Organizing Your Images
All right, next up we're gonna talk about organizing your images, and there's a number of different options that I've run across through different photographers, and it is a personal choice. I just happen to be a little opinionated in thinking that there are some more efficient systems. I do tend to be a little bit more prone to like efficient systems than inefficient systems, but we all have our own standards, and own needs. All right, what do you want to do with the downloaded images? The one option that I have seen that some people use is Nothing. I'm just gonna download the images and go shoot some more. And there is some good things to talk about on that. It saves you time. You don't have to worry about editing and organizing. It just goes in there and it's stored in the library, it's done. And the nice thing is, every image is saved. And I've gone back and I have found some little gems in my photography that I guess I wasn't aware enough at the time to figure out that they were g...
ood images. They just needed a little bit of work to them to make them shine. So saving every image is kind of nice in some ways, but it's got some serious drawbacks to this. These larger file sizes and clogging on your computer is gonna slow everything down. The needle in the haystack, obviously when you're trying to search for a photo and there's a thousand of all the same photos, and you haven't gone through and given it a two-star rating or something. You gotta go back and reedit those image every time you look through them, and then you're just gonna need more memory and more backup for everything you do for the rest of your life. Granted, memory does get cheaper and so it's not a huge drain, but it's gonna drag with you everywhere you go. Now you can choose to organize. You can choose to do a minimum amount, or a maximum amount of organization. And this is gonna make things a little bit easier to navigate as you go through your photos. Now the downside is, is that it's gonna take some time. And, it's not exactly a lot of fun. I mean, sometimes it's kind of good to go back and review what you were doing, but for the most part it's not a lot of fun for a lot of people. But, over on the positive side, you can learn from your mistakes. You can become a better photographer by just analyzing what you did right and wrong, because you were there when you shot it, and now you get to step back and go, wait a minute, I went down the wrong path, I started doing this and it didn't turn out well. And hopefully you can learn from those lessons. Now there's a lot of tools. They're not exciting tools, but these are the tools that you're gonna use for organizing. So we're gonna talk about all of these in here because I think there's some ways to use these more efficiently than others. Files and folders. So, the actual document and then where we put them in our computer. Now, there's an interesting thing that happens, at least it's happened to me in cases, where you have a Pictures folder or a Photos folder, and this is good to have, and what happens is people start putting folders in there. And an interesting thing happens when you put too many folders into another folder. Oh, oh great. Uh oh, what's going on here? Um, oh, this is bad? Oh no, see this is what happens when you do too many folders is you start getting warnings, and then, hard drive, why do they always do this? They just give us an OK, and shouldn't there be like no we don't want to format the hard drive here? And so too many folders in a folder is just not a good idea. It just gets too much, and what I have found is that there's kind of a right amount of stuff to have in any one location. And, for me, you don't want to have one folder in one folder. It's just too broken apart, and so about 25 items in there is nice. 10 to 100 is a good nice number to have of folders in there. And so you don't just want to have all of your folders. You want to break them up into logical categories. And so, the way that I think is a good system to break things up, for those of you who have Lightroom there's gonna be where your photos actually are, and then there's where all the catalog stuff is. So the catalog stuff is over on the left-hand side, and over there in the catalog folder you'll have the actual catalog which stores all the data about the site, or about all your images. They're gonna have previews so that you can see your images, and then there's a bunch of other presets and other folders in there, and then because the catalog is relatively small, it'll also go into a backup folder, and you can store all of that over in one little folder. And all of your photos will be over on the other side. Now, before you say, well isn't it bad to have everything in one folder? No, this one folder is gonna be backed up onto three hard drives. In this case, it's convenient to have it all in one folder so that it's all in one place, and it's very easy to organize. Now the way I have mine organized, which I think is fantastic, is that I have all my images in Date, where they're organized by date, and I'll show you that in a second. But then everything that's new that comes in, which is my inbox, goes into New Images. So anything in New Images is something for me to keyword and work with, and we'll talk about that as we go through it, but it's between these two folders. 