Naming Lightroom folders... Best method?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by anthony_bez, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. Hello,
    My present NEF workflow is... VNX-2 > CNX-2 > CS 6 ...planning for a future without CNX-2, I intend moving to lightroom 5 > CS 6.
    I want to optimise my folder structure before I import images into the lightroom library. My images are presently in folders named by location, for example... ITALY > rome > date-Colosseum
    I don't think of my images by capture date, so the location structure works for manual searching. But the more I research the more compelling the reason to name my folders, for lightroom, by DATE becomes. For example 2014 > ITALY > rome > Colosseum.
    I know this is personal preference, but I hoped experienced lightroom users could help me make the best choice?
  2. I don't think of my images by capture date, so the location structure works for manual searching.​
    Me too! Yes it's personal, use whatever system makes sense to you. You have to find the images! Further, searching by date in any DAM or outside it is pretty simple and an attribute of the OS (Mac or Windows) so I don't see the point of using dates for folder names. It is a very good idea IMHO to have a well structured folder system in case you have to find images outside the DAM or move to another DAM solution (something we are seeing today as many migrate from Aperture).
  3. Use what works for you. Lightroom does not dictate your folder structure to you.
  4. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    The "whatever makes sense" advice should be taken with caution imo. Many of us have done this starting out, making it up as we go along, only to realize years later there was better and more efficient system that we wish we had started with. The way I named stuff in the early 2000's is still haunting me. It is great you are here and second guessing yourself before diving in and asking about our hindsight.
    If I put my 250,000 image files into one single folder, I'd want the ability for every single file to be in chronological order. It's the same with my folders and their sub-folders. I want the ability of all my sub folders to be dumped into one place and have them in chrono order. I read here on PN a couple years ago about putting a year as a master folder, then inside it, it contains four sub folders for the quarters of the year. that made sense to me so when I re-did my catalog for LR 4, I first made "2014 Street" and in it, four sub-folders "2014 Q1 Street" and "2014 Q2 Street" all the way to Q4.
    Any triggers for your memory like Italy or Rome, should not to be contained in your file/folder name, imo. It is best left instead for keywords and collections.
  5. You will also want to tag the photos in Lightroom. It has built in features that makes tagging easy.
  6. No question tagging (keywords), picks, flags, star ratings and even custom metadata in the numerous fields available in LR are the key to a well structural system within the DAM. The OP's question however isn't about any of these items (yet) but rather:
    I want to optimise my folder structure before I import images into the lightroom library.​
    This isn't much different than how one organizes other folders either on their computer system or using an analog system (a drawer filled with file folders). Use what makes sense to you unless you believe the correct answer is, use what doesn't make sense to you! That seems rather pointless.

    Again, outside the DAM, with the folder structure the OP is asking about, you can sort them by date within the OS easily. Or by name, or anything else you wish that the OS supports. And instead of putting all the images in one folder, a pretty bad idea IMHO, with a good structure, you can if necessary find your images should there be any issues with the DAM. Sometimes it is just faster to go directly into a folder to drag and drop an image into Photoshop than launch LR. If you know you're looking for an image you shot at the Colosseum and you know it's in the Italy folder because you made it based on what makes sense to you, little need for the DAM in this instance.
    One really nice feature of Lightroom is a naming template called "Folder Name". What this does is allow the name of the image to contain the folder in which it is stored. So if you built a folder name template with that in there, not only would the Colosseum image be where it should be, in the Italy folder, the name of the image could also contain Italy OR if you decide to move onto a sub folder (Italy>Colosseum), renaming the files would be a snap. And if you imported images from the Colosseum but also from images on your card that were not from that area and belong in that folder, just drag and drop them into the correct folder within LR and hit the F2 key. The name of the moved image will be based on that folder which it should be. Again, the idea is folders that have good logical (to you) names and structure and file names such that you can if necessary, find images outside the DAM.
  7. The file-system folder structure is the physical organization*, and should be designed to best serve physical needs, the most important of which are storage (being able to go to additional volumes as they're needed) and backup. I think backup is easiest to set up if images are organized by date. You don't have to backup up images that are, say, a year old and are no longer changing as often as ones that are current and are still being changed. And a date organization allows you to easily check that images have been backed up.
    I use my asset manager (now LR; was iView several years ago) to organize images logically and to search for particular images. Database-oriented asset managers like LR don't care at all about the physical organization, so you can optimize the physical and logical organization simultaneously.
    The upshot of the above is to physically organize by date, and to use multiple logical organizations within LR, as many overlapping organizations as you wish.
    The above is essentially what Peter Krogh recommends in "The DAM Book" (DAM stands for Digital Asset Management).
    * Technically, from the perspective of the file system, folders are a logical organization, but what's going on inside the file system is irrelevant to the OP's question. Folders can be usefully thought of as the physical organization.
  8. Peter Krogh now has an eBook on organizing using LR 5, which is well worth a read IMO. There's a combination deal if you also want the Lightroom Queen's book, also a good one.
  9. I use the default, import by date. The only change I make is to nest each inside the year, to keep the folder structure relatively compact. Then I use tags, keywords, collections, etc., within Lightroom to find particular types of photos.
    But what works for me may not work for everyone. While I don't exactly have eidetic memory or hyperthymesia, I've never had any difficulty remembering the approximate places where and dates on which I took certain photos. And while I revisit themes and projects over years, I still find it easier to mentally organize and associate within a lifetime timeline: 2004>Theater; 2010>Theater; etc., rather than Theater>2004, 2010, etc. So Lightroom's default date import works well enough for my purposes.
    Also, every time I overthought or tried to outsmart the import-to-Lightroom process I messed things up. Some folders ended up nested as I wanted, others were stragglers that I'd have to tuck away later. If I created specific folders for one session - say, "Cell phone photos" or "Camera brand/model specific photos" - and forgot to change it next go-'round, new photos ended up in the wrong place. Metadata makes it easy enough to find photos by camera type within a certain time frame, so my custom folder notations were redundant. Unless I'm dealing with photos with stripped or no original EXIF data, but tags and keywords handle that pretty well.
  10. david_henderson


