IT'S EASY TO CAPTURE THE PEOPLE, PLACES, AND EVENTS of our lives with today's high-resolution digital cameras. But having your camera ready at the right moment, and taking the time to compose your shot, and following up with a good system of organization and publication, all take discipline. I've gone through a learning process with all of these, and have developed a few best practices to help keep photography a joy.
Good photo-documentation only requires a few basic steps, all of which have to do with keeping yourself organized. These are my own guidelines:
- Location. Use a hand-held global positioning system (GPS) whenever possible to ensure positional accuracy. If a GPS is not handy, use the camera itself to snap pictures of street-signs and landmarks that will jog your memory when it comes time to organize your albums.
- Calendar. Use a computer folder setup that relies on date and time as the organizational principal for your unfiltered collection. Later on, append simple keywords to folders containing photographic sequences; use keywords that are derived from events, people, places, or things related to the sequence. For example, the folder for 2008-07-13 might become 2008-07-13-Anniversary. At this unfiltered level, avoid elaborate organizational schemes.
- Originals. Keep originals intact: all touch-ups, cropping, framing, lighting adjustments, and so forth, should be saved as separate files, that contain the original accession number of the photograph as part of the filename. For example, IMG1234 might become “IMG1234_cropped”. Never drop the accession number from the filename.
- Duplicates. Build your albums using any organizational folder system that makes sense for your projects. Remember though, move copies of the originals into your complex hierarchy.
- Backup. Have a disaster recovery system in place for your collection. If your unfiltered collection is too big for full backups, at least protect your culled collection.
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