99.9% of everything is in the Date folder here. So looking at the Date folder, it's a really easy thing. I have a folder for each decade, and there's only been a few of those so far but I'll have some more going forward. And how many in each of those folders? There's only gonna be 10 in those, and that's a nice number, that's not too big a number. I could find that pretty easy. And then each one of those, there's gonna be for the months, and then if I shoot everyday of the month, I'll have 30 folders, maybe a few more in some special cases. And this is a good organization system because it's very logical where each and every photograph should go. And, some of us are more chronologically wired than other people. I can remember some things very clearly what year, what month it was. But even if you're not, this is a good organizational system, because the metadata on your camera tells you when you shot that photograph. And so, looking at kind of the complete picture, I'll have a few folders over there for controlling the catalog, and then I'll have the rest of the folders over here for controlling all the dates. And this is expandable as far as you want to go. And so, it's very easy to work with a system like this. Now there is a couple of unusual situations that people need to be concerned with, and that are big days, days that you have a lot of photography going on. And so, one option with that is that if you just shoot a lot of photographs, you go out on safari, you end up shooting 5,000 photographs. It's probably best not to put 5,000 photographs in one folder. I would break it up. The computer just seems to act better. And so I would break them up into about 1,000 photographs per folder in that case. Another scenario might be where you're shooting with multiple cameras. Maybe you got a time lapse camera, you got a wide angle camera, you've got a telephoto camera, and you just want to separate those. That might make some sense. Or perhaps you're a photographer that just has a different shoot in the morning, afternoon, and the evening that are completely different. A professional photographer who has different clients at different times of the day would probably want to have each of those in a different folder as well. So, this is where you get to customize it according to your own needs. Naming the folders should be done in a logical reasonable way, and I think a good system is using a chronological system so that things will automatically fall as they would naturally in a computer. And so changing the folder system to something with the date. You can add on some extra information on the end if you want. Might not be a bad thing to help let you know just a little bit of information about what's going on in that folder itself, and that's a personal choice you can have there. Now the file naming of the files in your camera varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but you get this odd little letter, maybe underscore, and then a counting number that goes up to 10, and then repeats itself. And if you just use this system, every 10,000th photo will have the exact same file number, so if you shoot 100,000 photos, every photo will have nine other photos with exactly the same file number, which is not a good thing if you don't know about computers. When you search for something you're gonna get multiple results. And so a better system for renaming your photos is to once again use a chronological system like this. I'm using underscores because underscores play nicely with pretty much all computer systems, better than dashes and slashes, depending on which system you're in. And then I have a sequential number at the end of it, so that I'm not gonna have a problem unless I shoot more than 10,000 photos in one day, and that hasn't happened yet. I'm hoping it will but it hasn't happened yet. And this way I can always have new file numbers for everything I shoot. Now, you can have Lightroom or other programs rename everything on import, which is convenient and nice but I don't do that, because it slows down the import process. Once it gets into Lightroom, there's a keyboard shortcut that you can hit and it pops up, do you want it to be named like this? Yes, and then it just renames everything very, very quickly, and so I think it's quicker to do it once it's already into Lightroom as far as people using Lightroom. But I do recommend changing it to something that makes sense for you. Because the date and time is indicating where it's gonna get stored, it's one of the things that you do need to stay up to date on when you are flying to new time zones, and when daylight savings time comes around, making sure that your cameras are correct. My worst nightmare in dealing with this is when I was with Art Wolfe in Travels to the Edge and I was in control of all the cameras, it's my fault. We went to Australia and I forgot to reset the cameras, and they're day, we shot in the middle of the day which was right in the split of the two days, and we were shooting on multiple cameras, and it was just a colossal mess trying to put things back together. And so if you can stay on top of that it'll save you restructuring and organizing and finding things as we go forward. And so, if you do want to rename things, for those of you in Lightroom, there is a file naming option over here, and in here it's not the most obvious thing that you can get to, so you can create your own template. And so if you go down to Edit, you can create your own system here, and the system that I have that I think works quite well is, four YYY means 2020, or whatever the date happens to be, underscore, MM for the date, DD for the date. I can handle two digits next to two digits for month and day, and then an underscore, and then I put a sequential number, and then you can often start this number at any particular number. Because sometimes I'll shoot a sequence of stuff and I'll download it, and then I'll go out and shoot again