Folder Structure Organisation

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by fo0L, Jan 16, 2009.

  1. fo0L macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2009
    Hi All,

    Have taken up an interest in photography over the last couple of months and with the purchase of my Canon 450d and Macbook Pro comes the big decision of how to sort out all the photos i've been snapping.

    I'm using Lightroom but it's a bit of a mess at the moment with all my photos in a couple of folders and no real order to it all so i figured i'd ask you seasoned vets what folder structures have worked best for you?

    Many thanks!
  2. SuperSpiker macrumors member

    Sep 20, 2008
    Take a look at this thread for an example of a good file/folder structure.

    In the end the best way to organize files and folders is the way that works for YOU.
  3. shady825 macrumors 68000


    Oct 8, 2008
    Area 51
    Have you tried Aperture? (Free 30 day trial from Apple)
    My pictures were a mess before also but Ive been working hard to keep some order. You should try to get it in line as soon as you can. The bigger your library gets, the less motivated you will be to organize it later. Anytime I import pictures to my Mac I organize them right away. It's a good habit to get into.
  4. TuffLuffJimmy macrumors G3


    Apr 6, 2007
    Portland, OR
    Considering that the OP already has LightRoom and Aperture and LightRoom both do the exact same thing I don't think he really needs Aperture.

    I use

  5. shady825 macrumors 68000


    Oct 8, 2008
    Area 51
    I liked Aperture better than Lightroom. Thats the only reason I was suggesting it. He said Lightroom is a mess. We dont know if its because he doesnt like the way it works... I was just offering another program that might help.
  6. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    Lightroom isn't the problem, the folders are the issue. With Aperture I'm fairly sure you can mess up the folders/organisation.

    Me, I use store all my images in Year/Month/Date folders (well my Canon software does it for me) to find images I keyword and search for those words when i'm looking for something.
  7. jaseone macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    Houston, USA
    I use Lightroom and have it import all pictures into Pictures/Lightroom in a YYYY/MM/YY folder structure, I then try to tag all the images (oh how I wish LR had face recognition) and I have also just recently started to categorize my shoots with collection sets for categories & sub categories and then collections for the individual shoots.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The best way, and realy the only way that works is to just NOT sort photos into folders. Just don't do it. Well OK us the camera name and the data. For example I'l use "d50_090117" as the folder name for images downloaded today.

    Then what you do is add meta-data tags to all the images. these specify the subject, type of shot, location and so on.

    Later to find images by searching onthese tags.

    Programs like Aperture and iPhoto make this easy. But Adobe Bridge works well to. If you use Lightroom then you have Bridge.

    Sorting images into folders will never work. For example for example where does the photo of Mary and her dog Spot, taken on Feb 1985 in San Fransico go? In the "Spot" folder I'd guess or maybe the "feb 1985" folder? You can't win. Just tag it and toss it "some[place".
  9. TuffLuffJimmy macrumors G3


    Apr 6, 2007
    Portland, OR
    This is not the best plan. Obviously that would work for someone and their point and shoot on a family vacation, but for anyone who uses photography as a hobby/profession this doesn't work. All things need to be organized into projects (this way you don't get images from some other project when you search "humming bird" if you only want the birds from your last trip instead of another. Also It's easier at a glance to see the groupings of the photos instead of narrowing everything down by date using the meta data. When you search for something using the date or other meta data, you can only see those things, where with projects, subfolders and albums you can easily switch from one to another, or even see both at once.
  10. jaseone macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    Houston, USA
    Say what? Adobe Bridge is completely separate to Lightroom, Bridge is included with the likes of Photoshop and can be used in place of Lightroom but is far less featured.

    Having my folder structure to be Year / Month / Day allows me to easily drill down to a particular day plus it keeps the number of files per folder to a manageable level.

    The Lightroom Catalog spans this entire directory structure so I can get as granular as I like with filtering by meta data plus I can create catalog sets and catalogs as necessary to separate out particular shoots without affecting the directory structure.
  11. Mr. G4 macrumors 6502

    Mr. G4

    Mar 29, 2002
    Rohnert Park, CA
    There is a program call Image Ingester that download your image from your card reader and rename them organize them the way you want...while it's doing that it also insert exif data such as your name or whatever info you want automatically into your photos. Here is the flow chart of how it does it.

