With the advent of digital photography and smartphones that come with high-quality cameras, it's now too easy to take pictures and videos of every sunset, food presentation, child milestone and memorable moment that we encounter each day.
Since we don't have to be as selective about the photos we take as we did in the film developing days, we take so many that it has gotten much tougher to manage thousands of photos and find them again on our computers when we need them. All my photos before 2004, pre-digital photography, are stored in acid-free boxes or albums and organized by year or event.
Now I need a similar shoebox-like filing system for the digital files on my computer, especially the ones I don't print.
Recently, I realized that my photos had taken up so much storage on my computer that I only had 3.5 GB left on the 640 GB hard drive that I share with my children. The machine would barely run.
In a moment of desperation, I turned to two applications for my Mac desktop in order to fix the clogged storage situation quickly. Then I asked two professional photographers for some help in getting a better handle on organizing and managing photos and videos backing them up.
“This is one battle I'm constantly trying to wage. I have the same problem,” said Oklahoma City professional photographer ErickGfeller. It's gotten even tougher as cameras have improved and photo file sizes have increased, he said.
To get my photos ready for a new system, I first used the $9.99 desktop app Daisy Disk (www.daisydiskapp.com) to analyze how much space on my disk and what was taking up much of it: my photos, of course, followed by music. It's a great app, with a good visual presentation to show you what's taking up all your space in individual files, even hidden ones, on your entire hard drive or even on an external drive.
The next one I turned to was MacPaw's Gemini app, also $9.99 for the Mac (http://macpaw.com/gemini) to find duplicate photos. Since my backup storage plan included backing up photos in two places on my desktop, I had pretty much duplicate copies of every photo I had taken, including the bad ones. This app is extremely useful and well designed.
With Gemini, you drag files into the app to be scanned, and it finds your duplicates. You can then see copies of each duplicate file and where they are located and select the ones you want for deletion, either individually or as a batch. There is little danger of deleting the wrong one, and the graphics are neat — when you click on “remove files” after selecting them, the graphics simulate a paper shredder, shredding up your files and moving them to the trash.
I know there are equivalent apps designed for PCs, and MacPaw even makes a series of them for other devices, but I didn't want to recommend them without trying them out. Email me with any suggestions you have for other devices.
Now that I've cleared 70 GB of storage space on my computer and still am working to delete more duplicates, I asked Gfeller and another professional photographer, Alonzo Adams, of Oklahoma City, for some organizing and storage tips. Here is what they suggest:
1. Start organizing at the beginning, when you first import your photos from the camera to the computer.
Gfeller, who shoots a lot of portraits, said he uses the program Lightroom, a $79 software application from Adobe, to import his photos and file them on his hard drive. He'll organize his photos by date and then file them in a folder identified by the family or event name of his photo shoot that day so he can find it again. He'll rename the files according by letter when he imports them. Lightroom also lets you use keywords to tag them so you find them later, he said.
Adams, who mainly takes news and sports photos, including for The Associated Press, also renames them by event name when he uploads them to his computer.
2. Once they're uploaded, develop a system to view, rate and file them.
Adams uses Photo Mechanic (www.camerabits.com) to name and rate the images by quality (one to five stars) as he views them; he also uses this program to add captions.
Some people use this step to delete bad images, but Adams keeps all of his.
“That's just me,” he said. He tells people, though, “you have to use a system.”
Gfeller whittles his personal photos down to his favorite 50 or so using the star rating system of Adobe Bridge, another tool for viewing. He'll throw out the ones with eyes closed or out of focus and give higher ratings to the photos he likes. Bridge lets him do this fast. He won't erase his photos off memory cards until he's gone through the process of viewing and backing them up.
3. Back up your photos either online in the cloud or on an external hard drive or both.
Most photographers keep a couple of copies in case one gets lost, destroyed or deleted. External hard drives have now come down in price to less than $100 for at least a terabyte or two of storage.
Sites like Flickr.com also are good for people to upload, view and share their photos; after a recent redesign, Flickr now comes with a terabyte of storage free for any user, making it a good choice for the nonprofessional. There are a lot of smartphone and iPad apps that integrate with Flickr, too.
A similar site that Gfeller likes is 500px.com, which comes at a cost, but it gives professional photographers a way to display a portfolio. I've also used Shutterfly.com, which also lets you order prints.
Right now, I'm organizing all my photos in folders by year, then by month and by event if I can. It's helping me find past photos much easier and doesn't look so unwieldy on my desktop.
I have two backup hard drives as well and use one for old photos and another for a current computer backup.
It still isn't easy to manage and I still have some deleting to do to get rid of my duplicates. I am trying to start deleting my bad ones right away, when I first upload them, so I'm not spending so much time trying to rescue a full computer.
If you have anything that works well for you, email me, and I'll post some of the better ideas on my blog at http://newsok.com/blogs/get-appy.