that day, and I'll come back and I'm like, okay let's just start this number at 100, or the next one at 1,000. Just so that it's clearly different than what I had before in the day. And so this sort of system keeps things organized, keeps things in the right place as you go forward. All right so using these. You want to limit the contents of the folder. You don't want to have too many items in the folder itself. Organizing by date is gonna be logical, easy. You don't have to make a lot of decisions. Just look at when that photo was taken and that's in the folder where it's supposed to go. And then try to keep all those file names unique, because you don't want to have overlapping file names. So one of the things that will really help you out in finding images later on is keywording, and this is basically any word or phrase that you want to add to a particular image so that you can find it when you are searching for it. So, within Lightroom there's gonna be a whole keywording section over here. As I said, this isn't a Lightroom class so I'm not gonna try to really teach you how to use Lightroom, but there's gonna be a number of different options where you can add a word, or you can have it at suggested, or you can look up words that you've used before and you can just click on them and it will add to any particular photo that you're gonna have. So, we have suggestions. Just as a note here, right now, Lightroom is just looking at recent keywords that you have used as suggestions. Someday it might have intelligent software that would look at the photograph and say, hey this is the Grand Canyon. Do you want to label this as the Grand Canyon? It's not there yet, folks, but at some point in the future I have no doubt that'll come around. We'll also have keyword sets in here, if you're the type of person that photographs kind of a group of things on a regular basis, you could have these kind of preset so they're ready to add in right away very, very quickly. And then down below, there'll be a keyword list where you can organize all of your keywords and this is something that I could spend a lot of time going in and doing, and is only kind of hanging on by a thread in organization right now, only because I have limited time to go play around in here. But the way it's generally setup is I have categories for people, locations, animals, and then a few more other categories. But then they're broken down into obviously logical categories like this, so I'll have mammals in there, and then inside mammals I'll have various mammals that I have photographed. And, the general rule of thumb right now for me, because I don't have time to sit down for, I don't know probably 20, 30 hours to go organize all my keywords, is I just try to organize a few things every time I'm in there. So if I throw a few new keywords in there, I might put those in a location, plus a couple of others that seem to be hanging out where they're not supposed to be. I know, Julieanne Kost, who has a great class here, she has a great class on Lightroom, and she talked about, and forgive me if I'm a little bit wrong, but I think she took a week of vacation so she could organize her keywords. But I could appreciate that in a person. I like that in a person. And so maybe I'll do that at some point. All right so if you're gonna use keywords, one concept is just try to use as few words as possible so that you can keep it to a limited number of typing. And so, use these and organize them in the keyword list in the structure that I talked about. And so if you have a bunch of just loose keywords, try to organize them into groups if you can. And then as I say, I just kind of create and organize as I go. Probably the worst thing that you could do is if you are brand new to photography, thinking about all the things that you're going to go out and shoot, and then creating keywords before you go out and shoot them. You may not end up shooting them at all, and you create this gigantic list that you don't need. Now there is lists that you can buy, and you can import specially designed, and I'm forgetting the exact name for it, but it's a hierarchal structure of all the words in the English language. And you have to be very careful about using these, because I was with another photographer who was using these, and there was a bear that had rolled over and it did some somersaults, and so it was bear, roll, somersault. And then all of a sudden it came up with dinner roll, dessert, and adding all these other keywords that you didn't intend with that particular subject, that fit under the roll category. So, be careful about those systems that you may buy and import into your system. There's another way or organizing your images, and that is through collections, and collections is a group of photographs that you get to have control over what's in and what's not in. You can think of these as clubs. It's in this club, and it's also in this club, but it's not in that club. And so, it's any group of images that you've selected manually in a collection. There is also smart collections, and you can create some sort of data attribute that the computer or Lightroom will organize your images on. And this can be very helpful for looking for certain types of things as well. And then there's collection sets where you can put a whole bunch of things in there as well. All right, so let's talk about smart collections. Smart collections is where Lightroom or the other photo programs will be looking at something in your photographs, and putting them in this collection. And you can go through and there is all sorts of reasons why you might want to choose one of these to create