The Truth About This Whole “Cataloging” Thing

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips » The Truth About This Whole “Cataloging” Thing.

Here’s a thought provoking post from the “Lightroom Killer Tips” site.

A few thoughts of my own:

  • I am not “normal”! I actually enjoy keywording my pictures. I enjoy both the process – knowing that I have a keywording scheme that works for me. I get a kick out of Lightroom’s attempts – 75% successful – to predict what keywords I’ll want to add based on past behaviour (the Keyword Suggestions panel).
  • But when it gets it wrong I want to scream at it: “No! That photo already has a Place tag. Now it needs a Type tag. Don’t show me any more Places.”.
  • Keywording is like knitting, it can be therapeutic if your keywords are well organized and you have a plan.
  • I hope the engineers who worked on Lightroom keywording read this. Yes, as Matt says in his post

Nobody keywords. I know that lots of people commented on it here last week but trust me – you’re in the extreme minority (and I mean serious keywording, not just casual “I do it once in a while” keywording).

But I use them to the extent that I am stretching the Lightroom SQLLite database and the user interface to its limits.

  • I enjoy the knowledge that I can find any picture I have ever taken based on the vaguest of criteria because my keywording is “perfect”. Thus when I was trying to work out the system of license plates for Thai buses and trucks I could locate all candidates very quickly and see if I could extend my list.
  • That’s why I wish I could keep every photo I have ever taken in one Lightroom database. See here and here.
  • I use operating system folders to organize photos by date taken. It is easy to set up during the Import function and occasionally I want to look at pictures I took on a certain date. Yes, I could use Smart Collections for that task, but I’d have to set them up.
  • I liked ACDSee‘s Calendar View for the few months I used it. I wish Lightroom had the same. I like to analyse statistics on my photography and numbers of photos taken by day / month / year is useful.
My Lightroom Statistics

My Lightroom Statistics

  • When I used Thumbs Plus I had a completely different folder structure: Camera Identity and then a folder for each block of 1,000 pictures.
Folder Structure for ThumbsPlus

Folder Structure for ThumbsPlus

Here’s the folder of pictures taken with the Canon EOS-30D that I still have catalogued in ThumbsPlus. Each contains approximately 1,000 pictures. Each folder has a sub-folder called “Edited”. That’s because ThumbsPlus does not support the non-destructive editing or stacking like Lightroom so any edits I made went into a separate folder.

  • I accept that some time, maybe by the end of the year, I will have to split my Lightroom database. Doing it by date is the easiest way and trivial if I have the pictures organized by date in an operating system folder.

I am happy with the way I have things set up now. It is great that Lightroom supports my working style (workflow ugh!). But I’ll never criticise anybody for using a different scheme.

And I know I am not a mainstream photographer because of my interest in information management / databases that’s as strong as my interest in photography.

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6 Responses to “The Truth About This Whole “Cataloging” Thing”

  1. Jakob Says:

    Nice thoughts about this whole topic. Im still organize my photos by date, and get intrested in keywording. 🙂 Nobody keywords…it`s so true.

  2. BKKPhotographer Says:

    We need a support group “Keyworders Anonymous” with a pledge and a 10-Step Plan.

    There’s no shame in organizing by date in boring old OS folders. The easiest way to find the photos I took last Christmas is to go to the folder 2008-12-25. They answer the “When?” question very well.

    Keywords are good for the “What?” and the “Where?” questions. But they are not typed, so I still have the problem of distinguishing between a Mazda 3 and a bus on route #3.

    If I could geocode all my pictures I could dispense with the entire “Where?” hierarchy and search instead on the Geocode / Location information in the catalog. I am starting to think that is my ultimate aim to prune my hierarchy.

