Tips for Setting up a File Management System

Tips for Setting up a File Management System

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As much as we love the art of photography, the organization of it is just as important. Yes, organization. It’s important that you have a system in place to access your photos when you need them. A few key things to consider are: date, genre, occasion, and subject. You also want to be careful of the locations that you are storing your images.

Save location

This is an example of a way to organize your photos. This is an external drive with various years. There is also a folder for miscellaneous photos and a folder for personal photos. Your system may not have as many years or may include different folders. It’s important to develop a system that works for you.

This is an example of a way to organize your photos. This is an external drive with various years. There is also a folder for miscellaneous photos and a folder for personal photos. Your system may not have as many years or may include different folders. It’s important to develop a system that works for you.

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This is an example of a way to organize your photos. This is an external drive with various years. There is also a folder for miscellaneous photos and a folder for personal photos. Your system may not have as many years or may include different folders. It’s important to develop a system that works for you.

It’s important to have your image files saved in a safe place. You should consider using an external drive of some sort. External drives are ones that sit outside of your computer (some are portable for travelling), on which can store various amounts of data. Some people choose to store a backup of their files on their external drive, and a working copy on their computer hard drive. Either way is fine, just make sure you have your final copies saved and backed up in a safe place.

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You’ll want to create a folder, or series of folders to save your photos. Your organization system should work for your specific needs. Start with a top level that describes your contents. For example, if you shoot fine art as well as portrait work, you might want to create two folders; one for your fine art work and another for your client work would be an option. Within those folders you could then sort your photos by year, then by project or client name. You’ll also want to create folders that represent the different states of your process. An example is to have a downloads folder, a retouched folder, a final images folder, and a blog folder.

File Naming

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This is what the file structure looks like when open. This set of photos was shot in 2015. The date comes before the client name. There is also a designation that these are headshots. This makes it easy to find when looking at the folders. The term headshots was also used as a keyword during import. These images were being used to submit to a casting agency so the file name includes the description of the subject.

Your file names should be descriptive and concise. You want your filenames to be easy to read. A great file structure should include the name of your project, and the date it was shot. You can add any additional descriptive information if you think it’s needed. An example would be Wedding-Johnson-May2014.jpg or Johnson-51414.jpg (inside the Weddings folder). These are just examples. Take into consideration the order you like to view your files. Having the date at the front might be a better option for you if you like to see them in numerical order.

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Keywording

You want to make sure to keyword your photos. This is usually done at import. Both Adobe Bridge and Lightroom have the option to keyword. Most file organization systems have a keyword feature, so familiarize yourself with that. This is an important part of the file organization process that is often overlooked. Your keywords should describe your images and any details you might want to reference later. Think about the types of photos you might be asked to submit, or even want to blog about. An example is using the keyword “sunshine” as part of your family portrait import. You might not immediately think that this is something you even care about, but it will be helpful when you’re ready to submit to a call for photos that show sunshine.

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Here is an example of a complete set. Notice there are folders for the original images, final images, sharing, and social media. Each of these folders leads with the date and client name. The image filenames continue this pattern and are numbered.

File organization can be as simple or as complex as you want it. The important thing is to just have a system in place. You may not have a lot of shoots to sort through, but in time they will add up. Your system will make it easier to find what you’re looking for in the future.

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Monica Day is a portrait photographer in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She specializes in photographing women and children. Monica aims to help each of her clients feel strong and confident. She also teaches and mentors other photographers. She is the author of The Most Fabulous Boudoir Marathon Guide. You can find Monica on her YouTube page where she provides tutorials and talks about lifestyle. Be sure to check out more of Monica’s work at her website and Instagram.