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.
As professional cameras get more complex and phones now do what most point-and-shoots used to do, one thing remains constant: the deluge of photographs these devices create gets steadily stronger. Depending on the business you are in, your corporate image library may rely on rights managed photos purchased from stock photo sites, or in-house generated images, or a blend of both. No matter what sector your firm operates in, from mining natural resources, to data mining, to dating sites – good quality images you own and have the rights to are an important piece of your communications arsenal. Images on company websites need to be updated and refreshed, teams change, executives move on or out. Companies enter new lines of business, or operate in multiple countries, requiring new images adapted to the new markets. And then there is the plethora of image-hungry social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and now even LinkedIn with its expanded platform for enhancing personal profiles that allows users to add photos, videos and slideshows showcasing their work. With such a great demand, companies – and usually the poor communications junior staffer tasked with it – have to have a way of searching, finding and storing all their images that allows them to get the images they need, when they need them in a timely fashion. Here are a few tips for organizing your photo library and storing your images that I use as a professional photographer:
Throw out the duds: probably the most important thing you can do to start your photo organizing project is invest in some kind of photo viewer like Adobe Bridge, Aperture or Lightroom, that allows you to view many files at once and attack them ruthlessly. Discard all images you know you don’t need and be very selective in choosing the best image from sets of similar looking images. Just because you can store every digital image you or your hired photographer has created for you, doesn’t mean you have to. Reducing the overall size of the pile you need to sort through will greatly free up your energy and allow you to focus in on the essential. If you are terrified of throwing something away that you think you might need again later (you know who you are clutterbugs), than create three folders: (1) Keep (2) Delete and (3) Maybe and dump all the ones you are undecided about in the Maybe folder.
Triple back up your images – 2 hard drives and a cloud-based service: owning a hard drive that hasn’t failed yet is like riding a motorcycle before the accident you inevitably will have. There is no hard drive on the planet that is indestructible and if you haven’t had one konk out on you yet – run, don’t walk, to the nearest cloud service provider to start backing up your files because you will at some point experience the excruciating frustration of suddenly finding your hard drive inaccessible. I speak from experience. The golden rule is to have one set of images completely backed up on a hard drive you own and keep on the premises, a replica copy on a hard drive you keep off the premises and a third replica set in the cloud. There are a number of services online to choose from, the most popular being Dropbox, Google Drive and now iCloud. I personally have used all three, but favour Google Drive for it’s cost effectiveness (1 terabyte of storage for $9.99/month vs Dropbox 100 gigabytes for the same monthly cost). Do your research and select the provider that offers you what you need at the time you sign up – it is easy to add storage as you grow so no need in paying for more than you will be using.
Categorize your images: there are many ways to sort through images (by year, location, subject matter, etc). Think about and establish categories that make sense for your business. If you are real estate firm this may be a price range (homes $1m and up), or a mining business with global operations you may need to a box for “people and communities” or product group. Be critical and try to keep the categories to a minimum. If you are working through your personal photo library, you might choose “family”, or sort by year.
Use keywords: once you’ve created all the right bins to put your images in, add a few relevant keywords to every image. Adding keywords can be done in batches with software like Aperture or Lightroom, or even Photoshop. If, for example, a set of images all pertain to a specific event you can add the event title (gala dinner, or keynote speech, etc) to all the files at once by accessing the Batch Change function. Adding keywords is time consuming no matter how you do it, but once done it saves years of time later and makes it easy to search and find what you are looking for. Be your own Google
Automate as much of your workflow as possible: use technology to your advantage. All image management software have many ways to help you sort and organize your image library. It takes some time to learn the ins and outs of a given program, but that up front investment in learning will pay off down the road as your image library grows.
Do it right the first time. The best time to organize your images is right after they are taken. Sort, delete duds, categorize, add keyword tags and store in triplicate your files when they are fresh. Get into the habit of doing this and, just like flossing your teeth regularly, eventually you won’t remember how you ever lived without doing it. Automate as much of your workflow as possible and if all else fails, outsource the work to a photographer to do it for you.