I’ve been getting that question a lot lately. It’s taken a few years but I’ve finally developed a system that works well for me. I keep everything in chronological order and that makes it very easy to find a photograph, or put an album together.
On my external hard drive, I have a folder for every year. Within that folder I make a new folder for each batch of photos I take and label it appropriately. The very first thing I do after a vacation, photo shoot, or event is to upload all the photos I’ve taken to my external hard drive.All of those files go into one folder titled “Originals.” Then, I copy all of those files into the “To Edit” folder and then I do not touch the photos in the “Originals” file again. I then do a quick run through of the images using something like Windows Photo Viewer and delete the bad ones.
If I happen to take photos using more than one camera (SLR, point and shoot, and iPhone), I then rename the files so they are in chronological order. (When renaming, be consistent with your digits, keep in mind that the computer will put numbers in order like this: 1, 10, 11, 2. That’s annoying, so save yourself the aggravation and label like this: 01, 02, 03. Or 001, 002, 003 if you have more than 100 images to rename.)
And that’s it.
In addition, I’d like to point out that I shoot in JPEG pretty much exclusively so it’s really easy and quick to copy the files from one folder to another. I also have plenty of storage space since I do not shoot in RAW. Which is also why I can keep that folder of original files that serves as a backup in case I accidentally delete something or went too far in the editing process and need to start fresh.
A little off topic, but I have to mention this whenever I get a chance:
I highly recommend regularly uploading your photos to your computer/external hard drive/2nd external hard drive/DVD (or all of the above) and then re-formatting your memory cards in your camera before you start shooting again. The chance of losing your images or corrupting the files is greatly decreased if you do this. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve talked to people that have lost five years of vacation photos simply because they never backed up their images, they just continued to shoot with the same card year after year. They figured they would get around to making photo albums or prints eventually (Don’t be like these people!).
As always, if you have a question about anything I’ve written here, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or send me a private message. Also, if you’d like me to expand on any of these topics, let me know!
(Damn, 2010 was a good year! I can’t believe my boss let me have all that time off!)