“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – HCB

Cartier-Bresson has a point, and believe me when I took my 10,001st photograph nothing magical happened to make all my photos great from then on. Occasionally I like to look back through my archive and learn from the mistakes I have made in the past. You never know i might find a rare gem in my first 10, 000 photographs.

I have to admit I have been a very lazy archivist and have found this a great cost to myself sometimes. I have mislaid (I say mislaid because I still believe they exist in the cyber terrain somewhere) dozens of digital photos over the years. I remember most of them and cringe when I think of what they were of; my cousin running in the London Marathon, our Christmas trip to Bali and I had a massive OH NO moment when I thought I had mislaid our wedding photos. Luckily they turned up on my wife’s hard-disk drive (HDD) and our great photographer had also kept copies. My pictures go missing when I am transferring from one place to another, either to make space on a CF card or because I want send a photo but I don’t have my HDD with me to store them at the time so I put them “somewhere safe”.

I started an archive system many years ago and I stuck with it. Basically I store my photos in a folders based on the year, month and “job” shot. I have a very visual memory and I can see a picture in my mind but then I have to try and remember when it was taken before I can find it.

I am a believer in hoarding all the photos I take, apart from the totally out of focus and unusable frames. A photo you take today could be insignificant at the time but in the future it could be priceless. But it is pretty pointless hoarding all of these photos unless you have an easy way of being able to find them.

So I think it is about time I overhauled my archive system; a) to make it easier for me to sort through all my photos and search for what I need to find, b) to make it harder for me to mislay any photos and c) to browse through all my photos at once without having open multiple folders.

This is something I have been considering for some time and at first I was hoping there would be a software solution that would mean I could continue with my current system. I briefly tried ACDSee and FotoStation as both of these applications offer the option to browse within sub folders, categorize photos and search through an archive.

ACDSee seems ok, it just seems to take a lot of setting up. You have to select each folder in the tree and only then can you browse through them in one seamless flow. FotoStation can browse the root folder and all subfolders easily but, it could have been an issue with my hardware, it crashed on me several times. Then someone recommended Adobe Lightroom which I am currently using in a 30-day trial. I have checked out several tutorial videos and it seems to do exactly what I need. Has anyone tried it, what experiences have you had with it?

As a way of getting around browsing sub folders, I was considering changing my archive system altogether and having just 3 folders in my archive; jpegs, raws & edits. In the root folder I will add the relevant file type and the edit folder will be where saved copies of edits are kept. Am I crazy, thinking it will be a good idea to keep all my photos across just three folders?, is there a limit to how many items you can store within a folder? Is there a higher risk to me losing my photos if they are all in one folder? From what I understand Lightroom keeps files in your archive as a “negative” so I might not need to do anything different after all. Yippee!

So it looks like I might have a solution for archiving and accessing my pictures but one thing does still scare me greatly. The hardware I use to keep my pictures. I rely solely on an Iomega 500GB HDD. I don’t mirror and I don’t back-up to “the cloud”. If that disk was to fail on me that would be 280 GBs, over 30,000 photos lost.

I know this is something I should really change but I’m unsure of where to start. Any advice in this area would be great.

Have you had any nightmare experiences with losing your photos?

Apologies for such a wordy post and a lack of pictures. This was deliberate to scare myself in becoming better at storing my pictures. I have been looking into making Cinemagraphs so hopefully next week you might see my experiment(s).

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