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Photo Files -- Keeping Organized
Wednesday November 7, 2018   |
Bufflehead male swimming CA 12-12

After returning from the field, it’s exciting to review the digital photos you’ve taken. While you’re at it, after you go through the images for an initial look, you probably do some photo editing – deciding which photos are worthy of keeping, and which ones should be deleted. Then, within the selection process, I always pick out the real keepers – the photos that stand out that I want to keep and share as favorites. I refile these images in a keeper file named something like: Best of Fall 2018.


It’s important to keep on top of your photo editing process; try to edit your photos at least every week, if not after each outing. How you edit photos from your main file is open to personal interpretation. I like to keep something of a record of my photography, so I keep a lot of photos in my files that are not great images, but they document what I was photographing and where I was when I took a photo or series of photos. It’s fun to have these images on file to refer to “for the memories.”

Select and Delete

Then, the editing process becomes a little more cut-throat, and poor quality images get deleted –

blurry, unsharp or poorly colored images, photos with distant subjects or poorly lighted photos tend to be delete-worthy. At the other end of the process is selecting the obviously fine photos that are worthy of elevating to your “Best of” file.

White-tailed Hawk banded perched spread wings with Indigo Snake prey TX 12-16

Photo Titles

The first thing to do with the photos you consider your best is to give them a title that will dictate where the photo is positioned in a file and that will provide some simple information. Photos are automatically filed alphabetically or by number in any computer or external hard drive, so you can use this information to your advantage when writing titles for your photos and files. Everyone has their personal way of naming photos, but I’ll share my method, which has evolved over years and serves me well today.

An example of my naming method is: Ducks – Bufflehead male swimming CA 12-12. First, I categorize all my bird photos by bird group, such as Ducks, Geese, Raptors, Shorebirds, Songbirds and Wading Birds to name a few. Then, I add the species name, the sex of the bird if possible, the age of the bird if it’s not an adult, followed by a short description of what the bird is doing (flying, swimming, perched, feeding, etc.). I also add the state abbreviation to indicate where I photographed the bird, followed by the numeric month and year. A given title may be: Raptors – White-tailed Hawk banded perched spread wings with Indigo Snake prey TX 12-16. That is a more extreme description, but if you check out the photo, you can see it’s pretty appropriate. You, of course, can develop a photo naming method that works best for you.

Photo Files

After naming a photo, I leave a copy of the image in its original file; but I also copy the photo to a “Best of” file, such as Best of Winter 2018 or Best of Texas 2013 or Best Raptors.

I usually download my camera’s photo card about twice each month, but sometimes more often. Many people download after each trip afield, but I photograph for a short time most days, so I tend to wait until I have a significant download. I name these downloaded files that may include hundreds of photos by date and subject for quick reference, such as May 15-30 – Neotropical Songbirds, American Avocets feeding, first Bobolinks, White Pelicans soaring, etc.

Within my filing system, I put each downloaded file in an appropriate season file entitled Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall. When these files are complete on December 31, I file the four seasonal files along with such files as Best of Fall into an annual file named 2018 Photos. It all works very well for me as I sort through files to find photographs of certain birds or representatives of certain bird groups.

Ring-necked Pheasant male portrait ND 4-18

Photo Storage

Most photographers take so many photos that they prefer not to keep their digital photo files on their home or office computer. Instead they save their photo files in a separate external hard drive, a remote hard drive. I find this is a best bet, but I also keep a number of favorite photos on my laptop computer’s Desktop, although any location in your computer is a good plan – whatever suits you best or is more convenient for you.

Back ‘Em Up!

As with all your files, be sure to have a back-up external hard drive with a second copy of all your photo files. Keep this external hard drive somewhere separate from your “working photo files,” which you update every month or so. Your photo collection is so important that you don’t even want to think about losing it in some way – fire, theft, flooding, etc. So be sure to have a second copy “hidden” in a location outside your house (perhaps in a locked fire-proof safety deposit box stored in a building separate from your house or office).

Advanced Photo Editing

Back to your “Best of” photos: Most of your best photos will probably need a little more attention than just naming and filing them. Almost all photographs benefit by simply cropping them, which actually magnifies the subject in the process; plus cropping can eliminate unsightly or excess background elements. Cropping can be accomplished in your modern digital darkroom – your computer – using a photo editing program.

Cropping may be the only change you make to the original photo, but in some cases it is a first step in a process that can include sharpening, lightening, or adding contrast; and you can even use a “fill flash” technique or try a “one-step photo fix.” But I will share a few insights to these advanced photo editing techniques in an upcoming Photography article.

For now, you have this guide to help keep your photos organized, plus some advice about how to keep your valuable photo files protected and safe.

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

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