Organization Resolution

Recently a thread about 2010 photography resolutions was resurrected on a board I post to on occasion.  Scrolling through the replies I found mine.  One of the 3 points on my list was to have better organization when it came to my picture files.  While it wasn’t a complete fail, it also wasn’t a complete success.

I’ve never been terribly organized when it comes to pictures.  I’ve got film negatives, prints and slides in basically a few places, but there is no overall structure to anything and I’ve got to poke through envelopes and binders to find what I want.  This is only part of the mess –


When I made the switch to digital I did about as well.  At first I tried renaming all the pictures to something I could easily remember.  Ha!  Talk about time consuming.  So then I just named the folder something I could identify and that worked a bit better.  But the folders themselves didn’t have any hierarchical structure and those started to get out of hand.  Too many files, too many names, too many things just floating out there.  And too much time needed to actually make it better.

Lightroom is my photo processor of choice and luckily for me it shines as a database and file organization engine.  Unluckily for me, I didn’t really use it consistently or intelligently last year.  I found myself repeating the same tasks over and over again with every shot that I processed, every group of pictures that I imported.  Uh, hello…Lightroom can be automated in almost every way you can think of.  Duh.  I really need to think about what I do repetitively and write a preset for it.

Ok, so the first thing I’ve done is set up a top level folder for that year.  Really?  Pretty basic, huh?  The thing is I didn’t do that before, instead trying to shove subject, location and date information into the folder name itself.  No sub-folders, no nothing.  Honestly though, I never shot like I did in 2010 though, and the sheer volume made things substantially worse.  Just look at part of it!  I has a dumb.

Better folder structure means I can find stuff.  Look at how many folder names have multiple subjects…and they’re still all in one folder.  Doh!  No more.  Next year will be different.

  • 2011
    • Month
      • Subject/event/place

If there is different content in the same import batch I will immediately separate them into individual folders even if they are imported into one at first.  Really time saving over the long haul and should only take seconds to do.

The next thing I’ve done is set up an import preset.  I learned about this at the Adobe channel on youtube and I’m so glad I found it.  It will automate a lot of the things I do including modify metadata.

I already use keywords extensively, so I don’t really need to improve there, but I do with ratings.  I don’t always rate every file I work on.  Generally if I work on a file I publish it to either flickr or smugmug or both.  Now that I’m at year end and choosing my best work, it’s a chore to have to go back and rate shots I should have done at the time.  Lightroom has collections based on star ratings and so it’s easy to find them once I’ve rated them.  I’ve also got collections based on color labels and keywords.  Smart collections, too, so things get added to them automatically.

Automatically.  What a wonderful word.  Another thing that LR does is publish photos to popular websites like flickr.  So far I haven’t used this feature, but will be doing so in 2011.  No need to clog up my hard drive with extraneous jpeg files.

I didn’t intend for this to be a how-to exactly, there are plenty of better tutorial sites out there, but just to illustrate my pain and some of the things I’m going to do about it next year.  If anyone reading is a LR3 user who wants to share something that helps you stay organized and on top of things, I’d love to hear it.  LR is such a huge application that I know I haven’t poked into all its dark corners yet.

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2 responses

  1. I hear you. LR is great but it does so much more than the typical user uses right up front. I have not had a problem organizing them in the past. I use the same hierarchy that you are going to start using but I am bad with assigning keywords. I usually do it after the fact – like either right before i export to Flickr or after i have exported to Zenfolio. I really need to get in the habit of doing right away. I also figured out yesterday – while watching a video – that i can apply the previous photos adjustments to the next photo by – DUH! – hitting previous. Sometimes i wonder about myself you know? lol
    Either way, point being, there is still a lot for me to learn. One step at a time – right?

    March 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    • hi Robyn. nice to have you stop by. LR is so full of features it can be intimidating. I came to it slowly by watching a lot of video tutorials. I now have tagging/keywording worked into my process and even use a color label to mark the shots that still need it. I don’t use collections very well though and probably should since it would make finding stuff easier. I use the previous frequently with shots taken at the same time, it might not be my final edit, but it gets me close without having to do everything all over again. I know what you mean about one step at a time.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:16 am

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