A question I get asked frequently is if I still have a copy of the photos I shot for a client a year or more ago. While sometimes I do, more often than not I’ve deleted all but the few I chose to keep for my portfolio. If you / your company struggles with keeping track of visual assets, you’ll want to read on.
Many of us share the experience of misplacing a file or not being as organized as we would like to be with our myriad digital files and folders (myself included). Despite the growing intelligence embedded in the devices we use, finding a particular photo for a specific (often) immediate need like a slide that needs an image or a post about to go out, isn’t nearly as easy or smooth as you’d think it should be.
Here are a few simple things you can do right now to make your visual assets more usable and hopefully not lose them.
- Gather up your image files and make a central repository for them: put them in top level folders with names like People; Events; Assets; Products or whatever is appropriate to your business. You can always further subdivide them but for now you just want to get a top view of all your important visual assets. (I would recommend separate folders for graphic visuals like infographics, slides, videos etc)
- Come up with a list of 10-15 keywords that are relevant to your business or organization: image files have metadata associated to each one. This includes not just the file name, but also information about the camera and equipment used to capture the image, as well as an area that can be filled with all the relevant keywords associated with a specific image. For example, if you are in the mining business, your keywords might include words like “gold”, “bauxite”, “iron ore”, “mine” “smelter”, etc. Just creating a list of the most important words in your industries jargon will go a long way towards helping you get the most use out of your visual assets library.
- Add keywords to your most important images: review your images (start with one folder a day) and just go through the images adding the relevant keywords you’ve already identified, as well as any new ones that arise from your closer visual inspection of your images.
- Save only the high res files in your master folders: you can always derive a lower resolution (web) version of any image from a higher resolution file. Additional images only add weight and can create confusion if the same image needs to be both print and web quality.
- Curate your photos: keep only the best versions of images and discard any that aren’t adding anything new or for which you have ample alternatives. Less is more.
- Periodically review your library and identify gaps: your image needs will change in tandem with the growth and development of your company and business. You may find that a lot of your presentations and documents these days are discussing AI and the “impact of increasing automation in the workforce”. Do you have the right kind of images to support these topic areas?
- Back everything up: recommended practice would be at least two identical copies on hard drives in two separate physical locations and one on a cloud drive. You’ll learn the value of this lesson as countless others already have when your packed solid drive suddenly and for no apparent reason becomes inaccessible.
Keeping image files organized can be a tedious and onerous task if you’ve never done it before, but once you’ve got one started it will be a lot easier to maintain if you continue applying the same rules to new images as they come in. This is also the kind of work that can be easily outsourced to a freelancer, or assigned to a junior staffer. If relying on your photographer is how you choose to organize your photos, you’ll still benefit from having the images keyworded and tagged according to your preferences.
Taking a little time upfront when you receive and save the images can save you hassles and headaches down the road when you urgently need to use them.