files files everywhere

Just for kicks, I went through my project folder to see just how many files I had to keep track of for my album project. Here’s the breakdown:

2, 997 photos were taken between june 5 – sept 5
679 photos were post processed and used in the album
108 working files were created (all psd files of layouts, scans of memorabilia, and some psd files of edited photos)
296 completed layouts to be uploaded for print

Whew, that’s a lot of files.

Since I’ve gotten a few inquiries from you regarding how to sort, keep track of and manage files, I’m going to share the filing system that I created for the project. I love all things organizational-related so I’m super excited about today’s post. Even if you don’t plan on starting an album project, it is important to have an organized system for your photos so at the very least, skim through the first section of this post.

For my blurb book project (which I named mbook), I worked from two different master folders.
The 2009 folder is where I store all of my 2009 photos in its original form.
I always keep the original files stored in this folder. Photos that I post process are saved and stored in a separate folder. I’ve had to learn the hard way to set up my filing system this way. Who knew that my post processing preferences would change over time?? **cringe** Oh the remorse I feel every time I think about the photos that I ruined because I saved over the original file. That is a HUGE lesson learned for me. Don’t make the same mistake I made! Always retain an original copy of your photos. (Side note: the great thing about adobe lightroom is that all the edits you apply to your photos are non-destructive so you can edit to your hearts desire without worrying about destroying the original file. I currently use a combination of lightroom + photoshop to process my photos so I still save my edited photos to a separate folder).

Organize your photos in chronological order + be consistent with your file naming format.
My photos are all organized in chronological order. I have a separate folder for each year and within this folder are subfolders categorized by day. Here’s a screenshot of the folder contents:

All of my folders follow a consistent format: year-month-date-nameofevent(when applicable).
Incorporating event names or other keywords to the file name helps me remember what’s inside that folder. As you can see, I only have a few folders that are tagged with keywords. This is something that I need to improve upon but I haven’t quite figured what keywords will work. Since I’ve been taking photos (almost) everyday for project 365, most of the photos are a series of random + unrelated things: audreyinbackyard+maddietummytime just doesn’t quite cut it as a keyword. If you’ve figured out a system that works for you, please share.

Inside the project folder mbook
This is the folder I saved/stored all things that were related to this project: psd templates I created, flattened jpg files for uploading, low reso files for posting online, etc. All of the folders I created for this project followed this format: mbook-contents of folder. Here’s a screenshot of the contents:

a closer look at the folder contents (click on folder icon to see what’s inside)

a folder for your processed photos
This folder stores all the photos I want to include in the album. I use lightroom to go through my photos. I also use lightroom to perform basic edits (adjusting exposure, temperature, tones) and export them to this folder.

working psd/tif files
This folder stores all of the psd/tif files related this the project: layouts, scans of memorabilia, and psd files of select post processed photos (this is so I can remember which combination of actions.) I always retain a layered psd/tif file of my layouts so I can easily go back and make changes to a layout if the need arises. I used the following file naming format for my layouts files: 060509, 060609, and so on. Since I was scrapping the photos in chronological order, and the pages would be organized by the same way, it just made the most sense to name them simply by date.

What if I’m making an album of a certain event (like a birthday party) and all the photos/layouts have the same date. What type of file naming scheme should I use?

I would still include the date of the event (the more often you use the same pattern the more likely it will eventually become intuitive for you) and then tack on a descriptive category to the file name:

122008-cake cutting
122008-opening gifts

Once you have the categories established, you can go a step further and plan what order you want these categories to appear in your book

122008-04-cake cutting
122008-05-opening gifts

Doing this little bit pf pre-planning ahead of time is beneficial in so many ways! First, it gives your project a tangible structure. Nothing motivates me more than having a vision of what my project may end up looking like. Having these categories also helps trememdously with your workflow because you can schedule/divide tasks based accordingly: today I am going to sort through all of the photos of guests, tomorrow I will get these photos scrapped, etc. Doesn’t the project appear much more manageable when you can break them down to mini tasks? It’s totally do-able and you can do it!

high-res (3oodpi) layouts you will print/upload to book vendor
I stored all of my high-res layouts to this folder so when it came time to upload to the photo vendor, all I had to do was browse to this folder, select all, and click submit. The file naming format I followed corresponded with the psd files above, with the addition of page numbers: 060509-1, 060509-2, 060509-3, 060609-1, 060609-2…and so on.

low-res files for online sharing
I kepp all low-resolution files for web posting in this folder.

That’s the nuts and bolts of my filing system. I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions, or if you have suggestions or want to share your organizational system, please post in the comments section below or email me. I’d love to hear from you!

Blog Comments

fascinating liz! thanks for sharing!!!

Wow, you are incredibly organized! 🙂

I really, really hope you make this into a template / album, would love to have an easy way to do this especially in the 8 x 10 size! 🙂

As a digital scrapbooker and a wedding photographer- the amount of images I take is crazy. This year? I took 40,000 images. So far.
If you use a combination of lightroom and photoshop(like what was mentioned in the post) I can not stress enough having backups of originals, back ups of your ligtroom catalogs, and most importantly, separate lightroom catalogs!
By having separate lightroom catalogs for each year or every six months if you take lot of photos, you can ensure that your lightroom catalog is not huge, bloated, and likely to have the lightroom catalog crash/corrupt meaning all your photos should be fine- but any editing? Gone.
I highly highly recommend watching these great lightroom tutorials:

Yes, they are for wedding photographers, but they are just perfect for digital scrapbookers too.

