How do you organize photos?
September 2, 2005 9:51 AM   Subscribe

What do you do with all your photos? I have years of printed photos (pre-digital camera) that I'm slowly getting into albums, and a year or more of digital photos that are dumped on my computer but not organized.

Here are my questions:
1. For printed photos, do you keep negatives/doubles, and how?

2. For digital photos, do you have a good way of storing them so they're easy to find later, and do you print any of those out?

I'm trying not to have so much clutter, so any organizational tips you might have are appreciated!
posted by bibbit to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They sell negative sheets that fit in binders. That's the professional way to keep them and it's very compact. You can then throw the prints in an opaque box. Shoebox or otherwise. Ideally you should throw out the bad/marginal prints but no one does that.
posted by smackfu at 9:59 AM on September 2, 2005

recently i went through my photos and threw away anything that was a bad photo (blurry, under-exposed, unflattering of everyone in it--so, yes, some people do do that.) and those of people i no longer knew/cared about. some of these second category pictures included fraternity pictures from college, so i mailed those to the chapter for posterity. i give doubles to people who might want them. otherwise, i keep them with the rest of the pictures.

i have the prints themself sorted by year in archival boxes, except for those displayed in frames. i keep the negatives in sleeves in notebooks with the contact print taped over it. if you're not having your developing done somewhere that gives you a contact print, switch to somewhere that does.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:09 AM on September 2, 2005

For prints, I use the afore-mentioned negative sheets that fit in binders. On the sheets (not the negatives), I write the date and subject of the negatives. I also indicate which frames, if any, are keepers, and worthy of future reproduction. (This is an important step — trust me.) I try not to keep a lot of prints. Outside of snapshots of friends and family, I toss 95% of the prints I get, and only keep the best. (Yes, I now I should get contact sheets.)

My digital photo workflow leaves something to be desired. (I asked about digital workflow a few months ago; you may find some answers there.) How you work will, of course, depend on which platform you're on. Rumor has it that iview is a keen way to organize digital photos. It's on my list of things to check out, but I haven't done so yet.
posted by jdroth at 10:11 AM on September 2, 2005

I'm very careful to file my digital photos as I load them on to my computer. I have a Travel folder and within that specific locations. I have a few friends that send me pics on a regular basis, so they have their own folders and various subjects within that.
They key is to set up a specific location for each picture to go as your downloading or transferring them.
Happy organizing!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:15 AM on September 2, 2005

Perhaps more details than you're asking for, but here goes:

I'm currently in the process of scanning all of my old film negatives. I'm using a CanoScan 8400F for this purpose, and it seems to produce good quality output... but you should be aware that hi-res scans can take quite a while (>1hr for 12 frames) and often require manual tweaking for best results, esp if there are wildly different contrast levels on the same strip.

I bought a bunch of PrintFile archival pages (I use CP-35-6HB) so I could keep my negatives in a binder. I am creating "contact sheets" using IrfanView, then printing them out and storing them with each set of negatives. It's all rather neat and tidy.

I'm planning to keep the negatives forever -- they hold much more contrast range than any scanner I've seen can acquire. As for prints, I'd like to get rid of them over time -- once the negatives are scanned I can just create new ones when I want -- but for right now I'm organizing them in shoeboxes which will go into a dark corner of my closet.

I've never really gotten into keeping prints in physical albums -- nowadays, I'm quite happy to just annotate them digitally and share them online.

For cataloguing, I've settled on Adobe Photoshop Elements for now, even though v3 has some annoying quirks. (I wish it had more IPTC fields and much-better batch-captioning features, for instance. I sometimes use PixVue to supplement.)

I must say that I do work around PSE's default folder-import nature and create my own, which is date-major. I use IPTC keywords (PSE "tags") and PSE "collections" to organize photos beyond that. FWIW, My file folders take the form of year-month-day-subject, e.g. "2005-09-02 Seattle trip"

After researching many photo-cataloging apps, I think there's nothing that perfectly balances scalability, flexibility and ease-of-use; PSE just happens to be the closest for my needs as of now. You may also want to try Picasa, which is free (Windows only).

