Welcome back to our series on Spring Cleaning your photos (in the Summer time).
We have already finished step one, gathering our images together, and step two, designing a system to organize and store our images.
If you missed our earlier posts, no worries. Just click the links above to get caught up.
I mentioned in our earlier posts that this is a big task. It helps to tackle the steps in small chunks rather than trying to do it all in one long marathon session and ending up wanting to tear your hair out. Set aside 20 minutes a day, or an hour a week to work on it and commit to keeping that schedule until you are done. Small steps add up!
This week we are going to talk about cataloguing our images.
This step really applies more to digital images than it does to analog, or printed, photos. Having a good cataloguing system will help you to stay organized and make finding your images a breeze which will save you a ton of time in the long run.
Catalogue software allows you to organize, rank, keyword, and potentially edit your images all in one place. Essentially, you are creating a searchable database of your images so that you can avoid looking through 80 folders to try to locate that one image of Fluffy doing that cute thing. Organizing our file and folder naming last week is a great first step, and having a catalogue will take you to the next level.
There are many, many options when it comes to catalogue software. Some of the most popular are Google’s Picasa, Adobe Bridge, Apple iPhoto, and Adobe Lightroom.
If you want to see an exhaustive listing and comparison of all of the available products there is a good list over at ImpulseAdventure that you can check out here.
Personally, I use Abobe Lightroom whcih is what I will be outlining here. The general concepts here can be applied to most any catalogue, your specific steps may just be a little different. The following instructions are a quick, get you started overview. There is so much more to what the program can do, but I don’t want to bog you down with too much information. If you want to learn more, or need more help with the steps Scott Kelby writes great, easy to follow books on many popular software programs.
Catalogues work by taking images from lots of different folders (or all of the images from one folder) and compiling them into one place. The catalogue does not change the physical location of your images on the harddrive, it just displays them all in one place making them easy to find, compare, and work with.
There are several different schools of thought when it comes to catalogues and how you choose to set up your catalogues is up to you.
Option One – one catalog per project / client
For my client work I like to make a seperate catalogue for each session or wedding. This allows my catalogues to run quickly and keeps all of my client images nicely seperated and organized which is a plus. One negative to this method is if you want to compare all of your wedding images to decide which to include in your portfolio or website you have to either go through each catalogue individually and then compare the images or you need to create another catalogue which only contains your favorites and re-import copies of the images to that catalogue. Since the catalogs do not move the images or make any changes to the original raw files, but only work on virtual copies of the images utilizing .xmp (sidecar) files you can import the same master file into multiple catalogues and edit them differently in each catalogue.
Option Two – one catalog per type of photography
For my editorial, food, and sports photography I make one catalogue per type of photography. If I have one client that I do a large volume of editorial work for I will give that client their own catalogue to keep all of my work for them together in one place. I like having my food and sports in one catalogue so that I can see the images all together in one place and visually see where my portfolios are headed and identify any weak spots to even out. I do not currently shoot as high a volume of these type of images as I do for portraits or weddings so I can keep the images all together and still maintain a decent sized catalogue. I currently have one catalogue for all my personal photography as well, but after several years the catalog is honestly getting a little out of hand, so I would advise looking at option three for personal photos.
Option Three – One catalog per time period (month/year)
Depending on the number of images that you shoot each week, month, or year so may choose to create catalogues for each month or year. I would recommend going by the year unless you take a very large number of images each month. A year gives you a good sized catalogue and allows you to look back at the end of the year and review what happened in your family that year. This will also make it easy later if you make year books for your family.
Option Four – One catalog for all images
If you are one of those people who just likes to have everything all in one place or you feel overwhelmed by breaking things up into seperate catagories just go ahead and make one catalogue for all of your images. Easy peasy, done. Do note, however, that your catalogue will get big quickly which could effect the speed at which your software runs. Smaller catalogue = faster processing.
Ultimately it is up to you which catalogue system will work best for you. Don’t stress too much about it. Pick one to try and you can always go back and do it differently later if you use one methos for awhile and decide it is not the best fit for you.
After you have decided on a system for your catalogues you will need to create your catalogues and import your photos.
When you first open Lightroom it will prompt you to create a new catalogue. Make a folder on your harddrive called “Lightroom Catalogues” or something similar and create your first catalogue in that folder. You can see below that I have sub folders inside my Lightroom Catalogues folder that correspond to my Harddrive names (MTP 001). This helps me keep track of which files are on which harddrive if I ever need to go back and pull older client images.
When you open your new catalogue it will look like this. Click the “Import” button in the lower left to get started.
One the left, you select the folder on your harddrive that contains the images that you want to import. The images from the selected folder(s) will be displayed in the center. Check the box in the corner of the images that you want to import. You can use command click or shift click to select multiple images at once. The check all or uncheck all boxes below the images are also available. If I was importing these images onto my harddrive for the first time (new photos that are not already stored on my harddrive, such as when I am importing from a memory card) I would select “copy” (for jpeg files) or “copy as dng” (for raw files) from the menu above the images. If the files are already on my harddrive and I am just adding them to the catalogue I will choose “Add”. If I choose “copy” for images that are already on my harddrive it will make new copies of the master files onto my harddrive, which would obviously take up twice the space on my harddrive and defeat the purpose of spring cleaning my images so make sure to pay attentio to which setting you use.
The boxes on the right let you make an automatic backup of your images using the “make a second copy to” box. Once again, if your files are already on your harddrive and backup, uncheck this box and skip that step.
Next, you can rename the images on import. I like to use either my catagory abbreviations plus two letters from the client name (SPJD – Sports, John Doe) or a short keyword (Germany) to help with locating files later.
The “Apply During Import” dialog box allows you to apply presets automatically on import and add copyright information and keywords to all of your photos. Copyright information is imbedded into the finished files to help protect you images from improper use. Keywords allow you to easily search your images. Only use keywords on import that apply to all of the images in the set. We will go back later and add more specific keywords to individual files.
The last box on the right lets you choose where your images will be imported and stored. If you are just adding images you will not see this option since your files are already on your harddrive. If this is the first time importing these photos, make a folder using the folder naming system we developed last week and then click import.
Once you have your files imported they will be displayed in the Library module.
Our last task for this week is to group similar images into collections if your catalogue has a lot of different types of images.
Collections are found on the left side of the Library. Click the plus button and give your collection a name. This could be by month, by subject matter, or by event. However you like to break things down. Then go back to your library, select the images for each collection, and drag and drop them into the collection folder at the left.
Once you have your collections filled you are ready for next week!
Questions? Comments? Leave them below.