You’re probably not aware that there is somewhat of a battle when it comes to picture organization. Software manufacturers claim that their programs will organize and categorize your pictures with a click of the mouse…and even without any clicks. All you have to do is take lots of pictures and let their software organize them. While there is some truth to their claims, the truth is that most of it is only marketing hype.
Camera manufacturers are taking advantage of the fact that many digital camera users are not tech savvy and they will become (or have already become) very frustrated with the huge amount of pictures they now take. Nobody who buys a digital camera for the first time is thinking about organizing their pictures after they start using their camera. All they care about is how many mega-pixels, how much zoom, is the camera easy to use and so on. After a while frustration sets in when they can’t find their pictures on their computers. In this article I am explaining what software can and can’t do when it comes to picture organization. My hope is that I would be able to persuade you to only use software to create your own organization structure and not rely on automatically created structure.
Automatic organization behind the scenes
Every picture I take with my digital camera contains some extra information like: camera make and type, date when the picture was taken, if the flash was used or not and many other camera settings. When I transfer a picture to my computer all this information goes with the picture. It is this information that automatic picture organization is based on. Software can easily read all this extra information and create some structure based on it. Actually, there is only one piece of information that is being used by all software, namely date picture taken. This is very useful information indeed, not only for this kind of software but for me as well. How is date picture taken being used by software?
Software can only use the date and create folders to reflect the dates of the pictures. As a result you get a structure based on this date only. There are many variations in this structure produced automatically. Some software produces folders named YYYY-MM-DD with a new folder for each day. Others, produce a more complicated structure:
YYYY Month01 Day01 Day02 Month02 Day01
The problem with automatic organization
This is all fine and maybe somewhat useful, but a very important part is missing. A description of what’s in the pictures is missing. So, unless you remember exactly the date when a certain event happened, you will not be able to figure out what’s in those many folders. This is the main problem of software that tries to organize your pictures automatically. Software cannot figure out the content of those pictures. It can only figure out the date when the pictures were taken. So, while it’s true that it can create a structure somewhat organized, this structure will NOT help you to find your pictures later. This is the main reason why I advocate the manual creation of an organization structure for your pictures.
The root of the problem
The problem with automatic organization is just that: it’s automatic. This means that it does it the same way for every person and for every picture. It doesn’t know about the content of the pictures and therefore, it cannot create a description of the folder containing the pictures. You alone can describe your own pictures, software cannot. So, who is organizing your pictures? If you rely on some software, it will not work for the long term. If you’re using software to help you create your own organization structure for your pictures, then you’re doing the right thing and you will be much better off in the long run.
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.