  12. numbersyx macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2006
    I get the point which is probably why iPhoto has added the new Faces and Places folders in iLife 09. I do both meta tagging and folder organization to get the best of both worlds. Can then search by event and subject...
  13. Narcosynthesis macrumors member

    Dec 21, 2008
    I use the supplied Canon software for downloading and basic editing for my 400d, so use the 'standard' system from there.
    When you download images, they are automatically sorted into folders by date, so everything you shot during one day will be in the same folder, and if you do have one shoot over the tick at midnight, or multiple shoots in one day it is easy enough to manually reorganise the relevant photos to a single or multiple folders as needed. I then add a tag to the end of the folder name so I know what set of photos are in the folder - I can easily scan down to roughly the correct date for the photos I want, then read the titles to find the exact folder.

    they are all listed along the lines of:
    2009_01_14 (Crathes Castle)
    2009_01_17 (Aberdeen beach)

    That works for me and the volume of shooting I do, and the basic sorting is all done via the bundled Canon software.
    As the folders mount up over time I may further sort them, so all 2007 photos could be put into a master 2007 folder, 2008 into a 2008 folder and the new stuff downloading as they have been to cut the list of shoots down but still have a simple enough organisation.

    I did have some confusion when I went on holiday to the US (I am usually in the UK) and forgot to correct the time difference in the camera, rookie mistake, but one easily corrected by manually sorting them as I wanted later on.
  14. ajpl macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2008
    Sorry, but this advice is not only terrible, but also useless and simply wrong in many ways - for example if you use Bridge a very powerful and useful programme, it relies on a good folder structure. Same problem with Finder. Not to mention that Bridge comes with Photoshop not Lightroom.

    The sensible way to do things is to organise by folder in a way that all programmes and OSs can recognise. Much safer. Then add metadata/tags.
    Using Aperture or iPhoto to sort things out means you are stuck with them for the next 40/50/60yrs. Will Apple even exist then, let alone these programmes? They've nearly gone under before - MS helped bail them out :eek:. Even the biggest companies can fail and vanish - something only underlined by recent events. Plus Apple has a history of changing how they do things and then old software won't work.

    If you organise by date and label and then add metatags you have the best of both worlds.
    Also, metatags aren't so much use when you repeatedly photograph someone/something. Plus you have to remember the tag! Something that never gets mentioned when tagging is recommended. Forgetting someone's name is not unusual for example, whereas if you browse through well labelled folders you can find what you are looking for even if you do not know what it is called. Though if the programme has a heirachical list of tags, then you can be also prompted by looking through list.
    Also once you file by date, you then tend to remember when things happen better as a result of the labelling process.

    An example of date file structure
    --/2009-01-17 Triangle Centre
    --/2009-01-17 Tooting Lido
    --/2009-01-18 St Pancreas
    --/2009-01-12 Frankie Shoot

    Files are named '2009-01-17 Triangle Centre 001.CR2', '2009-01-17 Triangle Centre 002.CR2'....etc.
    This folder and naming method ensures than files and folders sort consistently in various OSs and programmes. Date goes at front, not at end. Naming like this 'd50_090117' is also awful as it is difficult to read unless you are a computer as well as rubbish for sorting. If you use more than one camera, the folders from a shoot will not be adjacent.
    This also avoids the 05-10-2008 problem as that could be May or October, depending on where you are, as well as the bad sorting that results.

    Once this folder sorting is done then add the metadata. - Caveat - it's a very time consuming process if you want to tag properly.

    As for Mary and Spot - Easy
    --/1985-02-17 Mary and Spot
    and now metatag them as well. Not exactly difficult!
  15. ajpl macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2008
    You can alter EXIF time stamp to correct for such boo-boos. Google for how to do so.
    A more awkward issue is when you shoot past midnight as some of your files are from say Tuesday and some are from Wednesday - this really messes up batch renaming.
  16. Zer0 macrumors regular

    May 22, 2007
    I so agree with this..... It is a bad idea tying up your photo organization to any given software. I prefer to give descriptive names to my pictures as well. Use a folder heirarcy of your choice (year/place/description etc) and then rename the picture itself as description-001, description-002 etc. One problem with this however is cross referencing. Lets say you went on a holiday and also shot a nice picture of a sunset. Since the name of your photo as well as folder will reflect the name of the vacation the sunset picture will get lost in it. For this we can probably use the keywording or meta taging of the software being used. With this solution, if you do move to a different software tomorrow, you will not loose a lot!

    Also I dont think adding the date at the front is really necessary. Any software you use (or even the basic explorer/finder) will usually allow you to sort the photos by the date taken/edited etc
  17. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Jul 16, 2007
    I'm gonna join the chorus in saying that metadata alone is not an acceptable way to manage files.

    Doing metadata only will probably work for a while, and may even work forever for the casual shooter. But as already mentioned, what happens if you want to quickly switch management programs?

    Of course, quickly is a relative term. And while it would be possible to, from the metadata, reassemble your in-program hierarchy, it would be much easier to have a file system already set up that preserves the hierarchy you would like to use.