  3. diego Says:

    I keyword. Can you tell how to do this? I use 1.x version of Lightroom. I have keyworded in that version since 2006 (many hours of my life). Now, I have bought a new computer and hard drives and reorganized my folders (changing some names and deleting some pictures) and changed to lightroom 2.x. When I import in 2.x, the keywords are lost. What do I have to do ? Is there any option in 1.x version to embed the keywords in the files (all jpg, not RAW) and I have to export all the files (it will take a lot of time, many pictures). Am I missing any option in version 2.x to import with the keywords? How can be sure if the keywords are in the jpg file (or in attached files?). I do not want to change the date of the original files. thanks

    • BKKPhotographer Says:

      Hello. Thanks for the comment. I didn’t use Lightroom 1.x so I don’t know what features are new with 2.x.

      With Lightroom 2.x you have a choice whether Lightroom writes metadata changes to the image file (as XMP data blocks) or not. The option is in the Metadata tab of the Edit…Catalog Settings dialog box. If that box is checked then whenever change the metadata the changes are written to the file without you doing anything. There’s a small performance penalty but that’s what I do.

      If you do NOT set that option then the changes you make are only in the Lightroom catalog. You can tell Lightroom to write the changes by selecting one or more images and selecting “Metadata…Save Metadata to file” (Ctrl+S) in the Library module.

      See here when I did this to many pictures:

      So, if you still have your Lightroom 1.x configuration I hope you can see if you’ve been writing the metadata to the files or not.

      In the Metadata panel (RHS) in the Library module Lightroom will tell you if the metadata in the file is up to date or not. “Metadata status”.

      You can check in a photo editing application what Metadata is in the file. I use Photoshop CS4. In the File Info screen you can see the keywords, ratings etc that came from Lightroom. XMP is a standard so I expect other editors support XMP reading and writing too.

      Another approach: I thought you can open a Lightroom 1.x database in 2.x and Lightroom will convert it. I have never tried that. You’ll need to tell Lightroom the new locations of your pictures on your new PC. I did that when I moved from my old Sony to my new Compaq and it worked fine.

      Right click on a folder in the left hand panel and select “Update folder location …”

      I hope that helps. Please write again if I can help more.

  4. diego Says:

    thanks. It has been very hard (30000 pictures) but I think that the files include now the tags
    I want to reorganize the folders and start from the beginning with my new PC and lightroom. How do you organize your pictures and how do you work (a folder for originals, another for edited, another for files exported for printing, …and I guess you use labels or rating in Lightroom to distinguish all of them !!! but how? I would like to define everything well to avoid future re-organizing. I organize by years and date + description (very brief, since I do not use it, prefer keywords; but it helps (in my experience) when time is passing (I think in my kids when they receive my picture-heritage!!)

    • BKKPhotographer Says:

      I use the Lightroom option to organize my folders by date:

      — 2009-01

      — 2009-09
      —- 2009-09-01

      and so on. I see two advantages to this:

      1. It is trivial to locate photos taken on a particular date. Yes I can do a search but this is quicker.

      2. If I need to move photos to another disk to free up space it is easy to do by date. So far I have had to move 2009-01 to another drive and it worked fine in Lightroom.

      One good thing about Lightroom is that you do not need to worry about originals, edited, printed and so on. You can use stacks to create different versions of a picture. It does not have an option to show a picture has been printed. I have a misc keyword “printed” just for that.

      I have written some other posts on the way I use labels, rating and keywords. You can search this blog and find them easily.

      Basically I use labels as reminders for specific tasks – needs more work (red) upload to Flickr (yellow), ask a Thai speaker (purple) …

      When I import I use metadata presets that assign 3 stars to all incoming pictures. As I go through them I demote some to 2 stars and others to 4. 1 star means – the quality is lousy but it has some info I want to keep. 5 stars are for my favourites of all time.

      I have a huge Lightroom hierarchy of keywords. They are organized in several trees. In one post here I explained it in detail and even uploaded a text file of my keywords.

      One big tree of nested keywords answers the WHERE? question. Ideally I would not use it at all and rely on Geotags to tell me where a picture was taken. Then I would use keywords only for the WHAT? and/or WHO? information.

      I also wrote on the drawbacks of keywords – they are typeless – and something I have developed to address that.

      Hopefully you can find all my posts on the subject. I would love to hear your feedback and ideas.

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