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Author Topic: Lightroom and DAM  (Read 6168 times)
Bob Rockefeller
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« on: August 08, 2014, 11:14:56 AM »
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I've just finished Peter Krogh's excellent book Organizing Your Photos with Lightroom 5. In it, he suggests that the "storage layer" of your library be a hierarchy of folders organized by date. So there'd be folders for year and in them folders for months and in them folders for days.

I'm moving over from Aperture where my arrangement was by location, instead of by date; I figured the EXIF data already had the date, but it didn't have the location. So I have folder groups like Mexico > Cozumel > Beaches or Georgia > Atlanta > Georgia Aquarium. And now my Lightroom catalog has that same folder organization.

For those with more Lightroom catalog experience, is that a bad thing or a potential dead end? How?


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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2014, 11:49:43 AM »
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First off, Peter's book is a must read. For one, you can get ideas and season to taste. But don't feel you must follow his steps precisely and instead use suggestions based on what works best for you. For example, the idea of a well organized folder structure is super important IMHO (so you can find stuff outside of LR, don't depend fully on it). For me, dates don't work well at all. I'm not a date person. Plus I can always filter folders by date using the Finder. I'm more of a 'place' or 'subject' kind of guy. I can't recall the two dates, even years I went to Sydney AU but I know that if I want to find those images outside LR, a folder named Sydney will have those images. Sydney with a date doesn't help me one bit. So my point is, build your organization based on what works best for you. If you recall dates, work with dates. If you recall person/place/thing, name folders that way.

Peter's suggestion works well for him, it would confuse the heck out of me. I can't recall what I ate for breakfast day before yesterday.

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So I have folder groups like Mexico > Cozumel > Beaches or Georgia > Atlanta > Georgia Aquarium.
Exactly as I do. If you find that a better way to locate images outside of LR (which suggest you'd find it a better way to locate them inside LR), stick with that.
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2014, 12:25:05 PM »
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This gets back to the age old question of how to organize photos -- try to create a hierarchical folder structure by subject, or just throw them in one big folder (by date, say), and use keywords to find specific images.

For me, the main issue with creating the subject-based folders is what happens when an image or set of images can go into more than one folder. What do you do then? If I have, for example, a folder of Students and a folder of Professors, where do I put the photo of a professor and a student together? Create a new folder called Professors and Students? At some point the level of granularity starts to get ridiculous, especially when I can just have multiple keywords (professor, student) and the images will come up if I search "professor AND student" and also when I am just looking for either prof or student shots.

That said, there is nothing wrong with organizing your photos in any way that makes sense to you, as long as you can find them again. I would suggest using a robust set of keywords on each image, if only because they can get separated from their original folder structure. I use full captions, too, but most photographers think that's too much work.
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2014, 12:44:02 PM »
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If you can adequately categorise your photos with that geographical structure, that may be fine for you going forward. But as an ex-Aperture guy surely you'd be sympathetic to Peter's view (and mine - I tech edited his DAM book) that categorising your photos with folders is a very limited method. What I mean here is that we can categorise our photos in many ways, not just by geography. For instance, let's say you also shoot airplanes, so where do you put that photo of a Mustang with NY in the background - or is it really a picture of NY, with a little speck that happens to be a Mustang? Put it in the NY folder, or in another folder structure for aircraft? Then you have family pictures in the same location, so that might be another folder structure. THe one thing that is immutable and objective is the date.

In the long run you're better off avoiding trying to use your folder system to categorise your photos, and I'd recommend you simply adopt LR's date-based folders and put the effort into adding keywords, IPTC location fields and other metadata. Think too about our conversation here about Lightroom and Aperture's internal folder structure. Folders are for physical storage, not categorising.

