Unfortunately, the hard drives on many of our computers look like a virtual mess, at least when it comes to storing digital photos. To make it easier to find that photo you need, you need to organize the photos on your computer using these tips.
- You first must pick a folder structure that makes sense for you. When determining a workable folder structure, many photographers choose one of two options. Some people sort their photos first by the year and month when the photos were shot, and they then use the subfolders to sort by subject matter. Others choose to use the main folders for sorting by the subject of the photo, whether that's a person or perhaps a trip or an event, and the subfolders then can be listings of dates or subtopics under the subjects. For example, a main folder could be a 2008 trip to Disney World, and each subfolder could be each day at a different theme park.
- Give the folders descriptive names that make it easy to determine the content.
- Use plenty of folders and subfolders to divide the photos. When it comes to organization, you're always better off with too many folders than too few folders.
- Digital cameras typically give image files indistinctive names, such as "00001.jpg". As you download the photos to your computer, rename them to give them more descriptive names. In the file name, you potentially can include the date you shot the photo, the location of the photo, or the people who are in the photo.
- Try to start the file name that you give the photo with something that makes it easy to sort the photos within the folder. For example, if you start every photo file name with the date in a year-month-day format (such as "2009-08-07"), you then can sort all of the photos in the folder by the date they were shot.
- If you always seem to want to find the same 25 to 50 photos, create a "Best Photos" folder, and put copies of your favorite photos in that folder. Leave a copy in your main folder structure, too, just to make it especially easy to find. Make sure you limit the number of photos in the Best Photos folder to less than 50, or your Best Photos folder will quickly become unwieldy.
- As you're organizing your photos, you'll want to be sure to delete all of the poorly focused photos, the poorly exposed photos, and any duplicates. That will reduce the amount of clutter on your hard drive.
- If you're nervous about deleting photos, try this instead. Place any photos that are candidates for deletion into a special folder, maybe a "Duplicate Photo" folder. If you don't look at the photo for a set period of time after placing in the special folder -- maybe six months or a year -- then you can feel more comfortable deleting it. You may want to use subfolders inside the special folder that are named for the date that you're planning to delete the photos that are left over in the subfolder, such as "December 2012." By naming the subfolders that way, it'll be easier to remember when it's time to delete any of the photos you haven't looked at for a while.
- Finally, make sure you take care of sorting the photos and renaming the photo files as soon as you download the photos. Don't procrastinate! The longer you wait to sort and organize the image files, the greater the chances that your computer's menu structure will look like an old, cluttered shoebox.