Getting your digital photos organized

Mike Torres has some excellent thoughts on photo organization. Well worth reading.

Just to be clear, I don’t recommend that everyone do photos just like Mike. (I don’t.) The point is to get into the habit of organizing photos and find/create/adapt a system that works for you. If you have a large collection, be prepared for some tedium while you get caught up. If you build cropping, tagging, and intelligent file naming into your workflow going forward, it’s very easy, and the payoff is profound.

Oh, and if you use Windows XP or Vista and haven’t updated to Windows Live Photo Gallery, go do that before you do anything else. Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it.

17 thoughts on “Getting your digital photos organized

  1. Agree with everything but #2. I prefer to name files using YYYY-MM-DD-HHMMSS (using 24 hour time format).

    I use Flexible Rename to bulk rename files using the EXIF OriginalDate field.

  2. Yeah, I gotta say I love Windows Live Photo Gallery. I am just finishing up putting together my Windows Home Server and I’m hoping to do some work on WLPG + WHS that will make things extra easy. I don’t know the workflow yet, but I’m sure something will work out with it.

    There are some things missing or that take some getting used to in WLPG… like the fixing and saving behavior. When I edit a picture and futz with it, then switch away to another one, it saves it. “Reverting” is a strange behavior and gives me the willies. I would rather it work like Office Picture Manager. OPM tracks each individual picture’s edits independently and marks them a “dirty” but will NOT save them without asking you. In fact, when you exit, it gives you the choice of doing something to each photo. Also, it bolds the file name so you can see which pictures are dirty. That said, OPM’s tools are weak.

    I’m using the new Windows Live Mail too for RSS reading primarily. It’s good, but can’t wait for an update. Lot’s of little things are missing or could be improved.

    I’d like to check out LightRoom to see how it compares to WLPG or complements as a poster said in another comment in a previous posting. I really like the importing of photos in WLPG, but perhaps LightRoom is better?

    Like someone else said, I hope they can ship it by default with Vista. It’s not exactly some Wow! but it’s as close as we’ve gotten so far. The reason it’s separate is that it works with XP too (IMHO).

    So what happened to Max? Where did that app go?

  3. How does this compare to Google picasa?
    Is it as ‘novice friendly’ for parents / grandparents to use?

    Also- Ed -please fix the typo in your heading!

  4. (I agree with Keith, fix the heading πŸ˜‰

    On to photo organizing. I use WLPG. The ONLY thing I add to the files are tags. I don’t even name the files anything special, because the dates and everything embedded into the files anyway. In fact the only organization other than tages I use is seperate folders for each year. The types of tags I use are limited to the names of the people and the locations (also for non-photos I might tag something like anime or screenshot). I don’t add “Christmas” or anything because depending on the time of year and the year I already know where I was. I don’tunderstand the need to be a photo pack rat, it’s like the techie versionof scrapbooking ^_^

  5. Heading fixed. Thanks for the proofreading, folks. Being on teh run is no fun. (That typo was deliberate…)

    Mgo, tagging is independent of indexing although the combo is clearly useful. Tags are saved as file properties.

  6. Mike’s photo organization is just crazy. He might as well hire a full time librarian to keep track of his photos.

    I just started using Live Gallery after being a long time user of Google’s Picasa. I switched, well just the other day, after seeing a video from CES featuring Live Gallery.

    I tried out Windows Gallery (note – no Live) after installing Vista. Hate to say it, but it was crap. Hence why I continued to use Picasa.

    Picasa is a super sweet photo manager if you want to crop, make basic fixes, or upload to Google’s photo site, but if you want to tweak the levels, upload to Flickr, or add tags that stay with the computer or in Flickr then you’re up a creek without a paddle.

    The features that pulled me to Live Gallery were:

    Publish directly to Flickr and keep tags you associate in Live Gallery into Flickr.
    Better adjustments – change highlights, shadows, saturation. More crop options. You can do some of this in Picasa but not to the extent of Live Gallery.
    Photo Importer has been improved to group photos from different sessions into different folders. If I take 10 photos of my dog today then 30 photos of my flowers tomorrow it knows that those are two different sessions and should be saved in different folders.

    When bringing photos into Picasa from my SLR it took forever to first find the photos then to acquire all of them before you could import. I have not run into this with Live Gallery.

    I am a happy camper now. Sorry for taking over your comment section – but I agree – awesome doesn’t even describe it.

  7. The only reason I don’t use Windows Live Photo Gallery is not 64-bit; Windows Photo Gallery is.

  8. John, I use Windows Live Photo Gallery on my x64 Windows Vista machine. The beta didn’t officially support x64, but the final release does.

  9. Hey Ed,

    No, I know it works under x64, it’s just not a native 64-bit app.

