Boston & New England Wedding Photographer Deborah Zoe

Boston & North Shore Wedding Photographer creating timeless imagery for classic New England weddings with a fine art approach.

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File Organization

If you're an organizational freak like me then you're going to LOVE this post.... For other this might seem a bit boring. However, when you're a small business owner responsible for thousands upon thousands of client files, File Handling and Organization is HUGELY important! 
When I worked as a news photographer I would typically have three to four assignments a day, often shooting hundreds of images at each assignment. Having a system to keep track of all the photographer's images that came through in any given day was obviously needed. We had a system of how things were to be organized and archived making it easy for editors and designers to find the images they needed when they needed them. As photographers we never deviated from this system, repeating it every time we edited and archived an assignment.  
I've taken parts of that system and applied them to my business today. It's helped to keep me sane, organized and productive throughout the year. I HIGHLY suggested that you develop your own system of image/file organization to keep you from unwanted headaches and trouble down the road. Here is my step by step approach to File Organization, File Backup and File Storage. While this system might work for me, it may not work for you. My hope it to encourage you to find a system of your own that you can repeat often and that keeps your files safe and organized! If you have any suggestions or systems that have worked for you, I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below! 
Ok let's get started! 
1. First I start with the actual files. After EVERY shoot the first thing I do is immediately download the images to my computer. If I'm traveling out of state or cannot get to my home computer right away I'll copy the images to my Hyper Drive, that way I have an immediate secondary copy of the images. 
2. On my desktop I create a folder where the Master copy of the images will live. Inside of that folder I create subfolders to hold the RAW images (copied directly from the card), my SELECTS (favorites from the original RAW files), JPGS (images edited from Lightroom), EDITS (copy of JPG folder that I edit further in Photoshop for the blog), and BLOG (the images that I have used on the blog that have been run through my blogging program Blog Stomp). 
3. Each of these folders are named in a specific way. YEARMONTHDAY_LASTNAMEOFCLIENT_TYPEOFSHOOT_FOLDERNAME. For example, the RAW folder from a wedding shot today with the last name of Parker would look like this: 121126_PARKER_WEDDING_CR2. All of the the folders follow this specific naming system and all of the images in each folder are also renamed in this way. This keeps me from mixing up any folders or files as they are individually named to reflect the shoot and are chronologically ordered. 
4. Typically after the RAW images have been downloaded to the computer I will back them up to my Drobo system. That way if my computer crashes or I have to format a card I know that the images are backed up on my Drobo before I've even edited them.  
5. After the cards have been downloaded they sit in a little container on my desk marked IN PROGRESS. That means that these images are not to the client yet and have not been edited. These cards will not be erased until I have edited the images and they are backed up. I would HIGHLY suggest that you try to purchase as many cards as it takes so that you do not have to format cards after a wedding or a shoot, especially when working several shoots/weddings in a weekend or week. If you do need to format your cards, make sure that your images are backed up in at least two different places to avoid any loss of files.  
6. From my RAW folder I pull the images in to Photo Mechanic where I tag and select the images I want to edit and deliver to the client. From Photo Mechanic I move those selected images to the SELECTS folder in the master folder. The RAW files in the SELECTS folder are what I edit in Lightroom. Once those images are edited in Lightroom they are exported to the JPG folder. If I want to edit those images further they are copied to the EDITS folder and I edit directly from this folder in Photoshop. I do it this way, so that I still have the original JPGS in case I want to change any edits later down the road.  
7. Once the RAW images have been processed and edited I take that master folder on my computer and copy it completely to my Drobo system. I then upload the JPGS and EDITS folder to my online print gallery. This way I have several backup systems in place. My Pass Galleries and client Thumb Drives also act as backup systems for the images.  
8. Once the images have been backed up at least twice, I feel comfortable to reformat my cards and start the process all over again! 
That's it! That's how I organize and handle the THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of images that I deal with on a near weekly basis!! If you have any questions about this process or have any suggestions for other photographers on how to better organize their files I'd love to hear from you!! Happy Organization! 
**EDITED TO ADD** That folder I copy to my Drobo? I never delete it...that means that I still have RAW files from the beginning of my business. And while it costs a LOT of money to keep these files in terms of storage, it is GREAT to be able to go back to images for clients without fear that I might no longer have an image they may want. Call me crazy I know!!:)