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Author Topic: Directory Layout For Files  (Read 3521 times)
dreed
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« on: July 02, 2010, 06:48:33 PM »
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Having recently acquired a new camera, I've been thinking about how I might manage its photos from what I've done previously. Various folks have recommended using more meaningful folder names, in line with what Jeff Schewe recommends in the LR tutorial, but I'm not convinced that this is necessary when my raw files aren't DNG. Why?

For those of us that "Expose To the Right" (ETR) the raw files from Canon/Nikon cameras are often not going to render into an image that looks like the end result. Those the ability to navigate to a specific CR2 or NEF file and click (or double click) to open is of little value. As too is the thumbnail presented by the operating system of that file.

In addition, now that we are shooting with digital cameras and taking more photos, going to a specific folder and browsing for a picture is not likely to be as productive as we might imagine. There's going to be a whole host of photos in there that we don't want, along side the few that we do. So descriptive folder names for the out-of-camera pictures is not necessarily helpful.

Rather, I think that it helps to think of the filesystem for out-of-camera photos as being the storage system for the database of pictures that we use Lightroom to access and generate images that we consider worthwhile from. As such, it is less important about how the files are organised except for the fact that large directories should be discouraged because of the generic filesystem issues. To this end, I don't think it matters a whole lot whether a CR2 file is 1D100/IMG_1234.CR2 or July_4_2010_Fireworks/IMG_0023.CR2 - navigating directly to it is not worthwhile.

In terms of being able to find a particular picture, I think it is the tagging, keywords, rating and label in LR that should be our focus and if we want to be able to find the final copies of images that we decide are good, then appropriately structure the directories and files that the final images are exported to.

For example if I spend an evening shooting (say) 100 pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, copy them all into GGB_July_2_2010_Evening as part of a LR import and then decide there is 2 or 3 worthwhile ones, it doesn't help me later if that GGB directory has 100 raw files in it because I'm still faced with the task of determining which ones I liked again. It's likely easier for me to use LR to find the pictures I want/like or to look in a separate directory tree altogether.

I suppose the exception to all of this is if you delete all of your CR2 files that "don't make the cut" because then you're left with a smaller number of relevant digital negative files.

Thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2010, 01:39:38 AM »
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Bottom line is that there are a bazillion ways to organize files in Lightroom - if you find out that does what you want it do, then use that!

Mike.
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2010, 02:39:21 AM »
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You've got some of the ideas right, or at least are thinking in the right directions. Put your pictures in simple date-based folders, and don't waste any time trying to categorise your photos through the file system. Think of the file system and your folders purely in terms of storage - making best use of disc space, being sure you have complete back up, knowing you could restore today's state after a crash etc.

As for categorising and finding images, make full use of keywords, collections and smart collections. Give the better images higher ratings and use the filter panel when you need to see just the higher rated images, not the 100 or so that were worth keeping (if images don't make the cut, why keep them?). And don't waste time then moving files to other folders - keywords and other metadata are far more flexible than folders, and LR's filtering tools will filter out images when you need.

Do not leave your files as IMG_0023.CR2. Make sure they are renamed YYYYMMDD_1234_description.cr2 so that you can never mix up two or more IMG_0023.CR2 in Finder/Explorer/backup. Lastly, do not use "July" - use 07 so that you can sort images by filename and that'll equate to capture time.

I should add that in my opinion most YMMV arguments are cop-outs. Treat yourself to a copy of Peter Krogh's The DAM Book too.

John
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JRSmit
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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2010, 03:00:42 AM »
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Quote from: dreed
Having recently acquired a new camera, I've been thinking about how I might manage its photos from what I've done previously. Various folks have recommended using more meaningful folder names, in line with what Jeff Schewe recommends in the LR tutorial, but I'm not convinced that this is necessary when my raw files aren't DNG. Why?

For those of us that "Expose To the Right" (ETR) the raw files from Canon/Nikon cameras are often not going to render into an image that looks like the end result. Those the ability to navigate to a specific CR2 or NEF file and click (or double click) to open is of little value. As too is the thumbnail presented by the operating system of that file.

In addition, now that we are shooting with digital cameras and taking more photos, going to a specific folder and browsing for a picture is not likely to be as productive as we might imagine. There's going to be a whole host of photos in there that we don't want, along side the few that we do. So descriptive folder names for the out-of-camera pictures is not necessarily helpful.

