Photo Organizing Tips

A few of you wrote to me after I posted about my new year's goals to ask how I sort my photos.  Apparently just about everyone in the universe has piles and piles of images on their phones and computers, and/or paper envelopes full of prints and negatives in boxes. It took me a while to figure out a system that worked for me, but since it does, I thought I'd share it. *Although I write here about digital files, the same process works for film.

 A pile of photos

1.  Once a month I download all the photos from my phone and cameras onto my computer and into my photo software. I use a program called Adobe Lightroom to organize photos on my computer, but iPhotos or whatever program you currently have is fine if it works for you, and as long as you can rename your files and sort them into folders and subfolders.

2.  I download all those files into a folder I call “TO SORT”.  Creating this folder has helped enormously because I know exactly where stuff is that I haven’t looked through yet.  Here I weed through the images, getting rid of duplicates, etc.  If I have 5 photos of the same thing, I’ll pick the best one to keep (two if I can’t decide).  Then I delete the ones I’m not keeping.  Be ruthless!!!

3.  I've created a folder structure organized by year and month, with special trips & events having a folder of their own within that particular year.  I found this to be the simplest solution.  I thought of trying to group stuff by category: garden photos, flying photos, etc, but I liked having a chronological order instead.  I can always tag or label my images to reflect a category if I want to.  I put the number of the month in front of the name or they’ll arrange themselves alphabetically and, thus, out of order.

Photo Sorting Screenshot.jpeg

4.  Once my “TO SORT” folder of images is culled, I’ll add them to the proper month’s folder (eg, 04-April), and then rename the images once they're in the folder.  I name each image with the year, month, and then a sequence number: 201704-01, 201704-02, etc.  You should be able to automate this process within your photo software.

5.  After I've sorted & renamed files, I make sure to back up my hard drive and then I delete images I don't still want on my phone.

* The secret to making this work is to be diligent about setting aside time to do this.  Start NOW with the new system, and then just catch up with the rest slowly.  Yes, I am overwhelmed with years of a backlog, but now I just spend 10 minutes every morning going through photos.  Eventually they’ll get done. It’s amazing, too, how many photos I'm able to delete after some time has passed because I'm not as emotionally attached.  Also, because I’m so sick and tired of the mental energy required to hang on to everything forever, I’ve gotten kind of fired up about getting rid of anything that I don’t truly love.

* At the end of the year, I delete everything off my phone except my few favorites from past years.  If you take a ton of photos, try doing this more often :-)  I also look through & delete images from my phone when I have a few random minutes, say, waiting at the doctor's office or standing in line somewhere. It beats wasting time on social media.

* For those who have film and actual photographs, this system still works. Just use envelopes with the month/year system.

  An older box of my photo envelopes

An older box of my photo envelopes

If you are feeling ambitious, you could get archival sleeves to store your negatives, and even have them scanned so that you can get them into your computer. (If you're local to Columbus, McAlister Photoworks does this, and if you're not getting giant pro-level scans, it's pretty inexpensive.)

  Negative sleeves

Negative sleeves

I hope this helps!  If you have a different system that works for you, please share it... I'd love to know how others tackle this overwhelming task.

Instagram Round-up: Tucson

A few photo friends and I decided to meet in Tucson a couple weeks ago to talk shop, pick each other's brains, share new work, meet up with our photo mentor, and attend photographer Masao Yamamoto's lecture and exhibition opening at the Etherton Gallery. (And also do whatever else we felt like doing.) We created our own conference, and are already thinking about next year's plans to meet up again (all photo friends are invited!)  It was truly an inspiring week. Here is my short collection of Instagram images from the trip:

 Our Lady of the Pinecones

Our Lady of the Pinecones.  This little backyard shrine was tucked into an alcove at our Airbnb. She wound up meaning a lot to me, coming to represent the guardian of all the new ideas and plans for my art projects that surfaced during this trip. I don't have to worry about a thing, because Our Lady's got my back. 

 Fox on the mantel

This little guy was the first thing I noticed when I walked into the living room of our Airbnb.  He is the CUTEST.  

 Backyard planter

Backyard greenery.  I loved this.  It took us forever to figure out that the building behind this planter was a garage.  We thought it was the host's house because it looked too pretty to be a garage, so we were extra quiet and didn't walk around the yard.  The house manual kept mentioning a garage though, and finally we went looking for it, only to discover that it was staring right at us the entire time.  Lol!

 Swan's house

Swan's house.  Four years ago I took a photograph of this tree.  I thought I should take one this time too.  I loved spending the morning on Swan's back porch, soaking up all I learned during my photo consult and waiting for Elizabeth to finish hers.  (While eating delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven vanilla poppyseed pound cake.) (And helping Catherine un-stick a cholla from her finger.  Those things are crazy!)

 Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear cactus, photographed on the drive up to Phoenix.  We chose to go the long way that wasn't a highway, so that we could stop if we saw something interesting.  There wasn't all that much time in between leaving Tucson sprawl and entering Phoenix sprawl.  But oh well.

 Tanoue Shinya 

We visited the Phoenix Art Museum, and got through it in a bit of a hurry as we were going to meet another friend of mine for lunch.  Even in a hurry, though, there is always something that makes you stop and really look.  I loved this sculpture by Tanoue Shinya. It reminds me of waves on a deserted island that's the texture of maple tree helicopter seeds.

 Cornelia Parker,  Mass (Colder Darker Matter)

I'm always drawn to big installation pieces, even if I don't understand what they're necessarily about. Things hanging from the ceiling, something that takes up an entire room, maybe video and sound and three-dimensional objects all combined into an experience.  This one was very straightforward and so beautiful: Mass (Colder Darker Matter) by Cornelia Parker. These were the charred remains of a church that was struck by lightning.  It even looks like it's in the middle of exploding. Mass. Science and religion in the same word.


The Lisa Sette Gallery.  After lunch in Phoenix, we popped in to see what exhibits were up and chat with Lisa a bit.  Of course, what do I photograph... ?  the doorway on the way out.

 Orange patio table and chairs

Patio chairs and table at the Airbnb. This was my favorite place to sit.  Sunshine-y but shady, and big enough for us all to share our projects, drink tea (or Woodford, depending on when you stop by), and cheer each other on to do all the good work we want to do this year.

 Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak, looking out from my favorite cliff.  I hemmed and hawed about whether to drive all the way out there or not, but after taking Elizabeth to the airport I just couldn't NOT turn west instead of north.  I hope it's in the cards this year to go back and stay for more than a couple hours.

Thank you, Tucson.  You never fail to deliver just the right mix of art, outdoors, great company, and a kick in the pants to get my work done!