    Pretty much all my photography is on trips made especially for that purpose. So for me a combination of location and date ( I've been to some locations several times) works pretty well. eg. CUBA_03_10. I can nearly always recall what trip a particular photograph was made on. If your pattern of photography is similar to mine then I'd recommend this. OTOH if the bulk of your photography is flowers in your backyard, or around your home-town on zillions of dates, it wouldn't be appropriate.
  11. Thank you for the help everyone.....

    The first "expert" advise I found was from Tim Grey, who along with Andrew and David confirmed the benefits of my present Location file structure.
    Then I watched a convincing video by Peter Krogh explaining the merits of filing by date, like Eric, Marc and Lex.
    Location files work best for me, outside Lightroom... but I can see how date files give a simpler structure going forward, for backing up, searching within Lightroom.

    David, yes I travel a lot and like you have a file CUBA > 03 > 06 > 09, and many other locations. But I live in the City and regularly shoot street, so my "HOME" file is huge, with lots of (too many) dates.

    My gut feeling is to stick with LOCATION folders, but I have nagging doubts, that later I will regret not using DATE folders.
    As I am about to import all my images to the Lightroom library, this would be the ideal time to change.

    I am annoyed that I can not make up my mind! ....coin toss?

  12. Where (in which folders) files are stored is of primary importance. Once a system is so designated, it is very difficult to change it. By the principles of a relational data base, each image file must have a unique address, which should follow some hierarchal order. Place names, such as "Italy" are extremely limited. For example, the same image might pertain to "flowers" or "Roman Ruins", which are descriptors (e.g., Key Words), which do not require multiple copies of the same image. It doesn't matter where they are stored as long as you can do a search by one or more descriptors (or fields). You can use more than one field for the file key, such as a folder name and file number. That way the file number can be repeated at a future date without overlap.
    For record keeping, I maintain folder names based on a reverse date code (YYYYMMDD) because that's easy to sort. I put a tag at the end of that date code related to the general contents, like 20010723 Prague Castle. In general, I save files in folders based on the last date of capture. If possible, I back up each evening using that scheme.
    I'm not saying that's the best way, or the only way, just a "way" and the reasoning behind my decision. There are about twenty formalized rules for relational data base structures, but only the first two or three matter. (The rules were invented by IBM, who promptly tucked them away and never really used them. Kodak did that to a lot of their inventions too, with the same results. By contrast, Oracle and 3M "get it".)
  13. I use a combination of location and date; location folder for my own benefit of finding a bit more quickly, and the date (of import) to avoid having too huge folders. During import, I rename files to include the date and time of shooting, so that ordering by filename already can give me the chronological order when I want.
    From there on, though, I do use keywords and metadata to make it easier to find the specific photo I am after, but tagging all of my old collection is a huge job still largely not done. At least with the folder structure I've got now, I can usually find the file(s) I'm after quite fast, without having to rely on the catalog function of a program either. Personally, I think there is a benefit in maintainin this, and I use the import routines of my program (very similar to LR) to fit that.
  14. Here's my humble opinon

