Organizing Photography Files Photography Tips

I’ve been helping my local photo club conduct weekly photo sessions for the last couple of months. The classes were well attended and the feedback that we got was positive. We tried our best to keep to the basics so we wouldn’t lose anyone. After all, our attendees weren’t there to learn photo-stitching; they just wanted to take better photos with their phones and I think we did well.

Hanging Files of Slides
Slide Drawer – Years of 35mm slides in hanging files stored in basic categories.

That wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the students asked questions about advanced concepts. One question we heard was how to organize their photos to make them easier to find. It’s a topic I’ve been dealing with ever since I got my first box of slides back from the lab. Since there isn’t a right way to store photos, I thought that I’d share my system with you. Maybe that will help with your organization, or perhaps you have a better system and you’ll share your ideas with us in the comments.

As I said, there isn’t a perfect system for organizing photographs. The best you can do is to create a system that you can efficiently retrieve the item that you want without having to go through them one-by-one. Since we don’t all think the same way, what works for me may be cumbersome for you, so feel free to make your own tweaks.

The first step in organizing photos is giving them meaningful names. If you’re a cyborg and the camera generated file name triggers your memory, you could just use those names. For me, a file name like “_DSC6658.AWR” doesn’t mean anything, so it doesn’t work. For example, consider this week’s picture. When I look at it I see a local mountain south of Wickenburg. Fortunately, by looking on a map, I found that it has a name; Black Butte. Since this is the first time I shot it, I used that as the title. If I shoot this mountain again, I’ll add a descriptor to the title; like Black Butte 2019 or Snow on Black Butte. Something that reminds me of what I saw that made me take another shot. When I save that file on my hard drive, I could file it in a folder called Photos, but I have several thousand files like it. That would be like putting all of them in a bucket. If I forgot its name, I would have to look through all of them before I found it. That’s not acceptable.

Early on in my photo career, I quickly learned that I could file things by categories. Three of them to be exact: People, Places, and Things. If I knew what I was looking for, I only needed to root around in the correct pile and ignore the others. As my catalog grew, I found that I shot in certain locations often so I’d add sub-categories, like Arizona. In Arizona, I liked to go to the Grand Canyon, so I made another subfolder for it. That’s how my filing system grew; one group at a time. The Things folder has folders for things on wheels, another for buildings, aircraft, food, and so on. If I find that I have more than two dozen photos of a subject, I make a new subcategory.

It didn’t stop there because even then, I was searching through too many files, so in those cases, I sub-divided them again by year. For example, we visited New Zealand five times and so in the New Zealand directory, I have a folder for each year that we went. I’ve followed this logic—unintentionally—in laying out my Website. On the Project Index page, you’ll see that I have a link to Arizona Landscapes, but there are also projects for the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert. Perhaps I should organize those like my file system and move them inside the Arizona project to keep everything uniform.

That’s how my system works and it allows me to quickly retrieve a photo that I’m looking for. I hope that I’ve given you an idea of something that you can do with your photos. I’ve found that if you don’t have a management system, those files grow out of control like bacteria. Let me hear how you manage your files.

Till next time — jw

Back in the Saddle Again

It took a week for the drives to arrive from Amazon and only a couple hours to install and partition them. I spent most of the weekend organizing and restoring all of my files to their original locations. I haven’t done an exhaustive inventory, but it looks like pretty much everything is recovered now. That means that I can start moving forward again instead of treading water waiting for parts to get here.

I should have some new images up on the site later this week and I’ll have an announcement by then about the West of Center show at the Museum. Stay tuned to this channel . . . film at 11:00.

Till then . . . jw

Bad Hair Day

There are some days you should just stay in bed. If you only knew what was coming, you could cancel the alarm, roll over and pull the covers back over your head. I had one of those yesterday. It would be nice if you could skip a day and avoid the day’s headaches, but in reality you’re only postponing the inevitable.

My morning routine begins by starting a pot of coffee and then recording my vitals on a chart that I keep for my doctor. By the time I’m done with the spreadsheet, there’s enough coffee in the pot to squeeze out a starter cup, and I can begin to feel human again. When I tried to open the file yesterday, I got an error message saying that the file didn’t exist. I thought, “Of course it exists, you stupid computer. I keep it in a folder on my Data drive.” As I navigated to find it, I discovered that the drive was missing. It gets worse. As I investigated further I opened up the Windows Disk Management Console and found that the entire physical disk had failed. I had the 2TB disk partitioned into thirds and I kept regular data files on the first section, all the files related to my web site on the second, and all of my photographs on the third. My life flashed before my eyes.

