Folders for Family Photos


Today’s Question: I have tried some ideas I had for naming folders for my family photo archive. I tried family names. The vast majority of my images have three main attributes. The most common attribute my images contain is people. I expect to be able to provide names for 90% of the people in the images. Another attribute is the place the photo was taken. I estimate I will know location taken for around 50% of the images. Finally, every image was taken on a specific date. In most cases, I’m only interested in the year. I estimate I can provide this date for around 50% of the images. I’m wondering if it’s worth my time to categorize images into folders at all. Why not just put all the images into one folder? If I’m very diligent about populating all pertinent metadata fields and adding keywords, won’t that be the means to locate most desired subsets of images using search?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If the total number of photos is somewhat reasonable (perhaps under around 10,000 images), I would be perfectly comfortable with using a single folder for all of these family photos, depending upon metadata values to locate specific images. If the number of photos is relatively large, I recommend using at least a basic folder structure based on the estimated year for each photo.

More Detail: This question is a great example of the fact that there are many workflow scenarios that might call for a solution that is different from what I normally recommend.

In this case the issue at hand is the folder structure for storing images. In general I recommend using at least a basic folder structure to provide a basic form of organization at the file system level. This ensures you have some degree of organization that goes beyond any specific software you might be using to manage your photos.

Today’s question, however, provides a good example of a scenario where a folder structure may be difficult to implement, and may actually get in the way of organizing specific photos. In that case it may be perfectly reasonable to use a single folder to contain all of the photos being managed for this purpose.

Before deciding to avoid the use of folders altogether, I would spend at least a little time evaluating whether some degree of folder structure might be helpful. In the context of family photos it can be particularly challenging to define an appropriate folder structure. For example, you might initially assume that a folder structure based on generations would work. However, this approach can be problematic for images that contain family members from multiple generations, which is probably quite common within any family photo library.

First and foremost, I recommend giving some thought to how you will think about photos when you are looking for specific images, as well as what approach you might want to take when simply browsing your overall photo library.

For family photos I think it is reasonable to take a completely different approach to folder structure than you might otherwise use for other categories of photographic images. That could include a single folder for all images, or a date-based structure by year (or even decade), for example.

The key is to step back and think about what options might make sense for defining an overall organizational structure that goes beyond metadata values (such as keywords) you might add for the photos. In this case I think some form of date-based folder structure probably makes the most sense, but there are certainly other options that might make sense as well.