NostalgiaThis is a follow up post to Working on a Workflow. In this post I hope to explain the directory structure I use to store my photos, and why. This is obviously a personal preference but you may find it gives you some ideas. Any feedback would also be appreciated as I am still trying to perfect my workflow.

Once processed I also tag photos to help me find any image quickly without having to remember exactly when it was taken. For now I am using Windows Photo Gallery which comes with Vista. There are a few issues with it but it fits most of my needs for now. I use Picasa as well as I find it much easier to produce good photo prints than with Photo Gallery. There are a few other packages that I have tried but all had their drawbacks and I just wanted something to get started with. Once I get on top of my growing pile of photo processing I hope to start looking at other options and share my findings with you.

Directory Structure

This is the area I seem to have the most problem with. I keep making changes to the structure which either leaves me with inconsistencies, which makes images hard to find, or find myself wasting time moving a load of images around to match the new structure. Anyway this is an explanation of my present structure.

Base Directories

  • Originals
  • Imports
  • Darkroom
  • Collection
  • Gallery
  • Archive

This list may seem a bit long but I will try and explain why I use each of them shortly.

Directory Structure

Photos are stored in these directories in a Year/Date structure:


To keep the folders in correct date order the format of the directory is YYYY-MM-DD as seen above:

  • YYYY is the year
  • MM is a 2 digit number for the month
  • DD is a 2 digit number for the day

This allows a simple sort of the 2009 directory to sort all the subdirectories in date order even if you add a description to the directory name:

Collection\2009\2009-09-05 Vancouver
Collection\2009\2009-10-01 Blog Photos

In the above example I have used spaces as this seems to come naturally when typing words. This is actually not advised for any non Microsoft set-up but just seems to be the most logical way of naming directories that I seem to do it anyway.

File Naming

I name files based on date and time taken. This gives me a heads up when trying to find where the image will be filed away in case I need to re-process it or just need access to a different redering of an image. The actual filenames are of the format YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS-XX:

  • YYYYMMDD uses the same components as in the directory structure above
  • HH is the 2 digit number representing the hour in 24 hour format
  • MM is the 2 digit number representing the minutes
  • SS is the 2 digit number representing the seconds
  • XX is an incrementing counter, in case there are multiple photos taken at exactly the same second

The image type file extension, e.g. jpg or cr2, is ignored when creating the filename, including the counter, as different versions of the image may be produced which may then match the extension of another image causing the filename to no longer be unique.

Directory Use


I import all photos to my Originals directory. This directory is actually on a mapped drive to a server rather than my PC. This keeps a backup of all photos untouched on a second machine in case the I ever need to refer back to the original, e.g. the hard disk fails in my PC. The fact that all photos are stored there also helps with creating a unique name for the images. If an image already exists taken within the same second then the counter will be incremented and provide the image with a unique filename. Also if any image has already been imported it will already exist here and so will not be imported again.

The image files are created read only to make sure I don’t inadvertently make changes to them.


As I write this I am not so sure that I require this directory any more. The original reasoning behind it was to store all newly imported images. Any new images imported to the Originals directory will also be copied here. These are then culled to remove any obviously useless photos and a name given to the directory. I would then burn these digital negatives to CD or DVD depending on the volume of images imported and then move the directories to the Darkroom directory ready for processing.

I am now unsure that this is the best place in the workflow to create a backup of the images any I am thinking the Archive section below is a more suitable place. So I am going to cross this directory out!!


As I have now decided to remove the Imports directory the images will be imported directly into the Darkroom directory. I then add a description to the directory name to help for quick identification when scanning through the directories.

This is where the processing takes place. I can go through the directories here are process the images, leaving the read only originals intact. Any processed images then need to be stored in a suitably labelled subdirectory, e.g. Full Size Jpeg, Web 800px, e.g.:

Darkroom\2009\2009-10-01 Blog Photos\Web 800px


This is a comprehensive collection of all processed images. I use this directory to store only full size, high quality jpeg images, which I manually copy from the Darkroom directory after processing. I make this folder available on my local network. This gives me easy access to all of the images from any computer in the house, allowing slideshows to be shown on the TV for example.

Tags can be applied at this stage. This helps to find particular photos or groups of photos. I will go into detail of how I tag images at a later date.

I try to go through the images and remove the chaff to keep the archive down to a manageable size. One thing to bear in mind here is that any image that doesn’t pass muster then it should also be removed from the Darkroom directory structure to try and keep them both in check.


This is a small collection of my favourite images. This is the only directory not to follow the date based directory structure of all the other base directories. This is because there are so few images it is not worth it. I have just created some simple directories to group the images together, e.g. peoples names, trips etc.:

Gallery\Trips\Canada 2009

I also share this directory on the network to allow me to show off my favourite images quickly and easily.


Once images have been successfully processed in the Darkroom then they need to be archived for future reference. I store this Archive directory directly on my server rather then on my main PC. This is mainly to free disk space, although that isn’t so necessary nowadays.

I have also decided that this is the most appropriate place to create a CD/DVD backup. I am also toying with the idea of copying these archive files off to somewhere in the clouds but more on that if I decide to go that way.

Image: Creative Commons License Jim Sneddon


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