Monday, January 7, 2008

File management / work flow using Picasa

2 posts ago I said I'd talk about file management the next post. I guess I lied. Anyways, here is the post:

If you talk to 100 photographers you'll hear at least a hundred different ways to handle the workflow from taking the photograph to working on it to printing and storing it.

I'm a big fan of using Picasa, available free from Google. Go to the linked site, download the software to your desktop, double click it to install it and let it do it's thing. Once it's installed, Picassa asks if you want it to look on your drive for photographs. Go ahead and let Picasa catalog your photos. Picasa will look in your documents folders, on your desktop and anywhere else you point it to.

Once it's installed, when you plug in your camera's memory card, the computer will give you the option to use Picasa to download and edit the photos. When you click on Picasa, it will pop up a window that shows the first file on the card, and a pane with all the rest of the files. I click on the import all button, and then click on the safe delete to delete the files from the memory card as soon as Picasa is sure all the files are on my hard drive. Other folks might leave them on the memory card and burn all the original files to a cd or DVD. It's on you how you want to proceed. I don't do the extra burn because I use an external hard drive to back up my files. no need to burn CDs and have the portable hard drive back up to. Your milage may vary!

When you download the files, you need to tell Picasa which folder to put them in. I use a filing scheme that is based on the date I took most of the photos, and a few key words. So, for example today I took some photos at Silver Lake, the folder I put the files in is "2008-01-07 Silver lake robins". I put the year first because if I put it 01-07-2008, then the computer will sort 01-10-2007 after 01-07-2008, which I don't like. Then, if I have 01-10-2006, all the 01s come first in the sort, then the 02s, thent he 03s.... it's a big mess. Having the key words allows me to use Picasa's search functions later to find the pics.
As I mentioned earlier, I like to go through my photos and delete the dogs immediately. Here's how I do that in Picasa. When I get to the library of photos, I use the arrow keys to move through them. Each photo that I like I use the star function on to put a star on the photo in Picasa's database. The photos I don't like because they are blurry, or whatever, I don't put a star on. When I get to the end of the files, I go back to the library, click on the "Select Starred Photos" button to select all the photos I liked. What I really want to do though, is to select the files I don't like, right? So, I either use the ctrl-i keys to invert the selection (now i have all the dogs selected) or right click on any selected starred photo and right click on the invert selection text. Either way, I have now selected all the non-starred dogs. Then I hit the delete button and watch them all disappear. Life is good!
You need to be ruthless with this. at 3-5 megs each, depending on the camera you have, it won't take long for an active shooter to fill her hard drive. So, always remember, Delete your dogs early, and often!


RJ said...

Your general Picasa workflow is very much in line with the way I sort my pictures - I am a shutter-crazy kind too - into something manageable.

My post at: How to organize your Digital Photos at Not Just Cricket

Besides that, your tip in using the Stars to sort out the dogs from the good ones is a good one and I will be using that.

Thank you.

Not Just Cricket

David said...

I agree that if you talk to 100 photographers you will hear 100 workflows, but I think your recommendations are way off on your technique for 'dogs'. "Be ruthless with deleting, delete early and often" ?! Are you serious? At 5MB an image as you suggest, a 250GB hard drive could store over 50,000 images! You can get a 750GB hard drive for a bit over $130 USD right now, and store over 150,000 images if you really want to take a lot of photos. Once you delete an image, its gone forever. Storage is extremely cheap, why be quick and generous with the delete key?

"Then I hit the delete button and watch them all disappear. Life is good!"
Very interesting...

Dave said...

If you shoot a 4 gig card once a week, you'll fill a 250 gig hard drive in just over a year. If you shoot 10 gigs at a time at events, it takes a lot less time! It's not just about file space either. If there are 200 pics from today on the drive but really only 30 that are different from each other, and nice photos worht saving, do you want to look through the other 170 in 6 months when you are looking for that one special shot from that day?

haf said...

The system with starring the pictures and inverting the selection is quite nice, I will use it once in a while I think.
However, I'd advise to be careful about deleting pictures. Sure, there are some pictures that can be deleted safely, but you shouldn't be too strict when selecting pictures to delete, you may regret it. Of course, if you tend to take 5+ shots of a single scene, which are all similar, then there's not so much point in keeping them all. But it's okay to keep two or three.

Morten said...

Your "star-system" is good, and I plan to use it.
However, I don't like deleting anything except obvious errors.
I am going to back everything up manually, before I use your method. That way, I can allways restore a picture deleted by mistake.

David said...

