My System for Pictures

I remember, very clearly, my French teacher in college commending me on my organizational skills. She said that it must take a lot of time to stay so organized, and I said no, actually, it didn’t take much time at all. Then, I conceded that it may have taken some time to set up initially, but that the upkeep was easy.

I remember this because I have always been an extremely organized person, and extremely proud of it. After I became a mother, I sensed that my organizational skills were slipping. However, the dent in my otherwise pristine skills that motherhood made has nothing on the massive system failure that occurred after I started teaching. As I said, I am a very organized person, so when I found myself drowning in papers, I started to wonder how people, not as organized as I, can even survive as teachers.

I have finally gotten my head above water, but I’m still working out the kinks in what is a large and, from what I can tell, ever-changing system. As such, I can’t share any words of teacher’s organizational wisdom with you just yet, but I did notice, during one of my cleaning sessions, a major flaw with my system for organizing pictures on my computer.

I don’t actually take all that many pictures, given how ridiculously easy it is to do now. Some people take thousands of pictures a year. I’d say I’m somewhere in the hundreds. But I do have thousands stored on my computer, and I had been storing them in folders that were grouped by subject and sometimes year, like Hawaii, Jun ’06. Pictures that were not as easily categorized just resided in the parent folder, pictures. And so it was that when Sonja was born, she got her own folder for her pictures on the computer. A folder which grew and grew and grew, with more pictures than I had ever taken before. When I needed to organize the folder, I grouped the pictures by year. Not the calendar year, but her age. So within ages 3-4, the pictures were named A_Sep 2014, all the way to K_Aug 2015. Pictures that didn’t include Sonja lived in the parent folder.

A few days ago, when I was searching for a picture and I couldn’t find it because I was looking in the Sonja folder and not the parent pictures folder, I realized that my daughter is not a category! Why, I wondered, did that take so long to figure out? Maybe because the cat and the dog each have their own folders. Maybe because she’s a category in my filing cabinet. (That file, by the way, is named baby, because the folder was started before she was born, and before she had a name. The file contains hospital information, ultrasounds, her birth certificate and various information from her check-ups. I haven’t bothered to change the file name because I suspect the whole idea of a filing cabinet is on the brink of becoming an anachronism.)

Sonja also has her own baby book, with pictures and stories all about her. I have a baby book and so does my husband, and that’s all that we have to refer to if we want to take a trip down memory lane. Sonja’s book doesn’t contain a fraction of the information available on this blog, nor a fraction of the pictures on my hard drive, and it probably will be accessed a fraction as much as this blog when I want to take that memory lane drive.

Somehow the crystal clear digital age has made so many things so very blurry. And that, I think, was why I didn’t see the obvious – pictures should simply be grouped by year. Calendar year. If I want to see a picture from her birth, I know what year to look in. It may be harder to remember just exactly when that decade old Hawaiian vacation occurred, but now I can tag the pictures for easy searching should my memory fail me on the dates.

I’ve also realized that this new system, which I am currently finalizing, will make it easier to back up my pictures. I always back up my pictures, but it gets really messy trying to figure out what I’ve backed up and what I haven’t. Yes, Hawaii Jun ’06 has been backed up, but how many pictures in the Sonja folder have been archived, and how many need to be? Same with the Sid folder. You get the idea. It’ll be much easier just to have one back up disc per year (providing all the pics from one year can fit on one disc – fingers crossed.)

This new system also saves me the hassle of separating where the pictures came from. I used to separate cell phone pics because the quality was so much lower, and I had some unfounded fear that I might actually try to print them. It’s really a moot point now. Even though the cell phone pic might not be as good as a camera pic, the print would still be fine, or if it wasn’t, I’d only be out like 19 cents. That is much better than not being able to find a picture I’m looking for because I don’t remember that I took it on my cell phone.

This system makes absolute logical sense, which I like and which appeals to my organizational side. But I hate undoing work that I have done, because, even though the system isn’t working, it’s an old and tested system, and I’d hate to forget something that turned out to be a really good idea. This fear is what separates college me from current me (well, one of many things.) I know now that organization in college did take time, I just didn’t notice it because I enjoyed doing it so much. I organized and reorganized all the time. Now I worry about embarking on any projects because I’m going to get interrupted, and half-done organization is no organization at all, so why bother? Current me just wants to stick with the broken system because it’s in place, but old, organizational me won’t go for that. She’ll slap me silly until I get everything in the right place.

So what do you think? How do you organize your digital photos, or do you?

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About suitejen

Writer. Video Editor. Mama.
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