work, getting a hair cut to traveling, getting married and giving birth, the events in our lives vary in their impact to our lives. Those events that are most important to our lives become the subject of our pictures. Pictures help us remember these important events, they help us re-live feelings and sense the people and places that we see in pictures.
Is there any solution for organizing your digital pictures?
Two complementary tools for organizing your pictures.
With the advent of digital photography, we can take thousands upon thousands of pictures. While this is all great, this large quantity of pictures creates the organization problem that we’re all trying to solve. Over the years folder based methods of photo organization have proved to be the simplest for most digital camera users who organize their pictures around events. However, the advances in software and image metadata standards have allowed digital photographers to organize their growing collections based on descriptive and efficient keywords. So, now you’re no longer limited to organizing your pictures based on events but you can organize them according to…well pretty much anything you want. Let’s analyze these two solutions to picture organization.
How do you remember an event ?
Now, let’s think about this from a different perspective. What helps you remember an event? Sometimes an approximate date can be enough, while most of the times you need a date AND a description of the event. If you have these two pieces of information, then you can search in your memory and bring up that event in front of your mind’s eye.
Start by organizing your pictures using folders.
This is where picture organization should start. You might not stop at folders, but you should certainly start here.
The method I use for organizing pictures is based on the clues I need to remember events in my life: dates and descriptions. I use both pieces of information in creating precise names for picture folders. This way I can easily organize my pictures in a structure that easily extends in order to accommodate more and more pictures as more events happen in my life.
The key to my method is the way I name the folders. While most people use a combination of dates and descriptions of events, they don’t do it consistently. Also, most people do not know how to take advantage of how their computer sorts files and folders. My method combines the precise folder naming and an understanding of computer file storage, resulting in simplicity and efficiency. Once you do it once you can keep doing it.
Secondly, organize your pictures using efficient image tags or keywords
Why are image tags important and when should you think about using them? Here is an example that illustrates the point.
Let’s say you visit Paris( See my Paris photo gallery) and you take tons of pictures (you should do that for sure if you visit Paris). Then you come home and you create multiple folders with the date and Paris as the place. Something like this:
08_03_25-Paris 08_03_26-Paris 08_03_27-Paris
This is all cool. But then you realize you have too many pictures and you want to show your friends all the Eiffel Tower pictures(See my Eiffel Tower picture gallery). You realize then that you have those pictures in all of the three folders you created.
Right now you have only one solution: You can create another folder called Eiffel_Tower and copy all the Eiffel Tower pictures into this folder. This will work but you just created two copies of the same picture in two separate folders. Depending on how many times you have to do that you can fill up a hard drive very quickly.
This is why image tags or keywords are so cool.
What if you wouldn’t have to copy the pictures into a new folder? If you could just add some keywords to your pictures it would be great. You could add
Paris to all your pictures from Paris, but the ones that have the Eiffel Tower in them you can just label as
Paris, Eiffel Tower. All would be complete if you could not search by
Eiffel Tower and voila!…your Eiffel Tower pictures would come up without you having to create a special folder.
Yes, you know where I’m going…folders would not work for this! You need a special kind of software to enable you to do this
tagging of images. These days, even though it adds quite a bit of technical complexity, image tagging seems easier and easier because of new programs that can help you do this. And, yes, adding tags to your pictures can add a lot of power to your image collection.
So, what is the solution to organizing digital pictures ?
Well, it’s a solution consisting of two layers of organization: picture folders and picture tags.
For most people, using image folders is sufficient, while for others more advanced photographers, adding image tags is a must. What should you do?
I always tell people to start with a carefully constructed folder structure (Read Organize your pictures in 5 easy stesp).
Then, later see if you need to worry about adding keywords to your pictures. If folders are not enough then adding image keywords would give you the flexibility you want (Read When folders are not enough).
Essentials for organizing your digital photosOver the years I have come to rely on only a few products for managing and backing up my large media collection. These are my essential products and services I have been using for many years to keep things organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.
I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has excellent photo editing capabilities. Yes, Lightroom has a steeper learning curve as you have to learn to keep your catalogs in sync with your hard drive. However, Adobe Lightroom makes most sense especially when you do lots of image editing.
If you don't like the subscription, you can get also download the last standalone Adobe Lightroom 6 for Mac or Windows (while it is still available). However, the product is no longer maintained by Adobe.
Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you're looking for a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac or ACDSee Pro for Windows is my preferred solution for organizing your media on your computer. It has a very fast browser, beautiful image editing capabilities and you don't work with catalogs at all.
In addition, make sure you have an inexpensive and reliable external hard drive for backing everything up. It is absolutely essential for backing up your media regularly.
If you're looking for a reliable unlimited cloud backup service, I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup. I have used Backblaze for my online backup for more than 3 years now. All my files are safe and secure and I have never had any problems with them.