Hybrid Folder Strategy


Today’s Question: I used to use a date-based folder structure and then switched to genre-based. Unfortunately, that’s not ideal either, because photos often fit in multiple categories. Location-based folders seem like a good idea, but I’m wondering how to approach that for pictures that are taken in and around my hometown. It could be that I go out and take street photos or insect macros in the garden and many other possibilities. These are all “real” photos, but they all belong to the same location. But somehow it doesn’t feel right to create a folder with thousands of subfolders. Do you have a good suggestion on how to solve this in an elegant and practical way?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case I would take a somewhat hybrid approach, creating subfolders for the primary location folder by year, and possibly subfolders for months within the year folders depending on how many photos you tend to capture in that location over the course of a year.

More Detail: In general, I recommend using a folder structure for your photos based on the way you think about your photos, such as by date or location. However, I also recommend that your strategy be defined so that all photos from a single photo outing or trip can be put in folders in a streamlined way. For example, I don’t recommend using a folder structure based on species, because then after downloading a new batch of photos you would need to move individual photos into the appropriate folder. This can be a time-consuming process.

Of course, for many photographers (including myself) a single approach to folder structure won’t work for all photos. When that’s the case, I think a hybrid approach can work very well.

I myself, for example, have a folder that I use for all the random (and sometimes good!) photos I capture near home. If I have a specific outing to a nearby subject or location, I might create a “normal” folder using my typical structure. But for photos that don’t fit into another category I place them in my “home” folder structure. Within the top-level folder I create folders by year, putting photos in the appropriate year-based folder.

I could take that a step further if I wanted to break down the photos into smaller batches, such as by also making folders for the months. But the point is that you can use a basic folder structure to organize photos that don’t fit into your normal structure using this type of hybrid approach.

Note, by the way, that especially when you have this type of approach where a large number of potentially random photos are consolidated in a single overall folder (possibly divided into folders based on dates) that updating metadata such as keywords can be particularly important. Keep in mind that a folder structure is, in my view, only a basic starting point for being able to locate specific photos. Using star ratings, keywords, and other metadata can make it that much easier to locate photos later.