This is a guest contribution from Heather Dubarry at No Excuse Scrapbooking.
I have way too many photos in my digital photo library. Over 35,000 at last count. And I’m not a professional photographer at all. That’s simply thirteen years of owning a digital camera (give or take a digital catastrophe or two) and loving to take photos of friends, family, and flowers.
When I first started this digital photography journey, I let the included organizing software from the camera manufacturer dictate how and where my photos were stored. Then our computer started acting up, and we needed to reformat the computer and re-install all our programs. I let my husband copy all our photos to disc, and didn’t double-check everything before he started the reformatting process. Which led to us losing all the photos of our cats as tiny kittens, and the last six months of photos of our oldest kid, from his second birthday, through Christmas. (This is why you will never see the amazing train cake I did for his birthday. It was the best looking train cake I’ve seen.)
After that, I vowed to never let my husband be in charge of the photos again. He’s more than okay with that, both because I now have a ridiculous amount of photos, and because he was as upset as I was about losing the pictures during reformatting.
To help with organization, I tried out a few free programs, Picasa being the main one, but most of the programs out there were not robust enough, or involved duplicating photos into their program, I knew even then that that was a quick way to run out of room on my computer. When I discovered Adobe Organizer, which came with Photoshop Elements 3, I was hooked.
However, I still wasn’t particularly organized. I let the program dictate how and where photos were stored, and it wasn’t until late in the game that I tried to impose some order on the photos, initially trying to use Organizer to move photos into yearly and quarterly folders, which resulted in lots of broken links, and just general disorganization.
As my photo library increased, I moved it onto an external hard drive since the computer I was using didn’t have enough room for all the photos. When I did that, I did set it up with the yearly and quarterly folder system, but there were still random photos all over my computer.
It was a mess.
And then we decided to get a new computer, a Mac, so we could cover both operating systems at home. (I’m a firm believer in variety. There are benefits to both Mac and PC systems. Why limit yourself to one or the other if you don’t have to?)
Enter a new Mac, a new giant screen, and a new organizing program, iPhoto.
There are lots of wonderful things about iPhoto: its auto-importing and photo deletion options, its face recognition software, its gorgeous interface and simple editing tools. But, and this is a big but, iPhoto makes it very hard to find an original photo, the master photo, as it’s called in Apple speak.
The way Apple imports photos is very organized, but very hidden as well, making backing up only photos a bit more difficult. Their backup software for the full computer is awesome, but if you want to save just parts of what’s on your hard drive, it’s so much harder to set that up. It can be done, but it’s annoying.
In my experience, if something is annoying, it’s much less likely to get done. That’s probably your experience as well.
Regardless, I went back to the easy way of letting my program dictate how photos were stored, rather than keeping them in simple yearly and quarterly folders. I still hadn’t learned my lesson.
That brings us up to February, when my beloved Mac started acting up. It became impossible to do any video editing of any kind, with the computer freezing up whenever iMovie was opened.
When I brought the computer into the Apple Store, they discovered the program was corrupted, and a full reformat was recommended because of the type of corruption. Luckily I had fully backed up my computer, so we went ahead with the reformat.
And then the inexplicable occurred. Somehow the back-up version was larger than the entire hard drive. After a bit of thinking, that’s probably a result of having all my pre-Mac photos still on an external hard drive, but at the time, it was beyond puzzling.
It was freak-out inducing actually.
A few deep breaths later, and I got down to work, restoring files, placing them in logical locations, and getting yet another external hard drive, so one could hold video and the other could hold pictures.
Rather than going back to iPhoto, which had begun to have issues of its own, and deciding not to wait for the new Photos program that Apple had coming, I decided to go back to Adobe, and use Lightroom as my organizing software.
Photos are getting moved from three and four level deep master folders, to simple yearly and quarterly folders. I’ll be setting up the facial recognition software to run overnight. And my computer will be backed up both on a portable hard drive here, and off site as well. This process is going to take a long time, but when it’s done, I’ll be able to find a photo both through my organization software, and through the standard file and folder pathways.
And everything will be under my control. Rather than letting computer programs dictate how my photos are stored, I’ll be in charge.
What’s the moral of my story? Do as I say, and not as I do. Find an organizational program that you like, and that will grow with you, as your photo library grows, and your photo needs change. Stick with it. Don’t switch programs just because. Have a good reason to switch and understand it’s going to take time to complete a switch.
Back up your photos (and the rest of your computer) faithfully. Regularly. You never know when your computer is going to act up. It could behave wonderfully for years. It could crash tomorrow.
Take control of your photos. Don’t let the programs you have dictate how you save your memories. Make them work for you.
If you want to see details of my photo organizing process, especially as it works in regards to scrapbooking, come visit me on my blog this week. It would be awesome to see you there!
A seasoned paper-crafter, rubber-stamper, and card-maker, Heather Dubarry has been scrapbooking since two small boys entered her life, and took over everything. After hearing one too many excuses about why people didn’t scrapbook (because frankly, everybody should, and most people do, but don’t realize it) Heather launched No Excuse Scrapbooking. Filled with inspiration, encouragement, and often silliness, she helps scrapbookers combat the “I can’t’s” that stop them from becoming the memory keepers they want to be. She’s also published an introductory book on scrapbooking, The Beginner’s Guide to Scrapbooking, that takes the mystery out of the page creation process.