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Tips & Tricks

3 Videos To Show You How To Organize Your Cards, Files, & Drives

By Kishore Sawh on March 3rd 2016

Being a professional at anything isn’t solely about the end product you produce; though that is the bottom line, that’s the face, and you don’t want to be all face and no trousers. Being a professional means operating in a certain manner, having integrity, developing and adhering to best practices, and what a lot of that boils down to is being organized.

Being organized and adhering to best and set practices is what’s going to allow you to be consistent in your business deliverables, and predictable during operations on the back end, which means in control. The value of these cannot go overstated. There’s a lot of hogwash surrounding the nature of the creative; that the creative facility is one that’s scattered and disheveled, and some creatives seem to think it’s in vogue to wear this behavior as a badge or artistic merit. That’s rubbish, and the artists that generally characterize that are often those of a starving persuasion. You and your behavior don’t have to be benighted.


Being organized and in control is how you set the stage to set yourself apart, and you can start by doing rather simple things, and put into practice simple behaviors such as:

Systemizing how you keep and organize memory cards during a shoot; when and how you rename your files in post, and by implementing a system for labeling your files and archiving. So, in that vein, you’ll find three videos below that should help to bring you well on your way to addressing these areas, and make you a leaner, more efficient, and consistent machine.

How To Keep Your Memory Cards Organized On Set

In this video, Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter brings an excerpt from his Corporate Video Guide that details the system he uses to keep memory cards from numerous cameras organized on set for easy data management. The system is a binary letter and number system, so it’s as basic as it can get, and that’s great because there’s little room for confusion.

The letter represents the camera used, and the number represents the order of the cards. So if you’ve got three cameras on set and say four cards per camera, you should have Cameras A, B, C, and cards A1, A2, A3, A4, and B1, B2 and so forth.

Implementing this is dead easy too since all you need is a marker, tape, and something to keep your cards. Check it out here, and more from DSLR Video Shooter here.

When & How To Rename Your Files In Lightroom

This is an area many photographers often get tripped up on, and while not necessarily catastrophic, it can certainly be hazardous and may cost you time, headache, and perhaps even incur confusion on both your end and a client’s. 

The problem tends to arise because the default way of thinking suggests that a good time to rename files in Lightroom is just as you’re about to export the final versions for delivery, but it may make sense to think otherwise.

What many run into is the trouble of having JPEG file names that will not match the raw file names, and this can be a nuisance if those files ever need to be changed or even just referenced. Luckily, our own Trevor Dayley created a great concise video on his own method of dealing with this issue, and it’s simple enough to understand in a minute or two and implement in the same time frame.

How To Label Files & Hard Drives For Better Identification

This is, from my experience, the area where even some of the most organized can struggle, and it was an area I did struggle with for a long time – file and drive naming. Having a reliable and sensible system in place that’s rather detailed and somewhat future proof is essential if you’re anything but a very casual shooter.

The problem becomes even more complex if you start to have duplicate backup drives; shooting with different cameras that may have different raw formats; shooting with multiple cameras on a single shoot; working with more than one photographer, and the list could continue. If you don’t have a system, it’ll all be a jumbled mess in a blink, and should you ever have to go back in to find a particular image, it would be akin to walking into the Congressional Library to find a single page in a book you neither know the name of, nor have the reference number to.


Luckily, Michael Grecco created a video detailing his own system, which is one I have adopted (though slightly altered), and thus far, it’s done me very well. You can listen to the steps he outlines in the video but for ease of reference I’ve broken it down for you with an example. Here are the steps:

    1. Start with the date at the beginning of the filename which will keep the files in hierarchal order. Use a reverse date beginning with the year, and separate the file descriptors after it with underscores only, and no other type of character.
    2. Put the subject name, with last names first (for those who shoot people) such as Sawh_Kishore
    3. Use an acronym for your company – he uses MGP for Michael Grecco Photography. You can also put the shooter’s name if someone else in the company shot it.
    4. Choose a filing number, likely best to choose a four digit number as you are unlikely to shoot more than 9,999 shots in a session.


An example would be: 20161213_Sawh_Kishore_Portrait_KSP_0001
Folder Example:  20161213_Sawh_Kishore_Portrait_KSP_DNG

Hopefully, this will all help you get your photography life in some sort of order, and even if you have your own systems, perhaps one or two points here may stick. So, go forth now prepared and be better off for it.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Štěpán Maxa

    About archiving: I’m using just folders with name of the model, corporation or event I’m shooting at. In that folder then subfolders if we have more than 1 shooting. Is is bad? Is it good? I’m not sure… your thoughts?

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    For the film shooters, when I started with my first SLR in 1980, I numbered my film by year and roll number (it was 1980, so I didn’t care about Y2K).
    For example, the third roll of 1980 would be labeled 80-03. In 2013, I was given a Canon T-50 and later, I bought a used F-1N; I added a prefix of A, F, or T to the year to identify which camera took the photo.

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  3. robert garfinkle

    How do I archive, well, simple.

    I developed an application that writes the binary content directly to a database. All the metadata, and I mean all the metadata for a given image is catalogued and made searchable. there typically is 17+ metadata fields in an image, or at least nikon’s images. Whatever it is, it’s catalogued. A hash algorithm is generated based on the actual binary content and stored along with the image. This assists in the prevention of duplicates based on the actual content itself. therefore, when encountering an image name (i.e. DSC_1234) which could be produced again and again I can store it with the same name, and it’s all the attributes other than the name in conjunction with it’s binary content that attests to it’s true uniqueness.

    I can also search this database, pull down collections, create subtle differences in editing and not have a single worry / concern about overwriting the original or destroying works in progress, even absorb multiple variants…

    I am sooo confident of duplicate detection, that two images taken, with the cap on, will still be considered different as even those images are technically not the same though appearances might indicate they are the same.

    That’s how I archive

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