Managing photographs

With a digital camera it is easy to make lots of photographs. Putting the photos on a computer and the ability to find the pictures can by quite challenging. In this blog post I will try to explain what I do for organising my photos and what other options there are.

In the last years I have used multiple ways of organising my photos and I discarded most of the ways, but I think I found a useful one now, but I had not the time to convert the old systems to this new one.

File names

The names the camera gives the photograph is very limiting. Most of the time it contains a few letters, an underscore and a number that keeps incrementing with every photo that is taken. The problem with this method is that after 9999 pictures, the camera starts again with 0000. This means that we can get files with the same name.

When I get my photos from my camera, I rename those images to a format containing the date, time and a counter. So instead of DSC_0293.NEF I get 20010211_185216_001.nef as my file name. As you can see it will be more difficult to get the same file name twice. If you have less images and more time, you can also give all the images a name with an explanation, but I didn’t find that useful in my workflow. For renaming I use (at the moment) gthumb, an application for linux to show and organise images, but other programs can do that as well.

Directory structure

Putting all the images in one folder is not very useful, but putting the photographs in separate folders can make it easier to find your photos again. There are a lot of ways to organise photos in folders. A lot of people and applications tend to organise photos using the date of the photograph, for example 20112\11 for photos that are taken on that day, but most of the time it is not clear what happened on that day and what the pictures are about unless you look at those pictures in more detail.

This is the way I try to organise my photos at the moment:

  • Birthdays
    • David 2010
    • David 2011
  • Holidays
    • Salzburg 2010
    • England 2010
    • France 2011
  • Nature
  • <name of friends>
    • Flying kite
    • Thanksgiving 2010
  • Weddings

So basically I have some top level categories, each containing sub categories, all with are descriptive enough for me to find the series of photos where I am looking for.


Another options is to use software to put the photos in a catalogue. The big advantage of this is that you have more options for searching for specific photos. In the a catalogue not only the location of the file is saved, but also all the data that the camera stores in de file (exif data) and all other information you give to the photos, such as geographical information, tags and ratings.

The downside of most cataloguing  software is that it is not always clear what kind of directory structure the software uses, so you always have to run the software to find your photos.

Although I can see the advantages of using cataloguing software, at the moment I don’t use it. It’s not that I don’t want to, but more that I didn’t find a good cataloguing program. There are some Open Source projects that give you the ability to create catalogues, but they are not very useful since they can’t make simple edits on raw photos. Bibble has cataloguing capabilities, but I am not sure whether I want to use Bibble.

So for the moment I keep managing my photographs based on a simple directory structure  and try to get all the photos organized.


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