OK, I thought, maybe it’s not all that bad. Maybe the connection had broke, so I rebooted the computer. It didn’t start. The screen was blank with the little circle of dots endlessly going round and round. I gave up and powered down the computer, then went to Anne’s laptop to get diagnostic information. After I got what I needed, I went back and started a four-hour process that ran a surface scan on all the hard drives. When it was finally done, the program said that they were all fine.

I worked all morning and part way into the afternoon trying this-and-that with no success. I finally pulled the derelict drive out of the box and only then did the computer come back to life. I made a few configuration changes and finally the computer was stable again. Then I immediately went to Amazon and ordered a replacement drive. After a couple of hours, I had second thoughts and ordered a second one. Since the box is open, I might as well replace them all. As I’ve said in another forum, the question is not whether a hard drive will fail, but when.

You’re probably questioning about all the missing files. Things like tax returns, letters, databases and thirteen yeas of digital photographs. Fortunately I thought about that several years ago and installed an external drive to make weekly automatic backups. I’ve had two of them actually. The first one got full, so I replaced it with a larger drive. After the new hard disks arrive, it will take me a while to restore the files, but thankfully, I still have a copy of everything.

So here’s a life lesson that I’d like to share. Take care of your teeth . . . and back up your computer. Nuff said.

Till then . . . jw

Preparation – Apps

When I plan a trip like this one, I try to learn as much as I can about my destination. I want to know about the history, the climate, and what what’s cool about it, what makes me want to go there in the first place. I look for websites of local photographers and I look at the pictures on Google Earth. Along with all of that acquired knowledge, Queen Anne and I pack local travel guides and when we arrive, I pick up the best maps I can find. I can spend hours going over maps, mile by mile.

This Denali trip isn’t different, only this time we’ve stepped into the 21st Century. Anne just got a smart phone and I bought a tablet, and we’ve loaded several apps to help manage our trip better.

When traveling with an RV, it’s important to plan your camp sites. That’s what AllStays does for us. At $9.99, AllStays is the most expensive application we bought. This app uses Google Maps and overlays campgrounds, dump stations, LP dealers, casinos and even Walmarts along the route. Clicking on an icon opens a dialog box showing a brief description of the item and links to the location’s Website, directions from your current location, current weather conditions, pictures, reviews and if the campground is Web savvy, it will open a page that allows you to pick out a campsite and book it. The app also shows steep downgrades, low bridges, and escape roads, so you can change your route. It’s an impressive little app well worth the price.

When traveling, I always have a hard time reconciling all of my receipts and checkbooks. The next app that I bought will help me with that. This app is called AndroMoney and it was built mostly for business travelers. In it, you to enter something that you paid for and then stick it into a bucket, like personal, business or medical expense. You can start out with a budget amount and it will show you if you are over or under your daily, monthly, or annual allotment. It has built in reports and you can export the data to Excel or another money management programs. The cost for this was a staggering $2.99. At that price I figured that I couldn’t go wrong even if I only didn’t use most of its functions.

The next app is called TripLog and is free (upgrades are available for a small fee). You all know someone that keeps a mileage logbook in their car; don’t you? That’s what this app does. Each time you stop for gas, you enter the odometer reading, the amount of gallons, the fuel price and total sale. You can also enter other auto expenses like oil changes, car washes and such. You can log each trip you make with your vehicle and categorize them as business or personal and TripLog will generate a report that you can use for filling out taxes. There is a feature that allows you to connect a Bluetooth OBDII reader. Without getting too technical, that’s the port below your steering wheel your mechanic plugs diagnostic stuff into and figures out what the check engine light means. Don’t let that scare you away, you don’t need to use it, just put the numbers in manually. It’s something intriguing to techies because it means the app will automatically start a trip when you turn on the car. I plan on using this program to track segment and overall mileages, and yes I do own an On Board Diagnostic (OBD) reader.

The next two apps that I’ve loaded are just for fun. We are big fans of Food Network and especially the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. We’ve tried several of the places that Guy Fieri featured on his show and we pretty much agree with his reviews (actually, if the restraint isn’t good, it won’t make the show). So the app named DDD has the show’s locations. Be still my blood clots. There are even three places in the Fairbanks area that you can bet we’ll try.

Triple D has a pretty good list, but the show was never shot in Canada. The other Food Network app not only includes the Guy Fieri shows, but includes all of the restaurants featured on the network, including the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. This app is called TV Food Maps and does have places in Whitehorse and Dawson Creek. With all of these places to try, I’m getting antsy to get on the road.

The apps that we’ve loaded are Android devices, of course, if you own the other kind of device, there are versions for IOS that you can get at the Apple Store.