Organizing Your Images

One of the things that I’ve struggled with is getting my image library cleaned up and organized. I underestimated the importance of having an organized, keyword-ed library, and I’m paying the price now with forgotten images, images that are difficult to find, and images that are keyworded wrong or poorly. It wasn’t that difficult early on, because I could quickly scan through a library of just a few thousand images to find the one I’m looking for. As your image library grows, it becomes that much slower to find the image you need quickly.

To be fair, though, as a new photographer, knowing what systems will be most useful to you later is a challenge. When you’re just beginning, and you’re shooting your friends or stringing for a local paper, it’s difficult to know what you will be doing 2, 3 or 5 years later. So, which information is relevant? Like I said, it’s tough to tell.

I have recently decided that I am going to submit a great deal of my image library to stock libraries, as a way to monetize the images I shoot for fun, or when possible with images I shoot for clients. So, I am going back through and keywording images by subject matter. For people images, I tag based on their gender, physical appearance, profession, and other criteria. So, if I need to find a picture of a female blonde lawyer, I can do it quickly, and I don’t have to waste time looking through my whole library of irrelevant architecture, live music, or wedding pictures.

I am also tagging images based on their lighting, setting and any other ‘internal’ criteria. The idea is that I can build a ‘lighting library’ where I can keep track of which shots were lit by different means. So, for upcoming shoots, I can look through other images I’ve shot and brainstorm ideas based on previous results. It’s a great way to make progress as a technical photographer, because you never forget anything you’ve done. Already, I’m finding this to be a handy resource.

Adobe Lightroom, my manangement/editing software of choice, has an extremely robust keywording system. You can read all about using it in this awesome 5 part tutorial. I found this guide to be extremely useful in learning how Lightroom handles keywords, and how you can quickly and efficiently get a big, disorganized pile of images into a clean, tightly organized library of find-able images. When I export these images, the keywords stay with and move on to my stock agencies, where photo buyers can search for them based on all the criteria I’ve specified. Cool.

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