Help With Organizing My Photos...

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Otto, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Otto

    Otto Regular

    Jan 3, 2011
    Forney, TX
    I need some serious help. I would like to start clean with my new computer, Lightroom 3.5 and Elements 9, but I have a serious mess. I have somewhere around 18-20,000 photos in various folders on several hard drives, and three other computers, that I would like to consolidate on one drive, and finally eliminate the obvious rubbish. Of course I can't identify the obvious rubbish at this point since I have a hard time deleting anything. I guess I'm a digital photo hoarder and need help.

    I've not loaded anything on the new computer for fear I'll just wind up in the same boat I'm in now. Many of these are family snapshots, and just "fun" photos, but many are serious photography as well. I am thinking of using Picasa for the everyday stuff, and saving Lightroom/Elements 9 for organizing the "good" stuff.

    Anyone have any good links, or other resources, that might help me get my mess organized so I can find things easily, and eliminate the junk? I tried to do this a few years back, but the task seemed overwhelming at the time, and I folded. It's now worse than that. I lost about 12,000 digital photos I took between 1993 and 2001 when I had a serious hard drive meltdown. It was unfortunate, but there was a lot of commercial stuff that isn't relevant today, thank goodness.

    I really need to get this done so I'm not spending so much time trying to find certain photos. I would like to spend more of my computer time in post-processing of the ones I feel are worthy. I'm not looking for a hosting service as I already have my own domain.

    Any suggestions appreciated,
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    I'm kinda in the same situation too. I already use LR, but only for PP work. I don't use it for organization. My PC's hard drive is almost full, and the PC is slow as molasses too. Plan is to get the iMac, migrate stuff over, and weed out the rubbish. Would love to hear some thoughts from folks that use LR for organization as to how efficient it is for such purposes. Thanks!
    • Like Like x 1
  3. I too am a photoholic!

    I have 2 Terrabytes of HD space and am scared to look at how much of that is taken up with digital photos. Recently I tried to get into the routine of loading a card, previewing the pics and then immediately deleting the mediocre to bad pics. Kept it up for a while but now seem to be slipping back to my old habits.

    Don't know if this will help you guys any but you may find a good dir util program helps. I use Directory Opus. It is way better than Explorer and is great for speedy file handling. I routinely convert my RAW files to DNG then use dirOpus to copy dirs across to a backup hardrive that is only connected when backing up.

    I've not used Lightroom in a while but recall it does have a slideshow feature. If you run it with every card you load to HD you could mark pics for deletion as it's running and delete at the end of the slideshow..
    • Like Like x 2
  4. snake

    snake Regular

    Oct 4, 2011
    Thank god I started organizing from the beginning. This was not a happy project when I had 400 pics and RAW backups to deal with.

    And yeah, old habits come back easily. I made step one of my imports to convert SRW to DNG to use half the space, but I forgot, and that's quite messy with my folder system.
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  5. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    I use Lightroom for everything including uploading the photographs from the memory card, developing them, exporting them to JPEGs, and organizing both raw files and JPEGs. I have done that from the beginning. It is best to do that from the beginning. I use the following folder structure:

    2011/2011-11/2011-11-20 (for JPEGs)
    2011/2011-11/2011-11-20/DNG (for DNGs)

    Lightroom copies the files from the memory card to the right folder automatically, one just has to configure it correctly.

    After exporting the DNGs from 2011-11-20/DNG as full-sized JPEGs to 2011-11-20, I have to import them in Lightroom (it needs only one mouse click to refresh the folder). The JPEGs are organized in hierarchical collections in Lightroom. I use the location as my main criterion. I can jump from a photograph in a collection to the folder easily. From there it is easy to get the raw file. I have found that this suits my needs best.

    I backup the whole folder structure and the catalog on an external hard drive, such that I have everything twice.

    I don't know how you organize your photographs on your hard drives at the moment. If you want to import your raw files which have been developed by Lightroom in an other catalog of Lightroom, you may either convert them to DNGs first or export your development settings to XMP files, such that these informations don't get lost. I am quite sure, that Lightroom is able to copy or move the existing files to a new folder structure like mine. However, I assume that it will still be hard work.
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  6. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    I also use LR for organisation of images in a similar way to pictor. My structure is camera/country/year/date Exported files are saved in the same folder in a subfolder - for example SC for items posted to Serious Compacts or 500px for images posted there.