Rather, I think that it helps to think of the filesystem for out-of-camera photos as being the storage system for the database of pictures that we use Lightroom to access and generate images that we consider worthwhile from. As such, it is less important about how the files are organised except for the fact that large directories should be discouraged because of the generic filesystem issues. To this end, I don't think it matters a whole lot whether a CR2 file is 1D100/IMG_1234.CR2 or July_4_2010_Fireworks/IMG_0023.CR2 - navigating directly to it is not worthwhile.

In terms of being able to find a particular picture, I think it is the tagging, keywords, rating and label in LR that should be our focus and if we want to be able to find the final copies of images that we decide are good, then appropriately structure the directories and files that the final images are exported to.

For example if I spend an evening shooting (say) 100 pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, copy them all into GGB_July_2_2010_Evening as part of a LR import and then decide there is 2 or 3 worthwhile ones, it doesn't help me later if that GGB directory has 100 raw files in it because I'm still faced with the task of determining which ones I liked again. It's likely easier for me to use LR to find the pictures I want/like or to look in a separate directory tree altogether.

I suppose the exception to all of this is if you delete all of your CR2 files that "don't make the cut" because then you're left with a smaller number of relevant digital negative files.

Thoughts?

Just like John says you got the basics right. Files that exeist, exist somewhere aka a file system a storage facility. How to structure is more focused on preventing loss due to overwriting with a file with the same name, backup against disk failure etc, or grouping because of needs to manipulate a set of files, f.i. all files of a photo-shoot as one entity.
Use the library functionality of Lightroom for organising, like you already said, collections and smart collections, keywords, metadata, filters, flags & ratings. And not to forget the vitual copy concept. Together it enables you a very efficient, effective (=productieve) controlled workflow from the klick of your camera to the kick you get from presenting your work to others. See my paper for a more elaborate write-up of how i work with LR: http://www.fromklicktokick.com/Solutions-LR.html

Wrt to the files "that "don't make the cut"" , my paper describes a way to deal with it. I have taken the approach to only literally delete imported files that are really crap, all others that get rejected are moved from within LR to a separate folder, just to reduce the clutter in the folder i use for working on images.

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« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2010, 03:25:00 AM »
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I have thought about a process of cataloguing my images. The problem is that once you start you have to be diligent. It must be time consuming and I think you must be methodical? If you give up at some point due to laziness or other demands then the process has become a waste of time? Sorry to sound downbeat but a lot of photographers must feel the same. I very rarely have had a problem with a simple file system with the folders named with date and location and a folder for keepers.
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Gary Brown
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« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2010, 07:40:06 AM »
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There is, of course, no “one right way,” but see Thom Hogan's essay about workflow for some interesting opinions on the general topic of file names and directory structures: “Don't mistake this type of higher level organization [Lighroom database etc.] from the low level. Even if you use the abilities of the database-driven products to organize how you browse and look at your images, make sure you have an underlying folder/file hierarchy that makes sense for you.”

Read the essay for his reasoning; it's quite long because it deals with the entire workflow topic, but he talks about file naming and directory structures in several spots within the essay, and also argues against much conventional wisdom:

“A lot of you use file and folder names and structures that are date based. I strongly urge you to double check that this is indeed the way you think about your images. If you think to yourself ‘I'm going to go back and work on that image I shot last November’ then a date system is indeed what you want. If you think to yourself ‘I'm going to go back and work on that image I shot in Patagonia’ then a date system is not  what you want.”

http://www.bythom.com/workflow.htm
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2010, 08:54:34 AM »
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Quote from: dreed
Thoughts?
Yes, keywords, exfil, etc, are very useful.. but folder structure adds an additional layer of organization you might find useful depending on your needs.

I travel to many locations each year, oven the same location several times a year, so it helps me outside/inside Lightroom to use a directory structure that goes by Catalog/year/location/date..  

That's as far as I take it.

Catalog for image type.. travel, workshops, general clients, personal, models..

Year.. so I know what year I did the work (if part of my invoicing system isn't working this helps with manual searches)

Location..  Very useful

Specific date at the location.   Again, very useful.

This structure shows up in LR as it should, and I can use it directly, or any of the filters, or both.  If I know I was in Angkor Vat in 2009 but I want all the monk images from that year only.. then I click on travel/2009/angkor/ and then use the filter to find "monk."

