The name game

The late Sacramento area stock photographer Tom Meyers was not only a great shooter but he was a whiz at organizing his photos as well. In the pre-digital age, he had file cabinets with thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of slides, and each were carefully and meticulously filed and cross referenced for easy finding.

Most other photographers, including me, were not so conscientious. In the old days of film it was hard for some, perhaps even most photographers to keep track of their photos and negatives. May of theirs negatives, slides and prints are relegated to boxes stuffed into dusty closets or garages.

I had (and still have) my favorite photos, slides and negatives either in carefully filed in binders in a cabinet at home. The second tier slides are stuffed into boxes stacked in a closet. To find out what’s on them I’d have to go through them with a magnifier one at a time.

You may think that with digital cameras all your troubles in storing and the retrieving photos would be solved. True, but only if you’re nearly meticulous as Meyers was.

At the Record we occasionally use what we call “file photos” which are pictures that we’ve shot in the past. Finding them is a matter of how “searchable” they are.

The more ways you can make a photo searchable, the easier it will be to find.

First is to renamed the photo.” Images will usually come straight out of the camera with sequential alphanumeric designations something like IMG_1234, IMG_1235, etc. Not something that’s easily remembered to be sure. You can rename them on your computer one at a time if you want but that takes a lot of time.

I use a photo browsing program called Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits (but there are many others you can use) that will allow me to rename my photos in large batches with whatever name I choose. each photo will also have a sequential number (AsparagusFesitval_001, 002, etc). This is a godsend when having to deal with an assignment that generals a lot of pictures such as a sporting event in which there may be hundreds of photos to rename. You can name your photos something generic (eg : Football) but the more specific you are, the more searchable the photo will be (eg: DeltaFootball).

In addition to renaming the photo you can attach caption information to the image. In Photo Mechanic I can add the names of who is in the picture, what they’re doing and where they are. This will help to make your photos searchable for, person, place or activity.

In there days of film there was what was known as “databacks.” They replaced the backs of cameras with ones that could imprint information such as time, date, aperture and shutter speeds onto or in between the negative frames.

Today, there is what’s known as metadata that’s embedded into the information of each photo. It encodes the photos with the date, which makes them searchable for the day it was taken, but also time, shutter speed, aperture, camera, lens, and ISO information, as well. GPS enabled cameras will even give the longitude and latitude of where the picture was taken.

After renaming them, I put all the photos into a folder of the same name. I shoot several assignments in a day so I’ll put all of the assignment folders into another folder with the day’s date. Then I put the daily folder into one of 12 monthly folders (January, February, etc.). Finally I put those folders into yet another folder marked for the year.

This may seem a bit much to the amateur photographer or casual picture taker, but it makes it much easier to find your pictures by making them searchable.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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