You didn't ask specifically about this, but for sharing photos with others, I'm a fan of Fotki, although Flickr and (many) others are comparable. Fotki allows you to enable downloading of the original image and their printing prices are quite good -- this can be much cheaper than making your own prints, if you order enough in a batch to offset the mailing fee.
posted by skyboy at 10:34 AM on September 2, 2005

For digital photos, I keep each batch in a folder organized by date. The folder names look like this: 2005-08Aug-21. I create intuitive filenames for photos as I use them, which I find is a good way to keep track of the better photos; the less interesting ones generally keep their numerical filenames for the time being.

This is good archival practice but doesn't let you find photos by subject; as I remember to, I create aliases (shortcuts on Windows) to certain photos and file those in subject-matter folders, for example "SF Street" and "Friend Portraits."

I generally take at least one cameraphone picture while I'm shooting a batch with another camera. I email it to myself right away, which allows me to keep track of the date I shot a particular location or subject.

Also, I find Flickr to be an indispensible documentation tool. Tagging each photo with a title, caption, description, and tags immediately means that I can find any photo I've shot since starting my Flickr account in a matter of seconds. I haven't yet found a reliable method of making myself scan new or old film photos with such regularity, but I'll get there.

posted by tarintowers at 10:50 AM on September 2, 2005

What crush said about throwing-out the garbage. Also, my wife bought a small cardboard chest-of-drawers (6-8 photo-sized drawers, I think) thingie a few years ago and sorted and filed our 20+ years of photos into that. Much more compact than a bunch of albums.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:00 AM on September 2, 2005

On the digital side, no one has mentioned iPhoto yet (and maybe you're not on a Mac), but it handles every photo I've taken with my digital camera for the past 4 years, and I've never had trouble finding, sorting, and printing (or ordering prints) using it... I found it worked a lot smoother once I upped the RAM on my system, though.

I order prints that I want to frame as gifts, or display somewhere other than on a screen, otherwise I just use Simple PHP Gallery to share albums online with friends and family.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:38 AM on September 2, 2005

It sounds really dorky, but I've taken to scrapbooking mine. It's not a cheap hobby, but you won't be trying to remember context 20 years later, either. And, you don't have to be a Terrifyingly Into It scrapbooker.

Online is a little harder. My husband really likes Flickr . . . I basically do the folder maneuver described above.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2005

I have a smaller server running Gallery and upload all photos to it first before selecting any to put on flickr or make prints.

The systems run on two mirrored hard drives and I have a USB 2.0 hard drive that I back stuff up to. I also occasionally copy everything to a small machine in the office.
posted by beowulf573 at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2005

For digital photos, every couple of years I compile the good ones into an album to be printed (such as at MyPublisher, order a couple of those as hardbound books, then store ALL the photos, good and bad, on HDD and CD. Chuck the CDs in a box. Every few years, take them out and re-burn the data to either a fresh CD, or the Next Big Format (such as DVD).
posted by -harlequin- at 12:41 PM on September 2, 2005

I put digial photos on Flickr and tag them to the point of insanity -- every picture has tags for year, month, state, city, and people, as well as a bunch of other general tags like "high school," "vacation," and "home." This way I can quickly find, say, that one picture of my girlfriend wearing sunglasses from a vacation in August.
posted by danb at 12:46 PM on September 2, 2005

I've started treating my digital photos like you would physical rolls of film. At the end of the day, just dump the entire card to a folder named after the date. Format the card. If you archive to cd, then you just put a date range on the cd. Date is the primary way you organize the folders.
posted by CrazyJoel at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2005

Damnit, I was going to post a very similar question. If anyone's still reading, and if I may add mine:

For any of the methods of organization: Flikr, Gallery, local filesystem, etc--how do you automate process of naming the files? I know Flikr deals with this with tagging and expecting everyone else to do it for you. But I've got existing photos, and lots of new ones coming in. It's mindnumbing to import them all in and Do you just not name them, essentially saying "screw it, I'll just look through the thumbnails", or what?
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:55 PM on September 3, 2005

« Older Accountant breach of confidentiality   |   Disaster Boon For Termites? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.