Folder Organization: How to Manage Your Images Intelligently and Work Faster

Because photographers, like you, want to manage hundreds of images and files efficiently, it’s necessary that they are properly organized and archived for quick and easy retrieval. The solution to a messy desktop, and hard-to-find files, is rooted in a hierarchical folder organization and structure.

I’ll tell you how I easily managed thousands of images at Playboy and how you can do the same.

Is Your Desktop a Mess?

If your desktop is crowded with icons, you may have an organizational issue & you will find this article helpful. Let’s start by asking a few questions. Do you have icons all over your computer desktop? Are some of your images on external drives, while others aren’t? Would your folder organization make sense to others? This last question is important. 

It’s worth mentioning that some of us resist change. We live with and adapt to familiar imperfections. But unless we can be persuaded that specific changes will make things better, we’ll suffer rather than risking new possibilities. If your desktop is cluttered with digital files, here is how you can clean up the mess.  You won’t regret this change!

Why Folder Hierarchy is the Key

It will take time if you’re just starting, but the solution is simple. We should all create a hierarchical folder structure for our images, because well organized images save search time, allowing us to locate every set without a hassle.

Folder Structure Example

A basic folder organization/hierarchy on my personal computer

What I learned at Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

Now you can guess what I learned at Playboy. My team worked around a hierarchical folder structure. This provided consistency when collaborating with members from other departments. We didn’t have to ask each other where a finished set of images should be placed so that others can access it. Everybody knew the process because the folder structure was strictly organized and consistent. This type of hierarchy and folder organization saved a lot of time. It can do the same for you. Let’s see how it’s done. 

How to Create a Folder Structure that Makes Sense

Just like you, I have a lot of content to manage. That’s why I created a hierarchical folder structure in order to manage, easily locate, and understand my content. I believe that the perfect hierarchical folder structure should make sense to everyone, especially if you have people working for you.

I cannot show you the actual folder tree from Playboy, or the content, which some of you may like to see. But I will give you a visual of the effective hierarchical folder structure we used and created. Let’s have a look at the following graphic and the 4 steps that lead to a better folder organization.

Folder Structure

  1. Organize by Categories
    Those of you photographing different things will want to organize sets of images into categories. Notice the graphic above where I start with 4 different categories. Such categories help me locate different types of content.
  2. Organize by Years
    After you create different categories for your work, start creating sub-folders for different years, for each category.
  3. Label Your Subjects!
    Once you organize your pictures by years, it’s time to organize them based on who or what is in them. In the graphic above I chose to do Weddings where each wedding is labeled by the couple’s names.
  4. Create Sub-categories
    Sub-categories, as I created them in the graphic above, are not necessary, but are helpful. With weddings, I always create sub-categories in order to speed up the process when designing a wedding album or uploading images to a storefront. There is nothing worse than having all the wedding images in one folder, especially when shooting with multiple cameras.

4 Ways to Keep Your Desktop Clean

You probably hate messy desktops as much as I do. Here are some tips that will liberate your lovely wallpaper from clutter. Oh yeah, this is a screenshot of my MacPro desktop at home. The apps I access often are in the dock, and my current project, things to be uploaded to the web, and items for print, are all on my desktop. 

Mac Desktop

MacPro desktop with major applications located in the dock.

Once I complete my tasks, items are achieved or deleted, and wiped from the desktop, which is my temporary home for digital files.  Here are 4 tips on how you can easily keep your desktop clutter-free.

  1. The Not So Important Files
    If it’s been on your desktop for too long, it’s probably not important. Delete it or archive it.
  2. Weekly Cleanup
    Every Friday, delete or archive accumulated files on your desktop.
  3. Taskbar and the Dock Rule!
    Use the taskbar (Windows) or the dock (Mac) for the apps or folders you access the most. There is no reason why shortcuts to Internet Explorer or Safari should occupy your desktop real estate.
    Windows and Mac Taskbar
  4. Temporary Folders
    Folders labeled as temporary or unsorted, are a trap! Before you know it, they’ll be filled with digital travesty! Avoid creating or using them, unless you’ll sort them out the same day. On my desktop at home I have three folders: current projects, upload to web, print. When a certain project is done, the final files are archived, and the rest is sorted and/or deleted.

Your Turn To Express Your thoughts

None of us like to work on a disorganized computer and with messy people. If we are disorganized in one area, chances are it reflects in other areas. But all of this can be fixed with proper folder organization. So how do you keep your files organized? Is your folder organization similar to mine? I’d love to know what you have to say. Be the first the share your thoughts in the comments area below.

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