    My personal view is that you will never get organised until you start seriously deleting images. It's not possible to find the time to organise that many files effectively.

    I would import everything into LR (using multiple catalogues e.g. by year) and then go through everything using the ratings - definite keepers get 5 star; definite deletes get 1 star and undecided get 3 stars. Then use a filter to select all the 1 stars and delete them. Start all over again with your 3 stars at that point.

    If you really can't bring yourself to do this you should at least get them off your hard drive. Copy the whole lot to a back up disc and then edit them. This way you can delete away knowing that even if you change your mind you will have a back up saved somewhere but it won't be cluttering up your main disc and won't be cluttering up LR.

    You also need to ask yourself some questions: am I ever going to look at these images; am I ever going to display these images? Of course family pics and holiday pics are in a different category and it's tougher to get rid of these but you could move a lot of them off your main disc and just keep the best.

    And if you are still not convinced that you can delete consider this: you have 20,000 images. If you allowed yourself 10 seconds per image it would take you 46 days, 24 hours per day, to view them all.

    The delete key is your friend.
    • Like Like x 4
  7. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus Subscribing Member

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Bill Shinnick
    What software do you currently own? There are many software solutions - some free like Picasa or Faststone and some cheapish like Sort Pictures for $40 and others expensive like Lightroom at $300.. Olli has given good advice - get cracking on deleting the rubbish and the duplicates.
    • Like Like x 2
  8. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Wow. Heavy food for thought. I'm just about to finish my first year...maybe a bit less in reality on LR. I have each month for the years as a separate entity. Don was incredibly helpful to me when I first began using LR. I do turn all my RAW files into DNG upon import. I have my catalogue on a separate hard drive. However, all this doesn't mean that I don't need to be much stronger on the "delete key" and learn to use the collections option, as well. There are some good suggestions in this thread already.

    I'm going to look around and see if we might have another older thread with some handy pointers in it, too. The idea of separate catalogues for family vs whatever is a good idea.

    Olli, I am chanting "the delete key is your friend"!:hail::biggrin:
    • Like Like x 3
  9. texascbx

    texascbx Veteran

    Jul 10, 2010
    Canton Texas
    I got a retail LG Blu-Ray burner at Fry's for 79 bucks a few months ago. After taking pictures, I go through them on the card and delete the bad and transfer the good to a folder on my desktop. When I accumulate more than ten Gb of images, I burn them to a disk. You can get Philips Blu-Ray blanks now for about 80 cents apiece so it's pretty affordable to back up you pics 25Gb a whack now. I even transfer lots of files I had backed up on DVD-R to data Blu-Ray disks so now being a digital pack rat like me, is much less painful. Besides, I've seen so many hard drives give up the ghost with no notice whatsoever.

    The only downside to Blu-Ray is it takes a good twenty-five minutes to burn all those image files to disk if you have pretty close to 25Gb of stuff. It's pretty handy though because you can put your originals in a folder, your edited ones in a folder and the best ones in a folder.
    • Like Like x 4
  10. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    I may go looking for a video tutorial. Reading through this stuff doesn't seem to sink in for me. I have just ordered Lightroom and hope to get organized soon. Thanks for the tips all and to all good luck.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. kathyh

    kathyh Top Veteran

    Jul 13, 2010
    Ottawa, Canada
    Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape has a video on organizing pictures called "Where the #@[email protected]# are my photos".It can be purchased for C$24.95 from the LL store here The Luminous Landscape
    • Like Like x 3
  12. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    You will also find lots of info at the Adobe LR3 help page. This links to all kinds of resources, not just Adobe's own ones, including a lot of videos. The 'Community Sites' tab on the right of the page will take you to a lot more. The Lightroom Lab is one of the best of these.

    Also there are two free podcasts worth subscribing to: Lightroom for Digital Photographers and Lightroom Killer Tips. (These are RSS links - I'm not technologically aware enough to know how to link to podcasts 'properly':smile:) Both of these consist of short (4-6 minute) video podcasts on different aspects of LR and both have an extensive back catalogue of available podcasts you can pick and choose from.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. Otto

    Otto Regular

    Jan 3, 2011
    Forney, TX
    Thanks to everyone for their helpful posts. I know the delete key should be my friend, but we really haven't been acquainted as yet. I will try to get to know him/her better now.

