Cherryfield.net
Organizing your Graphics

Wren's 10 Tips
(for using a digital camera)

1. Take LOTS of pictures.

2. Always download into the same original folder.

3. Rename pictures (automatically, before you even look at them).

4. Backup your pictures, especially originals, ASAP.

5. Review/Organize your new pictures.

6. Make Subject Folders, copy best pictures there.

7. Crop and/or Enhance.

8. E-mail smaller versions of pictures to friends.

9. Print high-resolution cropped/enhanced version.

10. Share your images via slide-shows or web pages.

Organizing your Graphics
More Details than you want to know:

1. Take LOTS of pictures.

Unlike your old camera, it doesn't cost anything to take extra pictures. Get your money's worth, take multiple pictures of the same thing; this is how you'll get good ones you really like. Even for still life take a couple (in case you accidentally move the camera as you click the shutter). For a picture with people take as many as you can. If there's more than one person in the picture you probably need even more to get a good picture of everybody. If they are posed pictures, people may not stand still for too many, but as long as they are candid pictures, you can just keep clicking away.

2. Always download into the same original folder.

Always load your original pictures into the same folder. This folder is equivalent to the chronological file in an office filing system. Start a new original folder every year, or north/south season, or when it has enough to fill a CD. I prefer to use a card reader to transfer images, they're fast and it's just a simple drag and drop step. The software that comes with some new cameras tries to be to clever and creates new folders every time you download images, but in the long run you will probably find this structure annoying.

Here's part of the directory (folder) structure on my system:

  Albums
     2001
     2002
     2003
        AssMed03       (Pictures, Music and SlideShows via eMail, etc.)
        Flying         (Pictures taken while flying around)
        Moosehead      (Pictures when visiting Moosehead Lake)
        WCRR           (Pictures playing with trains)
     Original
        Canon02a       (Pictures from my Canon camera in 2002)
        Canon02b       (more pictures, Canon02a fills an entire CD)
        Canon03a       (more pictures, started new folder for 2003)
        Nikon01a       (Pictures from my Nikon camera in 2001)
        Nikon04a       (Pictures from my new Nikon camera in 2004)
        Scan01         (Stuff I scanned in 2001)
        Scan02         (Stuff I scanned in 2002)

This year I would download pictures to Nikon04a, until the pictures filled a CD. Then I would create a Nikon04b folder and start putting them in there.

3. Rename pictures (automatically, before you even look at them).

As soon as you download the pictures from your camera, even before you look at them, use some program to automatically rename them so they have a unique name which will sort in chronological order and includes your initials. (Examples: wm2003-0234.jpg, wm0311-0123.jpg, w13456.jpg, etc.)

Why? Most people try renaming based on the subject, but this turns into a disaster once you have thousands of pictures. I just use a sequential number, but you could also add the year or the year and month to the name (as shown in the examples above). Because I'm careful to never touch the originals the date/time stamp on the original file tells me the date (but there are advantages to adding some indication of the date to the name).

Use your initials so that a couple of years from now, friends who end up with lots of pictures on their computer have a clue as to the original source.

Make sure every variation of the picture you create keeps the same name, or you just add a suffix to the original name. (Examples: w13456a.jpg, w13456b600q2.jpg, etc.) This is also why you rename immediately. As soon as you start looking at them, you'll want to send one you like to a friend, or maybe crop it, or adjust the color levels to improve it. You want to save this variation with a suffix added to the name; if you haven't renamed them first you'll use some other name and be sorry later.

To rename pictures I recommend either the "Batch Rename" feature of your favorite graphic organizing program or a specialized program like my namepic program or PIE. namepic has the advantage it will work with a single click, but some have found it difficult to configure. If you're someone who lives nearby, give me a call and I'll help you setup the shortcut, but you still have to reconfigure when you switch to a new directory next year. You could avoid this problem by downloading to a directory with a name like New, and moving them after renaming. It sounds like PIE can also be configured to work automatically; PIE was recommended, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Another choice is Qimage which will move pictures from your camera card and rename them in a single step ... if you print your own pictures I strongly recommend Qimage.

If your camera keeps sequential numbers which never (or almost never) start over, you could skip this step but it's still recommended so that people you send pictures to have a clue where they came from two years later. If they get pictures from several friends, they're apt to end up with lots of pictures with names like DSCN1234.JPG.

Never try to name the pictures based on subject, you'll waste a lot of time, and if you follow Rule 1, they are way to many to rename anyway.

Never touch the pictures in the original directory. You may think you're saving a better improved version, but because of the way JPG compression works you are guaranteed to loose some quality which you may need later.

I always backup any new pictures to another directory of the same name on another computer. Be sure to backup frequently. When I failed to backup for a while last summer, that's when my hard drive died and I lost a lot of original pictures.

Last step is to delete the pictures from your camera's memory card. Optimally you have backed them up first and reviewed them to make sure they all transferred successfully. You can either delete them from your camera's menu, or if you use a card reader you can delete them from your (make sure your card doesn't just move them to a Recycle Bin on the card ... you can tell if this happens if the camera shows you have fewer pictures remaining than there should be when your card is empty).

4. Backup your pictures, especially originals, ASAP.

I try and backup my pictures to a second hard drive as soon as I rename them, before I do any organizing. This prevents me from accidently loosing one of my originals by moving instead of copying and then overwriting. If you don't have a second hard drive, backup to CD.

