When it comes to digital organization, there are a variety of ways to store your images. Using a topic-based folder structure for cataloging images is just one.
Depending on how you approach your storage, and what you photograph, you may find it more helpful than just a date-based folder structure. I know I do.
What is a topic-based folder structure?
Pretty much exactly as it sounds. I have folders on my PC based on their topic. I keep it fairly broad — Day Trips, Holidays, Personal Photos, Client Photos, Portrait and such. I can then break them down by year.
Think of it as storing all the same types of activities in the same folder structure. For example, in the Holiday Photos folder, I have 2021 and have my recent trip down the Great Ocean Road. As well as a separate folder for each mini-holiday we actually managed to have in 2021. I have folders for different years, but then the individual trips in named folders.
Why use a topic-based folder structure?
I find that if I am just looking through dates, it can be frustrating as I am sorting through hundreds of shoots through a year, possibly even months. So if I am looking ONLY for portraits or client photos, I can jump straight to that folder.
Whether in my backup or in Lightroom. It’s true that you can then be guessing what year the shoot was in, but for some reason, I rarely have trouble remembering when.
Where and when do dates come into it?
I’m not saying don’t use dates, I use them too, but I still start out with a topic first. I can pretty much remember if I am looking for client or personal data. Having dates on folders can be a great help to finding data as well. Even within my Topic folder, I will have different folders, with dates and names for ease of use and organization.
How do you find photos?
So regardless of topic or date-based folders, after a few years, it can get a little difficult to find a particular photo. Perhaps you are looking for all the family dog photos or your kids. Perhaps there is a particular model you have worked with for years and you want to bring up all those photos. There are programs like Excire and Mylio, which can really simplify your life significantly.
Is it really the best method?
I’m not sure if there is a perfect one size fits all. At the end of the day, you need to find a system that works best for you. Personally, I find a topic-based folder system works better for me. But others may prefer a date-based system. It all boils down to personal choice.
The bottom line? You need some structure to be able to find anything. Perhaps using a topic-based folder structure for cataloging images will work for you too!