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Deciding upon a suitable categorization strategy may seem overwhelming at first, but it isn't. Fortunately, most catalog programs allow one the ability to change the tagging structure very easily. Tags are generally kept in a seperate database, rather than with the individual files (unlike IPTC). This way, you can simply change the structure or names of the categories without having to edit every file in your collection. So, developing your categorization strategy can done over time, increasing in levels as you see fit.
An important thing to remember is that your categories should aim for efficient use of hierarchy. In other words, start with the most general categories and then refine down from there. Only add an extra level of hierarchy if you have more than a few categories at a particular level. It is best to describe this by way of an example.
The category hierarchy should be suited to your particular interests in photography. Obviously, a wildlife photographer will have much greater emphasis on animal categorization than the average photographer.
At the very least, one typically wants to have main categories for people, places and probably events. Within each of these, one can then further refine
The following table shows an extract from a tagging hierarchy, to give an idea of the various types of categories. I am currently using about 270 categories in my database, and many of my photos have a half-dozen or more tags assigned.
|Example Category Structure|
1-Unassigned Images Collection _TO_SORT Cloverdale Rodeo RallyTour2004 ... Formulae Rating1+ Rating2+ Rating3+ Rating4+ Rating5+ ... IPTC State Edit Resized Hidden Scan CanoScan 5000F CanoScan N640P Photo 10d Slide Tags Events Birthdays Fashion Festival Holidays Parade Parties Banquet Club Houseboating Wedding Reception Ceremony ... Misc Humour NightShots Oldies Portrait Sports Activities Biking Flying Freediving Racing Wakeboarding Windsurfing ... Still Life Test People Animals Bears Birds Frogs Insects Other Pets Cappy Mr. Honks ... Reptiles Sealife Family ... Friends Arnold Rambo Cinderella Spongebob Strangers Places Africa Asia Europe North America Canada BC ... Carribean Bonaire Dominican Republic Jamaica Hawaii ... Oceania South America Peru Studio Work Cemetery Projects Cards Memories Scrapbook Ratings Rating1-Excellent Rating2-Great Rating3-Good Rating4-OK Rating5-Bad ToRate Things Corvette ...
Examples of special categories I use:
- Unassigned Images - Contains all images that do not have any categories assigned yet
- Collection - A single-use tag, one that is used to keep a set of photos together (eg. a particular event, etc.) that doesn't typically suit the normal hierarchical tagging methods.
- _TO_SORT - Images that have just been imported and not categorized yet. This is the primary means by which I can tell whether or not I have finished adding all of the necessary tags to a file.
- Formulae - Contains the "dynamic categories" supported by IMatch. These are generally temporary "selections" that span multiple tags. For example, I might want to create a category that has all pictures of my wife and I, that are out of the country. It also contains my "ratings selections", which are formulae that show a particular quality rating or higher. So, I can select Rating3+ to show all photos that are rated Rating3-Good to Rating1-Excellent.
- Edit - Used to mark non-originals. Anytime that I create a duplicate from the original and modify it in some way, I tag it with the Edit category.
- Resized - Indicates that an image has been resized from the original. The image might also contain edits.
- Scan - Used to mark any images that are derived from a scan. This includes scans of prints, slides, negatives and even digital photographs of slides.
- CanoScan 5000F - Indicates the type of scanner used to create the scan. Since I don't attach an ICC profile to scanned images automatically, I simply tag them in the database. This way I can always attach my custom profile to the images later.
- Photo 10d - Indicates that the scan is actually a digital camera photo from a slide (an unusual way to scan a slide / transparency).
- Slide - Indicates that the scan is from a slide scanner.
Collections versus Categories
Most catalog programs support the notion of a collection in addition to the usual categories. Collections are often treated by the software as simply another category, but conceptually it is worth treating them differently as a user.
Categories are used for identifying characteristics of each photo. In other words, it answers the usual questions of who, what, when, how, where, etc. The idea is that these tags will be used for general groupings, and applied to many photos over time. Categories are not really intended to be used for one-off events.
Collections, on the other hand, are intended for one-off groupings of images. This is often used for marking photos as being from a one-time event (eg. superbowl_2004, or in a temporary group for further processing (eg. send_to_web, to_print, etc.)
Even though the software treats collections much in the same way as categories, it is helpful to keep the distinction clear. If you find that a category you have created is probably only going to be used once, then this might be better suited to a collection. Dated events usually fall into collections.