You also want to backup your folders organized by year and subject (see below) frequently.

5. Review/Organize your new pictures.

Here you want to use a program that's good at viewing and organizing pictures. My favorite organizers.

Note, if a picture has the wrong orientation, I rotate the copy in the original directory -- but only do this if you know the program doing the rotating will preserve the full quality of the picture plus any meta data the camera has embedded in it. For example, both FastStone and ACDSee do JPEG rotation without loosing any information or quality. (If your program doesn't say anything about this, it probably doesn't do it; in which case you shouldn't rotate the original.) Personally I also want file containing the rotated image to keep the original date and time. Both FastStone and ACDSee will, but you have to verify your option settings ... at least one of them doesn't do this by default.

6. Make Subject Folders, copy best pictures there.

Usually all the new pictures you just loaded have the same subject: "Billy Bob Birthday Bash", "Disney Trip", or maybe just a location and/or date like "Myakka River, November".

Make a folder with this name (since I recommend creating these folders as sub-folders of a year folder, there's no reason to include the year in the folder name). Copy, don't move your best pictures there (any you want to print, e-mail to friends, or show someone on your computer screen.) Remember these have already been renamed so the pictures themselves have some kind of short name using your chronological numbering system.

Don't delete any pictures in your original folder (well almost any -- I delete the ones where I left the lens cap on.)

Note: If your graphics management program supports long descriptive names in addition to short file name, and it copies these names along with the graphics (like ACDSee does) you might want to add the description to the photos you're going to copy before copying so the description will be in both places. (However, in real life I find I never do until I've made up my mini-album and am ready to add captions.)

7. Crop and/or Enhance.

Crop and/or enhance only the copy in the subject folder. (Using your graphics program is another session, this session is about organizing graphics.) Save the enhanced version at its original resolution and don't use too much compression (keep the picture at a fairly high quality.) This is the picture you print and/or show people (as long as your viewing program automatically scales it to fit your screen.)

8. E-mail smaller versions of pictures to friends.

Your graphics organizing program is likely to have an E-Mail feature. Test it out, make sure it works with the E-Mail program you use. Make sure it sends a small, compressed graphic not the large, high-quality version you use for printing and/or displaying on your computer. The small version should no more than about 50KB in size. I use sizes like 640x480 pixels (or 800x600 with good compression).

If this feature doesn't work for you then read the next few paragraphs and attach the versions in your e sub-folders to e-mails. These images transmit quickly and they won't annoy the recipient as would your original high-resolution image. If the E-Mail feature works, you can skip the next few paragraphs.

Make another folder under every subject folder, always name it the same (name it something like e-mail, or just e to save extra typing). Note: the following doesn't apply if you have a program which does Batch Resize. With Batch Resize you first crop or enhance your best pictures, and then use Batch Resize to make all the smaller version at once.

If you don't use Batch Resize, after you've save each cropped/enhanced version, while it's still open in the editor, resize it to some standard size. Make the width or height (whichever is bigger) something like 600 or 640 -- your graphics program will figure out the other size automatically depending on how you've cropped the picture. Save this version in the e folder (use higher compression for this version, quality isn't as important for a photo viewed on the screen and it will take much less time to e-mail. With ACDSee, use an image quality of about 15. With Paint Shop Photo Albums, use Low Quality (one problem with PSPA is that there only seems to be one place to set the quality ... it's not as easy to set different qualities for different resolutions or purposes). I also use these smaller versions to create photo albums on the web. I have a tool which automatically transfers my ACDSee descriptions to captions on my web pages.

Why do we save it while the picture is still open in the editor? At this point the picture still has it's maximum quality. Every time you edit and save a picture it looses a little quality because of the compression algorithm. This is why we keep originals untouched: the quality of the original is always better (and it contains meta data added by your camera that is also lost during editing.) Usually if you want to edit a picture differently, you are better off going back and getting another copy of the original.

9. Print high-resolution cropped/enhanced version.

For printing pictures I think there is no better program than Qimage. The advantage is it interpolates the output to the precise resolution required for the size print being produced and does final sharpening at the same time. It can produce Album pages and/or print multiple images on a sheet. I use to use ACDSee for printing individual pictures, you can also print them with FastStone. If you want to print Photo Albums, with several pictures on a page, maybe something like Photo Deluxe came with your camera -- it's good for making photo album pages. If you get the ACDSee PowerPack use FotoSlate.

10. Share your images via slide-shows or web pages.

Your subject folders automatically become your electronic Photo Albums. Any of the organizers we've talked about make it painless to view a full screen slide show right on your computer.

Note: to avoid having two copies of the same photo in your electronic Photo Album, also create a variation or v sub-folder and put any variations (special effects, tests, various resolutions, etc.) of a picture there.

To share picture with friends over the internet you would normally upload the resized images in your e folder to a personal website or a site which I really like called pbase. If you're sharing via a website that makes their money making prints for your friends you want to upload the high-resolution version of your images.

To make more sophisticated slide shows, I recommend ProShow Gold. You've already done most of the work when you created your subject folder and enhanced the images as necessary. All that's left is to add a little motion, control the timing and throw in a few transitions.


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