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Organizing Your Photographs

Reasons for Organizing

Obviously, you organize your photographs so you can find them more easily.

Organizing them is also a learning experience.

You see things you want to do more of—and other things you want to do less of.

You may see patterns, styles, and themes.

These recognitions guide your future photography.

Make Organizing More Fun

You can be working on a project, such as finding your best photographs for a book or slideshow, as you organize.

Old Stuff & New Stuff

You may not need to organize old photographs—ones you rarely view.

It's okay to organize only your recent photographs.

Ignore the Mess?

If you're faced with organizing a mess, consider leaving the mess.

Or, decide to improve the mess by, say, only 50%.

Good Enough

A perfect organizing scheme is often not needed.

Aim for a good enough organizing scheme.

The first few hours of organizing bring large benefits.

As you continue to work, however, the additional benefits diminish.

Here are two examples.

Betty Sue

Betty Sue spent six hours getting her photographs organized.

After six hours of work, the photographs are well organized, but not perfectly organized.

Jumping ahead to a year from now, Betty Sue has to spend an extra ten minutes looking for a photograph.

That extra ten minutes was because Betty Sue didn't organize her photographs perfectly.

Sue Ellen

Sue Ellen took some of her son's ADHD medication (not recommended), and spent many days organizing her photographs.

A year from now, she instantly found an obscure photograph that Betty Sue e-mailed her ten years ago.

Sue Ellen saved herself ten minutes of search time.

But she had to spend many hours perfecting her organizing scheme.


Be sure to weigh the effort-to-be-exerted to the benefit-to-be-gained.


Deleting—judging your photographs—is another learning experience.

Yes, do some deleting.

Or, simply separate your photographs into two categories: good ones and not-so-good ones.

You can do so with two albums/collections, flagging them in Lightroom, or tagging them with the keywords best or duds.

Rating Your Photographs


You can spend many hours deciding whether photographs deserve one star, two stars, three stars, four stars, or five stars.


Consider, as described above, simply separating the good ones and not-so-good ones.

Better Use of Stars

If you do use stars, use them to designate other aspects of your photographs besides their quality.

Possible star ratings could be the following.

To Be Edited
★ ★ Editing Done
★ ★ ★ To Be Printed
★ ★ ★ ★ Send to Family/Friends
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Greatest Hits



In Lightroom, you can flag photographs.

White-flag photographs are good ones—black-flag photographs are not-so-good.

Color Labels

In Lightroom you can use color labels to designate the above categories and others.

For example, press 6 on your keyboard to make the border red on a preview.


Programs have a way to sort your photographs.

The default sort is capture time.

You can change the sort to stars, flags, color labels, and other categories.

Ignore Duplicates

Current programs prevents the importing of photographs already on your computer.

You may have duplicate photographs imported by earlier programs.

There are programs for finding duplicates.

But, you still have to choose which duplicate is the keeper.

You don't want to allow a program to delete possible duplicates automatically.

Therefore, you may not want to delete the duplicates, due to the time involved.

Folders Versus Albums/Collections

For most photographers, albums or collections are more useful than folders.

A photograph can be in more than one album/collection—while it can only be in one folder.


For example, let's say you're a food photographer.

You visited the Central Restaurante, in Lima, Peru.

The photographs taken at the restaurant can be in multiple albums/collections:

• Central Restaurante

• Peru

• Local ingredients

• Ants

If you were using folders, the photographs could only be in one folder.

But—if you have a folder hierarchy that you've devised and used for years—you may want to continue using it.

For example, let's say you're a birder.


You have hundreds of folders of bird species.

You'll probably want to continue using your folders, rather than using collections (albums), in Lightroom.

Keywords (Tags)


You can use keywords instead of albums/collections, or you can use them together.

For example, let's say you photograph doorways.

You went to Istanbul.

Your Istanbul photographs are in a album/collection called Istanbul.

The photographs were tagged with the keyword, Istanbul.

The doorway photographs in that album/collection were tagged with the keyword, doorway.

To see all of your doorway photographs from every trip, click doorway.

To see all of your doorway photographs in Instabul, click Istanbul and doorway.

Organizing Types


Photographs used to be imported into date folders.

There's no need for organizing by date, as you can search by year, month, and day, easily.


Organizing by location is not needed if your camera has GPS.

Yes, create an album/collection for a trip.

Don't bother doing so, perhaps, for a day trip.

Event, Project, Other Subject

You can make albums/collections for events, projects, and other subjects.


People View, in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, allows you to identify people in your photographs.

Once identified, the programs will automatically tag photographs of these people during import.