Wednesday, December 7

I have more than 170,000 photographs and this is how I organize my collection so as not to go crazy


If it happens to you like me and you have thousands of photos scattered between your PC and hard drives, maybe this system will come in handy I have developed to find any shot in less than a minute.


Over the years I have tried many programs and applications, but I always come back to the same one. Adobe Lightroom, specifically its Library module, allows me to find any photo in an instant. And I can start developing or sending it right when I’m asked without batting an eyelid. Let’s see how we can do it.

Collect all the photos on a single hard drive

my first step is save all photos to a single hard drive. It can be internal or external (it will depend on the number of files you have). In my case I have everything on an 8 TB disk, inside a folder that I call Photos.


WD My Book 8TB External Desktop Hard Drive, 3.5

WD My Book 8TB 3.5″ External Desktop Hard Drive, USB 3.0, Black

All the photos are in one place and I don’t have to go around connecting and disconnecting disks. The most comfortable thing is to buy a large external disk (I have a 3.5″ one to avoid the temptation to move it and always have it on the computer table). It will be our exclusive photo disk.

Save photos

Some of the folders I have on my hard drive

In the First and Second World Wars, color (and not colored) photos were already taken: this was the arduous process to make them

I do not need to save by dates because it is a default data that the program or the operating system gives me. In my case, I always make a folder for each card. In the case of mobile, one folder per week.

Transfer photos to Adobe Lightroom

To transfer the photos to the computer I use, as I have mentioned, Adobe Lightroom. I put the card in the computer, with a good reader, and go to the menu File>Import Photos to open the Import window:

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SanDisk SDDR-399-G46 Extreme Pro SD UHS-II Card Reader/Writer with USB 3.0 Connector

SanDisk SDDR-399-G46 Extreme Pro SD UHS-II Card Reader/Writer with USB 3.0 Connector

  • In Origin we look for the hard drive that contains the files. We want to import all the folders that we have collected.
  • In the center of the interface, in the upper area, we mark the option Add. This is how we tell the program that we want to copy all the files that the hard drive has in the program’s catalog.
  • On the right side of the window we have two tabs: File management Y Applications during import.
Save photos

The import window

It is important to see the configuration of each tab:

  1. In File Management we choose minimum to make the copy. The import will be faster and the catalog will take up less space. And we leave Do not import supposed duplicates checked to avoid copying the same photographs more than once.
  2. Applications during import I never use at this time. Unless all the photos are from the same place and you can put the same keyword.

Rename folders and files

From now on, I do everything in Adobe Lightroom. Many times I have been asked for another way to do it, but I assure you that after 15 years this is the only method that guarantees what we said at the beginning, finding any photograph in less than a minute.

It’s time to rename each folder (only manually). Surely you all have the folders ‘Summer 2021’, ‘Summer 2021 II’, ‘Various’, ‘Birthday’, ‘Friends’ Birthday’, ‘Various II’… It is not practical and it is difficult to search like this. So I recommend giving the folders a unique and sequential name.

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What works best is put the initial of your name and a sequential number. I follow another method to rename, that’s why my folders start with D… Right now I’m going to download the D1492.

When I have the folder renamed, I go into it and select all the photos in Edit>Select All and go to Library>Rename Photo. And I have this template: Folder Name-Sequence Number (001).

Save Photos

How to change the name of our files

Why? This way, when I see the name of any photograph, I know in which folder and in which position it is without having to go around… If they ask me for the D1340-043, I only have to go to that folder and that’s it. You can’t imagine how much time is saved.

keyword time

Here is the secret of everything. You might even forget everything I’ve written before (I don’t recommend it). When you have all the photos on your hard drive, organized by folders and with their own name, you have to go to the Keywords tab and start filling in the box.

In order not to get lost in this stormy world, follow the following rules:

  1. We will put the ones that we really use. It is useless to put ‘German shepherd’ if you are always going to search for ‘dog’.
  2. The ones I always put first are the ones that geographically locate our photography. For example, if I have done it in the charro field I will put: ‘Ciudad Rodrigo’, ‘Salamanca’, ‘Castilla y Leon’, ‘Spain’. So I can find all of this town, Castile, etc. Then those that describe what is in the image.
  3. I always write them lowercase, singular and unaccented. This way we avoid problems with translation and writing in one way or another.
Save Photos

The Keywords tab in Adobe Lightroom

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We can write the same keywords to a group of photographs, one by one, by folders, if we know that we will not put many… But we have to put them. I assure you that it’s not wasted time. We will more than make up for it in the future.

Save photos

The Library Filter tool

Now we just have to go to Library Filter> Text and we will find any shot in less time. If we are methodical and precise, we will never fail to send a photograph because there is no way of knowing where it is.

Make the backup

And the last step, how could it be another, is to make a backup of all our files. We have to buy an extra disk to duplicate everything. There are many programs to do it. But the best method is manual. It never fails, unless we forget.

Save photos

Our catalog is our perfect image library

Once a week, after a long trip or important work, we connect the backup drive, select all the new folders on the main drive and copy them. It makes no sense to lose everything for not making such a simple gesture.

The story of 'Le Violon d'Ingres', the Man Ray photograph that may become the most expensive in history

I have been using this system for 10 years and I have always found the photographs that I have been asked for or that I have needed for any project. You have to do it so many times that it comes out without thinking, out of sheer routine. For me, there is nothing faster and more efficient to manage an archive of 176,000 photographs.

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