It’s easy to post your photos on Facebook. What’s not so easy is managing them—organizing all your digital files so that you can find individual pictures without scrolling through hundreds.
Bradly Treadaway, digital media coordinator and faculty member at the International Center of Photography in New York, knows how overwhelming the task can be. He recently digitized about 5,000 printed photos and slides from his family, some of which date back 180 years. Developing a system for managing your photos is “like learning a new language,” he says.
The key to staying organized is doing a lot of work up front to sort and label the photos when you first transfer them from camera to computer. Mr. Treadaway keeps his main collection on a hard drive, rather than in a Web-based archive, because he feels that photo-management programs for computers offer more choices for how to edit, share and retain the photos.
Mr. Treadaway uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom; for nonprofessionals, he suggests programs like iPhoto or the desktop version of Google‘s Picasa.
He starts by importing files from his camera into “albums,” or computer folders, that are titled by date and event, for instance, “Thanksgiving 2010.” On days when he just takes several snapshots, he files them in a more generic album such as “Springtime 2011,” where recent photographs of friends hanging out at Central Park wound up. Eventually, groups of albums are collected in a folder for the year.
Each time he imports new photos, Mr. Treadaway labels them with important terms, such as the name of an event or date. Then he adds as many as 10 more keywords to specific photos. For the birth of his nephew, for instance, he tagged photos with his nephew’s name, the birth date, the hospital location and the names of family members holding his nephew. These data help him search for photographs later.
Typically, he transfers photos from his camera to his computer at least once a month or just after an event. His photos also get backed up on an external hard drive on a regular basis.
After labeling, Mr. Treadaway uses the software’s star rating system to signify which shots he likes the best. Most software has stars or color labels to help users pinpoint favorites.
“If I have 10 photographs of the same thing, one would be the superior, with the best expression and the best composition,” he says.
Once he finds the best shots, he creates edited collections of his initial uploads. Collections, which are somewhat like “playlists” on iTunes, can range from the best pictures of an event to his favorite photos from all of the travel he’s done that year.
Mr. Treadaway reassesses his photo collections annually and selects his favorite shots for the year, which he then edits and shares. Mr. Treadaway recommends that everyone spend a few minutes editing their images. If nothing else, “most of this software also has a one-button autocorrect,” he says.
To help him visualize how prints will look on paper, Mr. Treadaway prints out a contact sheet with small images from each annual collection. Afterwards, he’ll make prints or share online links with friends. Usually, he uploads snapshots he wants to share to the Flickr website.
Sometimes Mr. Treadaway will create photo books, such as those available on Shutterfly or Snapfish, to give as presents. By this time, he’s winnowed down his shots to only the best.
“The editing process is about chiseling away the excess,” he says