Organizing Digital Photos
Recommendations on how to organize photo s on your computer
Digital photos don't stay in the camera long; they make your computer's hard drive their permanent home. A good organization method for storing your images will make it easier to retrieve them in the future.
This article gives a brief overview of how to create a digital photo organizing system, and the software needed to manage them. It assumes that your computer is running Windows XP, but most of the concepts apply to other operating systems as well.
Location of "My Pictures"
No matter what software you choose for managing your collection, the actual image files will be stored somewhere on your hard drive. I recommend that you store all of your digital photos in the "My Pictures" folder. Unless you have moved it, "My Pictures" will be in the "My Documents" folder.
Occasionally I come across software that wants to store photos in their own folder. Determine where your software stores images, and if not in "My Pictures", investigate further to see if it allows you to change it to this location.
Consistently named folders are an important aspect of all photo organization systems. These folders reside on the hard drive under "My Pictures" and store all of your images. Having a carefully planned folder structure will help you find photos quickly, even if you change the organizing software down the road.
Decide on the folder structure by asking yourself the following questions:
To help you come up with a system of your own, let me walk you through mine. Please refer to the folder structure image below for the examples.
First, I create a folder for each year under "My Pictures". The years represent when the photo was taken. Then, I create a folder under the appropriate year with a descriptive event name. For example: 2005\Day at the races. All digital photo files from this event go into this folder.
If I have a lot of photos in a single year, I break it down one more level by adding months. Windows sorts folder names alphabetically. If you simply name the folders the month names, sorting will be chronologically incorrect because it will list December before January. To avoid this, I start the folder names with a two digit month number, as in "01" for January, "02" for February, and so on. I follow the number with a three character month name as in "02 Feb". Finally, I create descriptive event folders under the month. This allows me to browse my digital photos by year and month while keeping the list within a single year shorter. The image above shows samples of both methods: event folders directly under years and under months.
Free Organizing Software
Free software is generally very basic in functionality, but let's not rule them out because they meet the needs of the person taking snapshots, organizing the photos into folders, performing minor editing, and printing or having the photos developed. The number of free photo organizing software packages is too great to list in this article, but I will give two sources:
Adobe Photoshop Elements
When your needs surpass the capabilities of free software, I recommend you consider Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0. Starting with version 3.0, Adobe combined what used to be two software packages into one: the organizer and the editor.
Here are some of the notable features of Photoshop Elements "Organizer" tool:
In addition to the Organizer tool, you get the Photoshop Elements Editor in the same package, which I consider the best digital photo editing tool for the beginner through advanced photographer.
IMatch for the Advanced User
If you consider yourself an advanced photographer and have a large collection of digital photos to manage, I recommend IMatch from http://photools.com. IMatch is the software I use to organize thousands of my own photos.
Here are a few notable IMatch features, above and beyond the more basic packages:
No matter which software you choose, your time spent developing an organization system for your digital photos will pay dividends when it is time to find them.