a smart collection. So, one of the ways that I have my smart collections setup is things that I have forgot to put keywords on. So if an image has no keywords, it's kind of my to do list in keywording, and so then that's a good place to put it. We'll talk about rating images here in just a moment, but if I forgot to rate a bunch of images, which will sometimes happen, I just kind of forget that process, and so those will be sticking out, and I know that I need to go in and rate those images. And, if you use a star rating system, you could say, look for all images that are two stars or greater during the year 2018, and there's just gonna be a running collection of all of your best images in there for the year as you go along. So those are some simple ones that you can setup using the smart collection criteria that you have in Lightroom. If you have just a collection, this is something that you manually drag and drop photos into, and I'll use these for special groupings, or best of, if I'm gonna make a slideshow. And it's not just all my three star images, but it's just a few of my three star images but I need to use a few of my two star images to help tell the story in the slideshow I want, and so there's no way other than just me looking at the photographs, am I gonna know which groups are going to be in there. A lot of people who get involved in post-processing programs like Lightroom get confused on the concept between folders and collections, and that's the name that Lightroom uses. Other programs may have different names for them. Folders are the locations of where the photos actually reside on your hard drive. And as I talked about earlier, these are very often in chronologically ordered structure. So there'll be a folder for 2018, there'll be a folder for individual days or months within that. Collections are a group of images as you want to organize them. So for instance, if you go on a photo tour you could put all your photo tours in one collection box. If you go to Tanzania it can be in a box there, and then in here you can have different collections. I know that I'll have one that has all Tanzania, all my photographs will be in one smart collection there. But then I might make another collection down here of all my Tanzania three star images, so I don't have to go through all my images when I'm looking for a few good ones to post. And then I might do a Tanzania talk, and I'm just gonna grab a few selected manual images that go into that one, and then there will be another smaller one, a few ones that I want to put up on the web, and some place, and so forth. So, this one collection box is where I can kind of collect all sorts of different groupings, and you can create any sort of grouping you want. But having them organized chronologically over here, they're structured in a good spot. Back in the days where we had slide film and file cabinets, it got a little complicated. Because if you shot a red Corvette, okay we got our car file, and our Corvette collection over here, but then we have a whole file cabinet of red things over here, and we would have to decide, which one does this go in? And so, now we can have multiple collections of things that are going on, and have them in different categories. So, you could have a completely different collection for wild animals, which is Africa and far beyond Africa. So there's a lot of versatility in these collections. So if you're gonna have a collection set, this is basically like a folder system for collections. So you can use this for a lot of different reasons, but anytime you want to have a group of collections all organized in one spot. So the three different sets, we have collection sets, which is just groups of the previous two here. Manual collections and then smart collections where the computer takes control of it for you. We can then rank our images. We get to tell ourselves how much we like an image or dislike an image, and the trashcan, the stars, and the flags are all different ways of doing this. At least for those of you using Lightroom there is going to be a filter down here on the bottom which is a really handy way, and you do have to click on that Filter to turn it on, and then you can start looking for images that have these attributes, or don't have these attributes. Depending on what's turned on and what's turned off. As I said, this is not a Lightroom class so I'm not gonna go through the specifics of how to turn things on and how to filter them, but they can be done, and it's important to know so then that helps you decide as you're going through your images, how much do you want to have input on each particular image? Now a really important question is, should you throw away your images? Some people say you should not throw away any of your images, you may need them, and I think there is a good argument to some of that. I don't keep everything. I get rid of stuff that I don't need and don't want to look at, doesn't inspire me and I'm not gonna use for anything. It just clutters up the hard drive, and so I don't think there's any problem getting rid of stuff. If you want to keep everything, it's fine, you're just gonna need a little bit more hard drive space, not the worst thing in the world. In the future, I'm thinking that at some point we're gonna have auto rank. Doesn't exist right now, so this is my prediction of the future, where you shoot a bunch of photos and you press a button on your computer and say, just tell me which one is the best one and organize them for me. And that would save us a lot of time. I don't know if the computer is actually gonna be able to tell us which our best photo is, but I'm thinking