Organising your Images

DAM by Noel Butcher

Not the water storing type but the DAM we are talking about here is Digital Asset Management which is just a fancy title for a system for storing your digital files. In this case, picture files.

I have had a DAM system since 2002 when I first started shooting digital and it has proven damn useful.

Last time I checked I had somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 images stored away. A lot of them I will likely never look at again for they were taken for clients and are amazingly boring.

I used to take photographs for V/Line and earlier this year they called me seeking pictures of a particular employee who had recently died. His family didn’t have many photos of him and V/Line thought they could help with that.

I used to maintain an online archive for them (while they were an active client) but once I retired I sold them a hard disk drive with an archive of the previous 5 years of images. They were able to look through the images and send me the file names of a few that I was able to find quite easily because my images were (dam) well organised.

There are many way to organise your images.

I choose to store them chronologically ie they are stored by date. I use Adobe Lightroom to help me with this task so it isn’t a chore. Basically, once I tell Lightroom what I want to do the with my images, it sorts them into the correct spot without further attention from me.

For this example I am using February 09 2016. When I imported the photos via Lightroom onto my computer I know that the images will end up within a folder called 2016. In that 2016 folder is a sub-folder (a sub-folder is simply a folder within another folder) called February 2016. Lightroom will make another sub-folder within February 2016 titled with the date of the photos were taken, in this case, February 9th.

The file structure looks something like this:

My Computer/Data 2/2016/02-2016/2016 February 09

This may look confusing, but in reality it isn’t.

My Computer is self explanatory.

In this computer I have a number of different hard drives. One of those is called Data 2.

On that drive are a number of folders, one of which is called 2016. This will contain all images I shoot during 2016.

In the folder 2016 there are 12 sub-folders, one for each month of the year.

January is called 01-2016, February is called 02-2016 etc

I shot some pictures on February 9th, so when I used Lightroom to import them it made a folder called 2016 February 09 for me and put the images taken on February 9th into that folder. Had I also had images taken at an earlier date on the card that had yet to be imported, Lightroom would also have made other sub-folders with the right date as the folder name, and put the relevant images into those sub-folders.

In the image below you will see in the left hand column a folder called 2016. As the 2016 folder is highlighted, I can see the contents of the 2016 folder displayed (in blue) in the section to the right.
There are folders for each month of the year.


2016 Folder


On my Windows computer, if I click twice on the 2016 folder in the left hand column, it brings up two views of the contents of that folder, as shown below.



Say I want to retrieve an image I know I worked on from February 9th. By clicking on the folder called 2016 February 09, I get this view (below).

In a sub-folder of 2016 February 09 I have another sub-folder called HighRes, which Lightroom made for me when I exported the image from Lightroom.

If I click on the folder called HighRes, I can see that I have made a TIF file from my raw image.


Once I have my tiff file I can work on it further if need be and produce whatever other files I may need from this image, such as a jpeg for web use or a jpeg for entering in one of the KPS monthly image evaluations.  I know where to find it because my images are organised.

I was prompted to write this article for I have recently spoken to three different KPS members who needed a bit of help with their images. All were a bit confused about the location of their images. They spoke about the images being “in” Lightroom, or “in” Apple Photo or “in” Photoshop Elements.

The images aren’t really “in” any of those programs. They are in your computer and you go to those images regardless of whatever program you are using. Lightroom does make some preview images so that you have a visual reference rather than just a file name to look at. Lightroom associates the preview with the original image.

When you work on an image, all Lightroom does in reality, is the same as any fastidious darkroom worker of years gone by did. It makes notes of what you have done to get to your finished product. It tucks those notes away with the preview image and can instantly reproduce them when you click on an image.

Remember, the images (ie the original files from our camera) aren’t “in” Lightroom. Lightroom just has a list of what you have imported and it has stored on your computer.


Take a look at the file hierarchy in the example above. It is the same as in the two examples below because they are the same files being referenced by three different programs. The only difference is that Lightroom doesn’t remember that there is a folder called HighRes within February 09.
The next example is a screen grab from FastStone Image Viewer.


And this view is from a program called Directory Opus (which is a file manager).


FastStone Image Viewer and Directory Opus check the contents of a folder, or directory, or sub-folder every time the program is opened and so the contents of those folders or directories or sub-folders will be shown. This is the same as Finder on an Apple computer.

So, as I said above there are many ways to store your images. I choose chronologically. Others have folders with similar subject matter regardless of the date the image was taken. If I want such a grouping I let Lightroom do this for me with ‘Collections’, but that is another tale.

If your appetite for DAM information has only just been whetted by my words above you may like to visit where photographer Peter Krogh explians how and why he organises his images the way he does.


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