Friday, August 14, 2009

Organizing Your Photography Part II

Salto Sapo - 1
So lets continue the discussion of how to organize your photography.  Please recall that I am describing how I do it solely as something for you to consider or use as a starting point to adapt for your purposes.
As a reminder, here is the process overview:
  1. Import photos through Lightroom to the current year catalog.
  2. Process Photos and mark the “select” photographs
  3. Export and copy select photographs to the gallery
  4. At year’s end, close out the calendar year and export to a collection of current year selects:  (e.g. 2009 Select Photos).
  5. At year’s end, copy both the closed year catalog (e.g. 2008 Catalog) and the select collection (e.g. 2008 Sele Photos) to a secure storage device.
  6. Revise you gallery structure to be consistent with how you think.
Step 1:  Import photos through Lightroom to the current year catalog.
I am a huge fan of Adobe Lightroom.  Not only is Lightroom a very capable image processor, it is an even better tool for helping keep your photography in order.  Importing photography from my camera occurs exclusively through Lightroom.
Boats on Salto Sapo - 2
When Lightroom imports photos from your memory card (I always import from the card…connecting the camera to your computer will just slow the process), the software presents  a number of options including, naming, location (where to put the files), and some pre-processing.  I am only concerned with having Lightroom put the photographs in a folder that makes sense.  Lightroom will automatically import by date, and create folders for each date.  This works well for me – I just refine it a bit by keeping the date and adding a short description to the folder name (i.e. 20090314 Camel Races at Al Wathba).
Underlying Lightroom is my folder structure…the one that makes sense to me.  Here is a screen shot of my top level folder structure.
Top Level Folders
So for each year, I have two folders:  a catalog folder that contains all the shots taken in that year (such as 2008 Catalog), and the Select Photographs for that year (such as 2008 Select Photos).  The 2008 Catalog contains all the photographs taken in 2008.  The 2008 Select Photos are those photos I consider keepers.  They pass the test of “Would I want that photograph hanging on a wall in my house?”  Generally, the Select Photos represent somewhere between 10% and 15% of all the shots I take.
To conserve size, I keep only the select photos on my working computer.  Once complete, the annual catalog is moved to the Drobo for archival ( – see my last blog post and my ringing endorsement for this storage system).
Here is a look at the 2009 Catalog folder.
2009 Catalog Screen Shot
The contents of the 2009 catalog show how files are organized upon import.  Lightroom allows me to name the folder and import all the shots based on date.  For a file name, I use the date (in the only real format under which dates can be sorted in a useful manner 20090729 – yyyymmdd) followed by a brief description of the subject or event represented in the photography.
Santa Theresa Rum Casks
This completes the first step – importing your photos.  Now, let’s talk about the photography featured in this post.  These photographs are a minor homage to the number 3 – three photos from Venezuela, all featuring three principal subjects.  The first photograph features three palm trees in the waters just below Salto Sapo in Canaima, Venezuela.  The second photograph features three canoes from the same location below Salto Sapo (these were our transport from Caniama – up river to Angel Falls - the only thing missing is the 50 hp outboard that propels this hollowed log).  The third is a shot of the aging casks at the Santa Theresa rum distillery in Venezuela.
Other than the rule of thirds for composition (follow this link to find some previous discussion of the rule of thirds) I am not aware of a direct relationship between the number three and photography.  Well, there is one other exception – apparently in Vietnam it is unlucky to take a photograph comprised of three people.  Not withstanding Vietnamese superstition, when I study photography that features three primary subjects, a pattern of three, or three principal elements, I see a natural balance that I don’t otherwise see with one, two or four similar elements.
If anyone has a good explanation for the natural attraction of three in photography, art, design or some allied field, I would love to hear it.  In the mean time, we can continue to admire what we see, and wonder about the powerful and mysterious number 3.
  • Isaac Asimov proposed 3 rules of robotics
  • We perceive the world in 3 spatial dimensions
  • Your high school locker had a 3 number combination
  • A Shamrock has 3 leaves
  • Freud proposed that the psyche is divided into 3 parts
  • The 3rd way
  • Plato split the soul into 3 parts
  • There are 3 blind mice
  • The Indians, Greeks and Romans all had 3 gods.  The Greek and Roman gods both corresponded to earth, wind and fire
  • There are 3 branches in the U.S. Government
  • Three notes are the most basic form of a chord
  • It was a 3 headed dog that guarded the gates to Hades in Greek mythology
  • The three ring binder…speaks for itself
Go make some great photography!


  1. Craig, fantastic post and one that I can personally benefit from and attest to. Following a trip or as a year passes, I create/save blocks of photos as a new catalog. Makes searching easier and LR responds faster opening fewer thumbnails/previews. I like the last comments about the rule of thirds - three camera bodies?


  2. Btw - excellent shot of the three palms at Sapo!