Re-organizing My Dis-organization

My good friend, Jim Miller, did a post (click here) about how he organizes his photographs.  It is a great post, as he describes in great detail how he key-words all of his image files, to make them easier to find.  A very good, efficient system.  Probably one that all good pros should use.  But since I have had my own method for so long, I will now, for your entertainment, show you how I do it.

If I may regress, re-wind back to the good old days of yesteryear, 1960.  Do you remember Kodachrome (ASA 10).  That was my favorite film that I used when I first started to get passionate about photography.  I loved that particular slide film.  It was very slow as film of that day was, but I could look at a scene and picture how it would photograph.  I had Kodak Retina IIIs 35mm range-finder camera that I had purchased at the base exchange at Karamursel AFB, Turkey.  Back then zoom lenses were non-existent.  I had the basic 50mm lens, then I added an 85mm and a 135mm (whoopee) telephoto.

But back to the subject I intended to write about.  When it comes to organization of photos, working with slides wasn’t bad.  I had various slide trays that I kept for them, putting images for the different trips that I took into each tray and labeled them.

Later when I switched to negative film is where it started to get messy.  I tried notebooks with sleeves for negatives.  I couldn’t keep up with that, so I started just putting the negative into shoeboxes.  I still have some of those boxes of negatives.  I just hope no-one will ask me if I have a certain picture, that will make me have to sort through them.    I think I should throw the boxes away, then I won’t have that worry.

Now comes the digital age.  At first, my digital files were nearly as bad as the shoeboxes.  What a mess, image files were ending up in the strangest locations on my computer.  I one opened my Quicken program and discovered a photo of a raccoon.  🙂  Okay, I’m kidding about that.  🙂  Then about three years ago, when my friend in Tennessee asked me, “how in the world do you find anything?”,  a light bulb popped into my head.  I realized that I needed to do something.

It was about that time I was really getting into shooting wildlife.  So I opened a new folder in my computer’s hard drive, and called it “Photographs.”  How about that.  I certainly felt that this was a step in the right direction.  Since I was shooting a lot of bird photos, I made a folder in Photographs and named it “Birds“.  Boy, now I was on a roll.  When I had a bird picture, I just opened Photographs, then clicked on Birds.

But then I thought, there are a heck of a lot of birds out there.  Different species, etc.  So then if I photographed a sparrow, I made another folder under Birds, and named it Sparrows“.  You can see now where I am going with all of this.  In Sparrows, I have folders for the different species of sparrows, i.e. Vesper, House, Song, Fox and all the others.  If I want to find a photograph of a Lark Sparrow, I just go to my Fastone Image Viewer, click Photographs>Birds>Sparrows>Lark.  All of my Lark Sparrow photographs are there in thumb-nails.  I pick the one I want and open it up in my editing software.

I then did the same for Animals, Flowers, Scenics, etc.  All those are the main folders with sub-folders under each one.

I might mention that when I take the card from the camera, I download it into my Fastone Image Viewer.  I can delete the ones I don’t want, then easily move the keepable (is that a word?) images into the proper folder named above.

This system works for me because, at my age, I don’t want to spend all my time doing what Jim does.  Especially when I shoot a couple of hundred or more on any given day.  I know that his end result is probably much faster than mine and more efficient.  I know my friend in Tennessee is probably giggling over this post as she does use something similar to Jim’s method, as probably all the other pros out there.  But since this old dog doesn’t want to learn new tricks, I will now demonstrate how to find a photograph of a House Finch.  Click Photographs>Birds,Finches>House……

House Finch


And there you have it.  A pretty good system, if I do say so myself.  Also, as any photographer who wants to protect his images, I back up my files on a regular basis.  Now, I need to get that ‘coon image outa my bank account. 🙂

21 thoughts on “Re-organizing My Dis-organization

  1. I use the same method that you do Bob. It’s simple, effective and it works for me! I have this weird ability to remember where almost every photo was taken so there is no point for me to enter location info etc.

    • I was thinking that I was in a minority, but I found that several people, like you, use this same method. Also like you, I too, can remember where each and every photo was taken. So, I guess we could say, that there is a story behind every photo. Thanks for commenting, David.

  2. Nice post! I’ve been wondering how to organize all my photographs. I’ll be moving everything from Apple’s iPhoto to Apple’s Aperture and I’ll probably use that transfer a reason to get all my photos organized. Now only if I can find the time to do it. (sigh)

  3. Your filing system is really similar to mine..I use to get so lost finding photos of my paintings the House Finch..they always brighten the feeders with their red colored head and shoulders. Take care and have a great day…

  4. Having been a secretary for many years (prior to teaching) your organizational/filing system for your picture files makes perfect sense to me. And I love that beautiful house finch. Wonderful color! ~ Lynda

  5. Something I’m going to have to do…. someday! For now, I sort of have my images sorted out in Flickr. If I find an image that I want to dig back out of my files, I pull it up in Flickr, take note of the date that I shot it, and then go back to that folder on my computer. Not perfect, I know…. but it works for now!

  6. Good post, Bob. I have a similar file structure for my processed, print/sale ready images and it works as well. And you said the “phrase that pays”: Backing up the images is the one step most amateurs and sadly a number of professionals miss or don’t do as often as they should.

      • Not at all, Bob. As they say, there exists multiple methods for field dressing felines (or there’s more than one way to skin a cat) 😉 What matters is what works for the individual. There is one destination but multiple paths. Wow, too much philosophy for a Sunday morning 🙂

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