These days, with technology changing rapidly and digital cameras becoming more and more ubiquitous, it becomes very easy to be confused by so many voices when it comes to keeping your growing media collection organized. However, there are few principles that will help you stay on track and be able to grow and organize your media collection without worrying about the next new technology or next new program that claims to do it all for you. Read on to find the principles that will keep your media library insulated from technology changes and help you keep your sanity.
Principle #1: Understand and organize your hardware
You must take inventory of your hardware! Do you have multiple cameras, desktop computers, laptops, tablets and phones? With pictures on all of them?
There is no easy way to say it, but you must bring order to the chaos. You must understand and organize your hardware. What does this mean?
You have to identify your main computer. This is the computer that usually has lots of storage space and probably a better processor. This is the piece of hardware that stores your media library, all your pictures and videos. Think of it as the store for your media.
What about all the other devices? Your tablet, phone and other computers can take and hold pictures but you have to think about them as holding copies of your pictures. They are secondary devices. Just labeling them that way will help you understand how you should use them.
In other words, you do need to have a mental plan for every device you use. This plan will help you know what to do with the pictures from these secondary devices.
You hardware plan needs to cover two very important aspects.
Firstly, you need to know how you get the new pictures from your secondary devices to your main computer.
Secondly, your plan needs to include what to do after you transfer your pictures from the secondary devices to the main computer. Do you erase them? For example, I erase my images from both my cameras after transferring them to my main computer. This is the simplest way to ensure you don’t have duplicate images.
If you decide to keep your pictures on the secondary devices, after you have transferred them to the main computer, you have to think how you make sure you don’t transfer them again to the main computer, when you forget you have already done that. This is not an easy task to accomplish. If you don’t come up with a solution for this you will end up with a lot of duplicates.
Have a hardware plan. Identify your main computer and your secondary devices. Firstly, your hardware plan must identify how you transfer pictures from the secondary devices to your main computer. Secondly, your hardware plan must identify what to do with the pictures on the secondary devices once you have transferred them to the main computer.
Principle #2: Organize your folders
Many people and quite a few software programs want to ignore folders when it comes to storing your media. However, folders are here to stay. Even though they are messy, folders are not going away anytime soon. All devices, whether computers or mobile devices, use them still. You can’t ignore your folders, but must organize them.
Folders are the main storage containers for your pictures on your computer. They are the containers that help you keep your pictures organized at the low level. So you must create an efficient folder structure and stick with it.
Do not ignore your folders but rather keep them organized. This is how you ensure you do not depend on any particular software and this is how you make sure you can backup your pictures correctly.
Principle #3: Backup your main media library often
You must backup your media library from your main computer. This is probably the most important step after organizing your folders. Digital pictures and videos have a record of your life and this record of events and memories can disappear immediately when your main computer crashes. Computers and hard drives do crash, believe me they do.
Set up an automatic backup plan to make sure you backup your media files frequently and securely.
Principle #4: Create efficient metadata in your media files
Creating efficient metadata for your pictures is powerful but optional. Metadata will help you organize your pictures in multiple categories and dimensions. However, without implementing the first three principles, you cannot simply rely on metadata to organize and backup your pictures.
The most important principle is to make sure you save your metadata in the files themselves. Do not rely on any (really…not any) software program to save your metadata in some proprietary database. It is your metadata for your files and it should reside in your files, not anywhere else.
While optional, using efficient image metadata is very powerful. When you need a complex organization scheme, use image metadata. Most importantly, make sure that whatever metadata you create, it gets saved to your media files and not in some software program you are using.
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.