Newsletter – October 2019

Thinking of using your photos to make personalized gifts for the holiday season? It’s time to start now! Beat the rush and get your order in by the end of the month – no need to get caught up in the holiday backlog or sweat the delivery dates. Book time this month to work on the bigger projects like a photo book (great gifts for kids, spouses and grandparents – cross a couple of names off your list with one project!). Check out the October 2018 Newsletter to spark your creativity!

October Tip – Set a Goal to Share Your Stories

There are stories in your photo collection just waiting to be shared! Choose something you would like to do with your photos – create a photo book, display printed photos in your home, create a website to share them with friends and family – having a goal in mind makes it easier to work through the photo organizing process. Write your goal on a sticky note. Stick it on your computer. Keeping your goal in front of you will keep you moving through the organizing steps so you can reach that goal faster.

Digital Photo Organization – Organizational Structure

The goal in organizing a digital photo collection is for you to be able to find any specific photo in a matter of minutes. I think of organizing my photo collection in levels – the base level is the organizational structure. The middle level is the name of the individual photo and the final level is the metadata of the photo, tagging that photo with the “writing on the back”.  You may choose to use one level of organization or all three, it will depend on the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest in your collection. I like to think of using my organizational structure for organizing my photos and the names and metadata for searching my photos.

This month we will look at the first level of organization, the structure. The way you view and use your photo collection will help you choose an organizational structure that works for you. Let’s look at structures that organize photos chronologically, thematically and a combination of both.

Chronological – this method of organization puts your photos in the order they were taken. Digital cameras record the date and time a photo was taken and embed this information in the metadata of the photo – this information becomes part of the photo and travels with it. As this information is available for every digital photo it becomes an easy source to use for organizing. Many people also think of their photos chronologically – these photos belong to a trip we took in January 2012, this was my son’s 9th birthday so it was in September of 2010. Organizing our photos by time makes sense for many people.

Typically, your chronological organizational structure would be a folder for each year. Within each year folder you may have folders for each month. This structure can prove challenging if you have photos in your collection that do not have correct information in the date taken field or where this data has become corrupt. Also, what if you have a vacation beginning at the end of one month and continuing into the following month? Do you put these photos in the two separate month folders?

Thematic – this method of organization groups your photos by theme. This system is more personal to the individual organizing and using the collection. An example would be to have folders for all the major events your family repeats each year – Birthdays, Vacations, Halloween, Christmas, etc.  Your system may also have a folder for each person in your family – Mom’s pictures, Dad’s pictures, Grandma & Grandpa, etc.

There are a couple of things to consider with this method. First, try not to let your number of folders get out of hand. If you make it too complicated it becomes more difficult to find your photos. Second, be aware of keeping duplicates. For instance, if you have a photo with all four of your kids in it do you put a copy in each of the kid’s folders? Do you need 4 copies of that photo? We will be exploring using the metadata of a photo to help keep photos organized in a later newsletter. The metadata is like the “writing on the back” – you can tag that photo with your four kids with each of their names and then search for each child’s photos by name. If you choose to use tagging as part of your organizing process, then you could simply create a folder called Family and later search within it by name.

Combination – this method of organization is the most flexible and lets you organize your photos to best suit the way you will use them. It also lets you address some of the difficulties in a strict chronological or thematic format. With a combination system you will most likely set up chronological folders by year and sort all the photos into it where you know the date they were taken. Within any collection there will be photos that are difficult to date with any accuracy – some of the more common issues are photos where the metadata has been stripped, Instagram photos and screenshots where the date isn’t recorded, photos where the date was changed for some reason and photos that are scanned copies of your print photos (scanning creates a digital image with the date taken as the date it was scanned). With these photos it may make more sense for you to file them thematically – Instagram Pics, Grandma’s Pictures, To Review.

I use a combination system. I have our digital pictures stored chronologically in year folders. I also keep my parent’s and my grandparent’s photo collections. I keep each of these in separate folders then organize the photos within them chronologically. Within the chronological year folders, I have re-named each photo to the date it was taken and have added metadata to each photo to make them searchable. I do not use month folders as re-naming the photos to the date taken keeps them in order and allows me to find a lot of things quickly – if I was searching for pictures from Halloween I would scroll right down to October 31. If I was searching for all the photos that had to do with Halloween that year – picking out costumes, carving pumpkins, more than one Halloween party – I would search the term “Halloween” within my folder and all the pictures I have tagged “Halloween” will be displayed. With these additional levels of organization, I can keep my basic organizational structure very simple.

Consider whether you would like to use the additional levels of organization in your photo collection. This may help you decide which organizational structure you will choose to use. If you choose a chronological structure create a folder for each year within your Digital Photo Hub. If you like the thematic approach, make a list of the folders you think you will use – see if you can combine any of the items on your list if you were to use tagging. Create the folders on your list within your Digital Photo Hub. If you think you will use a combination system (and most of us end up with something like this) begin by creating the chronological structure within your Digital Photo Hub and add folders for the pictures that don’t fit within it. You can come back and tidy up these thematic folders afterwards so they fit into your chronological structure or you may be happy keeping them as their own folders.

Begin moving your pictures into your selected organizational structure. I start by making a copy of my “organized mess” and setting it off to the side – this is handy if you need to refer back to see the name of the original source folders or for those “oops” moments where something happens by mistake. With a back up copy set to the side I make sure I can view my photos and the date they were taken, you may need to add a column to your view – you are looking for a field called “Date Taken”. I sort by Date Taken then I cut and paste my photos into the appropriate files in my organizational structure. This lets me see what is left to organize and eliminates the opportunity to accidently copy something over twice (creating more of those duplicates!) You may be left with some photos that don’t fit into the files you’ve created, or that you aren’t sure where to put them. I create a “To Review” folder and simply put them in there at this stage. You can come back and work on these pictures later once the bulk of your collection has been organized.

Your photo collection will now be organized to the point where you can find a photo in a few minutes with a little searching. Many of you will be happy with this level of organization and be able to maintain the system moving forward. Our next Newsletters will help you move your organization to the next level – where you can identify your pictures more quickly and use the power of the search function on your computer to make it even faster to find the photos you want.

When you have moved all the photos from your “organized mess” into your new organizational structure its time to make a back up copy. Refer back to the September Newsletter for information on back ups. Once your back up copies are in place you can safely delete all the previous copies of your collection – the original source files, the “organized mess”, and any back up copies you made along the way. Keeping these old files just creates duplicate copies of your photos and will become confusing later – you will end up having to check that all these photos are in your current collection and make a lot more work for yourself. Delete the extra copies now while you know your photos are organized and backed up safely.