All The Unhappy Photos aka My Photography Organization Skills (or lack there of).

By Posted in - Photography Posts & Photos & Pre Trip on June 4th, 2010

Julia cooking in her restaurant.

I got some sort of weird flu two days ago so I have been laying low, sleeping and not doing much. Today I decided to go through some of my photos to look for a few for an upcoming guest post on AlmostFearless. What I found was a mess! I have done a good job of keeping my wedding photos organized but I have known for a long time that the travel photos have been suffering.

Well things only got worse a month or so ago because I had to transfer computers and transfer all my files. I back all my files up anyway so that wasn’t an issue but the issue was that one day I would use computer A and then the other day I would use computer B to do my work on. This horrible idea started happening because occasionally Randy would have to take a computer with him to work and would need to take the Mac because it doesn’t need to be plugged in. The PC battery is dead and if the plug gets knocked out of the computer I lose everything. It’s not like I can just start back up and everything is there like it would be if the computer was sleeping – nope everything would be completely gone unless it had been saved. I usually work on several things at once and have several lists going and you can imagine the frustration of losing this info time and time again.

Pablo's Powdered Hands

This issue is what caused me to switch full time to the Mac and Randy now uses the Ipod when he needs to take a computer to work. So I technically have 3 copies of everything (actually 4 because I use two external hard drives) which is great, the only problem is I would edit photos on one computer, not update the external hard drive, then use the other computer on another day. It actually took a while for me to figure out what a mess I had made. Now I have all the same photos at various stages of editing on different computers and hard drives. It is still a mess and I honestly don’t know if I can fix it since there are thousands of photos to go through. I still have Utah photos to edit, Joshua Tree photos (I took over 15oo on my road trip), Vegas photos to edit and various other photos. There are just too many to sit down at both computers and compare which is updated and which isn’t. Plus I have been looking for certain photos to go with certain posts and having a hard time finding them. On top of that wedding season is about to be in full swing, which will leave me little to no time for editing my own work. Ugh. I am so mad at myself for creating all of this extra work.

Sand Paintings for Day of the Dead.

Beyond this mess my organization was not great by any means and my trip to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertes is my most obvious mess to date. I took over 1500 photos in 5 days and a lot of them are awesome and yet have never even seen the light of day. We met some amazing people and interviewed 2 people while we were down there regarding Day of the Dead activities. The problem is that 1500 photos is overwhelming when they aren’t organized well. Even though I generally shoot double that amount in one day for a wedding, it is a little easier to organize because everything in a time line – pre ceremony, ceremony, family shots, bridal shots, reception. It’s pretty clear cut and that makes it much easier. It’s so much harder when I travel because I am shooting a lot of different things – people, buildings, street photos, emotions. Trying to catalogue all of that is a nightmare. I have amazing photos from the cemetaries and the people we met that have never been shown. I have fantastic photos of Pablo, his powdered hands and his stories regarding the sand paintings in the middle of town. In fact there is an entire interview with him that has never been released. Then there’s Julia, her amazing family and the awesome food she made for us in her new restaurant (and refused to let us pay for), there’s the dancing, the candles, the graves, the trip to magical Mt. Ablan. All these photos are in hiding and quite frankly there are some sad little photos lurking around on my computer because of this lack of organization. They want to be seen and they deserve to be seen. I need a new photo gallery and a new organization method so I can make them happy again.

The magical Mt. Ablan.

Well up until this time I had organized my photos like thisĀ  – “good” “better” “best”. Pathetic I know. I would start the editing process by wedding out the good shots, then I would go through those for the better ones, then I would edit those and put them in the “best” pile. There was no further organization. Day of the Dead was probably my largest travel photography undertaking and it suffered severely due to this organization method. Really I needed to sort it more like this – Cemeteries, Ceremonies, Markets, Food, Street Photos, Pretty Places, Mt. Ablan, emotions, Etc. Then I should’ve gone through and picked out the good, the bad and the best and edited them like that.

Oaxaca grave on Dia de Los Muertos with a woman holding rosary beads in the background.

I am definitely making a change after witnessing this mess that I have created. I am no longer going to use my old method of photo organization. I honestly never even edited all of the photos from Oaxaca because it was so overwhelming and other work projects kept getting in the way. If I break things down initially I know it’s going to be so much easier because instead of just sitting down to edit hundreds of photos on end I can just do one type of thing like Oaxaca Markets or Pablo and the Sand Paintings.

Oaxaca Grave Detail

I’m writing this post because editing is a HUGE part of any photographers job and honestly it’s more work than anything else. It is hard to keep on top of because it is a manual process and I never want to put out photos that I think are not as good as they could be. Just sorting through 1500 photos to determine which ones you are going to edit is tough enough. When you start actually editing it physically becomes draining. Lack of organization, as I have obviously learned, makes it SO much worse.

Wall of graves in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The other thing that bums me out is that my gallery page on this blog sucks. I have tried a million different galleries and I can’t get them to work. The current one is totally outdated with old stuff and because I could never get any other galleries to work on WordPress I had to make slide shows in Picasa and then embed them on the page. I don’t like doing that and I really hate the way it looks. If anyone has any tips or wants to help me make a real gallery please contact me. I have a couple that I have in mind that I like. I will be forever in your debt. I can’t be a travel photographer with a horrible gallery and bad photo organizational skills and right now I am both. Boo! šŸ™

On a positive note, you can expect a lot of Oaxaca photos in the upcoming weeks. I am bound and determined that these will photos will have their day.

