Personally, I think I have a fairly average size archive of images for someone who, in part, makes their income through photography—just over 300,000 photographs. I’m not certain that number is fairly average, but I do work with clients that have far more than I do, which helps give me that impression. One client I work with has a catalog of over 5 million images. My point is that digital capture allows us to create a quantity of images in unprecedented numbers. As your library grows, organizing your photos becomes increasingly complex.
And whether you are a so-called pro photographer or not, whether or not you have 5 million or 5,000 images, pixels today are free, as they say. We aren’t burdened with cost of photo development, so we’re all taking more photographs. As a result, keeping them organized is a challenge like never before.
Once upon a time, we photographers had drawers or boxes filled with slides and negatives. We shot a lot less, and managing it all was simpler. Today, we have hard drives, and organizing your photos—knowing how to properly wield the field of ever-evolving software, wrapping our heads around what metadata is, how best to keyword, what folder structure we should use, knowing when to star, flag or color label our images—can be a daunting task, to say the least. If I’m already speaking to you and hitting a nerve; if your folders on your hard drives are virtual dumping grounds; if it takes you longer than it should to find images, to organize your images—keep reading.
Welcome to part one of a four-part article series on organizing your photos with Lightroom Classic. For those of you who don’t use Lightroom Classic, rest assured that the principles I’ll speak of are not software platform-dependent, only the tools I refer to in Lightroom Classic. This is a crucial point to understand when designing an organizational workflow. How and why one uses keywords, names their images or sifts through EXIF metadata doesn’t change when using Lightroom versus another organizational tool. Consequently, learning from the perspective of “why,” in conjunction with “how,” will help you master image archive organization.