There's no reason why you shouldn't leave the ex-Aperture structure as it is, and import new files in a LR date-based method. Or if you want a single folder system, you might reimport everything with the Move option and allow LR to create a date-based folder system. You would then use the IPTC location fields for slicing and dicing geographically.
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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2014, 01:16:51 PM »
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At the risk of sounding like a salesperson for the Luminous landscape tutorial videos, I would suggest that Bob buys and views the "Where are my pictures" series. My own organization is by:
1-Camera (odd, but it works for my partner and my type of photography; helps with my workflow in developing Leica, Canon or Panasonic files).
2- Date -- so e.g: Leica / 2014 / 2014-01-31
3- Collections and Smart Collections based on projects and keywords, and those collect from any folder.
Keywording and Smart collections are a very powerful tool for organizing the images.

Jean-Michel
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Bob Rockefeller
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« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2014, 01:51:38 PM »
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I really don't have any trouble deciding on which folder an image goes in. I know the answer to the question of where was I when I shot it. If I was in Newark, NJ when I took the picture of the Mustang, I'd save the image in the New Jersey > Newark folder. Even a folder structure using dates is categorizing the images by date; you can't use a folder structure and not categorize by something (unless you're good at random folder name generation).

After that, there are many ways to think about the image and those ways get keywords; perhaps Airplane, Mustang, and New York. Just as there is one date, there is one place. And since the EXIF data already has the date, putting the image in a folder-by-date structure seems like a duplication.

I see two possible problems with my structure:
  • If I outgrow my hard drive (or SSD) space, then it might be hard to figure out where to cut off one drive and start on the other. With dates, it's obvious.
  • If I end up with a lot of pictures in one place, that folder can get pretty full. But maybe Lightroom doesn't care, or slow down, if there are many files.

Are there other problems I'm missing? Or will one of those undo me in the end?

As Andrew mentioned, there may be some value in being able to find an image completely independently of whatever DAM software I may be using. Filing by location in the Finder could help with that.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 01:53:29 PM by Bob Rockefeller » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2014, 02:29:04 PM »
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Hi again,
LR does not care where the images live in order to see the preview images, and it does not slow down at all. The preview images live in a folder called "preview Lightroom 4 Catalog Previews.lrdata". And that lives in your main drive. The drive where the files are of course has to be connected in order to work on the images. if it is not connected you still see the preview and simply have to connect the drive with the files in order to do work on them. The previews do not take very much space: I have over 80,000 images,, and the preview folder is barely over one gigabytes.
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« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2014, 02:38:18 PM »
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The DAM book advice isn't really about dates - it's about using your folder system purely in terms of storage (hard drive space, backup, ease of restoration) and only using metadata and virtual containers (projects, collections etc) to categorise your pictures.

A date-based folder system isn't at all about categorising by dates but is simply using an immutable and objective way of dividing images between folders which you can then eyeball. Dates are not arbitrary like your using NJ, while others would use NY, and dates don't get redrawn like borders can (less so in the US).

You should certainly consider what to do without a DAM system. If you create geographical categories, you can find images easier outside a DAM system only if you are searching geographically, but that's less useful when you're looking for images by other criteria such as aircraft pictures, family etc. TBH You're always going to have some kind of DAM software, and even Finder searches.

And as you note, date-based folder systems scale better too.
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« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2014, 03:52:53 PM »
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This gets back to the age old question of how to organize photos -- try to create a hierarchical folder structure by subject, or just throw them in one big folder (by date, say), and use keywords to find specific images.
Throwing them in a big folder is a bad idea IMHO (I've heard Kelby recommend it, he's usually more interested in doing something super easy now, not thinking about the results later). As I said, the biggest reason I think having a well organized folder structure is to aid in finding my data outside any DAM, using just the Finder or Explorer. Doesn't hurt one bit inside either. Often I need to find an image without having to resort to even launching LR. And if I migrate from LR or something goes south, or they go subscription or I find a better product, I want a belt and suspenders approach so I don't get stuck. Proprietary solutions are less flexibile and why I rarely use dumb collections but do use Smart Collections which are based on metadata that lives within the data itself.

