Part 1 of this series discussed the importance of keeping at least three sets of your best images, with at least one set of files stored somewhere other than in your home or studio.
This leads us to another question many photographers ask me: How do I find the images that I have stored? That’s a simple question, but it can have a fairly complicated answer, depending on what details you have chosen to include in the labels for each folder or image.
File Naming and Keywording
Here are some basic steps to consider:
Make a primary folder on each hard drive called “Photos.” This makes it easier to copy all the images to another drive, and straightforward to back them up.
Separate groups of images into folders. I prefer to name folders according to subject, place name, and the like. The “creation date” is embedded in the original folder
(e.g. 2011 November Eastern Sierra Boulder Creek).
Make images easy to find by including dates, client name, location, and subject in both the file name and the embedded metadata. This makes it easier to use the Search utility in your computer. It also helps ensure that all similar images will appear grouped together when you search visually through a folder.
Put important keywords in your embedded metadata. These can include a format category, such as Landscape or Portrait, or descriptive terms such as seashore, wedding, or sunrise.
Follow the keywording requirements of any stock image or licensing agencies you might like to use. This not only will make it much easier for photo editors and buyers to find your images, but usually has the side benefit of making it easier for search engines to index your work. This helps make your work more accessible to other potential customers.
Keep the image serial number created by the camera in the file name. This will make it easier to find the corresponding original if needed.
Consider using a software application such as Lightroom. It has comprehensive indexing and keywording capabilities.
Label Drives Stored Offsite
Before taking your filled-up hard drives or DVDs to an offsite storage area (e.g. a safe deposit box at a bank), mark them so you can easily tell them apart. Some photographers print a list of all the folder titles and scotch tape it to the side of the drive. This is much more efficient than having to power up the drive just to see what is inside.
Store the power supply that came with the drive in the same place that you keep the drive. Using the wrong power supply to reconnect the drive to your computer can accidentally damage the stored files.
When you reopen the stored drive to retrieve specific files, use Adobe Bridge or Lightroom. It may be tempting to do a directory search through Mac Finder or Windows Explorer, but in the long run it’s much more efficient to use the visual-preview utilities in Bridge or Lightroom. Some of your stored files may be near-duplicate images. Visually previewing the files will save a lot of time and aggravation plucking out the one image file you need.
Return the storage device to its permanent resting place after you have copied the image or images you need, Leaving it around the studio or office makes it vulnerable to a mishap.
In Part 3 of this series, I explain why some file formats are better than others for image that you plan to keep in your long-term archives.