On the eighth day of Christmas…

Eight maids a milking… and we all need our milk to go in our tea and coffee, let alone on the breakfast cereal.

Milk is a great additive to lots of things and one of the essential but somewhat boring photo additives is organising all the pictures. With all the New Year Resolutions being hurriedly agreed to and broken within a week I have one thing that you should really consider as your New Year Resolution; structured organisation for your pictures.

However rather than leave it at that i’ll give you some help to show you how I manage my filing.

Getting the pictures from the card

Regardless of which kind of cards your camera uses, then the fastest way to get the pictures in to the computer is using a card reader.

First step is to COPY the pictures to your computer, and I use a software tool called Photo Mechanic to manage this for me.

However Photo Mechanic is not cheap software so you might also try Canon EOS Utility or Adobe Lightroom to manage the process for you. I’ll show you how to do this with EOS Utility since it’s free with each EOS camera.

EOS Utility custom folder naming setting

Configure EOS Utility 2 custom folder naming

My approach is to put the files in folders by date and by camera model. Since EOS Utility can only create two levels of folders using this method it means once a year I need to change the destination folder to the current year. Otherwise you get a folder with the correct structure in the wrong year.

My folder structure looks like this

2015/2015-01/EOS 5D Mark III

I have a top level folder for the Year, then a subfolder for the Month of the Year, then a camera subfolder

File renaming

EOS Utility file naming

EOS Utility file naming, choose 5 digit sequential number

EOS Utility file structure

Configure EOS Utility to rename files

A second key for me is to rename the individual image files so that they cannot get lost or misplaced by the occasional errant drag and drop of a bunch of files. For me that means putting the year and month in to the filename, plus adding a sequence number to avoid any filename duplication issues.

My file name structure looks like this


I have a two digit year, followed by a two digit month followed by the original filename then there are five digits of sequential numbers added to the end

The great part of this approach is that if I find a file on my desktop, I can tell from the first four characters which year and month it was shot, and also where it belongs very rapidly. It also helps when you try to find a RAW file that you only have the final crafted JPG or TIFF from.

Does it work – Yes it does

I’ve been using this system for many years and it works great. One of the reasons to use Photo Mechanic is that I can add captions, titles and other meta data to my pictures as they are transferred to the computer. This makes things even simpler when looking for pictures in Lightroom later.

My structured file & folder naming in practice

My structured file & folder naming in practice

For me the organisation needs to be automatic, the ease of simply copying the memory card in to a folder and thinking “i’ll organise that later” means it would never get done. So if you are trapped in IMG_0001.JPG hell then give it a try.

In the near future I’ll share how to setup Lightroom & Photo Mechanic to do the same organisation.

Backup, backup and then backup again!

I cannot stress this enough, you must backup your pictures. My pictures a transferred to an external RAID drive, then within 24 hours the RAID drive is copied to a Network Storage box that is configured as a RAID 5 array, then the Network Storage box does another backup to a USB drive connected to itself; yes that is THREE COPIES

Lastly I move the external USB disk and switch it to another that I can move off-site so typically I only have the last few days not on another physical location. You have to view storage as being inexpensive compared to the cost to revisit places and reshoot pictures.

If you are a professional photographer reading this, then you might need to separate the folder structure by client of job in addition to dates.

See you tomorrow for another in the 12 tips for Christmas…

All I want for Christmas is you…

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This is one of a series of twelve posts, inspired by the popular Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas. I’m giving all my blog readers a free tip for each of the twelve days.

About the twelve days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas start with Christmas Day and ends with the eve of Epiphany on January 5 th. The Twelve Days of Christmas dates back to English origins in the sixteenth century although the music is reputed to be French. The first publication date for The Twelve Days of Christmas (The 12 Days of Christmas) was 1780.

source: 12 days of Christmas

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag