Skip Navigation LinksStoringPhotos

Storing Your Photos Using PhotoLibrary

"If I were starting over, I would definitely use an all-number coding..."
John Shaw, 1984. The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques. pg 139.

A great deal of information has been published on the web and in books discussing how to store photos. Whether you decide to use storage boxes or hang your photos in clear plastic pages in a file cabinet, the goal of your storage system should be to both preserve the photos and allow you to find any one photo quickly and easily.

There are many published descriptions of storage and retrieval systems that meet photographer's needs. Most of these systems tend to use a classification system that keeps similar subject material stored together.

However, the classification system has many disadvantages (Robl, 1998). The biggest problem with a classification system for storing photos is that you can store the photo under only one subject and most photos have more than one subject. For example, if you have a photo of geese at sunset taken at a wildlife refuge, where do you store it? With your Birds photos, or Sunset photos, or with other photos of the same the location? Having similar images of the same photo can help with this problem but creates other problems as well. For example, if you have more that one photo of the geese at sunset, one can be stored with Birds, one with Sunsets, and one under the location. But if you sell the photo, then how do you track which photo is licensed for use? Each of these photos then needs a unique inventory number.

Additionally, classification systems identify each photo by adding subject information to the Photo ID. For example, WF-CO-RMNTS means wildflowers, Colorado, Rocky Mountains. This ID is of little use to anyone except the photographer who created it since they are the only one who knows what the codes mean - assuming they remember them! Also, if the subject is split up then the codes become obsolete. For example, suppose you start with BI as a code for birds. Then after a number of years you decide that you want to make shorebirds a new subject because you taken lots of birds photos, the older shorebird photos will have an old code. Will you go back and re-label them??

Another problem with the classification system is that one subject may grow so large that it becomes necessary move the all the photos under the subject to a new location. For example, a collection of wildflower photos may get so big that it no longer fits in the storage device (shoe box or file drawer). Thus, you as a subject grows you are constantly shifting and re-arranging the collection. Libraries do this with books all the time.

Finally, most of these systems were devised prior to the availability of low cost personal computers and database software. The software was then made to fit the existing manual system of searching for photos.

PhotoLibrary solves these problems by allowing you to use a sequential numbering system if you want. The number of the photo (the PhotoID) identifies the photo and it’s location in the collection. Thus, you can simply store your photos in order and use PhotoLibrary to find the ones you want. There are no codes to memorize. When you add a new photo to PhotoLibrary, it will tell you what the next number can be. You can change it if you want.

Sequential Numbering has several other advantages:
· Filing photos does not require any advanced knowledge of where different subjects are stored.
· Re-filing photos takes a minimum of effort.
· All photos taken at the same time will be stored together.
· As the size of your collection grows, you simply add more storage devices.
· Similar photos can all have the same PhotoID. This is useful for tracking sales and licensing rights.

The only disadvantage of a sequential numbering system is that images of the same subject and of related subjects will be found at many locations throughout the collection. But that is what PhotoLibrary is for. Use it to search for the subjects AND locations of photos you want and PhotoLibrary will give you the list of PhotoIDs.

What could be easier?