One of the most difficult parts of being a photographer has always been the organization of your images, post capture. Back in the film days it was easy to just chuck them in a shoebox and label them “pictures”. Once every few years you might pull it out and look through them with no rhyme or reason. Heaven forbid you try to find a specific one. If you shot slide film it was a little easier because you could put them into protective sleeves and then into binders or folders. However, to label them was a challenge all its own.
Then the world of digital came around and you started shooting more and more images because “pixels are free”. You put them all in a folder on your hard dive labeled pictures and suddenly you realize that you have thousands of photos that might as well be in a shoebox. You could rename all the images to give you a better idea of the photograph but searching for something specific was difficult. Now, there are many programs out there to help you manage your photographic inventory. The two primary programs for professional photographs are Adobe’s Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. There are others out there as well so please don’t send hate mail. Personally I use Lightroom 2 (Lightroom 3 has shipped!) and it is available for both Windows and Mac. Aperture on the other hand is only available for Mac. Both programs are good at managing image libraries and editing your photos. In fact, I rarely ever go into Photoshop any more as 99% of all my editing can be done in Lightroom 2. I will not go into specifics for this post (more to come) but I will cover some of the library basics. The key really is to stay on top of your image library and not to let images pile up over months or even years. Here are some suggestions for you to ensure that you don’t lose control of you images.
1. Put all you images in one folder! You can have subfolders inside the main but ensure that you have that one main folder. Me? I use _Photos as my folder name. Using the “_” before the name places it at the top of the list on the hard drive.
2. Come up with some naming convention that works for you. Both Lightroom and Aperture can help with this upon import. I use the date followed by “_” followed by the original name given by the camera. They look like this: 100527_JEP5975
3. Key Word all your images. Inside Lightroom you can place key words on your images that will allow you to search the database later (they will also be in the metadata when you export them). This is a powerful feature so long as you code them correctly. You can do batch key wording to make life easy.
4. DELETE all the bad photos. If the photos are out of focus or hopelessly under/overexposed then just delete them. The more junk you have the harder it is to find what you are looking for and the more hard drive space it takes up.
5. Backup, Backup, Backup. I cannot stress this enough. If you do not have three copies of your images then you don’t have one copy of your images!
No matter what program you choose stay on top of your images. That way you can spend more time in the field and less time behind the computer trying to make sense of the mess.