I stopped counting at 25,000

* * *
William, age 3 1/2
February 2008
Henry, age 20 months
February 2008
* * *
My name is Anna and I have a confession. I have taken more than 25,000 digital photos since 2004.

That felt good.

Given my recent stab at organizing and the fact that the biggest flaw in my organizing system is what I do with PHOTOS, I am posting this on a Monday in hopes that the Best Shot Monday folks will take pity on me and share their digital photo workflow.

Or if you don’t call it that, share with me What You Do With All Those Darn Pitchers In Yer Camera After You Take ‘Em.

I’m not even sure I can confess what my embarrassing lack of a system is, since it involves PhotoShop, iPhoto, online backup, backup to an external drive and ancillary folders cluttering my desktop like Blog, Blog Resized, Photos to File, More Photos To File, SlideShow 06 and Oh, So That’s Where That Photo Is.


I CAN tell you the one tool in my system that really works for me is SmugMug. SmugMug is really great for the photo geek types, both amateur and pro, and has AMAZING customer service, easy interfaces and beautiful photo galleries. I highly recommend it. I back all my photos up there, and choose which ones I want to share online, all in one step.

And now that you have a recommendation from me, tell me what you do! What are your steps, particularly if you do any post processing on your images. What percentage of your images do you process? How do you label and store originals and then the processed images? Do you use Lightroom? Have you tried Photo Mechanic? Do you use iPhoto? Do you get prints of your photos or just for the grandparents? Do you allow yourself only a certain number of prints per year or month, or do you print everything? If you are a pro, how do you handle your client images vs. your personal family images?

And, if all those questions above mean nothing to you, I want to hear what you do, too! I envy simplicity, really.

P.S. I got a new camera yesterday, a Canon 30D. I have taken about 26 pictures so far, mostly of the laundry basket and my foot, while I try to figure it out. But I can already tell I am going to LOVE IT.

P.P.S. If all of this is just giving you a headache, just go see some more photos at Best Shot Monday.

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37 Responses to “I stopped counting at 25,000”

  1. Kyla Says:

    They are gorgeous!! Amazing photos, really!

  2. MelodyA. Says:

    Wow, you have the same filing system I do. The company that sells that bundle must be raking it in!

    I use Photoshop. I do not process every image. I delete the ones that are obviously bad but keep the other originals. I also try to rename the images that I do edit. Supposedly it’s makes finding them later easier. I have not printed a photo out in awhile. I also use Smugmug and have liked them.

    Your boys are just adorable. I thought you already had a nice size Canon. What were you using before?

  3. thelandofka Says:

    Well, you sound much more organized than me. I really need to have another backup of my pictures since most are on my external drive. I think I have up to August of last year backed up on CD’s.

    As for how many pictures I process…maybe 5%. I delete the out of focus, blurry, underexposed, over-exposed shots, and just edit the best pictures. I still have a ton, but not 25,000. That’s a lot! Congrats on that new camera, too!

    Love those shots above, and the b&w conversions. Very nice!

  4. The Casual Perfectionist Says:

    We take tons of photos here, too. I don’t have a “real” photo-editor on my computer. I use GIMP on the ones that need tweaking. We save Claire’s photos chronologically in month/year folders and then we have a bunch of other folders. (House main folder, with subfolders for all the home improvement projects; Trips main folder, Europe, Midwest, etc.; Special events like So-n-So’s Baby Shower gets their own folder) You get the idea.

    My hubby backs it all up. How he does that, I have no idea. I think you could launch the space shuttle from his office downstairs, so I don’t ask questions. 🙂

    The only thing I need to do is figure out how to change the automatic numbering system on my camera. We just got a new camera, and eventually, the numbers are going to match up with photos that already exist. (It hasn’t happened yet because of where we’re saving the photos, but it will happen. My hubby has an idea on how to fix that, too. He just hasn’t done it yet.)

    As for originals, etc. I save almost all the originals. I run a family website and a blog. I resize photos for those sites, and the images on the family site are tweaked and re-saved as IMG_1234_resize.jpg in the same folder as the originals. Photos for my blog are re-saved in my special blog folder and given real names like Princes On A Cell Phone.

    Every couple months, I download a bunch of photos through Target Photo or whatever online retailer is having a good deal and I have them sent directly to the grandparents. We don’t keep physical photos are here. It’s just not our style…

    I’m not sure if any of this makes sense or is even very helpful.


  5. B Says:

    Congrats on the 30D! I now have high expectations and you can no longer blame the camera! 😉

    And as a former business continuity planner, absolutely backup to an external hard drive (go buy one right now). Backup those images off-site too, it is impossible to recreate them and if you loose everything in a tornado, you’ve got SmugMug and if SmugMug disappears overnight, poof, you’ve got your hard drive.

