1. Technology

How Do You Organize Digital Photos?

By May 21, 2014

Follow me on:

I was just reading a tutorial on FastStone Image Viewer in which the author strongly advocates using a folder-based system of photo organization based on the dates the photos were taken. Followers of this site probably know that I am a big fan of keyword-based systems for photo organization.

I don't know about you, but once something is more than a few months in the past it becomes a distant haze in my memory and I can not pin-point the date it occurred. Often I can see the picture I want in my mind, but I might not be able to recall where the event occurred or what I might have filed it as. In my workflow, I most often want to recall photos based on the people in them, which this person's preferred method of organization does not address at all. This is why the process of tagging my photos with keywords continues to work best for me. Although there is a requirement to invest some time upfront to tag your photos, this pays off down the road when you need to find a specific photo quickly.

While I have embraced the tagging method of photo organization, I know some people who absolutely can not wrap their head around the concept. So it's a great thing that we have choices! I'm interested in hearing how you approach the task of filing your pictures. Cast your vote in the poll or leave a comment about how you organize your digital pictures.

Also see:

March 6, 2007 at 10:39 pm
(1) Bill Minton says:

ACDSee. Faststone has a great free application, but it’s still behind ACDSee on features.

I currently have over 11,000 photos cataloged in ACDSee 7. I’ve written a utility to upload to http://www.fotki.com retaining tags from ACDSee. It’s a little messy, but it gets the job done. It’s much better than retagging thousands of photos. :)

March 8, 2007 at 8:42 pm
(2) Kathy in Oregon says:

Currently I have my photos organized by categories and sub-categories in folders. As I am an artist, my photos breakdown basically as 1) personal and 2) reference photos for my art. For personal, I sometimes use date or event for the major folder, but sub-folders names and file names are access ‘keys’ for searching. My art reference photos are stored by main Category (about 25), then by sub-categories (as needed) and files named clearly again so they are easy to find. I’ve been searching for a photo-management program that fits my needs but am somewhat daunted by the thousands of photos I have and will need to ‘tag’.

March 8, 2007 at 8:52 pm
(3) Kathy says:

Sue’s article on “What is Tagging” mentions that a limitation of using folders is that it would be unwieldy to put the same photo into more than one qualifying ‘category’ folder. While I do not do this, I COULD put a shortcut in another folder to the original photo. I basically find my pictures using Windows (file/folder) Search and rarely, if ever, have a problem locating what I’m looking for. That is probably due to the fact that my folder naming and file naming conventions make ‘sense’ to my way of thinking . Just thought I’d throw this out for those folder-oriented folks out there.

March 9, 2007 at 7:38 pm
(4) Philip Sidel says:

I don’t have room on my C drive to keep even a full year of photos as original and processed – I must periodically dump them off to CD’s. Therefore, Date (date and event folders, actually) are the only way that works for me. A spreadsheet of events by dates (folder names) helps me find the right CD when I want to recover old photos. – I lately find that I add more info about the events – who, where, special memories.

Tags would help me sort the individual photos within a folder, but I’m not sure it would be worth the effort — maybe just tag the special photos.

December 3, 2007 at 8:02 pm
(5) Vlad says:

Sue makes it sound like tagging your photos excludes having a well organized folder structure. This is not the case. Actually efficient tagging should be built on top of a well designed folder structure. The discussion about Tags vs. Folders is a lot more complicated. Here is an in-depth analysis:
Tags vs Folders

The biggest drawback with only tagging is portability and for most people that is a big problem. I move my pictures from computer to computer and I really need to have a solid folder structure with meaningful names.
As far as the folder method goes, Sue doesn’t consider having more description in the actual folder name. If you’re just using the date as your folder name…yes I agree it will be hard to find but if you add the place and description in the same folder name it will be a lot easier to find.
Look at the following link and see if this folder structure doesn’t make sense:
Efficient Folder Structure

December 6, 2007 at 10:19 am
(6) Sue Chastain says:

Vlad: Every single “Con” you list for tags in your article is bogus. My tags certainly are portable. They are stored within the files as industry-standard meta-data that can be read by countless other software programs, including Windows Vista. To me, the examples you give of efficient folder structures look cumbersome and unwieldy. Personally, I use a combination of both tags and descriptive folders, and this is also what I recommend in my article on tagging: http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/glossary/a/tagging.htm

June 28, 2012 at 11:11 pm
(7) law course says:

Greate article. Keep writing such kind of information on your page.
Im really impressed by your site.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about image management software.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.