Easy Photo Storage and Recovery

Digital storage and finding ways to handle it is one sure fire way to a smoother photography experience! It’s particularly handy when you’re taking hundreds and thousands of pictures, but you don’t know how to locate them when the situation demands. For example, you’ve taken an exotic picture of a Himalayan landscape, but you can’t seem to find it in all of the photo files you have stored on your computer. What a nightmare!

Well, you no longer have to worry about that! Here are some easy to follow tips on establishing a workflow and handling your photo filing system effectively. By doing that, you can avoid going through each and every picture you have one by one. Instead, you can just key in a search word to find the photos you need in mere seconds. Organizing photos can be done with programs like Google’s Picasa, Google’s Aperture or Adobe’s Lightroom 2. However, there are still a few rules you need to know to make your searches more effective and less time consuming. Let’s check them out!

1.) File Naming System

To make sure you or your camera doesn’t end up saving two pictures with similar names, you should first set up a unique file naming system. That will not only ensure that every photograph has an exclusive name, but you’ll also be able to retrieve your photos much faster. There are a few options available to you. To give you an idea, one way of doing it would be: date, day, initials, image number. For instance, 2008-11-23_ZHJ_0001.jpg. Some people find it better to date the folders backwards, like this: 2008-11-18. Another way is to sort your folders like this: “Keyword_Date_Month_Year.” That way, pictures you don’t really care for will be deleted immediately.

2.) Date Your Sessions

Now that you have your naming format, make sure you start opening new folders with dates like December 16, 2008 or 12-16-2008 or 16-12-2008. You can then save your photos taken on that date by opening additional new folders to denote the photo shoot. For example, if you shot three sessions on the same day, make separate collections for each shoot under the same dated folder. For example, Folder>12-16-2008>Folder>Aunt Peggy’s Party. That helps with faster and easier retrieval!

3.) Rate Your Pictures

After you’re done naming and storing your pictures, it’s time to rate the picture by quality and content. If you’ve captured great Kodak moments, they deserve a higher rating. Similarly, if you’ve shot amazing sunsets and landscapes, you should give them a high rating. For example, once you’re done with the picture upload, go through each picture and rate it. If you’re using Adobe’s Lightroom 2, you can rate your images on a 0 to 5 scale. Depending on the rating, you can also delete bad pictures and keep the good ones. Again, among the good ones, there might be some that need cropping, retouching and so on.

4.) Keyword Your Database

This one’s a must! It’s of great use when you’re using picture programs like Portfolio and Lightroom 2. Those programs store keywords in a collection of their own. If you’ve just finished a landscape shoot, use keywords like these: person/family name, place, picture format, expression (smiling, laughing, etc). If your aunt wants any other pictures of her daughter smiling on her graduation day, you don’t have to scroll through all of your pictures to find those “smiling” images. Instead, you can just simply put in “smiling” as your keyword and find the photos you’re looking for. Cool, huh?!

5.) Free Tool

There’s a wonderful free tool called FastStone you can use for organizing all your photos. You can rename photos as you transfer them onto your computer, making new folders only when required. Once the pictures are on your computer, you can batch rename them, do some basic editing and cropping and then attach the photos to an e-mail or whatever you need to do. You can’t rate them, but you can attach a keyword or subject. You can check FastStone out for yourself here: http://www.faststone.org.

6.) External Memory

You can move all your photos to a folder based structure that’s no more than 8 GB on your external hard drive. Once a folder hits 8 GB, you can then burn your photos to a DVD. Then it’s best to number each DVD. That way, you can keep all your images online and you’ll have a backup/archive with the DVD. In each folder, give a brief description, such as “Jim and Maggie’s Anniversary DEC08.”

7.) Naming Folders

For ease of use, try and have fewer folders in the top rung of your file naming system. For example, the following folders in the top level of your Pictures folder would work the best: Anniversaries and Birthdays, Concerts and Shows, Holidays, Misc., School, Sports, Vacations and Trips and Weddings. The top level of your Pictures folder should contain as few folders as possible.

8.) Do the Reverse

Sometimes it pays to do something different. You should have first rung folders separated by location and the second rung by date. For example, if you open up your “Beach” folder and then your Dec. 2008 folder, you’ll find folders with specific dates on them for the photos taken on a certain day.

9.) Think Lateral

If you want to be independent of any photo application, make folders with the date and add a text file with keywords for the pictures that can be found in the folder. If you’re looking for a picture, just use the search feature in Windows Explorer.

10.) And Finally…

Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur family photographer, it helps to have a system like this in place. You could go back to make prints for a client or a relative from last year or you can even archive your images. I promise this system will save you a lot of time and energy in the future!

~ Zahid H. Javali