    It's not that difficult to arrange files by date... in fact, on import in Aperture, you have the option to do a few things. You may batch name change, batch add metadata, and also choose where the file goes.

    In Aperture you may choose between managed (Aperture completely controls the file structure, you see nothing) and referenced. Within referenced, upon import, you can choose to leave the files where they are (if you've already completed the part of your workflow that handles file management/placement) or copy/move them into a set of files. I personally choose year/month/day, with individual files appearing at each day in the format yyyy_mm_dd-projectname, but Aperture allows you to choose from a variety of file formats.

    Of course, I think Aperture keeps edits in a sidecar, that is the originals are stored in this hierarchy, but nondestructive edits are held in a separate file in a different place. The plus is that everything is non-destructive. The minus is that if you just copied and pasted your photos to another computer you'd lose the edits (although you could easily batch export).

    If you really feel that using a file system would be a hassle, and you also strongly believe that you'll always properly and consistently tag your photos, then the metadata option proposed may be for you. But I think there's a reason that so few photographers rely on metadata alone (actually, this thread was the first place where I heard of a photographer intentionally not using a dated file structure).
  18. dlegend macrumors 6502

    Jan 11, 2009
    Northern VA (outside DC)
    I just re-organized mine like the following.

    01 January
    01 New Years Day
    03 Zoo pics
  19. SWC macrumors 6502

    Jan 6, 2004
    I use this same structure. I personally don't care whether it was taken on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Unless its a vacation most projects are in a single day anyhow. If it really does come down to it I can check the exif.
  20. ajpl macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2008
    Not if exif data is stripped out which is the case for web images.
    And date created is a nebulous concept as sometimes it's the date copied or date of the new file version as opposed to date taken. Software is not consistent with regard to this from my experience.

    Date at front simply avoids these issues and allows for easier sorting. I used to have date at end and found so many problems, I changed to date at front.
    For example, a date created sort may actually jumble your carefully labelled images. How? Easy I shoot several overlapping subjects over a day and some things several times. I then label them date-description-oo1.jpg or what ever, now if I sort by date metadata then the subjects will get mixed up, whereas if I label by date then description, I can sort by subject and time. Your method cannot do that unless you place each subject in separate folders which may be unnecessary and more inconvienient.
  21. ajpl macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2008
    I do long shoots at times, one was 5 weeks and as certain things happened each week on certain days, my standard structure of 2009 > 2009-01-Jan > 2009-01-18 works very well as I simply added the day of week folder as well and then have the specific date-descriptions folders inside that. I know that some things happened only on a Friday and so could quickly look in Friday folders without having to look at a calendar to work out day of week.
    This is like metada tagging of folders in a sense, but I can use any programme to quickly look for the files via the OS's file open dialogue box, which is sometimes the most convienient way to get a file into the programme
  22. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    Hey! thanks for posting this link. that looks like a new program.

    to the OP, someone else said it best - depends on what works best for you.

    for me, i use Name Mangler to rename my files sequentially by date upon importing. for example, today's pics would be named: 2009-01-19_01 etc..etc..

    I put all my untouched images into My photos folder with the folder structure looking like:

    - January
    - 2009-01-19
    - pictures for that day listed

    - folder for each month as above

    Since I'm not a professional, I don't have client jobs so my album structure with Aperture (would probably look the same if I had LRoom) is identical to the above.

    In terms of editing, I make my changes (red eye, dust specks) in aperture.

    Then i keyword tag, but I will admit that I'm WAY behind on this aspect. Something I need to do better.

    The link provided for Image Ingester is something I'm going to look at b/c it would be neat to edit the exif information and have that tagged to each photo. I'm not a pro at aperture so I need to research if it will make smart albums based on the exif. I so, that would be neat as it would do the smart albums without keytagging in AP, plus if i ever changed photo apps, the exif would have the data for keywords moving forward.

  23. ajpl macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2008
    The big problem I have with programes that rename/add metadata etc to your images if you import is that most of the time your images with need a bit more individual attention The whole point of naming files, adding metadat is to differentiate, so if you do it en masse when ingesting then you lose the discrimination necessaruy for finding files.
    Plus I like to check the data has all copied by comparing properties for original files and the two places they are copied to before deleting from card. So if you do use software that adds info, it needs to data verify - before modifying images.
  24. ajpl macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2008
    BTW in case you didn't know you can get LR to move your files to a new location and sort the images into folders by dates - such as 2009-01-19, 2009-01-21, 2009-01-24....etc. All you have to do then is put the folders into months and relevant year.
    Beware - LR does ignores some image files and all video files so if you use LR to import, move, copy files, these will be left behind. I never use LR to ingest for this reason as some of my cameras shoot video and I do not want to risk not importing files and deleting them - if working whilst tired.

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