It's all individual.. but this works well for me.  I'm only sorry I didn't start keywording many years before I finally did.  When I get bored I go back and add keywords in the archives..
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JRSmit
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2010, 03:46:19 PM »
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Quote from: stamper
I have thought about a process of cataloguing my images. The problem is that once you start you have to be diligent. It must be time consuming and I think you must be methodical? If you give up at some point due to laziness or other demands then the process has become a waste of time? Sorry to sound downbeat but a lot of photographers must feel the same. I very rarely have had a problem with a simple file system with the folders named with date and location and a folder for keepers.
If a simple file system suffices, fine, but then a simple catalog setup then suffices as well. Diligence is always needed whatever structure one chooses. I hear different messages from different photographers. What i see is that most photog's started off with a file-system to manage their images, just like theyy did with their film images, as at that time there was no alternative. Now they are reluctant to change, as it has become a habit, a way of doing it, which although not perfect in most cases works acceptable.
Point is that LR has a catalog by default, so use it. How extensive is up to the individual, how diligent also.
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2010, 07:25:35 PM »
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Quote from: dreed
Having recently acquired a new camera, I've been thinking about how I might manage its photos from what I've done previously. Various folks have recommended using more meaningful folder names, in line with what Jeff Schewe recommends in the LR tutorial, but I'm not convinced that this is necessary when my raw files aren't DNG. Why?

For those of us that "Expose To the Right" (ETR) the raw files from Canon/Nikon cameras are often not going to render into an image that looks like the end result. Those the ability to navigate to a specific CR2 or NEF file and click (or double click) to open is of little value. As too is the thumbnail presented by the operating system of that file.

In addition, now that we are shooting with digital cameras and taking more photos, going to a specific folder and browsing for a picture is not likely to be as productive as we might imagine. There's going to be a whole host of photos in there that we don't want, along side the few that we do. So descriptive folder names for the out-of-camera pictures is not necessarily helpful.

Rather, I think that it helps to think of the filesystem for out-of-camera photos as being the storage system for the database of pictures that we use Lightroom to access and generate images that we consider worthwhile from. As such, it is less important about how the files are organised except for the fact that large directories should be discouraged because of the generic filesystem issues. To this end, I don't think it matters a whole lot whether a CR2 file is 1D100/IMG_1234.CR2 or July_4_2010_Fireworks/IMG_0023.CR2 - navigating directly to it is not worthwhile.

In terms of being able to find a particular picture, I think it is the tagging, keywords, rating and label in LR that should be our focus and if we want to be able to find the final copies of images that we decide are good, then appropriately structure the directories and files that the final images are exported to.

For example if I spend an evening shooting (say) 100 pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, copy them all into GGB_July_2_2010_Evening as part of a LR import and then decide there is 2 or 3 worthwhile ones, it doesn't help me later if that GGB directory has 100 raw files in it because I'm still faced with the task of determining which ones I liked again. It's likely easier for me to use LR to find the pictures I want/like or to look in a separate directory tree altogether.

I suppose the exception to all of this is if you delete all of your CR2 files that "don't make the cut" because then you're left with a smaller number of relevant digital negative files.

Thoughts?

Why not give your folders meaningful names? You have to name them something, and it's probably easier to come up with a relevant name than something totally random. Your system seems like more work with no advantages and a huge potential disadvantage.
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2010, 05:21:34 AM »
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Quote from: PeterAit
Why not give your folders meaningful names? You have to name them something, and it's probably easier to come up with a relevant name than something totally random. Your system seems like more work with no advantages and a huge potential disadvantage.
Depends on how you use folders. If just storage, a photoshoot id plus some sequence number suffices. It is still meaningfull but with different view than for instance a short description of the photoshoot or session. When yous use the cataloging capability, this photoshoot or session informtion can be added in the appropriate metadatafields and used for searching, either simple "all images of session x" or more complex "all images from session x and status approved and flagged and not with keyword 'munk'", also for displaying on output like slideshow or print.
So it also depends on how much descriptive data you want to add to your images.
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« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2010, 05:54:13 AM »
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A lot of these replies pre-suppose that you will always be using LR into the forseeable future, or that the LR catalog will never fail or become corrupt or that if it does your backups are bound to work. But if you are relatively young and at the beginning (or even the middle) of your career, who is to say that a newer, better DAM might not come along? IT and software development doesn't just stop. Supposing that you want, sometime in the future, to transfer your archive to a new platform? Or that the worst happens, and you find that all your catalog backups are corrupt, too?

