7 Replies Latest reply on Jun 4, 2016 6:15 AM by nokin50

    Recommendations for image organization on disk?


      I am moving from Aperture to LR and am looking for general feedback about the image organization before I begin the migration. From Aperture, I will export a final edited JPEG version (with metadata), plus the original image (without metadata), which is usually a RAW or TIFF file. I want the original version in case I want to re-edit in LR, although most images will never be touched again. I plan to place the images in the folder structure described below and use the “Add” import option to keep the photos in the folders when importing to LR. The folders will be organized by “Year,” with subfolders for the “Final” and “Original” files. The hierarchy will look like this:


      “Images” Folder

           >“1983” Folder

                > “Final” folder

                     >JPEG 1

                     >JPEG 2


                 > “Original” folder


                     >TIFF 2    


           >“1984” Folder

                > “Final” folder

                     >JPEG 1

                     >JPEG 2


                > “Original” folder

                     >TIFF 1

                     >TIFF 2



      This organization will allow me to easily find the original file in case I needed to re-edit an image (the final and original images have different file names). Is there a significant disadvantage in using this organizational method? For example, it seems that images can’t be stacked if they reside in different folders.  I had considered “stacking” the original and final versions, but discarded the idea for other reasons. However, I’m unsure if I will be causing other problems by using a folder system like this. 


      Many of my images are scanned family photos that go back to the 1880’s, so organization by year seems like a good choice for me. I use keywords to group events within a year (e.g. 1983a, 1983b, etc.). I will create smart collections from the keywords for display, so I don’t need a folder structure based on events.


      Alternatively, I could use the “Copy” or “Move” import options and let LR organize the files. I’m not sure how the default LR organization works (by import session or date?). I suspect it doesn’t simply place them in a single folder.


      I appreciate any thoughts regarding the proposed organization. I would prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes instead of my own! It’s quite possible that the correct answer to my question is “it doesn’t matter.”


      Thanks David

        • 1. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
          dj_paige Level 10

          Can you really remember what year your thousands (or tens of thousands) (or hundreds of thousands) of photos were taken? Or do you have some other database that allows you to easily look up the year the photo was taken?


          Same question regarding your events, 1983a 1983b, etc. Can you really remember that a photo was 1983b and not 1983c?


          In my mind, keywords ought to be descriptive (e.g. Hendrix Concert) rather than non-descriptive (1983b)

          Many of my images are scanned family photos that go back to the 1880’s, so organization by year seems like a good choice for me.

          Organize by subject matter. Let me say that again: Organize by subject matter. And see, I put it in italics because I feel really strongly about it. Use the subject matter for (your choice of) keywords, captions, titles, etc. Why? For the reasons explained above, you will not be able to remember the year the photo was taken. There's nothing wrong with placing the year into the metadata somehow, you will want to be able to look up the year; but you do not want to organize or search by year. When you want that photo of great-grandpa Morty, you search for Morty, and you won't have to stand there scratching your head because you are pretty sure the photo was taken in the 1930s, but which year was it?


          If your photos are already segregated by Year in Aperture, there's nothing wrong keeping them in folders by Year, but that's storage only. It won't help you find the photos. Organization (as opposed to storage location) should be by subject matter.


          I will create smart collections from the keywords for display

          I'm not sure I understand this, but it sounds to me like extra unnecessary work. If you have a keyword "Morty", for example, you don't also need to create a smart collection for photos with the keyword "Morty". Just use the keyword to find all the photos of Morty.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
            nokin50 Level 1

            Ha! Are you challenging my excellent memory? ;-)


            I didn’t expand on my entire metadata workflow since I was mainly asking about disk organization. I have much more metadata info available than I described in my original request. Much of it corresponds, or is similar to your recommendations.


            First, more info on my metadata:

            For example (using Aperture nomenclature), I have a smart album named “1983c Bogota trip” that uses the 1983c keyword to populate the smart gallery. The gallery will be in a 1983 folder that also contains a dozen or so other smart galleries that have similar descriptive names. I don’t have to remember what 1983c means, plus I keep the keywords simpler, which makes it easier to be consistent (e.g. I don’t have to ask my self it was the  the “Bogota Trip” keyword or the “Colombia trip” keyword). All 1983 photos are assigned to some logical event (occasionally some photos may appear in more than one event like 1983c and 1983k). Each year, I usually have an album (e.g. 1983g) that corresponds to the “1983g Friends and Family” smart album, that includes various photos of people that year that don’t belong to a specific event.


            I also use face ID (people) so I can find individuals (the inclusion of this in LR 6 is why I am finally making the switch). So “Morty” is a keyword along with all his friend. I also add a DRS keyword for photos I took, or KLS for photos my father took (etc.). I geotag all photos so I can locate by geography, plus I adjust the capture date to reflect the date the photo was taken (not the scan date). I also include, year, decade and rating keywords (yes… this is redundant within Aperture or LR, but very useful if I export images for others to use).


            Finally, I also write comments in the description field that are searchable text. If I wanted to find my Hendrix concert photos, the word “Hendrix” would be in the comments for at least some of the photos (probably all). Otherwise, the rest the related photos would be in the same event (e.g. 1971e). Again, this makes it more easier since the keyword could be “Hendrix,” “Hendrix Concert,” or “Concert.” I really don’t like overly descriptive keywords because it makes it more difficult to be consistent (this is probably where we disagree).


            I really have no problem finding anything I want; usually in a few seconds. For example, I can easily find all 4 & 5 star photos of my brother that were taken by my father in Denver during the 1960s.