  6. The Casual Perfectionist Says:

    Oops…I meant to say “We don’t keep physical photos AROUND here.”

  7. AML Says:

    Wow!! You are going to love love love that camera. Hey, and don’t feel bad about the 25,000. Manuel took over 5,000 in the three months that he was in Peru with that same baby and using many of the tips that YOU gave him…it’s addictive! Have fun.

    P.S. Manuel and our other photographer friend swear by Apple Software called Apeture to manipulate, organize, etc images. Have you checked it out?

  8. Molly Says:

    Wow…they look so grown up!

    Promise you’ll bring the new camera to the wedding.

  9. Sarah Says:

    Timely topic for me! On Saturday, I spent six hours uploading September 2004 photos off my external hard drive to my Flickr account. I still have the rest of 2004, all of 2005, and early 2006 to put on there and I’ve already got 23,000 photos stored on Flickr. uhoh.

    I am lazy and process with Picasa most of the time, although I do have an ancient version of PhotoShop on my laptop, too, for more fancified stuff. I take things off the memory card into a file folder on my laptop fairly regularly and attempt to remember to move those file folders (one for each month of the year, naturally) to the external hard drive each month. But lately I got panicky that the EHD would fail at some point or we’d lose it or something and so the mass uploading to Flickr commenced.

    I rarely print photos anymore; when I do I print them at Walgreen’s because A) I am lazy and I can order them online to be printed at the local walgreen’s, and B) I am often printing things at the last minute and need to be able to pick up photos RIGHT THAT SECOND so that they can go in a birthday card to the grandparents or something. Besides, Shutterfly quality bugs me, at least WRT their prints. I have had great experiences with their little photo books (I do one of those every year for the grandparents), though. I do like Snapfish but, well, I forget why I’m not printing photos there anymore, actually.

    So, we are going to be the two people at reunion who aren’t in any photos because we’re always taking the photos, right? Let’s make an agreement right now that we will have someone take at least one photo of us at reunion! Or, er, I could bring my camera remote and we can do a quasi-self portrait. 😉

  10. megan Says:

    i edit the good ones in photoshop and import them back into iphoto, where i keep everything. i back up on CDs and put those in boxes; i need an external hard drive for double back up, but haven’t gotten there yet. i also post ones i really like on flickr. i print out the good ones and put them in simple photo albums. i’m actually very organized there. i’m up to last week :). it’s one area in my life that i actually keep on top of. just don’t look at my refrigerator :).

  11. Hardin Says:

    I don’t have much of a system, but it’s something like this:
    – All photos get dumped into a folder named for the camera that took the photo (D70, CoolPix4300, etc.)
    – The entire “photography” folder is periodically backed up to a second hard drive using a program called “File Synchronization” (clever name, huh?), which means that only changed or new files are copied.
    – I use a program called PhotoGrid which allows quick thumbnail view of a folder (and it will work with nested folders)
    – You can select any number of photos (shift or control click), and send them to any application of your choice. F6 sends them to Photoshop, F5 to iPhoto.
    – If we’re just doing a quick website, I’ll send them right into iPhoto, if they’re more artsy, I’ll bring them into Photoshop
    – iPhoto pretty much only has photos that we’d want on iPods, a quick web gallery, or a printed photobook.
    – .Mac has a very easy tie in to iPhoto that allows quickly creating and managing web galleries that can be shared to everyone, or just some people
    – My other photos on my main site are currently being displayed through a Flash gallery viewer that a friend and I developed
    – Any photos that I want to print or that I modify in Photoshop end up in a folder named with the subject and date, and back into a separate subfolder of the main “photography” folder so they’ll be backed up too.
    – I usually use ShutterFly and only do a few prints a year
    – We usually do a couple of photo albums through iPhoto to keep the grandparents happy

    Not fantastic, but it works. Hope that helps and inspires.
    – Hardin

  12. Maya Says:

    I use LightRoom and IPhoto but need to just pick one I think. I’d write a ton more but am swamped today so let me know if you have any questions on LightRoom. I do love it.

    I just pick what I feel are my “best” photos to process. And play with others too!

  13. Kim Says:

    Ummm.. yeah, I’m not much better. I have no idea how many photos I’ve taken….. though it has to be in the thousands! Mine are all on an external hardrive, organized by year and month.
    Love the shots of your boys!

  14. Christina Says:

    First – wow, those catchlights are amazing! Such gorgeous boys. Is it okay to call boys “gorgeous?” I love your rich b&W conversion.