    I attended a Scott Kelby Lightroom workshop in Denver three years ago and found it very helpful, but just couldn't seem to get myself to do what I needed to do. I will go back over the workbook that was included with the workshop to try and implement some/all of the suggestions on organizing that were in it.

    As far as software that I have/use, I have Lightroom 3.5, Photoshop Elements 9.0, Photomatix Pro 4.0, the complete Nik package and three of the Topaz plug-ins (Adjust 5, Simplify and Black & White Effects). Oh yeah, Olympus Viewer 2 and Studio 2, as well as Canon DPP.

    I think it's probably obvious that I have the tools to do the job, I just need to make myself do it. Yikes, nearly 47 days to just go through them, but I need to start somewhere. I like the idea of making a pass though, and deleting the obvious bad photos, of which there are many. I will also check out the various links/resources that have been mentioned.

    Would you suggest loading one folder at a time into Lightroom, cleaning that up, organizing it to a particular standard, and then doing the next folder? I'm thinking that might be the way to go, one bite at a time. Much the way you would eat an Elephant. :smile:

    Again, thanks for all the help. I was surprised to see so many helpful replies. This remains my favorite site.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I strongly agree with this! My to be processed folder is huge and most of my other images are disorganized because things have evolved over time. But I have been making a serious effort to reign in the chaos. I have unprocessed images, images in Lightroom, images that require Sigma Photo Pro, an old Apple Aperture database but the actual pictures are on an archived drive, family pictures, project pictures... Besides deleting pictures, here is what I am doing to organize things...

    • As I go through the to be processed folder I delete some (many), put others into folders and set aside ones that need to be processed and further organized.
    • Consolidate the Sigma files into a single folder.
    • Simplify the folder structure (To Be Processed, Family, Projects, etc).
    • Combine project pictures into discrete project folders. Process files, export JPGs and keep RAW files.
    • Process family pictures, save them as full size JPGs, then delete the RAW files.
    • Print the best family pictures - yes, print!

    The biggest thing that has helped me is to edit and deal with pictures as soon as they are downloaded or get to them very soon after. Don't allow them to linger unprocessed and unorganized, otherwise the backlog just builds and builds. Mine did and I now spend 2 hour blocks at a time dealing with this mess and I still have a long way to go. I was also running out of disk space so that was another motivation.

    But don't be afraid to delete pictures! No one, not even Ansel Adams, took keepers 100% of the time. Be honest with yourself. Is that picture really worth keeping? Will you use it in some way or look at it again?
    • Like Like x 1
  15. summerkl

    summerkl Veteran

    Oct 11, 2010
    Vancouver, Canada
    I recently went through the conversion that you are facing.

    I have led many system conversions at work so it was time for me to practice what I preach.

    The overriding keys are planning and manageable phases. Simple to say - sometimes hard to apply.

    To make it easier, I have my team visualize the current mess as a mountain blocking the road that we want travel. Furthermore, imagine that the mountain/problem is only getting bigger and taller. On the other side of the mountain, the road (aka the new system) is smoothly paved.

    The FIRST task at hand is to design/plan out the new system. In this case, make sure you know how you want to organize your new photos - otherwise the mountain just gets bigger. Said differently, by designing the solution, you know the mountain isn't getting bigger - that lifts some of the weight off the team's shoulders.

    The NEXT step which seems much easier now is to chip away at the mountain in manageable bits. In this scenario, you might want to dump everything into one folder. Then sort them into folders by date. Then sort them by work/personal. Then by etc. ..

    Hope this helps
    • Like Like x 1
  16. christilou

    christilou Legend

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    Organized Chaos

    My LR library is also in an awful muddle. I bought a new iMac in the Summer and transferred all my rescued files from an external hard drive. However, the pictures didn't all reappear and in finding some (not all) of them, they have arranged themselves in LR in quite a different manner. It's a mess I just can't get my head around with my lack of knowledge :confused:
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Otto

    Otto Regular

    Jan 3, 2011
    Forney, TX
    Funny you mention this as I spent 30 years designing and developing complex relational database applications before my retirement from it in 2005. It's like the plumber with the leaky faucet syndrome. :026:

    I am now re-reading the Kelby workbook section on setting up Lightroom the right way. This really needs to get done now. I have all of these resources at my disposal waiting to get used, but not wanting to muddy them up.

    Again thanks for the reminder that I know how to do this from past experience. Just need to put it to work.