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.
Paula Findlay winning her first World Cup in Monterrey Mexico
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
Boulder 70.3 Pre Race – Image # BLDR16 0046.jpg
And from the afternoon in file BLDR 160609B here is Callum Millward, shot for Quintana Roo Bicycles:
Boulder 70.3 Pre Race – Image # BLDR16 0194
For the race day, I change my methodology just a bit to:
Here is a shot of Sam Appleton by the well-known yellow barn on Nelson Road just north of Boulder.
Boulder 70.3 – Image #BLDR 612.jpg
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:
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.