    I tried the “Live” version and definitely notice a slight performance hit, esp. when I work w/ multiple 8MP shots. Things are quite snappier under Windows Photo Gallery on x64 than on Windows Live Photo Gallery.

  10. Ok, so I finally got a chance to install WLPG.

    First impression: why did I download this again?

    Most of the questions or issues I raised in the Thomas Hawk thread (see ) still apply.

    The ‘search the gallery’ box searches all fields (or at least more than just the tag field). This is a problem when I happen to have my name in the copyright field but I want to find pictures with my son and myself. We should have the option to search in tags, fields and tags or fields.

    I cannot exclude directories – I don’t need my Xvid movies listed in WLPG.

    I can drag photos over to a tag but not vice-a-versa. In Photoshop Album I can select multiple images, then multiple tags, drag the selected tags to one of the selected images and the selected images are tagged in one action.

    I am happy to see the Scanner and Camera Wizard in XP has been ‘reintroduced’ in Vista via WLPG. The only complaint I have is the inability to specify the renaming format. Again, MS gives some options (more than in WPG, I’ll give them that), but there is no custom option.

    WLPG has potential if the user – or at least the advanced user – is given more options. I understand that MS wants make programs as simple as possible to use, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of advanced users.

    The tag search issue is a deal breaker for the time being.

  11. I’ll have to look a little more carefully at these comments, Vincent, but the one thing that jumped out at me is that you can exclude directories. For the overall database, you can delete any directory (right-click it in the directory pane) and then add only the directories you want to see represented. For individual searches, you can constrian search by right-clicking individual folders.

    As for tag search, can you give me an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish? If you want to see only photos tagged with your name or your son;s name, just Ctrl click each tag in the Tags list in the nav pane.

    You can further constrain the results by control-clicking dates or folders from the nav pane.

    If you want an AND search, use Windows Explorer: Open the folder you want to create a subset of, then enter the following text in the search box in top right:

    tag:dad_name AND tag:son_name

    That gives you the results you want. I often use this option then aply a temporary tag to the subset so I can work with it in WLPG. After I’m done, I remove the temporary tag.

    It really sounds like you’re expecting this to work a certain way out of the box, when you might be more successful if you learn how to get the results you want by learning its syntax and structure.

  12. Ed,

    When I right-click on a file or directory in Windows Explorer, one of the options is “Delete”. I know that means “I want this file or directory gone for good (or at least into the wastebasket)”.

    Now, you are telling me that delete option I see when right-clicking on the directory pane in WLPG really means exclude this directory from WLPG. You don’t see a problem with the semantics? If Delete means Exclude, then why not use Exclude?

    Using Windows Explorer to apply a temporary tag is hardly “learning its syntax and structure”. It’s applying a kludge. The same syntax used Windows Explorer should be used in WLPG. You have to give me this one πŸ˜‰

    You are correct. I am expecting WLPG to work a certain way out of the box. At the very least it should give me more options. Newer programs should be built on existing and competing program. I’m also trying out PA3.2. I may even buy Photoshop Elements.

  13. Vincent, you seem to think I designed WLPG. I didn’t. I simply have a little more patience than you and have learned how it works. It’s not perfect, but it suits my needs, You think it sucks. Good for you.

    It sounds like you should go find another program. I wish you well.

    Edited to add: “At the very least it should give me more options.” It provides many more options compared to the program it replaces, Windows Photo Gallery.

  14. Ed, your arrogance is mind boggling. I never thought you designed WLPG and I never said it sucked.

    Your statement about delete is false. Right-clicking Delete in the directory pane physically deletes the directory from the hard disk. It does not remove or exclude it from the database. Good thing I tried it out on a test directory, otherwise I would have deleted a whole directory of videos.

    Directories that are manually added can be removed from the gallery, but you cannot remove or exclude directories that WLPG adds automatically.

    Don’t confuse features with options. Yes, WLPG has many more features than WPG. But options wise, I only see two tabs when I select File/Options.

    I too wish you well.

  15. Vincent, I stand corrected. I occasionally add or remove folders from WLPG but always from outside the normal hierarchy. In that case, there is a Remove Folder From Gallery option.

    If you read the rest of this site, you would know that I am suffering from the flu right now. It’s affected my energy level and obviously my patience. I spent a lot of time and energy on my previous comment offering suggestions on ways you could accomplish the things you were asking to do, and I asked you a question about a scenario you were trying to accomplish. Those were done in a spirit of helpfulness. Instead of acknowledging those suggestions (and they really do work in real life, despite the fact you think they’re a kludge) or answering that question, you proceeded to tell me how much you thought the interface sucked, as though I were somehow responsible for it.

    So maybe now you can understand my annoyance. I won’t bother trying anymore. In my opinion, this is an excellent program that will serve the photo management needs of most people. But not you. I strongly recommend you use something else.

    And now I’m going to take some more Advil and drink some more fluids and try to get some real work done.

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