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Digital Storage for Your Images – Organization 101

digital-storage-images.pngHow to store your digital images is an issue that faces every digital photographer at some stage. In this post ChristinaNichole Photography shares some tips on how to do it.

I once met a very talented photographer at a digital photography class. The topic of discussion was digital image organization. Of all the students attending this class, she was extremely distraught. When asked if she needed assistance, her response was, “I never knew how to organize my pictures before, so I kept them all in one file. Where do I start?!?

Not the best-case scenario.

Though not an overwhelmingly fascinating subject, without a doubt digital storage and file handling is one of the most important lessons a photographer can learn. In the digital age, when we have opportunity to store hundreds of thousands of images on one laptop or hard drive, things can get pretty complicated to go back and try to find “that one picture of Aunt Helen at Johnny’s 6th birthday party”. Especially if you don’t have an established workflow and file handling system.

Organizing your images will be one of the most time intensive and equally time saving tasks you can perform as a photographer. You don’t want to spend hours looking for that one picture if you can simply search your catalogue for it by a single keyword or date.

Various photo organizing programs can assist you in your organizing. You can customize this organization with most programs if you import directly into the program. This list of programs would include Picasa by Google, Aperture by Apple, and Lightroom2 by Adobe. Though these programs will help you exponentially, it’s helpful to begin with these general starting points:

  1. Upload your images using a unique file naming system. This way, each image has a unique name in your catalogue. This makes for super fast retrieval later on and no worries on 2 images having the same name! You have a few options with file naming, just choose a system that works well for you, and don’t change it. I find the following works best for me: Date, day, initials, image number: [2008-10-20_CND_0001.jpg]
  2. Upload your images into dated folders. For example, if I have two shoots on the 20th of November, I upload all of my images into that date [11-20-2008]. In my organizing program, I will then make separate collections for each shoot … all still in that single folder. [Folder >11-20-2008> Folder > Harmon Shoot]. Retrieval becomes a matter of less than 2 minutes.
  3. Once you have uploaded your images, go through and rate each image. It sounds like a pain, but once you get used to your system the rating goes by fairly fast. The rating options defer from program to program, but in Lightroom2, I rate my images on a 0 to 5 scale. Images rated 0 … 1 gets trashed. Images rated 2 get stored and major time is spent on editing them later. Images rated 3-5 are the ones I edit immediately and are happy with showing them to clients right away.
  4. If you can, it is really smart to keyword your images. In image programs like Portfolio … dedicated to massive amounts of photo storage … and Lightroom2 also, each keyword will be kept in a collection of its own. If I have just finished a portrait shoot, I will keyword something like this: Client, location, type of images, expression [smiling, laughing etc], on location, in studio…etc. If my client is a mother who wants any other pictures of her graduating son that are smiling, I don’t scroll through all my images to find those smile pictures. I simply go to my “smiling” keywords of that client and viola!

Organizing your images is a photographer’s lifesaver that cannot be stressed enough! If you are a beginner, take some time to figure out what system will work best for you. Whether putting together a family photo book, or going back to make prints for a client from last year, or even archiving your images, image organization will save you time and energy in the future.

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Christina N Dickson
Christina N Dickson

is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

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