if I designed auto rank, I would also have the ability for going in and telling us, okay these are my four or five star images, these are my three star images, and this is what we want to have when we're done. We want to know what the garbage is, what the good ones and the very best ones are. If this existed, I think another nice feature to have with the auto rank would be the slider control, and the slider bases this off of internal choices, which is me, these are my choices of what I think the best is based on my prior photographs. Or go out on the internet and tell me what the internet would think is the best photograph, and then organize the images in that order. But this isn't how the computers work at this point. You have to look at each photograph and judge whether it's good or not good, or how good it is. And the way that this is often done is through a star rating system. If you use Lightroom you can use the keyboard shortcuts anywhere from zero to five to quickly add or take one of those stars off. So it's a very simple system to add to your particular photographs. So if we have five stars, what's the best way of organizing our images with a five star system? Well we could just put 20% of our photos in each of these categories, and then we'd have an even amount to look for. A much better system is gonna be more of a reverse pyramid if you will, where you have a few images that are at the very best, and then a lot of them, and this ends up being more realistic, because I don't know if I'm representative at all, but most of the pictures that I shoot are pretty average humdrum pictures, and every once in a while I get something pretty good, and even rarer I get something really good. So, I think that's fairly common the way people shoot, and so this is a more logical system. And, what percentages you put in each one, well that's up to you, but this might be an idea where almost half of your images are down there at the base of it. Now, when I see people editing, it's kind of funny because I'll see people import a whole bunch of images, they will select all and give them five stars. And this is not real helpful because, and even if they were all five star images, that doesn't help you organize your images in any way. So I think a much better system is to start off at one star, and then as I mentioned before I think a three star system works really good. Where a one star image to me is properly exposed and properly focused, and if somebody said, hey I need to use a photo to show something, you would say this is an acceptable photo. It may not be a great photo that's gonna win a prize, but it tells a story or makes a statement to some degree. A good photo has something a little bit special about it, there's something extra good on that. And then there are those occasional great photos where everything works out. And so this is the system that I've been using for many, many years now. And, this is roughly the percentage that things are organized in my library. So when I need an image for something, I might type in some specifications and try to narrow it down to a time frame or a topic, and I'm gonna look for three star images. Now if it just doesn't exist there, then I go to two star images and suddenly I have a whole bunch more to choose from. So I think this is a really good system for most people. And, the way that I do things is that I import all of my images, and then all of my images get rated one star. Then I start walking through my images. Now the fact of the matter is is that most of the images are gonna remain one star images. Which means I don't have to press a button every time I see a photo, giving it one star. It's already got one star. I only need to pick if it's an outlier at this point. Either it's really bad or it's much better than a one star image. So as the picture comes down the road, if I say, that's okay, let's just let it go by, I go to the next image. Next image comes in, I judge this one. Sorry, don't really like this one, you're going into the garbage and I hit the garbage can and it goes into a different direction essentially. Then I go to the next image, and if I'm thinking oh yeah I like this image a lot, I'm gonna give it two stars. And one of the things that will slow a person down is too many choices. Malcolm Gladwell was talking about in one of his books going in to get a can of spaghetti, and there is an entire shelf of all these spaghettis, and you stand there and you're trying to figure out, is this one better than that one? Is this one better than that one? And if you were given two choices, you'd probably go, yep that's the one, okay, and you'd be done, you'd be out of there. You could be perplexed by choices, and so if you're trying to judge the difference between a one and a five star image for a thousand times in a row, it is just hard on your brain. It's much easier just to say, no that's bad. That one's pretty good, okay, okay, no that one's bad. And it's a very quick system that you can just be the traffic cop. As your images are coming through, you can tell whether you like them or not, whether they're hitting a higher standard or lower standard. So it's a very quick system that I usually get through most of my day's photos in less than 10 minutes. The initial quick edit. I'm not trying to go in and fine tune things, just this is probably better, this is worse. It's not the last time I'm gonna look at the images. Now if I want to go through a second round, then I go look at the two star images, and now I'm looking for, who's gonna be a three star, and who accidentally got promoted that needs to be demoted back down to one star? That happens in