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First step, make sure you have a strategy for naming your photos effectively.
The two main strategies that are generally used are: placing files from the same "import batch" in a single folder or placing files from the same date in a single folder. The Microsoft Scanner and Camera Wizard uses the first method. I have found that the first strategy (files are organized per import batch) to be quite limiting. It is often the case that one takes photos across multiple days, all onto a single memory card before downloading. This will cause multiple days' or events' worth of photos to be placed in the same folder. This sort of organization is rarely useful, and makes the task of searching for photos from a particular day more difficult. A goal of the folder hierarchy is to ensure that: there is a manageable number of photos in each folder, and that there is a manageable number of subfolders in each parent folder.
If one is often taking a large number of photos in a single day, then it makes sense to have the lowest level folder named for a year-month-day. If only a few photos are taken per month, then a lowest level folder named for year-month might make more sense.
At one level up in the hierarchy, one again has to re-evaluate the typical usage rates. If one has photos for nearly every day of the year, then it would make sense to create folders for each month (eg. year-month). Again, this would probably be overkill for those who don't shoot that often, where this extra level (per-month) would end up creating a lot of sparsely-populated folders. It is best to look at an example, this one being the method I use as my folder strategy:
Examples of Digital Photo Folder Organization
2004/ 2004-01-10/ files... 2004-01-21/ files... ... 2004-12-13/ files... 2004-12-24/ files... 2004-12-31/ files... 2003/ ... 2002/ ... 0000/ ...
|Folder hierarchy for small collections|
As I shoot every few days, I have considered changing my folder hierarchy to add another level, but I have decided against doing this. I do not find it problematic having a hundred folders within each year folder.
2004/ 2004-01/ 2004-01-10/ 2004-01-21/ 2004-01-23/ ... 2004-../ 2004-12/ 2004-12-13/ ... 2004-12-24/ 2004-12-31/
|Folder hierarchy for large collections|
The following table shows an example of my completed hierarchy, including all types of files and the folder I use.
E:\ Pictures\ 0000\ Unknown Year 0000-r0164\ Unknown Year, Scan from Print Roll 0164 00000000_r0164_40-s.jpg Known roll, unknown print #, resized 00000000_r0164_40.jpg Known roll, unknown print #, original 0000-r0166\ 0000-r4795\ ... 0000-r9999\ unknown\ Unknown Year, unknown roll, TO BE LOCATED 1999\ 2000\ 2001\ 2001-01-10\ 20010110_r3201_13.bmp Scanned print, known year, roll & photo 20010110_r3201_14.jpg 20010110_r3201_15.jpg 20010110_r3201_15-e.jpg 2002\ 2003\ 2004\ 2004-01-01\ 20040101_0556.JPG 20040101_0557.JPG ... 2004-01-04\ 20040102_0745.JPG ...
|Example of complete hierarchy|
Where to store edited versions of photos?
There are several common strategies for dealing with multiple versions of the same digital photo in your folder hierarchy. This includes edited versions (perhaps saved as a Photoshop PSD file or another file format) and resized images. Three methodologies are explored below:
- Edited versions in same directory as original
- Edited versions in subdirectory of original
- Edited versions in same intermediate directory hierarchy as original, but with different root directory
Probably the most common method is #1 as it is the one that is naturally followed by default (ie. not requiring any additional directories to be created). It is also the methodology that I currently follow, although I have been considering the alternatives as I have talked to a number of other photographers who have used #2 or #3 instead.
Examples of strategies for edited versions
An example of each of the three strategies are shown below. Note the slight differences in the folder hierarchy.
E:\ Pictures\ 2004\ 2004-01-01\ 20040101_0556.JPG 20040101_0557.JPG 20040101_0557-e.JPG 20040101_0558.JPG 20040101_0558-e.JPG 2004-01-02\ 20040102_0711.JPG 20040102_0711-e.JPG
|Example of edited versions in same directory|
The next example shows a methodology whereby the edited versions are in a subdirectory of the original photos.
E:\ Pictures\ 2004\ 2004-01-01\ 20040101_0556.JPG 20040101_0557.JPG 20040101_0558.JPG edit\ 20040101_0557-e.JPG 20040101_0558-e.JPG 2004-01-02\ 20040102_0711.JPG edit\ 20040102_0711-e.JPG
|Example of edited versions in subdirectory|
The final example shows a structure that places the edited versions in the same hierarchy as the original photo, but with a different root:
E:\ Pictures\ 2004\ 2004-01-01\ 20040101_0556.JPG 20040101_0557.JPG 20040101_0558.JPG 2004-01-02\ 20040102_0711.JPG Edit\ 2004\ 2004-01-01\ 20040101_0557-e.JPG 20040101_0558-e.JPG 2004-01-02\ 20040102_0711-e.JPG
|Example of edited versions in same hierarchy, different root|
Differences between strategies
As for the differences between strategies, it all comes down to the degree of protection / isolation of the originals versus the edited versions, and how other tools in the workflow treat the directory hierarchy. Most image catalog programs rely on a centralized database to access the photos, and so the actual directory hierarchy doesn't generally come into play. However, when one wants to script various operations (such as adding an "Edit" state tag to all photos that have been edited), being able to associate the originals with the edited versions becomes important. For such scripting scenarios, the decision on which strategy to employ depends on the flexibility of the scripting language in dealing with directory pathnames.
Impact on Applications and Scripts
The directory strategy chosen has a potential impact on the photo catalog applications or scripts. It is important to ensure how the tool uses the directory hierarchy and if one strategy is easier to handle than another. It should be noted that the Manage Versions script I wrote for IMatch has a configuration option that allows any of these three strategies to be used.