How to Organize Your Digital Photos
Get organized through tagging.
Today’s topic is how to organize your pictures on your computer. The quick and dirty tip is to use a good program that lets you tag photos and navigate via tag cloud.
How to Organize Digital Photos
Listener Vienne writes:
With the popularity of digital photos, I have difficulties [organizing] the thousands of digital photos in my computer hard drive. I am a very organized person, and would welcome your advice.
In the past, we had only memories. Like the time Mom ran through the supermarket with an apple pie on her head yelling, “Equal rights for all!” and then tore open her blouse in solidarity with oppressed workers. That was great. If we’d had cameras, we would have captured the moment … and reviewed it years later to discover that Mom had actually picked up a package of apple pie filling and her blouse remained closed. That photo would remind us what she really said was “ I need equal portions of green and red apples, right? I wonder if one of the workers can find some.” Memory is notoriously faulty. Fun, but faulty.
Digital cameras have changed all that. You can capture 525,600 pictures, you just can’t find them because they’re so disorganized. You need to organize them the way you plan to retrieve them, even though you don’t yet know what that is.
The Answer is Tags
Organize your pictures the way we organize members of endangered bird species: with tags. With birds, we put tags around their little ankles and send them into the wilderness. Then we can track the migration patterns when people send the tags back to the lab after they’ve shot and eaten the birds.
What is a Photo Tag?
With pictures, a tag is an arbitrary word we associate with the image. You can have lots of tags for an image so you can tag it any way you think you might want to find it. If there’s a picture of you and your husband, wife, life partner, or polyamorous family unit standing in the trailer park in front of your home, holding cans of Schlutz Beer, you could tag the photo with your names, with SCHLUTZ-BEER, with the date and time, or even with descriptions of the scene like HOME-SWEET-HOME or ALIBI.
Use a Tag Cloud
You find your photos with a tag cloud. Your tags are listed in a giant cloud. You click a tag to hone in on images with that tag. For example, you click SCHLUTZ-BEER and all the other tags vanish except tags appearing on images that also have the SCHLUTZ-BEER tag. Then you click on remaining tags to narrow your search. You’re left with images containing all the tags you’ve clicked.
For example, you click SCHLUTZ-BEER and see all images tagged with SCHLUTZ-BEER, including that wacky college incident you posted on Facebook (it lost you the job application, but the memory’s worth it). The tags remaining are HOME-SWEET-HOME and LAS-VEGAS. You click HOME-SWEET-HOME to see just images with both Schlutz Beer and your lovely home.
Use Tags that Describe Many Qualities
Tag as many ways as you can. Use tags that describe the event. MOHINDER’S-WEDDING or FIRST-NIGHT-I-TRIED-TEQUILA. Add tags with the month and year, like APRIL 2009. After all, Mohinder may have several weddings; you want to be able to tell them apart. If there are people in the image, tag each person’s name. CRAIG, STEPHANIE. Also tag the places, LA-JOLLA-COVE. And if there are objects, tag those too: SHRIMP or BOUQUET.
If you’re a graphic artist, tag pictures with graphic qualities so you can find the perfect photo for a brochure or ad you’re creating. You could tag the mood, ROMANTIC, FUN, PLAYFUL, the color content, WARM, COOL, COLORFUL, BLACK-AND-WHITE, and so on.
Bundle Your Tags
If you add hundreds of tags, navigation gets tricky. For that reason, categorize tags into related groups. Only the group name will appear in your cloud. Then you can click the group tag to expand it into separate tags so you can navigate. You can group your location tags into a group called LOCATION, which might expands into HOME, OFFICE, and HOT-TUB, for example
I recommend classifying tags into groups DATE, PLACES, PEOPLE, OBJECTS, and EVENTS.
Use the Best Digital Photo Software
I’ve just described the ideal solution. Bits and pieces of this organizational plan exist in all kinds of programs. Apple’s iPhoto recognizes faces, lets you tag with keywords, and groups pictures into events. Search is a royal pain, though, and events, keywords, and faces are separate program areas so you can’t navigate your collection smoothly.
On Mac and Windows, Adobe Photoshop Elements includes Adobe Bridge, where you can organize with arbitrary keywords, group keywords, and group by photographic qualities. There’s no cloud-like navigation, though, so you can’t search unless you know roughly what you’re looking for.
The Windows program tag2find comes close on the Windows platform. It isn't yet fully released, but they have free trial copies available.
The only program that does it all is Punakea for the Mac, which first introduced me to the unbelievably easy-to-use cloud navigation, which is what really makes this system sing. I’ll be giving away three free copies to listeners chosen at random. This episode’s transcript links to the entry page.
This is Stever Robbins. Follow me on twitter as follow GetItDoneGuy.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
- http://www.steverrobbins.com/getitdoneguy/092-tag-your-files/signup.php - Sign up to enter a drawing for a free copy of Punakea
- http://www.nudgenudge.eu/punakea - Punakea web site
- http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelwin/ - Adobe Photoshop elements
- http://www.tag2find.com – A Windows tagging program