Then you might be very grateful for a folder system which is intelligible and in plain English. For example - Extensis Portfolio can auto-generate catalog keywords from folder and file names. So if you have the subject of each image in plain English as part of the filename, and the images in sensibly named folders, you can completely automate 90% of your keyword generation. If all you have is a bunch of numbers for filenames, forget it.

John
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« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2010, 09:02:44 AM »
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Quote from: John R Smith
A lot of these replies pre-suppose that you will always be using LR into the forseeable future, or that the LR catalog will never fail or become corrupt or that if it does your backups are bound to work. But if you are relatively young and at the beginning (or even the middle) of your career, who is to say that a newer, better DAM might not come along? IT and software development doesn't just stop. Supposing that you want, sometime in the future, to transfer your archive to a new platform? Or that the worst happens, and you find that all your catalog backups are corrupt, too?

Then you might be very grateful for a folder system which is intelligible and in plain English. For example - Extensis Portfolio can auto-generate catalog keywords from folder and file names. So if you have the subject of each image in plain English as part of the filename, and the images in sensibly named folders, you can completely automate 90% of your keyword generation. If all you have is a bunch of numbers for filenames, forget it.

John

Indeed. And I think in the later tutorials with Seth, I think there is actually an advantage to the meaningful names that I hadn't quite realised but that I think you're touching on. Once you've saved all of your meta data out into XMP side-car files, the information from the LR database exists in two places: in the catalogue and in the XMP side-car files. The advantage of that is that you're not then bound to using LR all the time - anything that recognises and understands the XMP files should be able to reconstruct the image the same way (modulo variations in the rendering engine of the software.)

There's also the additional fact that having the directories named in a meaningful way gives you a useful place to store the .TIF, .PSD and .JPG files that you generate from raw, rather than needing a separate tree.

I don't recall mention being made of non raw/xmp files being stored in those directories, but neither do I recall seeing them elsewhere.

I suppose I've come a full circle with this...

- if you're shooting raw, having the xmp files created on disk by LR allows them to be used in a meaningful way by other applications to build upon what you've done in LR
- thus if you want to open the raw file in something other than LR (bridge, C1, etc), then those xmp files are of immediate benefit and it becomes worthwhile being able to find raw files on disk without using LR
- if you're working with photoshop and generating psd (or other) types of files, there's merit in keeping all the different file types associated with the raw file in the same directory
- the only draw back on this is that thumbnails generated from non-DNG raw files are not likely to look anything like what they would with the xmp recipe applied, thus you can't use folders to reliably search for a specific photo/look. In that case it becomes necessary to have rendered final image JPG or TIF files that we can easily browse thumbnails for and thus find the original raw with its xmp.

So for folks that never move outside of LR, maybe it isn't such a big deal but having spent some more time thinking about it, the rationale put forward in the LR tutorials becomes evident. I don't recall if either Jeff/Seth go in to why they recommend doing it this way?

In the past I organised directory trees that related to which DVD files were backed up to. That kind of worked ok with images under 10MB (450-500 per disk) but with images around 30MB (~150/disk), DVDs are not as beneficial so I'm exploring new ideas. Maybe if I use double-layer discs, maybe. And BD-ROMs do offer a tantalisingly large amount for storage... but perhaps it is time for something new.
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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2010, 03:19:39 PM »
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Quote from: John R Smith
A lot of these replies pre-suppose that you will always be using LR into the forseeable future, or that the LR catalog will never fail or become corrupt or that if it does your backups are bound to work. But if you are relatively young and at the beginning (or even the middle) of your career, who is to say that a newer, better DAM might not come along? IT and software development doesn't just stop. Supposing that you want, sometime in the future, to transfer your archive to a new platform? Or that the worst happens, and you find that all your catalog backups are corrupt, too?

Then you might be very grateful for a folder system which is intelligible and in plain English. For example - Extensis Portfolio can auto-generate catalog keywords from folder and file names. So if you have the subject of each image in plain English as part of the filename, and the images in sensibly named folders, you can completely automate 90% of your keyword generation. If all you have is a bunch of numbers for filenames, forget it.

