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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

A few things I’ve learned while organizing my photo library

September 17, 2006

I woke up earlier this week to read an announcement on TUG by Josue about the Keyword Assistant for iPhoto had been updated for the latest version of iPhoto and for Intel-based Macintoshes. I was thrilled!

But then it dawned on me the task that was ahead of me. I had been without the Keyword Assistant for months, and I refuse to use iPhoto’s built in tagging features, so I was months behind on the categorization of my photo library. Not to mention that I had never caught up in the first place.

Since the update was released I have been feverishly tagging my photos with their appropriate keywords. Even though it is an incredibly mundane process, it can get addictive. I try to fit the tagging of my photos into my everyday activities, so I do a few hundred at a time. I’m still behind by a little over 11,000 photos, which says a lot being that I’ve managed to get about 7,700 done so far.

While I was going through this process, I’d been also rotating the photos, adding them to appropriate albums, and adjusting the date-taken on some. This process has led to the following few observations that I recommend all keep in mind.

Set the date on your camera

Your digital camera has a date setting that will be automatically added to each photos information when you take the photo. This helps with the sorting of your photos in chronological order. It may seem like a no-brainer, but when you get a new camera be sure to set the date and time before you start snapping photos. This will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Tag photos on import

If you are doing any type of keyword tagging, do it when you import your photos, rather than waiting until later. This will ensure that you don’t get behind on the process, and make your searching life much easier.

Learn from Flickr: Create albums

Flickr allows you to create photo sets (or albums). These can be used for absolutely anything, grouping photos together at your will rather than by meta-data. For example, you can have an album full of photos of yourself, your friends, and lightning – and it wouldn’t matter. Albums are less for classification and more for getting to a group of photos easily.

My suggestion is to create albums based on events to find photos quickly and easily.

Back up your photo library

Again, this might seem like a “duh” – but you’d be doing yourself a huge favor if you backed up your entire photo library. I have my entire photo library on a separate firewire drive, as well as on DVD. If I was really smart I’d take those DVDs and put them in someone else’s home, this way if my home burnt down and I lost all my computer equipment, I’d still have our photos. The same could be said for music, documents, work files, etc. Burn a few DVDs worth of information and toss them to your closest friend to put in their closet. It may just make the difference someday.

So, after I follow the tips above I have three main ways that I categorize my photos. The first would be date. By having accurate dates and times on my photos I can quickly use the calendar feature and find photos from any date in my digital photo taking history. The second would be by keyword. Each photo is tagged with keywords relating to what is in the photo. People, places, and things is what I usually follow – though sometimes I also add the event into the mix. The third way, is by photo albums. I have photo albums for every vacation, as an example. This allows me to quickly rifle through every single photo I’ve taken on all my vacations, or I can limit it by a specific date range (i.e. all photos I’ve taken on vacation in 2004) or by specific vacation like all the vacation photos I’ve taken in 2004 in Myrtle Beach.

I still have a very long way to go, and hopefully I’ll find even better ways to categorize my photos that makes it fun to go back and find stuff accurately and quickly. But now, I’ve got 11,000 photos to tag.

[tags]iphoto, photo library, keyword assistant, photos, tagging, keywords[/tags]