How many times have you wished you could retrieve a long-forgotten photo on your hard drive in an instant, only to sink into despair when you start scouring your collection of jpegs and realize you don’t have a clue where it’s filed? Most professional photographers learn early in their careers that organization is key to gathering pics when you need them, but it’s a practice that hobbyists and enthusiasts are often hesitant to take up. Now’s the time to get savvy and put your remaining period of self- isolation to good use.
Lighten your load
You’ll be pleased to know that you’re not alone and there’s lots of great software designed to help you with this task using a straightforward, streamlined interface with built-in tagging and organizing functions. Adobe Lightroom is one of the more popular photo-management products, but you’ve got lots to choose from. Do a bit of preliminary legwork and you’ll find the one that’s right for you.
Tag, tag, tag
If you haven’t been tagging your photos all along, this is the first place to start. Your camera automatically labels each image, of course, but IMGP1234.JPG tells you nothing useful about it. Think of a tag as a short mental note to remind you of its content. And it doesn’t just have to be one tag. Each image can carry as many separate tags as you feel comfortable with, including the name of the person in it, the place it was taken, a theme such as “Christmas 2019” or anything else you think will come in handy. These tags will function as keywords when you decide to search for and access them later.
Delete the duds
Chances are, you’ve probably kept almost everything you’ve ever shot in the hope that some of your less-spectacular work might turn out to be a diamond in the rough on closer inspection with a fresh pair of eyes at a later date. This could well prove true – and an added bonus for undertaking this exercise – but it’s also an opportunity to part with the ones that should never have made the cut and free up some precious space on your computer’s hard drive.
Create a folder system
Folders might seem like an antiquated way to organize photos when you’re already tagging them, but it’s another way to tidy up and unclutter your output. Otherwise, you’ve still got nothing but a jumble of jpegs adrift on a hard drive. Gather them up and put them in their place using an instantly recognizable hierarchy that works for you. It could be something as simple as a chronological structure system – a folder for each year, say, and another folder for every month within that year.
Depending on the extent of your archive, tagging can be a daunting task, but once you’re done, you’ll be glad you did it, and don’t forget to do this each time you transfer another set of photos into their rightful folders. No point in backsliding just when you got yourself ahead of the curve.
If you’re feeling ambitious . . .
Have you been shooting since the pre-digital era or just getting into film photography now? Invest in an affordable scanner and store high-res digital copies of your prints, too. If anything happens to the originals, they’ll be perfectly preserved – and easily shareable — plus you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
It’s reassuring to know that you’ve finally taken the time to prune, tag and organize your vast collection of pics, but now it pays to have a backup plan. As we all know, hard drives can crash and be invaded by malware. Having a second – or even a third – set saved elsewhere is like having an insurance policy. Backing up takes less time than getting everything organized in the first place. It’s worth the extra effort, and your photos deserve it.