How can I recover from a totally disorganized photo collection?
February 16, 2010 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Help with re-organizing my photo collection. Need a process for recovery.

I have hopelessly screwed up my photos - about 1500 (maybe) from a trip to Italy a couple of years ago. Not the photos themselves, but their organization.
The main problem is that I have edited some of them - with either Photoshop or Picasa. Sometimes I did not rename them but just put them in a different folder. Sometimes I did rename them (several times, with no overall plan). Some I converted to jpg from tif or vice versa with Irfanview. Sometimes I deleted the original tif, sometimes I did not. I also have what I think might be originals on archived CDs. Now I have this amorphous mass of pictures - some are duplicates (either in the same folder or in different folders), some have been edited - but I'd like to start over with them (I'm better at it now).
I know I've made every imaginable mistake. My main question (I think) is how do I find my original photos or the closest version to them? And once I have, what then? How to proceed with an ultimate organization?

I see the problem as different from if I was just starting out and wanting to keep track of versioning, etc. This is recovery.
To further complicate things - mixed in with my photos are some photos I've downloaded from the web. I don't even know which are mine sometimes.
A minor problem - several photos of seemingly similar Tuscan landscapes that may or may not be of the same place.

What I'm looking for is advice on the process - the most economical and efficient workflow in time and energy. And an outline of the specific steps to take in the right order. Also, how to document what I have done (this is really important). I don't really care how long it takes - I look on it as a possible long-term project. Although some batch sorting, moving, etc. would be welcome if possible.

I've done some preliminary work with two little programs:
1. DoubleKiller finds exact duplicate files
2. VisiPics finds similar images
And I know a little about EXIF data.
But even when I've found duplicates or similars, I don't know what to do with them.

I'm a fairly sophisticated computer user with Windows XP and lots of processing power and disk space. I have access to Photoshop CS2, Lightbox from 19th Parallel, Photoshop Elements 7.0, and Photoshop Lightroom 2.2. Also have something called My Photo Index. I'm hoping I can do what I need with one of those, but with as few different programs as possible (hopefully one). At this point, not interested in any more editing :-). I'm wondering if these programs have features or capabilities that I might not be aware of, and tips on the workflow.

I have no specific idea of what kind of organization I'll end up with: I just want to be able to find my photos of such and such a place and also know if what I'm looking at is an edited version or the original. And also, how to tell myself a year from now if I once considered this the final version or not.

I'm aware of these posts: 1. Digal [sic] Photo Workflow , 2. How can I organize my mass of digital photos, and 3. How do I organize and archive my digital photography. But I think that my problem is somewhat different in that I'm sort of trying to turn back the clock. If the answer to my problem is in them, please let me know.

Any other suggestions would be very welcome. Thanks.
posted by smallbunny to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Adobe Lightroom is pretty awesome for managing a library.

The first thing that I would do is to put everything into a single catalog in Lightroom and sort them by capture date. The capture date is in the EXIF data. That can determine the chronological order of many, perhaps most of the photos.

There is a function in Lightroom which should be very helpful, which is the Stacks function. Use that to "stack up" multiple versions of the same photos. It's a way to group together the versions, but to only see the one on top when you browse the collection.

I don't actually own Lightroom so I can't be much more help. The Adobe discussion forums are probably your best bet for Lightroom specific questions.
posted by conrad53 at 2:22 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The EXIF data contains camera information, which you should be able to use to filter out only pictures that you took. Unfortunately, the EXIF data may be lost for images that you converted into another format than the original.
posted by kenliu at 5:47 PM on February 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks. Good help.
posted by smallbunny at 9:58 AM on February 17, 2010

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