In some ways, taking a photo is the easy part. You’ve spent years learning your craft, honing your skills, developing your own style. When you’re out in the field with your camera, you know exactly what you’re doing. But when it comes to photo management, many of us are still novices.
What good are your photos if you can’t identify them, can’t find them and they just sit in unnamed folders in the depths of your C:/ drive? The good news is that photo management doesn’t have to be as dull and laborious as it sounds. Here are a few simple tips and tricks that all the pros use to organise their images, making them easy to find and simple to share with the world.
What’s in a name
When it comes to organising your photos, the single most important thing you can do is give your files a name that clearly identifies what they are. We’ll give you a moment to copy and paste this into a text document… OK, now why is this important? We’ve all seen the default file names your camera applies to the images you take. It’s usually a combination of letters followed by numbers, and the only way to know what they are is to physically open them. Make it routine to rename your image files as you download them to your computer – usually a combination of day, month and year plus subject/location will suffice. Make it something identifiable to you.
Arranging by categories
Naming your files is one thing, but how do you arrange them so you know where to find all the photos from your Rome holiday in June 2012? Think of your image storage option of choice like a book store and your images as books. Survey what you have and break everything down into broad categories that allow you to separate your one large pile into several smaller piles. Landscapes, for instance. Portraits. Holidays. Or you could create categories by year, or month – or if it’s strictly family snaps you’re archiving, then by each person’s name.
Once you have your broad categories established, think about what sub-categories you can create within each of them to help organise your photos even more clearly. For example, in your Landscapes folder you might want sub-folders for Europe and America, or Beaches and Mountains.
Once you have your images separated into slightly smaller piles and filed under categories, you’ll want to think about how you can find them within these categories. This is where tags – also called keywords – play such an important role. Tags, for the uninitiated, are more specific descriptions of an image to help you identify a certain series or selection within a category. For instance, your pictures of Rome from your recent holiday, which sit in your Holidays category, might have tags like ‘Rome’, ‘Italy’, ‘2012’, ‘summer’ or ‘landmarks’. We’ve prepared some photo tagging tips for you, but also take a look at some of the stock photo agencies to see how they tag their images, and you’ll get an idea of where to start. Shutterstock, for instance, is one of the better agencies at tagging photos.
Update your metadata
Most image-editing software and photography sharing sites these days makes it easy for you to add tags to photos. Some even let you even do it in batches, saving you valuable time. But first and foremost you need to make sure your camera is updated with all of your personal information. This helps protect you as the copyright owner of your images, and is an important exercise for anyone storing and sharing large amounts of photos. Your camera will have come with software drivers with which you should be able to add personal information to your images’ metadata.
Choosing your photo organiser
There are all sorts of photo management systems and software available these days – some free and some for a small fee. Popular options include Adobe’s Bridge and Elements Organizer platforms, Google’s Picasa and Windows Live. Most camera manufacturers also have their own photo management software you can download, although Canon’s going one step better with its irista service that lets you store and manage you pictures from anywhere and at any time.
Back up your files
One would think that this far into the digital age we wouldn’t need to preach the importance of backing up files, but who among us has never lost files entirely because it’d been a while since they last backed up? Again, make it routine to back-up your files routinely, every time you transfer a new batch of images to your computer. Aim to keep them in at least two places – and consider using cloud storage as an additional back-up for peace of mind.
Cloud storage for photographers
You’ve probably heard a lot about cloud storage recently… but what exactly is cloud storage? In short, it means saving all of your data to a storage system owned by someone else. Someone has a remote database and for a small fee you pay to store your images on that database. Your internet connection allows you to access it. Pretty straightforward, and it’s an option that many people are turning to when it comes to photo management as it lets you store your images in one central place.