I recently discovered that there are quite a few photographers that do not have any real system of filing their images for easier archiving. With this in mind, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how to make life easier when it comes to organising your digital diamonds.

When I first arrived in London, a photographer at The Times showed me his technique of data management and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s simple, easy and once you’ve started working like this, you’ll find it becomes second nature to always do it.

After shooting a job, I always download from the card to the laptop. This may seem obvious but I know a number of photographers that only work off their cards and, worst of all, then go on to format the CF card, deleting every image except the ones that they have edited. That’s such a bad way to work as you really do never know what will become important in the future. The guy that’s in the background means nothing today but in six months when a story appears connecting him with someone else that you managed to capture in the same frame, your photograph suddenly goes from being a bog standard picture to an important document.

The downloaded folder is renamed from the standard automatically-created digits and letters to something that can be easily traced and located. With this in mind, I name the folder with my initials, today’s date in reverse order and a couple of keywords relating to the job. An example from a recent job would be “LSN2010-06-18 Sarkozy Carlton Gardens”. In this way, if I only know a single element of the job such as the date, the year, the person involved or the location, I can still locate the folder using the search function.

When I download the images, they are copied to a folder called “Today’s Pix” on my hard drive. Here they stay until the job is edited, sent and I have finished shooting for the day. At this point, they move into another folder called “Pix”. This way, I can quickly find the latest jobs that I’ve worked on if I need to.

Once I have edited and sent my selection of images, I copy these into a folder that is titled similarly to the unedited folder except I drop my initials from the start ie “2010-06-18 Sarkozy Carlton Gardens”. In this way, I can tell at a glance what the date of the job was, where it was shot, who the job involved and finally whether the images in the folder are the unedited versions or the finalised, filed versions.

This may seem to be quite convoluted if you are used to just dragging the images to a random, bloated folder on your drive but the difference that it makes when you are trying to locate an image quickly and efficiently is vast.

If you’ve bothered to spend time shooting an image, you really should spend the time naming and archiving your folders correctly too. You never know, someday there may be gold in them there digital hills..

5 Responses to “Workflow-a-go-go”

  1. That’s quite similar to the way I do it (date + description as directory names), except I put my edits in a subdirectory. That way I can easily switch between the raw take and the edits, which I do a lot, and usually I don’t edit everything at once. So I was wondering, why do you keep your edits in a completely separate folder? Doesn’t that make it a bit cumbersome to switch between the raw take and edits?

    Posted by Jan
  2. So what do you use to edit?

    I totally agree about the importance of keeping everything, and have benefited from that several times recently.

    I started with a system like yours, but now moved to Folder on to the desktop, import by date in to LR2 and add a couple of keywords on import, seems to work for me, although I tend to be only doing 1 or 2 jobs per day. Exported files go in the desktop backup (original folder) which is backed up to a external every night, following the basics of your system. LR catalogue backed/moved to a different external every week/month depending how big or busy it has got, but is still searchable on my laptop.

    Posted by Reuben
  3. I’m glad someone does it in a similar way to me, I know lots of photographers that have import and send folders on the desktop and that’s it!
    Then as far as I know they spend a lot of time sorting out their pics into archive at a later date….
    On import I drop the original files into a folder named as so: 100623_01_DM_appropriate_keywords
    Broken down as: reverse date, job of the day, who the job was for (DM = Daily Mail) then the keywords for easy searching.
    I then have a subfolder called simply: 1…
    In here a put the edited files and keep their filename as they were transmitted (ie: durant_summer_pics_001)
    the benefit of this folder being here is that it’s the quickest way to find when ‘saving as’ and it always stays within the originally keyworded job folder when dropping it all into your archive at the end of the day.

    Posted by Lee Durant
  4. My liege! As always, you are a fountain of wisdom. I’ve got a similar, yet chaotic technique, but thanks for sharing this. I also back up on Ext hard-drives, email and on DVDS. U can just never not back up enough, I guess….

    Posted by pixgremlin
  5. Thanks for sharing this Neal. I’ve found that being disciplined in doing this saves a lot of hassle further down the line. I even go as far as renaming the files to the shoot name using LR. Do you do that too?

    Posted by Nasser

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