Creating a strong folder structure is the best way to start organizing your digital pictures. Such a structure can be expanded with the use of tags if needed (see Tags vs. Folders). I also believe that folder names should follow a certain naming convention that should be followed consistently. In this short article, I will outline the folder naming convention I use.
How do we remember events?
Have you ever wondered how you remember events? If someone asks you if you remember being at a certain event, what do you need in order to remember it? Do you need to know what season it was, spring or fall? Or how about the time of day: day or night?
While these things may help, most of us would most likely need three pieces of information in order to remember a certain event.
Three pieces of information you need for recalling events:
- Date (at least an approximation)
- A description of the event. (usually a short description would suffice).
This is a very simple observation but it turns out to be very powerful when it comes to organizing your pictures. Most people take pictures at certain events (professional photographers are an exception to this rule) and it is this events that they would have to remember in order to locate the pictures they have taken. Therefore naming your pictures folders such that the name includes these three pieces of information will help you remember the event you’re looking for, and therefore you should be able to locate the pictures you want to find. Inserting specific pieces of information in your folder names means that you are actually “tagging” your folders instead of your individual pictures.
An efficient folder naming convention
Here is my naming convention that captures all these pieces of information in a simple format:
- Example: 2007-11-Malibu-Adamson-House_visit
- Naming convention: [Date]-[Place]-[description]
- Folder name includes a date for its content. You need at least the year and month. (2007-11 = November 2007)
- use 4 digits for the year
- use 2 digits for the month
- use 2 digits for the day (optional)
- use some sort of delimiter between the date fields (underscore or dash).
- Folder name contain the place of the event.(Malibu)
- Folder name contains a brief description of the event (3 short words max). (Visit to the Adamson House museum)
The most important thing about naming conventions is to stick to them. I mean that if you agree to name your folders with this structure you always have to do it the same way, otherwise the system will not work. This means that you always put the date first, the place second and the description third. Out of all three, the date is the most important and it should always come first so that your operating system will automatically sort your folders according to the date…which is really nice!
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If you do a lot of image editing like I do, 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. But if you do image editing, Adobe Lightroom is my favorite.
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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.