It doesn't matter a lick IMHO if you use dates, names, whatever, just as long as you can find the images. There are no rules in how to do this for images, your overall data stored on a computer or the paper file cabinets which store your records. It has to make sense to you (or someone else if they are doing the searching).
Folder dates are totally meaningless to me. A folder called "Dogs" or "Epson Print Academy" makes perfect sense to me and I suspect anyone else who might stumble on said folders.
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For me, the main issue with creating the subject-based folders is what happens when an image or set of images can go into more than one folder. What do you do then?
Sub folders or use what the DAM does well; find by keywords, with smart collections (I rarely every have dumb collections), by file name (using Dogs in the file name along with putting them in the dog folder again provides me with additional means of finding images without having to resort to LR.
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If I have, for example, a folder of Students and a folder of Professors, where do I put the photo of a professor and a student together? Create a new folder called Professors and Students?
It doesn't matter, just pick which method makes more sense to you and most importantly, consistently move forward with that process. For example, I have a folder called Epson print Academy. Within that are sub folders from each event, nearly a dozen. Each folder's name has the location of the event. If I click on the main Epson print Academy. folder in LR, I see all those images and if I only want to see the images from Atlanta, I can click on just that folder alone. Same if I'm searching outside of LR! If you put a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you the date of the Atlanta Print Academy but if I know I need an image from that event, I know easily how to find the folder (or do a search) for Atlanta, or Epson Print Academy Atlanta. If you find working with dates is better for you, use that. I don't.

You could have a folder called "School" and two sub folders called Students and Professors. Or one of just each: Student and Professors and divde up via keywords. Your call. With the main "School" folder, you could select that root within LR and see both groups OR select just the one folder to see only those Professor images. You could also have a keyword for each which I think is a very good idea. Or you could build a Smart Collection (Name contains Professor).  
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At some point the level of granularity starts to get ridiculous, especially when I can just have multiple keywords (professor, student) and the images will come up if I search "professor AND student" and also when I am just looking for either prof or student shots.
The search could contain one but not the other. But again, with separate folders for each, pretty easy to find one versus the other or both.
The bottom line in this disucssion is, what to name the folders indicating that you'll attempt to find images using that process alone (otherwise, if you're in LR, use can use keywords or smart collections or search by file name etc). As such, sorting by date is easy despite any name you give to the folder. The folder name just allows you to drill down outside the DAM.

Further, there's a really neat file naming template in LR that builds upon the folder name! Genius for my approach. The image name should match the folder name in part. I have a folder named "Dogs" guess what kind of images you'll find inside? Example of a filename is: Dogs_10June12_018-2.dng. First part of the name tells me what the subject is based on the folder (which is based on the subject), plus there's a date! If I move images from one folder to the other for whatever reason, the template will quickly rename the images based on that folder. Student and Professor are somehow mixed up. Or you import a dozen images of Professors into the Student folder. Move offending images into correct folder from with in LR, use the template, boom, the file name is now fixed with a single command. You want to search for students outside of LR? You can navigate to the folder you yourself built and named Student. You could use the 'Find' command or Spotlight outside LR and find them via the name (it contains Student).
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That said, there is nothing wrong with organizing your photos in any way that makes sense to you, as long as you can find them again. I would suggest using a robust set of keywords on each image, if only because they can get separated from their original folder structure. I use full captions, too, but most photographers think that's too much work.
Exactly! The idea that you're better off avoiding trying to use your folder system to categorise your photos doesn't wash for some of us. There's no reason I can think of for not naming folders that give me a clue what's inside! The use of a folder system to categorize means you are not depending on the DAM to find your images or other files. In my experience with the way I work, it's actually quite critical. But again, there are no right answers or methods if they cause you difficulty finding what you're looking for. Anyone who tells you it's wrong probably doesn't think the same way you do. And not thinking the same way make finding your stuff, be it images, a receipt for your accountant or a text file you wrote 10 years ago difficult and frustrating.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 03:55:48 PM by digitaldog » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2014, 04:16:22 PM »
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The only reason to have a well organized folder structure is to be able to find data outside your DAM as Andrew suggest. Other than that, I find it much superior to use the DAM capabilities with metadata. I find the folder structure very limiting, especially when an image can belong to different groups such as the example of the airplane in NY mentioned earlier.
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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2014, 04:20:44 PM »
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The only reason to have a well organized folder structure is to be able to find data outside your DAM as Andrew suggest. Other than that, I find it much superior to use the DAM capabilities with metadata. I find the folder structure very limiting, especially when an image can belong to different groups such as the example of the airplane in NY mentioned earlier.
No argument (the later part about the DAM being better overall). I'll add, you have to name the folders in any case. Might as well name them to aid in finding your images outside the DAM. If you find this to be true, then the mimic of the folders seen in LR will aid you too. Putting all images into one folder then expecting to find them later is again, a really bad idea IMHO. Putting them into two is only slightly better. So you have to ask yourself, how much effort do you want to go through to name folders and organize them alone, all the other work within the DAM still should be done (keywords, smart collections etc).
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« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2014, 04:33:37 PM »
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Folders, and folder structure have a place within DAM, however folders should never be the prime organisational approach.
For one, most images cannot sit simply in a single folder as a means of categorisation because they could, and should, be categorised in several different ways. Duplication of image files to sit in several folders is a big, big no-no in DAM.

