The Scariest Part of Digital Photography

Digital photography has been a revolution. The clumsy stage of major innovations, breakthroughs, and failures seems to be a thing of the past. Cameras are reliable, fast, friendly, and affordable. Digital storage is cheap and expandable. Software is usable and powerful. Everything is just perfect, right?

Wrong. Nothing is free in this world. With each step forward, we pay a price. Sure, digital cameras are great… but what about the headaches they cause? The more photos we capture and store, the harder it is to keep track of them and keep them safe. Many new photographers don’t realize this, but a year or two down the road they’re going to find themselves in a sticky situation due to poor data management techniques.

I can hardly imagine that many people have a foolproof plan laid out for photo management the instant they buy their first camera. The need doesn’t become apparent (or necessary) until you reach a certain critical mass of files. And the brutal realization for this need usually crops up shortly after you decide that you want to make money from your photos. But that’s the catch, you never can tell if that’s where you’re heading until it’s too late.

Experienced photographers will tell you that photo management is very important… yes, we’ve all heard it. Again, this advice doesn’t become obvious until it’s too late. It’s easy to find reasons for skimping on the data management, but it’s hard to find time to fix our mistakes. I often wish I could send my past self a piece of advice:

When it comes to data management, do it right the first time… and do it religiously. Do your research and take the advice from the experts — they know what they’re talking about. Spend a few extra minutes managing your photos NOW, and save yourself hours LATER.

Photo credits: Petarneychev, Stephen Vanhorn.

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Arejayesss

I just got my first DSLR before our Honeymoon, along with an 8mb card. In the course of two weeks away from my computer I shot 2,681 shots! When I got home, I really had to think about file management. Initially I have just sorted them out by date. I will have to do it by subject, though from now on. This blog really got my brain working on how I'm going to organize my shots. Thanks!

Littlemacproductions

I organize my images on multiple hard drives both in the computer and as external storage. My work that would cause grief to me if lost, is copied from my computer put on an external HD and hidden somewhere in the house.

I used to burn disks as well but then I found myself organizing more than creating... so lately I find myself becoming more selective on which images I keep. It is similar to going into your closet and looking at clothing and asking this question-- when did I wear that last? And am I really going to wear it again? And is it unique enough to take up storage? If it can't pass those questions... out it goes!

Aughty

Does anyone use organization software? I am looking for something that would organize my images into categories with full descriptions, rank images, correct any problems, crop if needed and upload best picks to Dreamstime automatically. I would prefer to spend more time shooting and less on organizing.

Bradcalkins

I moved to a system where I copy files onto two drives, and do regular incremental DVD backups, plus full backups from time to time. I keep the DVD copy at a different location in case of fire or theft.

My house was broken into a few months ago, and the one thing I was "happy" about was that I knew I wouldn't be missing my family photos (and the rest of them). Luckily they left the computer and camera equipment...

Kenneystudios

I don't use organization software. I prefer to have a faster computer with more storage space. :) When I shoot photos for personal use, I sort them into appropriate folders under the year (such as 2008 / Family and Friends, or 2008 / Pets, or 2008 / Trips / Pennsylvania).
When I shoot images for stock, I also sort into folders before I do anything else with them. When I first transfer them to the computer, they are sorted by shoot date - luckily the software does this for me. Next, I sort by subject. If I do not have too many, I also include the month and year - such as "Horses, May 2008." If I have a lot, I keep them in the Shoot Date folder with a subfolder for the subject - such as 2008-06-17 / Shooting.
When I have photos that are difficult for me to easily remember which species, breed, etc it is, I will edit the EXIF data so that the name of the plant, animal, or location is in the title or description. This, of course, is in addition to its own subfolder.
Is it perfect? No. But, it works for me so far.

Patballard

Truer words. Great advice for everyone. I try to keep on top of things, but the files multiply like rabbits.

Petarneychev

Careful file naming, well structured group (directory) organization, sufficient back-ups... That's how it works for me. But I can be a maniac when it comes to organizing and sorting... :D Oh, and I rather keep away from proprietary organization software. This way my system will work flawlessly on any operating system and is fairly flexible.
Thanks for using my image as illustration! :)

Cleaper

Good Advice! I should listen to it and start now!

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