Effective Photo Management

Photography is not only about shooting. There is a process, an important process, that must happen after you shoot if you want to improve.

Reading time: 5 min(s) · Date published: September 14, 2015

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce. — Karl Lagerfeld

Taking photos helps us remember those moments that are gone forever; our time spent with friends and family, our trips abroad, our life. They help us remember places we’re not going to visit again, experiences we’re not going to live again, and those who we’ll never be able to talk to again.

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second. — Marc Ribound

Even if you have taken photos of your memories, what good are them to you if you can’t find them?

Taking photos helps us remember our life, but without proper photo organization (however unsexy that might sound), you might still be forgetting every amazing moment.

Taking photos doesn’t end after… taking the photos. If you really want them to add value to your life, you have to import them, group them, review them and select them.

In this article I’ll tell you what I learned after 6 months of looking, organizing, and reviewing over 10 thousand photos taken throughout 6 years.

Step 1: Get Them Into One Place

Do you have photos in several SD cards, external hard drives, digital cameras or notebooks? Well, then this is your first step.

Get all your photos into one place!

It doesn’t matter where you put them as long as all of them are in one place.

In the future, you will start thinking about your past, about the things you’ve done, and the people you’ve met. Having all your photos in one place will help you avoid having to remember where you left them.

Step 2: Sort Out the Mess

Looking through several thousand photos trying to pinpoint a particular memory isn’t the best way to go.

If you look at all your photos, you’ll probably be able to identify a handful of themes. Maybe you usually take photos of your friends, nature photography, and vacations. Maybe it’s photos of flowers, portrait photography, and trekking. You get the idea.

I usually take photos of events (family or friends gatherings, concerts, expositions, etc), travel photography (weekend at the beach, vacations abroad, etc), and deliberate practice photos.

So, the first level of organization are: events, travel, and practice.

Create top level folders for each of your identified themes.

To avoid having too many projects side by side on each of these folders, I group them by year. I usually remember the year on which the particular project I’m looking for was taken, so this helps me to filter them quickly.

Inside the year folder, I store all the projects I took on that year, following this naming format: “YYYY-MM-DD~DD | Event Name”

For example, “2015–06–24~26 | Weekend at San Pedro de Atacama, Chile”.

Create this directory structure and add the different projects where they belong.

With this structure, I can quickly look for the different events I attended on 2012.

- Events
  - 2010
  - 2011
  - 2012
    - 2012-08-19 | Impuls Gala
    - 2012-08-29 | Maroon 5 in Chile
    - ...
  - ...
- Trips
  - ...
- Practice
  - ...

Step 3: Separate the Good from the Bad

This is the hardest step, but also the most important one. It’s how you actually improve your photography skills: looking at your photos with a critical eye.

Go through each photo in the project and decide if you want to keep it or not. Just delete the photos you don’t want to keep. You might not want to keep obviously bad photos, blurred photos, or duplicated photos (keeping the best ones).

Keep only the photos that you would show other people.

Now you can look at every selected photo and start your post-processing. You might first try cropping the photo; trying different ratios or positions of the objects in the photo. You might play with the colors increasing the contrast, or converting the photo to gray scale.

This process take a lot of time but it’s worth the while. You start to develop an eye for what looks good.

Now, what happens with the very best of the best? Go one last time through your photos, stop, breath and really look at them. Then pick the ones you would like to share with the world. Typically, it would be only a handful of photos per project. Star them.

Step 4: Show and Tell

This is the best part. You now have all your photos organized! Well done!

This organization allows you to easily:

  • Show the world your best photos. Just go to the project and upload your starred photos to your online gallery of choice.
  • Show the photos of you last trip when your family visits you. Just go to the project and show them all your photos.
  • Remember anything from your past. Just go to the project and enjoy.

Now It’s Your Turn

We just looked at one way to organize thousands of photos.

Trying to follow this way of organizing photos might be scary if you have a lot of photos and a huge mess.

If this is the case, I recommend you to do only the first two steps now. Then, as you are able to get some free time, go project by project, taking your time, and reviewing your photos.

After you have finished reviewing a project, congratulate yourself and I encourage you to share a couple of your starred photos to get some feedback.