(For what it is worth I have a date-based folder system - it scales well as John Beardsworth has mentioned - but I also add locational information as part of the folder name and filenames of image files that belong in that folder. That way I can tell if an image has been misplaced. Location only makes sense for me because I am an outdoor photographer and wouldn't apply for other genres necessarily.)

Keywording and metadata acquisition are really the only ways to adequately organise one's images. Once this is done images can be searched for in multiple ways and categorised in multiple ways. In Lightroom a single image may end up as part of the population of many Smart collections.
For those who need more flexibility with metadata and keywording both John Beardsworth and Jeffrey Friedl have plug-ins that can allow access to metadata that Lightroom doesn't as well as interesting ways to organise images that Lightroom does not currently provide.

In summary, a scalable folder system is an indispensable first step in DAM, but the road is along one never completed in a single step.

Tony Jay
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« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2014, 04:36:20 PM »
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The only reason to have a well organized folder structure is to be able to find data outside your DAM as Andrew suggest. Other than that, I find it much superior to use the DAM capabilities with metadata. I find the folder structure very limiting, especially when an image can belong to different groups such as the example of the airplane in NY mentioned earlier.
The reason why dates is the most sensible and easiest way to organise your file location is that when it comes to organising an image can only go in one possible date folder with no thinking needed, which is always handy when organising file location. Particularly as all pictures can be imported into LR by date in the universally useful yyyy-mm-dd format.  
Note I use the term location here in the sense of where images are on your hard drive, they have to be somewhere, so why not do it in a way that is actually useful/usable via Explorer/Finder/other programmes or OSs. This I would call your Primary organisation as it's the first step in your cataloguing.

I do also add a description to the date and may subdivide a long day's shoot into several folders all with same date but with different descriptions to separates different subjects, for example...
2014-August
 2014-08-18 Dogs
 2014-08-18 Cats
 2014-08-18 Goats

or if two subjects were photographed together it may be
2014-August
 2014-08-18 Dogs + Cats
 2014-08-18 Goats

