5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Image Archive

5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Image Archive

Now that spring is officially upon us, you’re likely to be inundated with tips on how to spring clean this, and spring clean that. Put that massive garage cleanup on the back burner for now, and instead focus on your image archive.

If the idea of organizing your archive seems daunting, and you keep telling yourself you’ll do it “one day”, think of this: getting (and staying) organized is key to running a successful photography business.  You can take great images, but if your work is in disarray, something will inevitably fall through the cracks, especially if you’re scrambling to find images when your clients need them fast.

Here are 5 ways you can spring clean your image archive. Some may be more time consuming than others, depending on what state your current archive is in, but they’re all equally important.

1. Follow the 3-2-1 rule

Backing up your work is arguably the most critical thing on this list, so do it first. The 3-2-1 rule says:

  • Keep 3 copies of your images (one primary and two backups)
  • Keep files on 2 different media types (such as hard drive and CD/DVD)
  • Make sure that at least 1 copy is stored offsite (i.e. online)

Good thing that PhotoShelter is a secure, redundant cloud-based archive – we store multiple copies of your images on multiple services in various geographic locations. This means that when your work is backed up on PhotoShelter, you don’t have to worry about losing a hard drive or accessing your images. No matter where you are, your images – from JPGs to PSDs and even RAW files – are at your fingertips. Want to try us out?


2. Scan any negatives

If you still have old negatives lying around the house, it’s time to scan them to digital. If you’re shooting film, then you should also be scanning. Depending on your needs and budget, film scanners are available for as little as $54.99 or as much as $24,995.00. Note that some photographers find only the pricier models can do justice to 35mm slides and negatives. B&H has a roundup of film scanners here (see the “Converting Film Negatives, Prints and Slides to Digital Files” section). There are also a number of scanning services that will provide you with high resolution scans for a reasonable price. Our Co-Founder Allen reviewed Scancafe a few years ago.

3. Pick a folder and naming structure (and stick with it)

Once you cross a certain threshold, grouping all your images into one folder called “archive” isn’t going to cut it. Create an organized folder structure, and stick to it every time you add new images. A lot of photographers like to create separate collections for each client or portfolio. Do something similar with individual image file names, whether you include the date, the client or topic (e.g. nature, wedding, fashion), keep it consistent across all your files.

For example, “James & Lisa’s Wedding” or “Fine Art Landscapes”. Then they group related images into galleries, and nest them under the appropriate collection. So you might have “Reception” under “James & Lisa’s Wedding” and “Seascapes” under “Fine Art Landscapes”. The nesting structure makes it easy to quickly locate images.

Another common organizational strategy is by year. Depending on your shooting volume, you might sub-categorize by month (and even day!).

4. Add or update your metadata

In an ideal world you’re adding keywords to your metadata as soon as you upload your images. Sometimes we skip this step in our workflow when we’re pressed for time, but accurate, detailed metadata is helpful in organizing your archive. Many archiving systems made for photographers let you search by IPTC metadata fields. Metadata that’s properly keyworded also helps improve your images’ SEO.

Many cameras will allow the automatic inclusion of some metadata like copyright. And software like Photo Mechanic can add metadata in batch upon ingest. Save yourself future headache by using these tricks now.

5. Refresh your portfolio

You should really update your portfolio with new imagery every quarter (if not monthly since frequency of updates to your website is yet another SEO signal), but if you haven’t already, take this as a kick in the behind to do so. Swap out last year’s images for ones that reflect the type of work you hope to get from clients. Your online portfolio should be relatively easy to edit on your own (at least in terms of removing and adding images to your portfolio site); print portfolios might take more time to edit and create, but it’s a good exercise to review the latest additions to your archive and select the best of the best.

Check out photo consultant Jasmine DeFoore’s tips for getting organized and building a better portfolio.

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There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Stephen L. Tyler at 11:32 am

    Great idea. If my internet provider were a little more reliable (meaning faster), I’d get on it sooner rather than later. I’m living in the Philippines and I can only do so much when I come back to the states for a short visit. But I’ll get there eventually 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

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  4. high structure cleaning at 2:08 am

    You still have old negatives lying around the house, it’s time to scan them to digital. If you’re shooting film, then you should also be scanning. Really meta data is something we should look for Sometimes we skip this step in our workflow when we’re pressed for time, but accurate, detailed metadata is helpful in organizing your archive Metadata which is properly keyworded also helps improve your images SEO.

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