    Second – wow, that’s a lot of pictures! I have a lot, but not that many. I organize mine by the month. I download, delete all the duds, and the yes, I do process every single keeper at least a little bit. If I make any major edits, I save it under a new name, otherwise I save it over the original. I rename all my files with the date it was taken on and then the #1 – so all pics for today will be 030308-01, 030308-02, etc. I order prints every 2 or 3 months, but restrict myself to 50 for each month. And yes, we really do look at the albums – Nadia loves them. I have two Flickr accounts, one for my “best” pictures and one more personal account were I upload almost everything for extra backup and to pull into my blog. Right now I’m just backing up onto CDs once a month, but I need to get a better system in place.


  15. Bonnie Says:

    I’m trying to figure this out myself !! I actually just deleted over 17000 photos accidentally because I’m still trying to learn all the ins and outs of being a recently converted i-mac user. Most of those photos I had on CD’s or on my blog but some of them got lost so I’m all into backing up and storing properly now !!! I have read through all the comments though and gotten some good ideas !

  16. Christina Says:

    P.S. Congrats on the camera – can’t believe you just slipped that in at the end like “no big deal!”

  17. Anna Says:

    I am LOVING these tips!
    I should add, the thousands of photos are because I HAVEN’T always edited out the duds.
    I have been working on that slowly, and it does feel good not to store the crummy ones.
    Thanks for all the systems info, and I am working on figuring out my new system–I’ll let you know what it is when I create it!

  18. KFJ Says:

    Wow! That’s a lot! I have to admit that we are pretty photo crazy as well…started a family blog as a good outlet to share pics..great tips!

  19. Sarah Says:

    BTW, I figured I’d add that the vast majority of my 23K photos on Flickr are set to private, so unless you’re logged in as me, they’re invisible and fairly inaccessible to others. I recently discovered the photo statistics feature and was kind of freaked out to see how many hits the photo of my boys having a bubble bath with their cousins got…in other words, way more than just family and friends looking. So now anything with the kids’ faces (any kids, not just mine) are set to private/friends only.

  20. Maggie Says:

    Such handsome boys! And congrats on your new camera – that is awesome!

    And now on to organization – one of my favorite things! Because I take a gazillion pictures, I have them all organized by year, then month, then day. If I do any editing, I save those in the same place as the original; if there is ever a day that there is more than one ‘big event’ then I will have folders in the day for each thing, just to keep them separated. I *try* to download to my computer from the camera(s) each night, but usually end up doing it every two or three days.

    I back up all of my photos (or almost all) on my flickr account, and then back them up to CDs according to month at the end of every two months. Although at the moment I am a month or so behind on that task….

    As far as editing, I don’t do too much of that, mostly because I am not very quick with photoshop and so it takes me a really long time. Although the more I am figuring it out, the more little ‘touch ups’ I am doing.

  21. Maria Says:

    oh, Anna
    Thank you for asking this question of your readers.
    I’m having palpitations right now…
    Do you have a recommendation for an external hard-drive?
    I think I should start there!

  22. Suzanne Says:


    Admitting you have an addiction is the first step! 😉

    As always, I am happy to see such great pictures of those adorable boys!

  23. Mike Says:

    Two thoughts:

    Amazing pictures.

    I find it hard to believe you take duds.


  24. Rosey Says:

    Ugh, editing and backing up, three words that run shivers down my spine. That probably says a lot about my picture routine.

    Before I go any further, those are both fantastic shots! William’s eyes just pop!

    Back to your question. I have a bad habit of NOT wanting to delete even my duds. So I have a lot of photos! I backed up about half of them on CD but then I found out that they weren’t writing properly. So for the last year (already) I don’t have a back up system. NOT GOOD. (Note to self: Must change that immediately.) I edit about 5% and rename them and save them to different folders. I haven’t printed any since I ran out of paper at home last May. Gotta work on that one too.

    Great subject.

  25. Shannon Says:

    25,000 photos — gulp!

    Seems like you’ve got the spring cleaning bug. Me too! 🙂

  26. Jess Says:

    I am so jealous of your camera(s). I don’t post-process on my pictures at the moment but I did when I was in college and had access to all the fancy software and printers and whatnot. I took hundreds of photos at a time and made contact sheets using Photoshop, I think. Then I post-processed the ones that stood out on the contact sheets and went from there. I was never good at workflow and just kept things in a complicated system of folders.

    Now that I don’t have Photoshop anymore I just have all of my photos backed up on an external hard drive and save them in folders with a name that will remind me of what they are and the date they were taken. It’s simpler. But god I miss Photoshop.