John
Migrating form one DAM to another is always at least time-consuming and frustrating. I know as migrating data systems is part of my daily job. I appreciate the worries about corruption, but anything on a harddisk can get corrupted, each and every file, even the folder-structure itself. So whatever DAM you do (even a folder-approach is a DAM approach) a well structured backup plan including regular testing is a given.
Also one can export from a LR (or any other) database data, restructure this and import it into another system. Using XMP sidecars (or xmp embedded in the image file) is in fact a well-structured export of the database. In fact it is more robust than using folder structures with plain english, not to mention the issues of the rather limited maximum number of characters a complete folder-path plus filename can have. And this maximum is different for the different file-systems being in use.

Why is it there is so many fear for image cataloging systems using a database ? We are literally surrounded by databases based systems in our everyday life, but do not worry about corruption etc, in fact we take it for granted, but as it comes to applying it for one's images, fear strikes.

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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2010, 03:47:19 AM »
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All fair points, Jan R. I think perhaps I will just agree to differ with you.

But just supposing . .

A future release of Lr - say Lr 4 - actually introduced automatic keyword generation using folder and filenames, just like Portfolio does? It would be rather nice to take advantage of that, wouldn't it?

John
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« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2010, 04:12:06 AM »
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Quote from: John R Smith
But just supposing . .

A future release of Lr - say Lr 4 - actually introduced automatic keyword generation using folder and filenames, just like Portfolio does? It would be rather nice to take advantage of that, wouldn't it?
My guess is that this would happen through a plug-in. Since LR3 exposed keywords to the plug-in engine, there's already one ( Keyword Master) that's designed to generate keywords from other sources. I don't think it uses folder and file names, but it could do so. Still, the amount of useful information that can be packed into folder and file names is well below what keywords can handle.

John
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« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2010, 02:20:32 AM »
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Quote from: John R Smith
All fair points, Jan R. I think perhaps I will just agree to differ with you.

But just supposing . .

A future release of Lr - say Lr 4 - actually introduced automatic keyword generation using folder and filenames, just like Portfolio does? It would be rather nice to take advantage of that, wouldn't it?

John
Well John, it would, but as user you still need to tell this system what is wright or wrong, what to use as substitute, etc. It is not a simple black & white case.
It therefore depends strongly on how dilligently the folder and filenaming has been performed, how straightforward the mapping of the f&p naming against the metadata fields and keywording can be defined.
So, while it can help, and in data-migrations my company does such "sources of data" are indeed taken into account, you have to set up rules the system can use to intepret elements like folder names & folder path's etc, it is still serious effort for the user.
We deploy a very simple formula: b-a=0 (plus or minus 0), in other words the migration result minus the source should equate to 0. Sounds simple but in fact what a customer or user want is no loss of data, and migrations always have some "non zero"result. This dilligence thing mentioned earlier in this thread is one of the main causes.

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« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2010, 12:13:49 AM »
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I don't think there is any one right way to do things, and it really depends on what you are doing with them too.  For example, I shoot rental properties and my folder structure goes like:

client name/property name/RAW  - for all the RAW images
client name/property name/Done - for finished TIFFs that are ready to be delivered
client name/property name/Full Size - for full sized JPGs delivered to the client
client name/property name/Web - for web sized JPGs delivered to the client

My files names for RAWs are always just a continuing count, when I roll over 10000, I just increment the first digit, my last shot was 38947.dng  It's simple enough for me, never have to worry about duplicates.

For my personal photography, I have a separate catalog and my folder structure is simply by year/month/day and I keep the same file naming method.  This has always worked just fine for me, but what is best really is a matter of personal taste and what kind of photography you are doing.
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« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2010, 05:43:49 AM »
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While there's no one right way, one shouldn't imagine that all ways are equal. There are good and bad.
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« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2010, 12:35:40 PM »
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Quote from: johnbeardy
While there's no one right way, one shouldn't imagine that all ways are equal. There are good and bad.
Interesting statement, can we come to some definition , a set of criteria, on what is considered as good and what is considered bad?
I believe most if not all of us must have some good and bad points wrt the individual solution chosen, if we take a moment to stand back and evaluate our experiences.


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« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2010, 04:15:51 PM »
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Keywords and Metadata is how I manage/find digital images.
Folder structure is how I back them up.

With this simple strategy, I can find anything very quickly. I can also backup everything swiftly using a sequential date-based folder system.

The folders panel is almost never used by me in Lightroom.
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