Why Can’t I Find My Image Files?

© Paul Mozell 2013

I hear this question…or this whine… very often: “Where are the photo files I just transferred from my camera?” or, “Where are the files from last Christmas?” or, “Where are all my photographs?” Here are a few pointers for keeping track of your irreplaceable images.

Huntington Ravine, White Mountain National Forest, NH

Huntington Ravine, White Mountain National Forest, NH

  1. Check the default settings of the software you are using to offload files from your card reader or directly from the camera. Are the files going to the Pictures or My Pictures folder? On Mac use the Finder, on Windows use Windows Explorer to see if you have more than one Pictures folder.Sometimes there is one inside the Documents folder and sometimes another one has been created elsewhere. I have found this is more frequently a issue in Windows than it is on Mac.
  2. Be sure you know which utility is doing the downloading. You may have installed an application from Olympus, Canon, Panasonic, etc that that overrides Windows Media or iPhoto settings.
  3. Find out which of your utilities permits you to rename  files as they are being downloaded. Then, decide on a naming convention. Mine is usually the calendar date as a six-digit number followed by a software-generated sequential number. For example: 011313-102 is a file downloaded on January 13, 2013, the third in the series (I always start with 100). You might also try something like summervaca2012-204.
  4. Add metadata (IPTC data) to each file, if the capability is provided by your software — most do: Title, Caption or Description, and Keywords. Although initially this may seem like a lot of work, in the future you’ll be thankful you took the time to add this essential file data when you attempt to find a certain image in your archives. This does not replace the EXIF data embedded in the file when you took the photo, containing the Creation Date.
  5. Immediately after you download and rename the files, sort them into category folders. If these were vacation shots you might setup a Master folder called Labrador2012 with subfolders called, family, fishing, dogsled, and hiking. If you haven’t the time to do the sorting right now, leave the files in a temporary folder called New, or Unsorted.
  6. Don’t use memory cards, flash cards, or memory sticks for long-term storage. Get in the habit of formatting your card after securely transferring images to your computer. This will force you to use a logical naming and filing strategy for those files. Data on flash cards is easily corrupted as well.
  7. Backup the drive on your laptop or desktop to an external drive or to The Cloud, or both. Do it Now! (A subject for another blog post)

Now, you’ll spend less time cursing about the darn computer and more time enjoying your photographs!

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