File management – keep those files in order

Ok, so you shoot a lot of photos, you think you do pretty good with managing your files.  I thought I did too.

In order to manage your files and preserve them for years to come, you must get into good file management habits.  This starts at the beginning with what you buy.

In my article  I Just Lost All My Photos – Now What!! I delved into what to do when you loose your files.  Now let’s explore a good plan to prevent it from happening in the first place.

1. Buy good cards…  I am partial to SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro SD Cards.  As for class, might as well get the fastest card you can get.  Stay away from store brands, lesser known brands like Transcend, Patriot, Polaroid, etc…  Stick with brands like SanDisk, and Lexar.  Also be sure that you are buying legit ones too. If the price on Amazon is too good to be true, it probably is fake.

2. Limit the size – I know it is very alluring to get the 128GB Class 10 SD card that will hold 2,000 images and hours upon hours of 1080p Full HD video….  But don’t.  It is better to have only 25% of your images missing than 100% of them.  Cards do go bad, it’s not IF but when.  Yes, you can usually recover the files if it is just a bad file table…. but if that card goes totally off the rails – your stuff is GONE!  I stick with a 32GB card, as most cameras can write to them, I get close to 800-1000 18MP RAW files on them.  Again it limits the amount of stuff that is lost if the card goes bad.

3. They don’t last forever – If you have a card that you use all the time, after about a year, rotate it out with a new one.

Now that we have what to buy out of the way, we come to procedures that you should make a habit.
  1. No Deleting photos from the card – It does not matter if it is a black frame, maybe it is blurry; do not delete files from your card in the device or in the computer.  It’s like the old Doritos commercial “crunch all you want, we’ll make more” – you will have plenty of room on your memory card that you can afford to keep that one bad picture on the card.  The reason for not deleting files is that it leaves “holes” in the file system… think of a sidewalk, all the sections are in a nice orderly pattern, then you have that rouge section, or maybe it goes to gravel or dirt.  That is what happens when you delete files.
  2. Copy don’t move – never move files from the card to the computer – Moving a file is the same thing as deleting it from the card.  Copy the files over to the computer or external hard drive…. then if something happens, you still have a copy on the memory card.
  3. Format your card – yes, I just said to format your memory card, which erases the card. Once you are done copying all your files over or the card is full AND you have copied all your files over – format it. More importantly format it in the device you are going to use it in too!  Extra step: If your camera has a “Low Level Format” option – use it too
  4. Don’t cross contaminate the card – If I am shooting with my Canon DSLR, that card stays in the Canon.  If I wish to move that card to the Samsung Video camera I would copy my files to the computer and then put the card in the video camera and format it. Why? Because Canon may use one way to write a file and Samsung has their own way.
  5. Back up your stuff – I cannot say backup your stuff enough. BACK IT UP!!!!!
    1. Use the 3-2-1 method.  3 copies of the file, on 2 different medias and 1 off-site.  I use 2 external hard drives “backup” and “working”, and Amazon Cloud.  So my cloud is my “Off-site” portion.  You could also use DVD’s but that can get bulky when you get in the range of 300+GB of data.  Your offsite could be as simple as burning the files to a DVD and giving them to a family member to keep, as long as it is at another location.
    2. Do not leave your external hard drives plugged in if you are not using them.  My “backup” drive is plugged in long enough to transfer the files to it and then it is disconnected.
  6. Have a Plan – If you are shooting something once in a lifetime like a wedding for hire; have a fail-safe.  This could be a second shooter, a camera that can write to CF and SD cards, switching between multiple cards, etc.
  7. Don’t wait – If you go out shooting, move those photos over to the computer ASAP.  This is so you do not have files sitting on a SD card that are not on your computer…. as when they are on just the SD card, they are not backed up.
  8. Keep Em Separated! – When traveling via air, don’t keep the backup hard drive in the same place as the SD cards.  Just in case you and your hard drive or camera bag get separated from each other.  I use one of these Pelican 0915 Black SD Memory Card Protective Case, place it in your pocket,backpack,etc

Get a workflow that works for you.  Mine is as follows.  1. Take card out of camera and straight into the computer.  2. import into lightroom CC – this does the copying of the files to the “working” drive. 3. Eject the card.  4. copy files to backup drive and then disconnect it. 5. upload to cloud.  Only now can I edit my photos and/or format the memory card.

Organizing in Lightroom

I prefer to use a date based organization for my photos.  My photos are stored in a folders by the year and then a mm-dd-yyyy folder.  Sometimes I will add what I was doing that day to it, for things like vacations, or concerts.

I use keywords, and geotags to easily find my photos.

Geotagging is adding the location information to your photos. Mainly the Longitude and Latitude of the photo


In hope this helps and prevents loosing those important moments.