Dave -
Yes if you shoot 4GB once a week or as you quoted up to 10GB for an event, you will be filling up hard drives quickly. I do not think that most novice photographers or even semi pro more casual shooters ever consider taking 10GB of photos for an event(while considering your 3-5MB avg and forgetting about 15MB raws).
If you are worried about going through the images later and not wanting to see 170 images out of 200 taken, I would highly suggest using something more powerful such as Adobe LightRoom or Adobe Bridge and star your photos with a system of 1-5 stars, as well as flag, or color code the photos.

I'm not sure who your target audience is for this post, but in my opinion most novice photographers should keep the 100 images they take every few weeks, and not worry about hard drive space. If you are writing this article for serious photographers, drop Picasa and use a real digital asset management(DAM) technique.

Morten said...

Hello David!

What would You suggest regarding a suitable DAM technique for a non-professional photographer?
I've approx. 50GB of photos on my harddrive. I tag my photos with metadata and use Picasa for managing the collection.

Dave said...

My personal DAM sucks. There, I’ve said it. I know I should do more, but….
Most of what I would suggest is in "Do as I say, not as I do" land.
You need to have a good backup plan, and then actually do it. This is something I know I need to do more about. Just like eating more salads and less cakes. .. someday..

With 50-250 gigs of photos and music what I would tell you to do is have 2 external hard drives. I’d tell you to get them as big as you can afford, you’re going to use them someday. You’re going to have one at a location other than your home, and one at home. You’re going to be doing backups after you make changes to the files at the end of the day, then you’re going to take the portable drive from home to work, and bring the work one home and back up to that.

The idea is to not have all your eggs in one basket. A perfectly executed back up plan that is all in one location won’t do you any good if your house burns down and takes the backups with the working files on your computer...

Some folks will burn all the raw images to a DVD, then do what they’re going to do to process the files and burn some more DVDs on the processed images. Then and only then do they make any changes to the memory card they used for the shoot. That seems like an awful lot of trouble, but I’m sure it’s safe and logical. You’ll need to work out logically what you’re willing to do, and risk losing if you fail to do it.

I really, really need to do as I say. Thanks Morten, now I need to do some backups!


Clay said...

I really like the ease of flagging photos with the "Star" (for favorite) but then the that flag becomes "used up" because all the photos you keep are now Favorites.

I also use a rating system of Best1, Best11 Best111 where Best111 is the best of the best so I can select "BestX and better" with "Best11" (which selects Best11 and Best111).

I guess you could also unfavorite on all the photos after you delete the nonfavorites.

admin said...

Picasa does seem very nice. But I am not sure it is a good choice. There are some criteria I need to have fulfilled and it’s not clear to me that Picasa will do all of these. Further, I have not been able to find another album manager that can do all of these things. Here’s my list. What should I use? Will Picasa do all these things?

Find all the photos only in locations I specify – I don’t want the program to run all over the place. For example, I might want to say, only on the E: drive.

When creating an album from a legacy assortment of photo images, I want an option to physically copy selected photos into a new directory structure. This must be done using a standard file and folder directory structure.

When creating an album, store captions and other info in a photo’s EXIF fields, so that I don’t need a separate data file or database to match photos to descriptions in the future. This guarantees that the photos and information will have maximum portability and neither I nor my children will have to rake through raw data in the future, if we migrate to a different album manager.

Do nothing that will create a proprietary structure or information index so that I would be unable to migrate the albums to new tools and new platforms in the future.

Ideally the album manager should have a compatible version on Macintosh.

Ability to generate a complete viewing system in pure HTML/JAVA that can be saved on a local drive and viewed locally (upload to Internet not required). I don’t want to load all my personal pictures onto someone else’s website. I want to put the album on my own drives and send copies to each family member. And I want complete portability – no special programs – that’s why we have browsers!

Dave said...

I know for sure Picasa will do some of the things you want. I'm not sure about the others though. You might want to look into Lightroom and see if it will do the exif stuff you want. I'm pretty sure Lightroom can make you web pages.

scorwitz said...

This is an old post and I'm not sure if I'll find my way back to it. I'm just curious how you manage your actual file management on your computer? I love Picasa, but I don't understand what it does to my file structure. When/if do I export and to where? What happens if the database file gets misplaced? If you could email me you reply, that would be nice, though not expected.

Dave said...

I've had to move on to Lightroom. Picassa was choking on the tens of thousands of files I still have. I used to export full size files into a subfolder in the same folder I had the originals in. If I wanted to shrink photos and then post them to flickr or online someplace, then I exported them to a flickr folder on my desktop, so the finished files would be easy to find. I don't know where the database files are stored on the hard drive. I suspect they're in the picasa.ini files in the each folder.
As far as file management, I import files in to a folder named with the year, month and date then a suitable keyword type name. The format is YYYY-MM-DD Keyword1 Keyword2. If I did a shoot at the beach today the file folder would be 2009-09-30 Beach girls name here.
By doing it that way, the files come out organized in windows explorer and Picasa. Hope that helps.