Lyz thank you to share.
I have my photo are stored by date since the birth of my daughter and my project idea 365.
I try to make template and layout in advance, but I do not know if it's the best thing to do.
You keep tif files instead. SDB, why is there a reason. For high quality files to upload to the blurb you took what quality JPEG with how many megabyte?
I'll throw myself into the adventure of tomorrows. The book I want it to be a sort of archive photos of my daughters in addition to its proposed 365 with one photo per day.

Thank you for sharing everything with us, taker advice eun artist like you
Fan of your work

Lys, another $ question you always used the same style preset in lightroom when processing your photos?

As laura, i hope you make this inyo template/album in 8*10 size

Thanks so much

danielle and barb – thanks!

laura – yes ma'am. I'm working on it. 🙂

Kelly – Thank you so much for sharing. I didn't know we could create lightroom catalogs and save our edits. How brilliant. You're inspiring me to utilize lightroom more, thank you for that! And also for the helpful link, I really appreciate it. 🙂

Christelle – Hey, we are doing the exact same thing! Maddie's album was more of a "catalog" of all her photos. and I plan on doing a separate album for my project 365 photos. I started on those layouts this week and will be posting some of them tomorrow.

I save my layered files as tiff files because they are smaller in size than psd files. For the hig-res jpeg files, I usually save at a quality level of 10, the actual size of the file varies from page to page.

For my lightroom edits, I don't use any presets, but I do utilize the SYNC feature, which helps trememdously. I plan on doing a full post about my photo editing process so I'll go into more detail about it then. 🙂 Thank you always for your kind words.

Lyz we thank you for answer. I'll try tiff, I do not know, like the Lightroom catalog I do not use it, I did a test yesterday, it's cool that automatically sorts photos by date. Thank you board. I must learn better use of the software.

good news if you work on templates in size 8-10
I'll be waiting a bit before starting my book project. Because I want to be such a beautiful project like that.

For 5 months of my daughters have already 8000 pictures and already weighs about 60 GB when you love one count. For me capture every moment is very important. Thank you to digital.

Lyz Good day, I lingered to see your latest pages

PS: I will now launch the page Mozaique (will be a good start), thank you for the template

Liz, sorry I have some questions:
when you load your page blurb about the software, what layout you chose? center, full page?
The titles, dates of each page is on my page in photoshop and not my layout blurb?
I have a fear of color rendering? How do you manage to get photos so gently? Really your colors (photo motherhood and others) by their color as a result of softness. I would like to have the same record, but I can not really.

A soon for future events ….

outstanding!! love it all!!! you never cease to amaze and thrill me to work harder at being a mom, a scrapper and a photographer!

Christelle – I selected the full page layouts. When you are making yoru pages, make sure that you leave an 1/8 of an inch on all sides to prevent it from being cut off. Without seeing your pages it's hard for me to tell you wnat the issue may be. Can you send me a screenshot? For my photos, I use a combination of lightroom and photoshop. I plan on doing a post on my post processing soon. so I'll go into detail about my photo editing there.

AnneMarie – thank you!

woo!! i'm so excited! Thank You!!

I am so happy I found your site! The advice you are giving makes so much sense and I am going to get my photos organized right now.

So looking forward to your advice on how to post process the photos.

I plan to make this my New Years resolution to get a wonderful album made and printed. For now I will make sure I have everything ready and in order.

I do hope you will be sharing templates with us – you are so talented.

Thank you for all the time you take to give us so much wonderful advice.

I'm so glad I found your post on organizing files. That is my number one biggest problem but thanks to you not any more. I'm off to see what else you have going on around here. Thanks for sharing!

I'd like to suggest that when using a date naming format for files that you use the format of yymmdd or yyyymmdd. The reason for this is that if you have files named 010108 and 020308 in your folder and then you put 010709 in that same folder, you will find that, when sorted by name, the file from 09 will sort between the two 08 files. On the other hand, if they are 080101 and 080203 the 090107 will sort in its proper place after the two 08 files. If you include files from different centuries or millenia, then using the yyyy format will do the same thing for you.

Excellent idea! Thank you for taking the time so share this with us. Filing is a daunting job unless you have a system. This is great!!!

What a sensational project! I love, love, love the book. It is precious.
Thank you so much for sharing the process. I know how much time and hard work goes in to this. It is VERY much appreciated and will be studied avidly.

Hi Liz,
Im in the process of re-organizing all my photos and digi-scrapping stuff onto my new EHDs, so all the tips you can share about organizing are a huge help! point me to other similar posts please! will be following you too!

HI Liz,
My photos are a disaster (un organized to the max). I would like to start organizing and your tips are very helpful. But I have a question. I see that you have a mac…do you keep your photos in iphoto too? Or do you put them in folders and remove them from iphoto. I like using iphoto as a way of view my images quickly but I think that its getting over crowded.


this is genius! i have been thinking for quite a long time now, how to organize the photos in my hard drive without being confused the next day which is which. i really really hope i could start doing this next week.

but, may i just know how low is low resolutions (for file sharing)? i just have no idea..

thanks a lot 🙂

Hi Cherry,

Low resolution for web posting is usually 72 dpi. This post is two years old, I’ve since modified my file naming system slightly to: year-month-day-imagesequence. I transfer photos from the camera to my computer using lightroom and have the import settings set so that it automatically adds the date the photo was taken to the file name. It’s a huge time saver! If you don’t use lightroom, I’m sure there’s a way you can set this up with whatever system/program you’re using to import your photos.


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