Photo Organizing – What Works for You?

One of my colleagues asked me recently about how I store, organize, and archive my photos. The system I use works very well for me. Since no two photographers have the same workflow, it’s important to think about and design a system that is tailored to your own particular workflow.

I’m not one of those photographers who takes thousands upon thousands of photographs every year. I do have a rather demanding full-time career other than photography that occupies much of my time, but I probably do take more photographs than the average person does.

When coming up with this system, I had several main objectives. I needed something that would allow me the freedom to move between my laptop and my home computer. I needed an effective way to organize and retrieve photos. And, I required a system that would allow me to safely archive and backup all my images.

Apple’s “Aperture” is the program I use to organize my images. I use yearmonthday_projectname_camera format to create my projects. For example, I may have a project called 20100930_BishCreek_5dmii. Aperture is installed on both my home computer and my laptop, and allows me the freedom to import and export libraries/projects between the two for editing.

As far as hardware goes, I have two 500 Gb mini-G drives (made by G-technology) daisy-chained via firewire 800 on my laptop. I use one to store my current year’s library, and the other is for the vault or backup of that library. I also use a 1 Tb G-drive on my laptop for a time machine backup of my entire system. The mini G-drives are great as they are very portable and fit into my travel case I’ve dubbed “road warrior”. I have a SanDisk multi-card reader for uploading images from my camera to the computers.

My home computer has a “G-Safe” attached via firewire 800. The G-Safe is two 2 Tb drives operating in Raid 0 (mirror image). These drives contain all my Aperture libraries and are hot swappable. I can remove one and store it off-site for extra security. I also have an external 1 Tb G-drive that I use for a time machine backup of the home computer.

That’s about it. It’s a system that works for me without being overly complicated. It’s reliable, and the firewire 800 drives allow fast data transfer rates which are especially important when dealing with RAW files.

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