I’m organizing and managing my photos.

[Many of my thoughts start on paper.]

I’m currently in the process of organizing my photos from the last several years in a way that uses the space on my hard drives most effectively. I don’t have money to buy a new external hard drive any time I want to and I don’t need to keep all of the RAW file photos that I’ve ever taken. This task requires a lot of prioritizing as well as well-considered deleting. As you read through this post, keep in mind that I just graduated from university with an emphasis in visual journalism (therefore I still have a lot of photos to sort through from classes I’ve taken) and that I am currently not working in the field of photography (if I were I would invest in a lot more disc space). My point is that there are a lot of factors to be considered before figuring out your best way of managing photos. So if you’re reading this post to get step-by-step guidance, I would advise you to think carefully about your own circumstances and factors before jumping in.

Background: My computer has a 500GB internal hard drive. Other than that space, I have one 500GB external hard drive and one 250GB external hard drive. I use the 250GB one to back up non-photo files (like old schoolwork) and use the 500GB one to store my photo files. 1TB hard drives are extremely affordable now,  but at this point I don’t feel comfortable enough to put 1TB-worth of files all in one place just in case something happens to it; I would rather pay a little more for two 500GB drives.

That said, the following are steps I’m taking to organize my photos:

1. Organize by date.
On my 500GB drive, the first layer of folders you see are mostly years: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, etc. The subfolders within these folders are labeled by year, month, and then date, so that the proper order (by date) is kept all the time. If you put the date before the month, you will end up with the 25th of January, February, March, etc grouped together. And in case you’re wondering, I put the year (abbreviated “13” for “2013”) so that I can handle my own errors well. For example, if I accidentally put a folder called “13_08_22Sherlock-Night” into the “2012 Photos”  folder, I can quickly look through the folder and spot which one has the wrong year at the front. So, yes, my folders end up looking something like this:


I actually have been using spaces between the words up until now, but a photo prof last semester mentioned that en dashes or underscores are better for the sake of the possibility of ever uploading them online. If I remember correctly, spaces in photo file names/folders can interfere with html language.

After all this, you can then choose to mass label each image file. If you own Adobe Bridge or Lightroom, there are easy methods to mass label images.,They can come out looking something like:



I, personally, will probably never bother to do this, but this level of organization may help you find photos even more easily than if they were labeled “IMG_0101” or something.

2. Use disc space efficiently for gigantic RAW files by prioritizing and then deleting.

There are a lot of photos that I’ve taken on outings with family or with friends that I’ve shot RAW or shot with settings that allow me to shoot as both JPEG and RAW at the same time. A lot of those will never make it into the portfolio that I’ll post on my site here or show potential employers. I do edit a lot of them and post them on Facebook, however. So generally what I will be doing is keeping all the photos I’ve edited (and exported as JPEGs) and also the RAWs of those photos if they exist (sometimes I’ve resorted to just shooting in JPEG when casual shooting). And then I will delete the rest of the photos.

3. Keep a double copy of all portfolio photos (edited and RAW).

By the end of this madness, I’ll have a copy of my portfiolio photos in both my internal hard drive (this makes it easily accessible if I want to upload any of them online at random times) and on my 500GB external drive.

4. Don’t procrastinate organizing photos after shooting.

My senior year in university was extremely busy. So in many ways I had no choice but to push this photo organization task to the bottom of my list of priorities. *Sidenote: I am notorious among my friends for not posting photos on Facebook until months later. For example, this summer I finally posted photos I took back in October. 😉* However, as much as possible, I will try to maintain photo organization. It can really turn into a nightmare later especially if you don’t transfer four 8GB-memory-cards-worth of photos onto a hard drive until you’re about to go shoot an event… *YUP, this happens.*

That’s all for now! I will be updating this post as I figure out newer, better ways of organizing. Please feel free to offer other tips and suggestions in the comments section!