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1 - Eleven Organizing Tips

Here are some tips to make organizing go more smoothly and effectively.

For specific instructions, go to:

Photoshop Elements Organizer


There are three sections.

Tip #1 - Not Easy, But Not a Chore

Organizing your photographs won't be easy.

Yet, it doesn't have to be a chore.

Give yourself a reward by creating a project to do while organizing.

For example, as you look through your photographs, collect some of them for:

• Display on a wall.

• Book.

• Slide show.

• Or?

Tip #2 - Good Enough Is OK

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.

Tip #3 - 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%.

Spend your time on newer photographs.

Do the following.

1) Put your older photographs in a folder called Older.

2) Create an organizing scheme for new photographs.

3) Put the new photographs in a folder called Newer.

4) Feel guilty about that messy Older folder.


Tip #4 - Don't Delete

In the film era, this writer immediately tossed many slides  and prints.

Thunk, thunk, thunk!

It was good to get rid of the duds so I didn't have to "wade" through them again.

Now, in the digital era, with cheap and huge hard drives, consider doing the following.

1) Delete the duds, if you wish.

2) Keep the so-so photographs.

3) Put the best ones in a separate album or tag them with the keyword best.

Tip #5 - Rate Your Photographs

Like a Mother Rates Her Kid

All of your photographs are "above average" in Lake Woebegone.

Software often has a rating feature, such as the number of stars.

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


Consider, as mentioned above, simply separating out the best ones.

Best Ones Album

Put them in an album called Best Ones.

Let's say you have an album called Tijuana.

Create a second album inside of the Tijuana album called Best Ones.

Select the best ones, and drag them into the Best Ones album.

Tag with Best

Or, use a keyword such as best.

Go to the Tijuana album.

Select the best ones.

Then, typically, click the best keyword.

The best ones are now tagged with best.

To see only the best ones in the Tijuana album, just click the keyword, best.

More Useful 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
★ ★ ★ ★ Greatest Hits
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Send to Family & Friends

Color May Be Better

Many organizing programs use color to designate the above categories and others.

They may color the border on the thumbnails, for example.

The color may be easier to see than a star rating.

Tip #6 - Ignore Duplicates?

You may have duplicate photographs.

Software that downloads photographs from your camera may not be aware that a photograph has already been downloaded.

Software that uses a database, such as the Photoshop Elements Organizer and Lightroom, prevent duplicates from appearing on your computer.

There's software for finding duplicates.

Go to Duplicates: Find & Delete.

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

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

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

And, with cheap and huge hard drives, duplicates are not taking up valuable space anymore.

Tip #7 - Folders Are Not

As Useful as they Once Were

Folders are less useful than they were a few years ago.

Every photographer has or used to have a hierarchy of folders.

Many photographers now use albums and keyword tags.

They download their photographs into a single folder on their computers.

Then, they select the downloaded photographs and:

• Place them in albums.

• Tag them with keywords.

The Disadvantage of Folders

A photograph can only be in one folder.

A photograph can be in multiple albums.

Let's say you're a foodie, and you post food photographs to your blog.

You go to Tijuana and photograph your many meals.

You download your Tijuana photographs into a folder called Photographs.

All of your photographs are downloaded into the Photographs folder.

You drag the Tijuana photographs into four albums.


Photoshop Elements Organizer

Album #1 - Tijuana

The Tijuana album is located inside a category called Trips.

Trips > Tijuana

All of your Tijuana photographs are dragged into the Tijuana album.

Album #2 - Tijuana Best Ones

The best ones are dragged into the Tijuana Best Ones album.

Trips > Tijuana Best Ones

Album #3 - Posted to Blog

You can easily keep track of which photographs appear on your blog.

Just drag them into the Tijuana Restaurants album located in the Posted to Blog category.

Posted to Blog > Tijuana Restaurants

Album #4 - Top Restaurants

Your dinner at El Capitan was five-star.

You make an album called El Capitan in the Top Restaurants category.

You drag the El Capitan photographs into the El Capitan album.

Top Restaurants > El Capitan

Albums versus Tags

Some photographers only use albums.

Others, only use tags.

Still others, do both.

What to do?

Think about your search needs.


For example, you may use albums, and use tags for people only.

Tip #8 - Date Folders Are Not

As Useful as They Once Were

Software often creates date folders when downloading photographs from our cameras.

Date folders were useful when we needed to search for a photograph.

With improvements in software, date folders are no longer as useful.

Most organizing software can search for photographs by their capture date.

So, if you're looking for a photograph taken in the summer of 2007, just enter July, August, and 2007, in the search box.

Tip #9 - Automatic Albums

Many organizing programs can add photographs to albums automatically.

The albums are created according to the keyword or keywords.

In Photoshop Elements and Lightroom, these automatic albums are called smart albums.

They're saved searches.

Let's say you want to create an album of all of the photographs of your African gray parrot, Chuckles.

You have previously tagged photographs of Chuckles with the keyword Chuckles.

You enter Chuckles in the search box and click.

Then you save the search as a smart album.

Thereafter, when you download more photographs of Chuckles, make sure you tag them with Chuckles.

The photographs will appear automatically in the Chuckles smart album.

Tip #10 - Has that Folder

Been Imported?

Use this tip if the organizing program that you're using imports photographs from My Pictures or Pictures.

The Organizer in Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom, are two programs where you import photographs.

Don't use this tip if you're using Bridge or Picasa.

The Problem

If you have lots of folders, how can you tell if a particular folder has been imported into your organizing program?

The Solution

Do the following.

Let's say you're using the Organizer in Photoshop Elements.

1) Create a folder in My Pictures or Pictures called:

_Imported into the Organizer.

The underscore, _, at the beginning of the folder name keeps the folder at the top of the folders list.


Let's say you want to import the Kenya 2008 folder.

2) Before you import the Kenya 2008 folder, drag the folder into the _Imported into Organizer folder.


3) Go to your organizing program, and import the Kenya 2008 folder.

Now you can see which folders have been imported.


Tip #11 - Get Started

Some organization is better than none.

Get going!