I’d like for you to consider this thought. The images that we capture today increase in value as time passes. As we get further away in time from a particular moment the recollection of it becomes increasingly vague. Pictures keep us connected to the details and feelings of past events in a way no other medium can. Years from now when today’s picture is at its most valuable will you be able to find it?
Build Your Foundation First
The management system that we will take a look at assumes that your images are in the “My Pictures” folder of your computer. I encourage you to use this pre-programmed filing location because most programs that use images will look for your pictures there first. Unless you have an overwhelming need for nonconformity, keep your life simple and use this location for your images.
Our first step is to setup the rules for our image library’s storage space. We need to decide how we want to arrange our images into a filing system. I know photographers who give a unique name to each download folder such as “Jim’s Birthday” or “Kim’s Recital 7/10”. Others sort out their new images into large general folders, named after their kids perhaps. But from my experience the most effective folder naming system is by date.
Since most photography is used to illustrate the events, people and happenings in and around our lives it makes sense that the master filing system is a time line. Now if you are like me you may think that you are terrible with dates, but at this level of organization a time line makes a lot of sense. We don’t need too many details which would bog down a search and we are looking for a logical system, something that anyone could find their way around.
While naming the folders in My Pictures something as simple as “June 2010” may serve you well, I have found that I need more precision because it makes searching go faster. So I use Month / Day / Year names on my folders. And no matter what level of date naming you choose; always file the images by the date the picture was taken and not the date of its download.
Let me throw in a comment here. While I suggest that you should use folders named for the dates the pictures were taken this doesn’t mean that you can’t also have a few folders with names like “Houston Trip May 2010”. Sometimes a direct and unique name is the very best label possible when there are a lot of images from a unique event.
So far we have looked at what an image management system is, why we need one and we have considered the first task of a folder naming convention. That’s a lot of information to take in. This is a good beak point that allows us to pause to evaluate how we will want to setup your basic folder naming convention. In the next installment we will look at the next steps which are Categories, Tags and Keywords.
Alongside this series is the question of software. Every management system uses a software component and there are a large number of choices in the market. Every camera comes with a bundle of software that includes some sort of management program. However the freeware included with your camera likely doesn’t match up to the for-fee programs mentioned below.
There are many capable software options, but before you start shopping I have a few suggested features to look for. 1) The most flexible programs will support the image flags of Categories, Tags or Keywords. 2) It will offer a simple method for backing up your image files to another storage medium. 3) Lastly the program should be from a reputable source with a good history of supporting software updates.
I have three management programs that I recommend: ACDSee Photo Manager (about $50), Adobe Photoshop Elements ($100) and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ($300). I have used all three and they are quite capable of managing your images. My advice is to get the very best solution you can afford.
While we may upgrade cameras every few years we don’t want to switch brands on our management software if possible. Not every brand uses Tags and Categories in the same manner; it is likely that after a switch you would have to re-categorize and tag your entire library of images!
GO DIRECTLY TO PART 3 Part 3