Tip Of The Week: How To Organize Your Files
Regardless if you're a professional photographer, or someone who just loves taking loads of photos, organizing your files can seem like a daunting task! I am here to help. In today's edition of Tip Of The Week, I will be discussing how I keep over 50,000 files a year organized so that I can find exactly what I need in seconds.
Let's just dive right in!
STOP DROPPING EVERY PHOTO YOU HAVE INTO ONE GIANT FOLDER. Seriously y'all, this is as good as dropping all of your photos into the garbage can. Good luck digging them all out! If this is you, you can fix this moving forward, and don't you worry, I'll have a post all about how to un-f*%< that folder of yours one of these days. (Right after I figure out how! ha!)
What you need to do is pick a single place where all of your files will be safe. Your laptop is not one of these. Neither is your desktop machine.
Safe places for your files:
Cloud Service (Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, iCloud, etc)
External SSD hard drive (Less safe than a cloud service, but good to have on hand! Store these somewhere SAFE)(Like literally in a safe, file cabinet, safe drawer, basically any places a toddler can't reach and is away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures/humidity)
For the real fancy folk out there, a Raid system on your computer is a super solid option
Sorry y'all, that's it.
Once you've selected a safe place for your files, pick a second one. These files are irreplaceable, and nothing is truly safe unless it is in at least two places. At least once a year I have a past client calling me practically in tears about the fact that their wedding got eaten by a laptop that finally died on them. The good news is, since I make every effort to keep everything secure and safe, I've been able to joyfully un-archive past sessions for almost 100% of these clients. Even I have lost files, and nothing feels worse than when you have a hard drive fail, which is why I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to have them stored in at least two spots. My hardest lesson happened in 2016 when I was moving things around on my desk and dropped a hard drive onto concrete while it was powered on. (All the tech knowledgeable readers out there are cringing to death right now) Nothing on that drive was able to be salvaged, and it was 4TB of irreplaceable images. Loads of weddings, newborn sessions, maternity sessions, you name it, I lost it. Learn from me. Store your stuff in two places.
Step Four: Importing Files
Alright, now that we've gotten through the horror story portion of today's post, let's actually talk about the reason you are here!
I create a new folder for every single time I go shooting. I do a lot more with my camera than just shoot sessions or weddings, so having a solid organizational system is a legit lifesaver.
Every single folder of mine is labeled in exactly the same way:
Session Type- Client or Event Name- Date
Wedding- Bride and Groom Lastname-03 17 2019
Maternity- Mom and Dad Lastname- 03 17 2019
Travel- Cabo San Lucas- 03 17 2019
Family- Mom and Dad Lastname- 03 17 2019
Cat Photos- 03 17 2019
Funny Husband- 03 17 2019
Create a new folder, drop all of your files inside, name that folder using the above system, then copy that bad boy into your TWO storage locations.
"Oh my GOD you wrote a whole post just to tell me THAT?"
When I am looking through my files, everything is automatically stored in order by session type. I can easily navigate exactly to the spot where I store all of my weddings, all of my boudoirs, all of my travel work, etc. For those of you who use Lightroom to edit your files, nothing feels better than seeing that happy little left panel where everything is sorted. If you name these file folders appropriately, you can easily find exactly what you are looking for in seconds. If you photograph the same family a few times, you'll see that all of their sessions are dropped in one place, sorted by date.
From a professional photographer's point of view, having easy access to my files by shoot type is invaluable when I am doing things such as looking for specific samples for advertising, collecting client sessions to build milestone albums, and just looking at my own progress as I continue to improve.
From a non-professional point of view, this makes it so easy for me to sort through all of my vacations, family outings, and shoots that I myself have paid for from a fellow professional. (The "Funny Husband" folders are my personal favorite. He's a pretty funny guy!)
Every photo you take is an irreplaceable moment of your life captured into an easy to lose file. If you are proactive with the way you label and copy these files to your secure backup spots, you will know that everything you or your professional photographer captured is safe and easily accessed.
Professional photoshoots are an investment. Think about them like you think about other expensive purchases. You wouldn't want to be careless with that beautiful item you spent real money on, so don't be careless with your photography. When you hire a professional photographer, the best thing you can do with the files you receive is to be mindful about how you store them. If I do an incredible session of your family, and years later you contact me because you've lost the files, I might not actually have them any more. Ultimately it is up to you to keep your photoshoots safe so you can access them in the future. Gone are the days when all family photos are stored in albums on a shelf. Now that everything is digital, it's so much more easy to lose them.
This advice is not limited to just professionals. You, my darling clients, need to also do your best to make sure that this beautiful investment in your family's history isn't lost.
Store your files in TWO safe places. Label them so you can actually find and enjoy them.
Have an awesome week everyone!