Our method for digital photo organization

photographerBack in the days of film cameras, I always thought it was such a waste when I developed my film and half of it was taken up with bad photos. For every great shot there are 5 photos that are blurry, poorly framed, or just not as good as you thought they’d be, especially when you’re photographing kids and pets.

Digital cameras have made it easy to take hundreds of photos and pick and choose the best shots. It’s made amateur photography more accessible. However, it can also clutter your hard drive if you can’t let go of bad photos. Like anything else, if you don’t have a system in place for organizing them, digital photos can become a big headache.

I used to be one of those people that never deleted digital images. I just dumped them all on my hard drive. Now that we have a camera that shoots huge images, we have to be pickier about which images we keep to conserve space on our hard drive.

Here’s how we’ve been choosing and organizing images:

Look at each photo with another set of eyes.

I take most of the photos with our camera, so Tony and I sit down together and quickly go through each photo. If either of us likes the photo, we keep it. Most of the images deleted at this point are just plain bad photos.

Choose between similar images.

Sometimes when I’m trying to get a particular shot, I’ll take five or six similar photos. I used to keep all of them, but now Tony and I go through and choose the best. There’s no reason to quadruple the disc space you’re using with photos that are essentially identical.

Use a practical file system that works for you.

My old camera automatically uploaded images into files and folders by date. This new camera doesn’t. To make it easier on myself, all new photos are dumped into a folder called “New.” From there I delete anything I don’t want to keep, and I manually move the files into folders by date and event.

There are folders for each year and each month within that year. Within the month folders are separate folders for significant events, like “Graduation” or “Honeymoon.” If there is no significant event associated with the photos, then the folder is just named by a date.

This system has made it easy for us to find images quickly. Since I started manually moving images into the folders, it’s also made it easier for me to weed out throw-away photos to conserve space.

Invest in an external hard drive for back ups and archives.

You can get a pretty decent sized external hard drive for about $50 or $60. Ours is 120GB, and we paid $60 for it. We back up all of our photos on this hard drive as well as important documents from our computers. Eventually as our digital photo collection grows, we’ll probably invest in a larger hard drive for archives. This is an essential investment if you take digital photos. It’s like keeping digital negatives. Don’t let a computer malfunction erase all your memories!

How do you manage your digital photos?

Photo by bigtallguy

5 thoughts on “Our method for digital photo organization

  1. Christina @ Northern Cheapskate

    I wish I had the discipline to delete photos… I love them all… even if there are 15 shots of the same thing. I only print the photos I truly love the best, but I save almost all of them.

    I, too, back them up to an external hard drive. I’ve recently purchased a pro Flickr account and have started uploading photos there as well – If anything were to happen to your home, an external hard drive sitting in that home won’t help you…. in that situation it would be comforting to know that you could at least get your photographs back… Mind you, I’m not uploading every photo ever – that would take too much time – but I’ve backed up photos that are especially important to me and will back them up regularly from now on.
    .-= Christina @ Northern Cheapskate´s last blog ..Let LibraryElf Help You Avoid Overdue Books =-.

  2. Michele

    Since I love photography, I have the same problem. Over time, the number of pictures I take for one “event” has decreased (practice means it takes less shots to get what you want) but my Nikon D70 creates 5mb images. Shooting for a day might give me 80-120 images. They add up in a hurry.

    My system is similar to yours. I group mine by year, and then by folder for each event with the date in it. When I download the images, I rename them to match the event. So my file names look something like 2009 09 09 ColumbiaRiverGorge1010. Since I shoot in RAW format, I also have to process the image in Photoshop before I have a final image. I save that with the same file name changing the extension. And I also have a FlickrPro account, so anything I want to post online gets resized and saved as a JPG file in a separate folder. It sounds a little complicated, but I can find everything fairly easily, and with the date format, I have an instant timeline of what I’ve done and where I’ve gone. I also have external storage (250gig, 500gig and 1terrabye). I have only the current year of photos on my computer, the rest are on both the 500gig and the 1terrabyte. The current year gets backed up to all three once a week. External storage is inexpensive. The memories I’ve created in taking pictures is worth the price to me.

    Enjoy your camera! I’m enjoying all your puppy pictures!

    1. Karen

      @Michele – Eventually I hope to have a system like yours. For now our 120GB external hard drive is big enough, but eventually we’ll have to upgrade. I love that you keep an archive and a backup. That’s how I’d like to do it! I haven’t started experimenting with RAW yet, but I can’t wait to try it once I get more familiar with my camera and photography in general! Thanks for sharing your method.

  3. from the desk of ...me

    i totally agree. i delete pictures before uploading them to my external hard drive. i have even taken it a step further. since i scrapbook, when i upload photos now, i immediately use my photo printer to print the pictures. this has been great. so now when i want to scrapbook, i don’t waste time deciding which pics to print, instead i can just start scrapbooking.
    .-= from the desk of …me´s last blog ..Day One In the Lap of Luxury =-.

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