Genealogy: Downloading images from digital camera

Downloading images from digital cameraBy Barry J. Ewell

Each time you download pictures from your digital camera, store them in a unique subfolder of the current year. For example, if I’ve been taking pictures at a cemetery, I would create a temporary folder that includes my name, photo shoot, and date (day, month, year) such as “Barry Ewell_Beaver_Cemetery-120407.”  It makes it really easy to find photos when I am ready to sort, delete, name, and file.

Deleting bad images is ok
As the years go by and your collection grows, it will be easier to retrieve photos if you’ve named and sorted them.

Simplify your photo-sorting process by eliminating pictures you don’t need. As soon as you download images, delete the shots that are unusable—whether they’re overexposed, underexposed, duplicates, or pictures where your thumb got in the way. But be sure to keep the ones that image-editing tools can improve.

There are pros and cons to various organizational methods. These guidelines will help get your files under control. You’ll want to experiment to refine your own system.

A few words on batch naming
A key to organizing photos is to give batches of photos a similar name. “Batching” allows you to perform the same function (like naming) on multiple files at once. This saves time and ensures the changes you make to your files are consistent.

For example, give your Paris pictures a similar name at the beginning plus an additional descriptor to identify the specific photo, such as “Paris Eiffel Tower” and “Paris café night.” Just open the folder, select all, and rename the photos so that all files for an event are grouped together. Once you’ve moved the files into the appropriate subfolders, you can rearrange them however you like.

Name pictures logically
One way to get organized quickly is by renaming your photos when you download them from a digital camera to computer. Digital cameras assign pictures alphanumeric names. But who remembers that JX1000054 was that wonderful sunset shot during your last vacation? Giving pictures descriptive names as soon as you download them will help you remember what they are.

What makes a good name? Think about how you might search for a picture at a later date: Are you more likely to want to retrieve all of your sunset shots (or maybe all your Virginia Library shots on the “Jones” line) at once?  Naming pictures logically and batch naming will provide ease in locating your images.

When you’re naming your files, use an underscore (_) or hyphen (-) instead of a space between words to prevent problems later if you post your pictures online.  The reason to underscore, or use dashes and no spaces in a file name is to keep the file name from becoming a security threat where viruses, etc., can attach themselves.

When it comes to photos with multiple persons, I will try to name all the persons.  If I have more than five individuals as is the case in many family photos, I may title the photo “Ora Jones Family” and then in the catalog name all the persons.

Tip: If you have a folder of pictures with the camera’s default names, such as “DSCN3089,” you can easily rename these photos all at once. Batch renaming of photos is a simple task that can be done quickly and will keep your pictures organized.

Searching for pictures
Now that you have named your pictures to identify the people in each one, you can easily find pictures with a particular person in them.

Digital photo-organization software
Photo-organizing software will automatically track information about each picture you add, including the date, file size, and image dimensions. That means you’ll be able to search for photos taken at a particular time, or images taken at high resolution that you want to print.

Another great way to store and find your pictures is to use digital photo-organization software.

Creating a photo library
Digital Image Library (or the digital image software of your choosing) makes it easier to find pictures you haven’t named by showing thumbnails from all your folders simultaneously. For example, if you were to click on “Barry_Ewell_Beaver_Cemetery-120407,” the digital image software will show thumbnails of all the pictures you’ve added to any subfolder. It can show larger thumbnails than Windows Explorer, too, which makes them much easier to see. You can also give star ratings to pictures to designate the best ones that you may want to share with someone at a later date.

Organizing and naming your pictures logically is a good practice that pays off later when you really need to find that special shot. Follow these best practices, and you’ll have a computer full of easy-to-find pictures.