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Do You Know Where Your Pictures Are?

The following post is from Amanda of Everyday Elements:

Years ago when I used a little point-and-shoot film camera, we went to Walmart and printed our pictures, brought them home in those little envelopes. and I would place them in a box until I could put them into a scrapbook album. The envelopes were put in chronological order so I could easily find what I wanted.

Fast forward to the age of digital cameras. When I first starting using one and had all these digital files to keep up with, I made a whole bigger mess. I named the pictures strange things on import (that made sense at the time), I put them in folders that had no order or sense. In other words, I really did not know what I was doing.

After much blood, sweat and tears I now have a file management system that enables me to find just about any picture I want within a seconds.

By taking some time to really analyze your system for keeping track of your digital pictures, you will save yourself time and headaches later down the road. I promise. Below are some basic suggestions to help you get started today.

The suggestions below are for those who take pictures for personal use, not professional photographers.

Start Broad and Then Go Smaller

Create folders on your hard drive, under your My Pictures folder, for the year, like 2012 Pictures. When you import your pictures, have them import by date so that you have a chronological order to begin with.

Here is what my folder hierarchy looks like:

  • 2012 Pictures
    • July 2012
      • July 4 2012
      • July 12 2012
      • July 28 2012
    • August 2012
      • August 6 2012
      • August 11 2012
      • August 18 2012

Use Keyword Tags or Labels for Specific Pictures

In whatever file management program you are using (Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Picassa) you are able to tag/label your images with words that will help you locate them in the future.

Do not be afraid to add too many tags/labels. Be as specific as you can because that is how you will find that one picture among 10,000 pictures.

For example, you took a picture of little Johnny riding his scooter on your driveway last summer, wearing his red helmet and sporting a big band aid on his knee from a previous fall. I would tag/label that image with the following keywords:

  • Johnny, scooter, driveway, helmet, band-aids, summer 2011

Next month when you are writing  a blog post having to do with bike/scooter safety, you can locate that image by clicking on ‘helmet’ or ‘scooter.’

Create Virtual Albums or Collections

If you have a file management program, which I seriously encourage you to purchase, you can create albums or collections of your images. These albums/collections are there ONLY to  help you find the pictures you need when you need them.

I use a hierarchy with albums/collections also, starting broad and then getting more specific. Remember, these albums are just to help me locate pictures when I want to edit, print or use on my blog.

Please note is that with Lightroom/Photoshop Elements, one picture can be in multiple albums/collections without being copied. It just means you can access that image in any of the albums it is in.

Here is an example of how albums/collections may look:

  • Family
    • Trey
    • Daniel
    • Georgia
    • Nate
  • Places
    • New York City
    • Las Vegas
    • Atlanta
    • Charlotte
    • Chicago

How to Get Started

If you have a gigantic mess, my recommendation is to start with current pictures and move forward with the new system of management. Later, when you have time, you can tackle the older pictures.

Decide the file system you want to use, possibly writing it out on paper first. Create the top level folders in Windows Explorer or Mac Finder. Then, when you import your images from your camera to the hard drive, create the new folders via the import screen that comes up during import.

What program should you use? Most people would be very well served with Photoshop Elements, because they can do file management (via the Organizer that comes with Elements), editing and create scrapbook pages, graphics and more with it.

source: Everyday Elements

If you are a photographer or avid photography hobbyist, I recommend Lightroom, which is superb at handling the high volume of images you produce.

Picassa is a free program that many people use, but it has limitations. If you are on a tight budget, it’s a great tool. However, if you can swing it, I recommend starting with a program like Photoshop Elements or Lightroom, which will grow with you, not hold you back later down the road.

What do you use to manage your pictures?

Amanda is a quirky, introverted mom of four who is passionate about helping others learn their cameras and editing software. She homeschools her four kids, ages 14 to 6, all of whom run away when they see her carrying her camera.