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How to Manage your Photo Files Outside of iPhoto (Photo File Management Tips)
by Robert Thompson
March 5, 2007

See Top 5 Features of Adobe Lightroom with Flash Video and screenshots

First Step - Create an Organized File Structure

When using a program like Lightroom, the first thing you want to do is create a new, organized file structure to get out of the iPhoto mindset of "rolls". Get an additional hard drive just for your photos if you can.

You will need to manually create directories in the beginning, but ultimately you will have more control over your files, and in the end you will be able to find, modify, and save your photos with much more efficiency.

Some examples of directory structures:

Hard Drive / Images / Photos / US / California
Hard Drive / Images / Slides / Edited / Landscapes
Hard Drive / Photos / China / Beijing /

Another popular method is:

Hard Drive / photos / 20070324_golden-gate-park

I like this method because it is sorted by date and the _description allows you to quickly see what that gallery is. In a list:

Hard Drive / photos / 20070324_golden-gate-park
Hard Drive / photos / 20070324_sunset_blvd
Hard Drive / photos / 20070402_pacific_highway
Hard Drive / photos / 20070623_surprise_party

There are many different ways to create a file structure. If you travel a lot, then you may want to sort things out by locations. If you shoot a lot of different events, then label it by the event. Maybe you want to separate digital photos from slide photos, or landscapes from headshots.

Keep in mind that Lightroom can easily add dates and sequences to filenames (just like Photoshop's Batch script, Adobe DNG converter, and Fireworks batch menu) with many different options, for example:

IMG_1023.JPG renamed to yosemite-2006-07_01.JPG
IMG_1024.JPG renamed to yosemite-2006-07_02.JPG
IMG_1025.JPG renamed to yosemite-2006-07_03.JPG

Second Step - Import / Add to Library

Now that you have created your initial structure, importing your photos from your camera or from your existing iPhoto directory is easy with Lightroom.  You can import "as a copy" to copy the files into your new image directory, or alternatively, you can just "move" images to Lightroom’s library without copying any files (meaning you are just pointing to your existing file structure).  There is also a smart, "auto import" function that can be fully customized. 

Lightroom’s import menu allows you to:

  • optionally convert your RAW pictures to DNG (why use DNG format?)
  • save original files to a different backup location
  • rename file names and set specific directory paths (ie, your Canon saves file names like IMG_2140.JPG, you can automatically change to china-mountains-2007jan13-01.JPG)

Searching:  Keywords, Metadata, Spotlight

After you have imported all your images to Lightroom, you can now start batch labeling them with keywords and other "meta data" so you can easily find them at a later date.  You can search within Lightroom, or use Spotlight to find these tags.

For me this is useful, say, when I want to find an image of a red telephone booth in London. Old way: Use iPhoto and guess the date, try to find the photo. New way, search for "London" or "telephone" and all images with those keywords appear.

This MetaData information is universal and stored within the image, so if you change to a different photo application in the future it will still be accessible.

See videos, screenshots, and a review of Adobe Lightroom.


Misc Info: 

- I used to use Fireworks for my batch exporting needs (set max pixel dimensions, JPG export settings, etc) but it can all be done in Lightroom’s Export (File > Export) dialog box.  You can change color profiles, add watermarks, set bit depths and resolutions, use the Presets like "Email" or "Burn to CD" to achieve the same results as iPhoto.

- How to Disable iPhoto from Automatically loading when you connect your camera:  In your Applications Folder, open Image Capture.  Go to Preferences, de-select "iPhoto".