There are a few things that I can say with absolute certainty:
- I travel a lot;
- I take a lot of photos;
- I have a lot of files that span more than 10 years; and
- Art Directors and Photo Editors often request images at the least opportune times.
With this in mind, what I need to rely on is a rock solid organizational methodology and having everything backed up.
My long-term objective in writing my blog is to provide useful information and to have some fun – this one in particular addresses some issues that no one regards as fun. Perhaps it can however, relieve some frustration.
I feel obligated to insert a warning here: This stuff is REALLY, REALLY Boring! Boring, yes, but it is critical and if you get it right the first time and invest just a couple of minutes in the process, I promise, it will save you hours later. However to keep it interesting, I will pop in a few photos here and there and include their files numbers.
Here we go!
Two weeks ago a young friend of mine, Paul Findlay posted on Facebook that she had not been selected for the Canadian Olympic Triathlon team. I was fortunate to be shooting the ITU World Cup in Monterey Mexico in 2010 where Paula had her first win. I thought the finish line photo of Paula would be a great Instagram.
I remembered the event, but wasn’t clear on the year so it took me a couple minutes to find the file, but it was only a couple of minutes. It is my consistency in file naming that allowed me to quickly find the image.
As I am working out this blog, I just received an email from Valerie, Hunter Kemper’s wife. Hunter is a 4-time Olympian and has become a friend over the years. Val was looking for some images from Hunter’s 2006 win at the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis. Here is one of the shots I sent off.
Although it should be obvious, but I feel better mentioning it – everything starts with the year. I keep all of the current year images on my primary (external) hard drive.
I then create folders for the major events that I cover:
- Friends and family;
- Groove (music);
- Travel; and
There are always a few folders that I carry over year-to-year and want access to on my primary hard drive. These are mostly related to family and a couple of longer-term projects that I am working on.
Within each grouping above, I will further separate the images. Since I shoot more triathlon events than anything else, I will use triathlon as an example.
Within the world, well my world of triathlon, there are several major event organizers.
- Challenge Family;
- International Triathlon Union (ITU);
- World Triathlon Corp (Ironman) ; and
- Other individual events which are listed separately.
Again since I shoot more WTC events and any others, I will again use that as my example, so far for this year, within this folder I have:
- Boulder 2016;
- Lanzarote 2016;
- Oceanside 2016;
- San Juan 2016;
- George 2016; and,
- Texas 2016.
My most recent event was Ironman Boulder 70.3 on June 11, 2016.
I arrived in Boulder on June 8th and shot in both the morning and afternoon of the 9th and on the 10th.
Within the Boulder 2016 folder above, I created sub folders, by day, with each one being easily identified and sorted.
The basic structure is:
- BLDR 160609A (first shoot of the day);
- BLDR 160609B (second shoot of the day); and
- BLDR 160610 (only shoot of the day).
I always use the date structure of YYMMDD. By putting the year first, the computer will sort your sub-folders in numeric order.
Here is a shot of my buddy Rafa Goncalves from our morning shoot in file BLDR 160609A
And from the afternoon in file BLDR 160609B here is Callum Millward, shot for Quintana Roo Bicycles:
For the race day, I change my methodology just a bit to:
- BLDR16 Race Day.
Here is a shot of Sam Appleton by the well-known yellow barn on Nelson Road just north of Boulder.
Within each folder I build some ‘intelligence’ into the file number.
Without getting into the details at this point, I use Photo Mechanic to edit, sort my images in the order they were shot and rename them and enter descriptions before I import images into Lightroom for any post processing. For the Ironman Boulder 70.3, my sequence is:
- BLDR16 0001
In this way, EVERY image I shoot has a unique identifying number. This is critically important to me. Since I send out password-protected galleries to Magazine Photo Editors, Art Directors and commercial clients, I frequently receive requests for high res images, where they only send the image number.
One variation on this theme is that when I have multiple sub-folders as listed above, I will start the first sub-folder as BLDR16 001. If I have for example, 156 images in the first subfolder, I would start the next sub-folder at BLDR16 0201. I want to ensure there is no possibility of confusion on which images are being requested.
For my race day images, I will typically start the numbering sequence at BLDR16 501 or 1001.
As I mention above, I do all of my numbering in Photo Mechanic before I even import images into Lightroom.
Since I shoot events, it is easy to organize this way. If I were shooting landscape and travel, which I do for fun, I would likely start with:
- Location; and,
For example, my images from Marrakech are labeled: RAK16 066. (RAK is the Airport Code for Marrakech).
Since most of this happens when I am traveling. I do not have my primary external hard drive with me. I use a MacBook Pro from late 2014 that has a solid-state drive (SSD), copying images from the card reader to my desktop is very fast. If I am using the new CFast2 card from my 1Dx Mark II, it is lightning fast!
When I get back home, I copy the entire event folder to my primary hard drive. More later on updating the location in Lightroom. I promise to do a Lightroom overview post soon.
The entire file structure methodology above is related to working with the original and unprocessed files. As part of my workflow, I will typically provide up to 4 or 5 web galleries for Triathlete.com. After selecting and post-processing the images, I will export them to a new sub-folder, in this case named:
- BLDR16 – Tri Mag Gallery 1.
Similarly I would other files that I export would be to sub-folders named for the intended recipient of the images.
All of this organization is great, but if you lose a drive, you are sunk! I have more than 10 years of images archived with the general policy that I keep everything forever.
When I am on the road, I travel with 2 LaCie 1 TB Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 drives. On one drive, I keep all of my current year files as well as my prior year files from all triathlon events and other major events that I am currently working on. The other drive, I use as a daily backup. It only takes a couple minutes a day to copy the files over and allows me to sleep at night.
When I get back home, all of my current files and changes are automatically backed up every hour using the Apple Time Machine system and a 2TB Time Capsule.
If you don’t want to use the Apple Time Capsule it is very easy to set up using any external hard drive.
In addition on a monthly basis I use a hard drive docking station and a group of what would normally be internal hard drives to create another back up off all of my files.
Later today I am heading off to one of the best races in all of Triathlon, Challenge Roth.