    On my hard drive I have a directory tree set up

    2011-05-18 Bay City

    I import the new folders into LR. The key to finding the pics you want is KEYWORDS. clouds location name, people,
    city, state, country, window, door, etc
  15. A function I'd love to see in LR is a basic function in any database system -- that is a search and match system that would allow all images/files to be stored in an unstructured way and retrieved on the fly by any of dozens of criteria -- all taken with an individual camera, all taken with some lens, all taken at 0800-0900 in the morning, etc.
  16. A function I'd love to see in LR is a basic function in any database system -- that is a search and match system that would allow all images/files to be stored in an unstructured way and retrieved on the fly by any of dozens of criteria -- all taken with an individual camera, all taken with some lens, all taken at 0800-0900 in the morning, etc.​
    LR already allows you to do that with a series of parameters as the attached image shows. Additionally, the lightroom catalog is just a regular relational database (SQLite) which can be read by a wide range of applications, besides an SQLite viewer, by installing an ODBC driver for SQLite. The options offered directly in LR are just a small range of the possibilities with the data in the database. There are even tables for "Face Properties" so I guess we'll see face recognition in the next version.
  17. Not sure how the folders structure per se and alone would be an issue and how it would be difficult to update or change the system in the future.
    Let's take the Italy folder and flowers shot there that need to be found. In the DAM, that should be easy assuming one uses keywords or other metadata. The physical location in the Italy folder could be further expanded (Italy>Flowers) but what if you have flowers from Paris? Now you have two identically named sub folders which may not be an issue unless you go searching by folder name.
    The point is, one big folder will all images isn't very effective especially if you want to find an image outside the DAM. 10,000 folders would equally be difficult and excessive. There's a point in which each user has to decide what makes sense in terms of numbers and names of folders and sub folders. Finding images inside the DAM is a different topic.
    Let's go back to the paper/analog analogy. You have a file cabinet where you keep your bills and need to access them for taxes. You could have one big folder called "Business Stuff" but I would submit, finding anything would be difficult even if all that data were also scanned and in your computer. You need to find that one piece of paper! If you had a folder called "Utilities", "Auto", "Office", that might be plenty of granularity to find the paper work. Some might want Utilities to have sub foldres (Phone, Cell, Water, Electricity). It may be somewhat pointless to have a Electricity folder then a sub folder for each month but heck, if that's what you need to find June 2011's electricity bill, fine with me.
    How is a folder structure of images different?
  18. Francisco: Thanks for the input. I'm using LR 3 and don'e know where to find what you have shown.
  19. The important thing is using keywords. At least for me, I am often not sure which folder I want to place the photo. But if it has the proper keywords I can still do a search and find it.

    Keep it simple. It can be over-organized in which case it becomes too much of a pain in the ass to do.

    A lot of excellent information but I think Andrew Rodney says it best.
  20. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    With three massive hard drives and each with hundreds of folders and thousands of sub folders, nothing is more pleasant to the eyes and brain than having your folders structured in reverse date code, I'm sure glad I took the month to do it. Being tidy, takes less effort/frustration in search. I'm with Lex and Edward and seems you are on the track already, Anthony, judging by your example of "2014 > ITALY > rome > Colosseum".
  21. E.J.: in the Library module, select "Show filter bar" from the view menu and then click on the "metadata" tab.
    You can select up to 8 criteria, by adding or removing columns. if you click on the column name, the list of options will display
  22. Thanks, so much. It is hard to believe I have struggled with this for so long. (In my other life I design systems to access big data and hold AI patents.) How embarrassing!
  23. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    EJ, maybe cruise through the free Adobe Tv videos? Some great stuff there and I find the videos running in a second monitor while I follow along in LR/PS on the other monitor, really helpful
  24. I use Year/Month/Location/Subject.
    For instance 2014 August Austin Street.
    For me a memory jogger is location and then month.
    I've even tried organizing just by subject but I won't get into what a nightmare that year turned out to be.
  25. Ditto, Eric's suggestion to check Adobe's free video tutorials. I've watched videos by other folks but haven't seen any better than Julieanne Kost's. Julieanne has first hand insider knowledge about how Lightroom works, her tutorials are succinct and well planned. She's organized and doesn't hem and haw around like so many other folks doing video tutorials. And no wasted time on elaborate intros, credits, vanity music videos or all the other stuff that plagues most YouTube video tutorials.
    And - I've emphasized this before - her voice is excellent for tutorials: clear, pleasant, well modulated and paced, with the right emphasis where appropriate. If you can learn a visual technique from merely listening to a tutorial - as if it were a podcast rather than a video - you know the instructor is doing a good job. Often I'll reply some of her videos a couple of times, only listening while I do other stuff, which helps me absorb some techniques more readily. With many other video tutorials if you don't watch the screen you won't get much out of the tutorial because either the instructor doesn't bother to clearly explain things, or the audio is so poor you can barely understand what they're saying.

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