Organizing Files by Type


Today’s Question: I used to take everything in JPEG, then I moved to taking everything in JPEG and RAW, and now I take everything in RAW only. So I have a mix. What do you think is the best way to manage a mix of JPEG, RAW, and video captures in terms of folder structure? Do you suggest keeping individual folders for the RAW, JPEG, and video files, or would you mix RAW and JPEG in the one folder for the one shoot?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My personal preference is to use my folder structure as an organizational tool on a per trip or photo shoot basis, and not divide my photos up any further based on date, file format, or other criteria. So in this type of situation I would keep all of the photos from a given shoot, whether RAW, JPEG, or video clips, in the same folder.

More Detail: It is important to keep in mind that with today’s image management software we are able to filter our photos and video clips in a wide variety of ways. You can filter by date of capture, by file type, by camera model, by lens model, and any of a number of other factors. This plays a significant role in my decision to keep all photos and videos from a given shoot in the same folder. This approach provides greater flexibility, in my view.

When I want to see all of the photos from a given shoot, I can simply select that folder and turn off any filters. When I want to filter the images based on particular criteria, I can very easily do that. So to me it simply makes more sense (and helps avoid confusion) to use folders only for dividing images based on a trip or photo shoot, and to use filters to otherwise choose which specific images I’m able to see at a given moment.

Part of my motivation here is to streamline my workflow, and to ensure that I am not duplicating criteria unnecessarily. For example, I don’t need to divide the photos from a single trip into individual folders by date, because I can very easily filter by date (or a date range) once I have navigated to a given folder. And in situations where I want to be able to search among all photos from a given multi-day trip, having a single folder from the trip provides a benefit.

To be sure, different photographers have different perspectives and different priorities when it comes to organizing their photos and video clips. You may read my explanation here and decide you want to take a very different approach to folder structure. Frankly, I consider any folder structure that works for you is a great solution. I just feel it is important to consider the factors involved and make sure the approach you’re using really is the best approach based on your individual needs and preferences.