What do you do to organize your photos? Please feel free to leave a comment – I’m sure people out there have much better ideas about this than I do and I would LOVE to hear them.

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*Please remember all photos on this website are copyrighted and property of, & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me to ask first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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(6) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Zee -

    June 4, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I thank you for your post. My organizational skills are being revamped right now because it was extremely stressful for me to hunt for my pictures and edit them because everything was just thrown into the folder of the month which the pictures were taken. That hunting and looooong editing time caused me to dread posting and that isn’t what I need in keeping my blog alive.

    Now that I am getting ready to port my fledgling blog to a standalone dot com I have taken a different approach to my organization. All posts previously posted are boxed up as is in a folder marked for last year 2009. The ones I have yet to post for 2010 are all done by subject and placed in their individual folders. For example, I went to a BBQ place, loved it and took some pics of what I ate. Everything included with that shoot is in that folder instead of intermingled with restaurants I went to weeks before in the same month. SO, when I feel like posting about the BBQ place it is all set, ready to go with the JPGs and PSDs in the very same folder. Everything pertaining to XYZ BBQ place is in THAT folder. When 2010 ends all those pics in their folders for that year will be in the 2010 folder according to subject/restaurant. Thus far it has worked wonderfully for me.

    This rethinking alone has removed so much of the burden of backing up, looking for, collecting, editing and posting because I am not going by date I am going by content. With your Oaxaca photos you could post by places you went during your trip there rather than by hard date and time. Do try the list your told us of “Cemeteries, Ceremonies, Markets, Food, Street Photos..etc” and see if that helps contain the chaos and boost your sanity. The Lord knows us photographers have a lot to think about and do and sweet organization skills makes the process so much smoother!
    .-= ZeeĀ“s last blog ..San Marco Goes Green =-.

  • Dick Jordan -

    June 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I understand your pain!

    I shot 3,000+ images during a month-long trip to Europe last Fall. Lots of duds, maybe 10% “keepers.” At home I shoot 100-400 during my weekly Tuesday hikes and have to weed those out, too.

    I’ve been using Photoshop Elements for about 2 years. Rather than stick all of my photos in a single “Catalog”, I set up separate ones for each trip, then pick the best ones to use to illustrate a particular travel story and stick copies into a Catalog just for that story. I should make better use of the “Tag” function in PE; all too often I don’t get around to doing so.

    I also organize photos into plain old Windows folders. I can add those folders to Picasa and then upload the photos to on-line Picasa Web albums.

    Like you, I’m not that keen on “look” of Picasa slideshows, whether they are run directly from the on-line album or embedded in my blog. I have fiddled around a bit with creating “movies” out of still images using Picasa (here’s one you can look at: and also in Photoshop Elements.

    I know that some pros (I’m not one) like Adobe Lightroom (with integrates with the full Photoshop program), but I think they have the same problem: A zillion images saved, but difficult to catalog for easy location and retrieval.

    I’m about to move my blog from Blogger to a hosted-domain using WordPress and was hoping I could find a better “slideshow” widget than what Picasa offers, but it sounds like you’ve explored that extensively without success.


    Dick Jordan
    .-= Dick JordanĀ“s last blog ..Travel News Update (6/4/10) from Tales Told From The Road =-.

  • beersandbeans -

    June 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for the comment Dick! I know it is tough finding the time but at least I love doing it! I have found other, better slide shows the problem is I just can’t get them to work on my site. I am actually trying to break away from the slide shows on the gallery page because I want something a bit more interactive. There are a ton of options out there but for whatever reason they are not working with my site. I’ve been trying to correct this problem for a while now and end up getting frustrated with it. I want to get it squared away soon though because the worst feeling is having it hanging over my head!

    I love all the links on your blog – I signed up for your feed!

  • beersandbeans -

    June 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Zee – thanks for your comment! I actually do have things broken down into years, then the topic, then the event then the better, best, etc. But what I have learned is that I need to keep breaking things down even further for editing purposes and to save my sanity!

  • Leigh -

    June 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I take pictures but not to the extent you do and I too feel unorganized. Since photos are such a huge part of who who are it’s probably worth dedicating a solid week and prioritizing the organization. Let everything else go to hell around you. Mentally you will feel much lighter when it’s done and there’s no reason you can’t accomplish much of what needs to be done in a week. The hour here and hour there never accomplish as much as being dedicated to one goal in a set time frame. Be ruthless.

    Love your sand painting photo. Actually love them all but that one in particular.

  • beersandbeans -

    June 8, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Hi Leigh, Yeah, you are probably right it’s just right in the middle of wedding season and I just can’t do it. Keeping up with editing is tough enough. I got some great advice on Twitter and I realized what I really need to do is just keep grouping things up to more detailed folders. I’m just going to start anew and maybe when we take off in 10 weeks I can sit at a cafe and just organize the old stuff for a week straight. Glad you like the sand painting photo too! I have a multimedia post coming out about Pablo and the sand paintings which should be interesting and will have more sand photos in it!