Your archive should have a hierarchy

With just a few more weeks left, how do you winnow the year’s work into a useful heirarchy? And why should you?

To answer the second question first, there are several benefits to creating a hierarchy in your archive. And by hierarchy, I mean rating your images in descending layers of quality. This assumes that you’re using archiving software, that every image has at least a basic caption, that your naming structure is consistent and logical to your type of work, that your images are backed up more than once locally - and remotely - and that you’re a good person, the last thing having nothing to do with archiving.

If you haven’t created a hierarchy, every time you need an image or a set of pictures, you’ll have to deal with a random pile, starting from scratch every time you dip into your archive. Maybe your memory will help narrow where the pictures you want might be, but beyond that, it’s a hunt and peck, a time suck.

This became clear to me when working at the White House, where we’d get scores of requests for photos every day. Searching the whole archive with a slightly narrowed search parameter (secretary of state, for instance) was like using a bucket to catch fish at the bottom of a lake. So I started to rate every image in the Merlin based archive. Then any of us could narrow the search by parameters and rating, cutting search time to a fraction of what it was taking.

I’d suggest creating a three-tier rating system in your images - primes, seconds and thirds. In Aperture or Lightroom or Photo Mechanic or Media Pro, you can do this layer with star ratings. For subsequent edits, or uses of your photos, you can use color ratings to meet the needs of that particular edit without losing the base ratings.

Creating this hierarchy is daunting if you’re starting from scratch. Attack it from two directions. Start by being disciplined with every new set of pictures you create. Name, caption, rate. Then as you have time, start at the other end of your archive and work forward. Each single effort won’t take that much time. Whittle away at it and over time, you’ll have a much more valuable set of pictures. 

Then, every time you need a picture, you’ll be able to find it without that daunting dreadful feeling in the pit of your stomach. And it’s certainly more uplifting to browse your work if you can hide from view the lesser images.

Good luck.

Make pictures that are larger than the frame

Swan song