Now if you use any other kind of organisation such as subject/places as your primary folder organising then it all gets a bit vague and messy as to where you put things as sometimes it is not clear cut how you can file an image as you may have a photo with both a cat and a dog in it. Using subject for your primary organisation is not really workable. But if you organise location by date, you can then add all the other types of organisation via metadata. So you can have secondary organisation with smart [preferable] or dumb collections that handle say dogs, cats or locations etc and unlike physical folders a picture of a dog and a cat can be in both 'Dogs' and 'Cats' collections.
Your Secondary Organisation is in fact your main way of finding things, but if you organise by date description then the description can also be the first stage of your secondary organising by metadata. This means you can organise basic stuff really easily and smart collections can find 'dogs' in folders with 'dog' in the folder name even if the files in folder are not named or have keywords like 'dog' added. So by adding a description to the dated folders LR can import images into, you've already done a huge amount of basic organising.
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« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2014, 04:38:38 PM »
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Folders, and folder structure have a place within DAM, however folders should never be the prime organisational approach.
Absolutely! But I think the discussion here is, name them and structure them so they provide as much useful functionality outside the DAM or far less so. I can’t think of a single reason not to use the name to aid you outside the DAM, once you come up with a system that works for you.
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Keywording and metadata acquisition are really the only ways to adequately organise one's images. Once this is done images can be searched for in multiple ways and categorised in multiple ways. In Lightroom a single image may end up as part of the population of many Smart collections.
Absolutely! The OP's question appears to me to ask about folder naming, not using folders solely to find your images.
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« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2014, 04:39:36 PM »
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No argument (the later part about the DAM being better overall). I'll add, you have to name the folders in any case. Might as well name them to aid in finding your images outside the DAM. If you find this to be true, then the mimic of the folders seen in LR will aid you too. Putting all images into one folder then expecting to find them later is again, a really bad idea IMHO. Putting them into two is only slightly better. So you have to ask yourself, how much effort do you want to go through to name folders and organize them alone, all the other work within the DAM still should be done (keywords, smart collections etc).

Agreed, I was not suggesting to have just one big folder. For me the folder structure is the "Physical" layer of data storage, so I organise using criteria as disk performance, backup strategy, etc. For instance, recent images go to a SSD or high speed Raid  and after editing and heavy use move the folders to a less expensive / high volume storage. Depending on your backup strategy you may set limits on the size of folders and so on.

All information related to image content goes as metadata in the DAM, which would be the "logical" layer.

In the end, the most important aspect of any storage system is to be able to find what you search for, so use the strategy that works best for you.

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« Reply #15 on: August 08, 2014, 05:03:25 PM »
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Keywording and metadata acquisition are really the only ways to adequately organise one's images.
Not necessarily. I have done documentary work over long periods of time, one project which was 13 weeks over 4 separate years and dates are the easiest way for me to find a lot of stuff in that huge collection of images. The reason being many events happened on a weekly basis and because it was all carefully organised by date/description, it helped me to focus on that organisation and thus remember it. Also I started that project before LR even existed.
Now with metadata added to that carefully organised collection, then I can look for stuff in two different ways.

The 2 big problems that metadata organising evangelists tend to ignore is that it takes an awful lot of work and time to do properly and also the huge amount of useless cruft you sometimes get from basic metadata searches with loads of unwanted stuff appearing. I'll use email as an example as it's easier to demonstrate.
I want to search for emails from Mark, but what tends to happen is that any mail that contains the letters 'mark'  or has been sent to a Mark will appear, so then you have to recall Mark's surname which can be tricky at times as with some people you do not use their full name often or may not even have it in your contacts and his email address may be something random like aarvard323@host.com. The other issue I notice is that data I know contains the keywords or text that I am searching for does not appear in the smart collection/playlist/search. Spotlight in OSX is particularly bad this way.

My music for DJing is organised almost entirely by smart playlists from keywords with the odd exception of shortlists for the evening or the mix I'm making. So much easier than organising physical media.  Grin
But the actual files are still organised alphabetically on the hard drives as again they have to go somewhere and at least it is in a way that makes sense and is still usable if something happens to my smart playlists.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 05:08:51 PM by jjj » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2014, 05:20:20 PM »
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Folders, and folder structure have a place within DAM, however folders should never be the prime organisational approach.
For one, most images cannot sit simply in a single folder as a means of categorisation because they could, and should, be categorised in several different ways. Duplication of image files to sit in several folders is a big, big no-no in DAM.
Our posts overlapped where we both used the term Primary Organisation and I think folders should be that. But in the sense of primary=first, not primary=most important.
But then when I want to look through recent stuff, particularly personal photos skipping back through recent folders with date-description is such an very easy way to do that.
Not to mention that browsing through date/description folders is a great way of noticing stuff you hadn't been specifically looking for - the usefulness of which cannot be overlooked. Metadata tends to be better at finding exactly what you are after [if you make the search criteria specific enough].
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 05:57:54 PM by jjj » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2014, 05:31:29 PM »
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Some great discussions here - in fact a whole course of the ins and outs of DAM! So I'll through my 2 cents worth in...