life, some people get promoted that shouldn't be promoted. That happens with photos too. And so I think this is a really good system because it's expandable. You can get beyond three stars. Once you throw away your images, this is about the way that my system looks at this point. It's expandable which is one of the nice things, and I think a good goal for you is try to shoot some three star images, try to shoot as many as you can, but once you have 1,000 three star images, then you can start using four stars. All right? So, 1,000, if you have 5,000 three star images you should probably start having four star images, so an expandable system that lets you grow and get better, because I tell you, what I thought was a great image when I got started, oh brother. Not good, not good by today's standards. And so it changes over time. So, using a three star system over a five star system, it's faster, it's easier, and it's scalable. If you're starting right now, your first year in photography shooting five star images, what are you gonna be doing in 10 years from now? Still shooting five star images. All right you've got no room to grow. Give yourself some room to grow. Flags are another way of choosing things that you like and you don't like. With Lightroom there are keyboard shortcuts for picking the flag, or getting rid of it with the X, or you can unpick it as well and turn off the flag. And I tend to use these very sparingly, and that's because every one has to be turned on essentially. So, if I shoot through a bunch of images, what I'll do is I'll often put a pick flag on it. Just to indicate it before I've even gone through and star rated it, if I'm just doing a quick perusal and I don't want to do a full edit, I just want to do a quick edit. Or if there's some ones that I know that I want to get rid of, I might give it the black flag so that I know those are gonna go into the garbage. I will sometimes use these if I already have a bunch of images, like three star images, and I want to figure out, what is the best of these three star images? Then I can go in afterwards and add in those stars later on. So, this is a highly selective choice because it's a little bit more manual to input this on every single photo. I mean it would be really dumb to go out and shoot 1,000 photos, and this one's picked, this one's unpicked, this one's picked, this one's unpicked. Because then you have to rate every single one at that point. But if you have a bunch of two star images and you want one to kind of stand out, it's a way of just kind of giving it an extra little boost up in its ranking system. There's a lot of different things that you can do with colors, and I've found a lot of different photographers choosing some interesting ways of organizing. And it's really good I think for just a different way of organizing your images to be able to see them and see what's been going on with them. So sometimes I will use them to organize what is in the shot. I've done slideshows where I want to have different photos in song number one, song number two, and song number three. And when I get all the song number three together, I want to make sure that there's no duplicate pictures also in song number one. So when they're in two different collections, I'll color code them to see if there's one yellow one that's not with all the other yellow ones. In this case, you could color code the birds according to what type of bird they are. So you can quickly, with your eyes, you very quickly pick up where all the colors are, all the matching colors are. You can see where all the matching type birds are and their photographs. And so it's just a way of visually organizing in this way, kind of a temporary, could be permanent, but possibly a temporary order for, okay all the birds of this type are in this color. And so that's just one use of it. Another use that I think is pretty good is you label everything as soon as you import it a certain color, and then once it's made it past a certain stage of editing, it becomes another color. So I've seen some people use this, where they know they get to a certain color and they finalize the print, and they are no longer allowed to touch that, unless they create a virtual copy on it, and so they know that they're done with that. So I think that's a good system as well. I try not to use the flags too often because they are colored, and they might influence the way that you look at your images, and I like to have them with nice clean backgrounds, so I tend to use it more in a temporary than on a permanent basis, but that's just my personal use of it. So using these colors, very good for visual sorting because they help you locate images very, very easily, and I think that level of process is not a bad idea at all. So speeding through your images, by all means, learn the keyboard shortcuts on your programs, whatever those happen to be. So, when I'm editing my images, I don't use the mouse, I use the keyboard shortcuts. I'm just going left and right, select all, one star, and then I'm just going right, and I'm hitting either the five star, and what I use is I use number nine for garbage, that's my garbage indicator right there, because it's notably different than the other star ratings, and so I can quickly go to the next image. In fact in Lightroom you don't even have to go to the next image, you can have Lightroom checked so that it automatically goes to the next image once you rate it, so if you rate something three stars it goes to the next image, and then you can decide whether it's a two star or garbage. And so it can be very, very quick to work with if you learn the system that you have.