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Organizing digital photos

view of Mississippi River

Periodically I get the notion to tidy up. Usually it’s because I can’t find what I’m looking for or figure out where to put the new stuff. Today it was my digital photos.

Since I just got back from a week long trip to Wisconsin and a weekend of motorcycle racing, I had lots of photos to label and organize. Being somewhat of a Luddite, I used pencil and paper to list categories I’ve used in the past. It wasn’t much of a surprise to discover I had duplicates. After some crumpled up paper and false starts this is what I came up with.

  1. Artwork photos with each piece labeled by name and year of completion. I also include all the interim photos, reference photos, detail shots and the size of the piece. On my previous computer I had a matching document which included artistic statements and any other written information. That laptop was stolen in Ohio and I just haven’t had the ambition to replicate the information. Now I have an independent hard drive backup system thanks to my thoughtful husband.
  2. Photos to use in artwork. These are all my photos filed by areas of interest to me. Currently those include critters, fences & buildings, foliage, machinery, pavement, people, picnic tables & benches, rocks, and textures. These groupings may change or I may add or further sub-divide a group if they become unmanageable.
  3. Blog photos. I have one file for those I’ve used and the ones I think might be suitable are ‘loose’. I haven’t posted all that much and have the probably rather silly notion it must be a really spectacular (to me) photo each time.
  4. Ebay sales. I’m still selling off some sewing machine dealership stuff and it’s handy to have it all in one place.
  5. Family and Home. Pretty obvious but I had pics in several places. Now they’re all in one place.
  6. Trips and Events. This past summer my husband and I took a two week tour of the West. It was wonderful but I had each park we visited in its own folder which took up a lot of space. Now they’re neatly in this folder along with Buddha’s birthday and a QuiltArt Event.
  7. Texas. Again I had a gazillion photos and folders of all the different places we’ve been in Texas. We love to visit the beach and the Big Thicket repeatedly—now they’re all in one nice folder sub-divided by place, month and year.
  8. Wisconsin. We visit every year for the Fourth of July to visit family and because it’s a gorgeous place.
  9. Photos to send to others. My husband likes to use the camera he gave me to shoot panoramas and occasionally I take photos for others. Now I can move them to this folder as I label them and they’re ready the next time I access the Internet
  10. Photos to upload to Smugmug. This is where we store our photos. I take care to label my photos and present them as a story. It’s not hard to upload but the process frequently unsorts them. I’ve learned to label with numbers.
  11. Raw photos to probably discard. This is the wastebasket—at some point I’ll look through this folder and discard stuff—probably when I run out of storage. They’re filed by name. Somehow it seems really awful to delete one of your children or husband even if it’s a photo of their hand covering half of their face.

When I upload photos they go into a temporary photo labeled by date. As I label them I can also copy them into the Blog folder or the Photos to Use in ArtWork. When I get all the photos labeled, numbered, and organized the folder then goes into the larger category as listed above. If the folder needs to be uploaded, it is sorted afterward into the appropriate folder. I’ve also learned not to dump photos before I’ve tried cropping them—and to view the entire folder in slideshow to be sure I have nice sharp photos. Sometimes I include a less than sharp one just because I love the colors or shapes.

It took me awhile to learn how to move quickly from label to label, to learn how to copy and move to different folders, to find the undo button—I think it’s great to have a do-over button. And every once in awhile I can show someone else some little trick I’ve learned.

Now that I’ve organized my digital photos, I’ll have to take another whack at my email management.

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