As one who developed my original catalogue 12 years ago while travelling overseas, I have found it infinitely valuable to dump all uploads into a limited hierarchical catalogue like this:

YYYY
  >  YYYYMMDD-TT-ShortLocationDescriptiveTitle

The TT is for AM or PM and is only used if necessary (e.g. If there is a major change in location from am to pm.

The "ShortLocationDescriptiveTitle" is to help me remember, as I, too, don't remember what I had for breakfast most days.

The point of this is simplicity, repeatability and consistency. There is also an element of legacy and longevity here as (hopefully) dates never end, although I will someday. It is also a great "log" of time and place.

Of course, this is all backed up by both keywords (essential, so that my series of images of "horses" in a "Montana" "landscape" with "scenery" of "snow-capped" "mountains" in "summer" with "field" "wildflowers" and "forests" isn't hidden behind a folder name.

As well, Categories come into play using these same keywords and ****s.

This may look complicated at first, but it very quickly becomes second nature allowing me to find groups of images from a specific trip location and date or via keywords all set within the context of my life history.

Hope this helps.


   
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« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2014, 05:33:35 PM »
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Throwing them in a big folder is a bad idea IMHO (I've heard Kelby recommend it, he's usually more interested in doing something super easy now, not thinking about the results later).

Sorry, I didn't write this clearly. I was thinking about the folder structure as a container, with a 2014 folder that contained date-based sub folders. So that was my "one big folder," but it's not just one folder.

I put each assignment in a separate folder with the date shot and a brief descriptive folder name: 0807 headshots, or 0805 joe blow portrait, or 0910 football vs ESU. These are in the 2014 folder, so they sort chronologically and alphabetically at the same time.

You then go on to answer all the hypothetical questions that I posed to the O.P. I already knew the answers, at least for my uses, but I expect some folks will find this very useful. Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2014, 06:10:46 PM »
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This got a little off course. I don't think anyone is suggesting "one big folder" to hold all the images. And there is only one place I was when I took the picture - it too is "immutable and objective" - unless borders are redrawn and I'm will to take my chance with that. I was in NJ for the Mustang shot, not NY, even though NY was a subject of the image.

And no one is suggesting that the folder structure be the only way to find an image. A robust metadata (tags and keywords) system is assumed.

The folder structure may simply be the first level of organization, with metadata providing many more levels and layers. I think I'm sticking with Andrew here, it makes very good sense to me to use folders that are places.

From there we got into a number of different hybrid folder naming structures: YYYYMMDD-TT-ShortLocationDescriptiveTitle, 2014-08-18 Dogs, Leica/2014/2014-01-31 and so on. If it's "bad" to categorize with folders, then these approaches are certainly "bad" as well.

For those who use a strict date-base folder hierarchy, how do you work with the files on initial import? It seems that you must have to assign some keywords, or something, right away so that the group doesn't end up spread out over a number of different day folders. I know Lightroom gives you the previous import collection by default, which is good, but very short lived.

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I do also add a description to the date and may subdivide a long day's shoot into several folders all with same date but with different descriptions to separates different subjects, for example...
2014-August
 2014-08-18 Dogs
 2014-08-18 Cats
 2014-08-18 Goats

jjj, if you take a picture on 2014-08-18 with a dog and a cat in it, which folder do you put it in?
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Bob
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Robert J. Rockefeller
Richmond Hill, GA
www.bobrockefeller.com
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