  27. Katy Says:

    Huh. I’m in a bad situation but never really thought about it. I get 3-10 photos printed through kodak once a month or so. I put them in old fashioned albums. I just trust my laptop to save the rest. It’s sure to all get wiped out one of these days. I’ll be sohhhh-rrrry. And now that the issue has been brought to my attention, ugh. Oh, dread. Now I have to take action. When you tell Maria what external hard drive to get, will you tip me off too? I’ll just check back here at the end of the day.

  28. Heidi Says:

    OH MY your boys are beautiful! I usually just put them on my computer via the Kodak program it came with, have prints and a CD made of them. I was scrapbooking for a while, but that takes a long time and doesn’t use all the pictures. Now I just put them in an old fashioned album so the kids can look at them when they want. T, who is 4 loves to look at the albums and thinks all babies are him.

  29. JenBun Says:

    Your boys are beautiful.

    I have no camera/picture tips; it just had to be said! You are a great photographer, too! 🙂

  30. carrievoris Says:

    GORGEOUS photos, as always!
    I was floored when I cleaned up my photos last year. Well over 30,000 in a few short years of digital…not including film (which I took almost exclusively for Em’s first year) but I just don’t want to miss a moment.

    I do not have a *great* system. I take them off my camera and use iPhoto on my laptop. Process the ones I want to use for the blog or to put up on Flickr. Then every month or so, move all of them over to a back-up drive. J. does the same from his camera. So we do have them all in one place, and it is a redundant drive, so we have our back up, backed up.

    As far as printing them, I print them here at home. We have a fantastic printer, Canon ip3000. If printed on Epson, glossy photo paper – they are better than any photos I’ve ever had printed “professionally.” So I print some for family, for my scrapbooking, and for frames here. I do NOT print all of them. Just as a “as needed” basis.

    Whew. I’m so interested to go back and read all of these to get some good tips!

  31. nicki Says:

    OK, being a photographer for a living forces me to be anal about this subject. I download the pictures ASAP after the shoot. I first use Bridge in Photoshop to edit – get rid of all that are out of focus or strange moments. Next, I run a batch process in Photoshop to create low resolution copies of all the images. I also edit the FILE INFO as part of the batch process so every image has a description, date and copyright notice attached to it in the metadata. You only have to enter the information once and then the computer will attach it to all the files you run through the batch process. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! You can easily search metadata with various programs so finding a picture later is easy. The information will also be attached to your images on line so it makes it harder for people to use them illegally. Finally I burn them onto a CD or DVD immediately after the edit and batch process. I keep them on my hard drive and label the folder “name of the shoot”BURNED so I know I have a backup. I clear out the BURNED folders about every 3 months.

    As far as actually printing and displaying my selects, I choose 5-6 family photos every February from the previous year. I print them all sepia, 8×10 and frame and hang them by March 15. I started this 3 years ago and I am so glad. My family photo wall grows every year and I don’t have to worry about having too many from one time frame. The kids also love to see pictures of themselves from moments they still remember.

    Enough blabbing. If you want more info on batch processing I’ll be glad to help. Also, FYI, the use of metadata is a current issue being reviewed by the Library of Congress. Copyright laws are going to be tied to metadata very soon.

  32. applecyder Says:

    OK–you got a new 30D and you are not jumping up and down somehow on your blog??!!! Did we miss your birthday or something? What gives?

  33. Crunchy Domestic Goddess Says:

    congratulations on your new baby! 🙂

    love these pics of the boys. gorgeous.

    and i’m afraid to know how many pics i’ve taken. eep! i’m so. not. organized. at. all.

  34. Maria Says:

    I agree with applecyder……you just mention, as an aside, your new camera…in passing….with no story…no details…..just “I have a new one”blah blah blah!
    Tell us more!

  35. katherine Says:

    My system is pretty simple… I dump them into folders by month (named 2008_02_misc, for example) and create separate folders for big events (e.g. 2007_10_will). within each folder, I create a “best” folder and copy the best in there. from there, I upload to Shutterfly, where I am sure to have a back of my best should anything catostrophic happen!

    BTW, guess who is on the http://www.shutterfly.com homepage right now? That’s me and my boy! 🙂

  36. JC Says:

    You had me at photo 24,999.

    These shots are incredible!

  37. photographer mom Says:

    Amazing pics,
    All those comments are really helpful and had motivated me to finally create a backup other than my photo prints. Indeed I was looking for a private way to share my pics online with my friends and family and the online photo sharing service Joomeo : http://www.joomeo.com seems to work fine with me, I promise when I will be done I will post the link, wish me luck, and don’t feel bad about your 25,000 a lot more is waiting for you I bet with your new camera!

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