“How many pictures do you take on a photo shoot?” The majority of photographers will give the same answer: a lot. The actual number can be anywhere from a few dozen to a couple thousand, depending on the assignment and personal preferences. In the end, especially for those shooting digital, the number is always pretty high. Yet, from these, only a minuscule percentage be showcased on your photography website. So how can you make sure you’ll be able to find them if you ever need them in the future?
The secret is to properly organize your photo library. Such a simple concept can make a huge difference on your workflow, saving you hours of helpless browsing. It may be something that you never actually considered. Or maybe you’re simply struggling to find a system you feel comfortable with. Whatever the case is, you’ll be able to overcome these hurdles and finally make peace with your archive using these 7 tips for organizing your photo library.
Study the software
The first step to getting anything done in life is learning the tools you’re going to be using. Take the time to see which options are out there and which one would be the best fit for you. Maybe you want to stick to your OS file system. While limited, these programs usually offer enough tools to make sure you can easily find any image.
If you’re looking for a more complex categorization, such as searching by metadata, you might want to look into more advanced solutions. Lightroom and Bridge, both part of Adobe Creative Suite, are two of the most popular programs among photographers when it comes to organizing their photo libraries.
Keep it tidy
Regardless of the type of photography you shoot, it is more than likely that only a percentage of the pictures you take are keepers. Even if you have managed to break free from the popular photography myth that says you should always shoot as many photos as you can, you’ll find a few dozens or hundreds of photos that are simply not worth saving. This would include duplicates, bad focus, unsalvageable exposures, corrupted files, etc. The clearer your photo library is, the easier it will be to keep organized.
Create a structure
The categories you choose to break down your photo library will depend on the type of work you shoot. From chronological dates to geographical locations, the possibilities are endless. For example, if your work expands over several genres you might want to file each of them separately. Whereas, portrait, wedding, and event photographers might prefer to categorize by date and client name. Others, such as travel photographers, might find locations more useful. And those who combine photography and videography might want to start by creating a folder for each type of content under a global media folder.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the specific needs and preferences of each photographer. Because of this, two shutterbugs with seemingly identical libraries might choose completely opposite organization methods. There are two main things you should ask yourself before settling on a photo library organization structure:
Is this the easiest way for me to find a specific image or series?
Will this system keep working as my library grows?
Once you’re able to answer these two questions in the affirmative, you’ll know you’ve found the organizational system that’s meant for you.
Use relevant keywords
Also known as tags, keywords are terms you can add to a file and use for cross-folder searches. This adds a lot more flexibility to your photo library, as it allows you to find very specific criteria regardless of where they are saved. Here, too, you should be thinking about which type of keywords you need to use before you actually start implementing them. Imagine coming up with an amazing new tag category only to realize you need to add it to 1,500 photos you already dealt with.
Now, you might be wondering why you should bother creating both a filing structure and a keyword system. After all, don’t they both do the same thing? The truth is, just like in a real library, a single classification method just won’t cut it. A clear structure will allow you to easily browse your photo library manually, while keywords should be used for specific queries that cannot be classified, such as colors, elements, photography composition rules, etc.
As a bonus point, using keywords to organize your photo library will make it much easier for you to write SEO friendly alt text when uploading photos to your website.
Reinvent your workflow
In order to make sure your photo library is always organized, you’ll need to reshape your workflow around it. Ideally, you should properly file your images right after a photo shoot or during a trip if you’re away for a significant period of time. By doing so, you’ll be able to avoid having a lot of work pile up, which can keep you from having an up-to-date archive.
Save them elsewhere
Even if you have a 16TB hard drive, you’ll probably want to back up your photo library somewhere else. Better safe than sorry, right? Fortunately, there are many free image hosting sites out there you can use as a safety net for your body of work.
The most convenient of them all is, of course, your own professional photographer website. Since having an online portfolio is an absolute must, using it as a backup for your photo library will save you the hassle of dealing with yet another online platform. With Wix, you’ll be able to showcase your photos in the best quality, both on desktop on mobile, as well as having unlimited free image storage.
Follow technology developments
It feels like every other day a new technology aimed to make our life easier is announced. Photography, of course, is no exception to this. Cameras with WiFi, hard drives with a built-in SD card slot, face recognition software, dual memory card slots… Staying on top of all these new developments will allow you to constantly improve your photo library organization workflow and make sure you’re using the best options available out there.