            Second, regarding the disk organization:

            My Aperture file organization was somewhat different than my proposed LR organization since Aperture edited “Versions” can be treated entirely independent from the actual image “Files.” The version “points” to the file location (similar, but significantly different than LR).


            Since LR can’t import my Aperture edits, I have to import an edited final version, plus the original file. Because of this, the final version no longer “points” to the original file, which is essentially the reason why I developed the proposed folder organization on disk (“final” & “original” file system within a given year). I can locate the edited version in LR in the same manner as I currently do in Aperture, since it has all the same metadata. Once I locate the version I want, the original file can also be found reasonably easily since it is in the same parent folder. This “dual file” approach (final & original) will be unnecessary for photos developed entirely within LR (i.e. all future photos). 


            I don’t think you had a specific objection about the proposed folder organization on disk (which was feedback I was looking for). The only limitation I have found so far with this organization is the inability to stack photos in different disk folders. Not ideal, but good to know in advance. Just wondering if there are other things that will bite me later.


            Thanks for the feedback,


            • 3. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
              Jao vdL Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              In my opinion, the only thing that works reliably is a simple year->Date structure. Anything different is just a waste of time and only serves to complicate your life. This is the structure that Lightroom does by default when importing. This is simply:







              This vastly simplifies organization as it is always consistent and allows you to easily backup or move folders to external hard disks if your internal one fills up too much.


              There is no point in having original and final folders. You only need originals. Any edited picture you need is much quicker exported from Lightroom when you need it so you can do the size and format you need when you need it and it is much easier to find the image you want in Lightroom quickly than scrolling through folders in Finder/Explorer anyway. The key really is well-organized metadata as dj indicates. If you keyword you can find anything quickly. Also finding specific dates and such is trivial using the filter bar.


              That said, Lightroom doesn't really care how you organize your originals so do what works best for you.

              • 4. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
                nokin50 Level 1

                I appreciate the feedback. It doesn’t seem there is too much of a problem with the folder structure I proposed. However, you may have missed a couple aspects of my issue in my long post.


                First, I am only proposing the two folder organization (original & final) for photos exported from Aperture (not photos edited in LR). the “original” files are the unedited TIFF (or RAW) files from Aperture and the “final” files are the edited JPEGS exported from Aperture. LR can’t import the edits from Aperture, so I need both copies (unless I want to re-edit ~30,000 photos).


                Second, the edited JPEGs will no longer be “linked” in any way to the original files (LR won’t know where the file is if I want to re-edit the photo). That is why I proposed placing them under the same parent folder by year. For example, if I completed a default LR import with a 1983 photo, the edited version (which has been date corrected) will be under the 1983 folder, and the original version (which has NOT been date corrected), will end up in a 2015 folder (when it was scanned). It would be difficult to find the original if needed, since they don’t share the the same file name. All photos from 1880 to ~2010 will fall into this category since they are all scanned much later than their capture date.


                Your feedback was really very helpful and you inadvertently pointed out a problem I would have if I completed a default import (which I have considered). I think this answers my question.




                • 5. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
                  Jao vdL Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  Oh, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah if you want both versions from Aperture this is an approach. The date problem is an important one to look out for indeed. If the files have the same capture date embedded, Lightroom will be able to match them using its autostack but if they aren't you might get a big mess!

                  • 6. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
                    dj_paige Level 10

                    I wasn't challenging your memory, I was challenging everyone's memory.


                    Since you do make extensive use of metadata for organizing and searching, I congratulate you, that is indeed the best way in my opinion, and you are way ahead of where I thought you were. But we do see lots of people working very hard to create some extremely detailed folder structure, and I always cringe when I see that, again in my opinion there are much better ways.


                    I agree with @Jao_vdL simple folder structures are best, and there is no need for the subfolders you have planned. However, in my opinion, I would change his sentence "That said, Lightroom doesn't really care how you organize your originals so do what works best for you" to read "That said, Lightroom doesn't really care how you organize your originals so create a folder structure that takes the least effort."

                    • 7. Re: Recommendations for image organization on disk?
                      nokin50 Level 1

                      I agree completely with you that metadata is the way to go for finding photos. Creating a complex folder structure to find photos is pointless. I was proposing this fairly simple structure only for my edited Aperture photos that I will import into LR (not for my new photos edited in LR). This will allow me to preserve my Aperture edits in LR, PLUS allow me to manually “connect” the final edited version with the original unedited file in case I want to re-edit. 


                      Previously, I didn’t care at all about using a specific folder structure for my photos. Aperture has two options for library organization. The first is a “referenced” library, where the user can set up whatever folder structure is desired (like LR). The second is a “managed” library, where Aperture places all photos into its’ data base and the photos files are not even visible to the user (sort of like the default LR copy import option). I used the managed library option in Aperture because I don’t care about the folder structure. However, now I have to care about locating the original files which have a different creation date, different file name and different metadata than the final edited version (and LR has no idea they are related!). The proposed folder structure seemed like the best compromise for a fairly simple folder structure, but still allows me to find the original files with little effort.


                      I originally thought the move to LR would be easier. After all, the Mac version of LR has a built-in Aperture library import function. However, you lose ALL photo edits, plus critical metadata (like GPS coordinates). No thanks. I’ll do it my way and save everything I have worked on for the past six years.


                      Once again, thanks for the feedback. I now feel more confident that there are no fundamental problems with my proposed disk organization structure.