Photo management sounds dull and boring to a creative person like a photographer. Well I know I used to think this way too, the thought of sifting through thousands of my images and creating back up and a filing system so that I could find them all again, was my kind of hell.
However things have moved on and now there are so many different options available to the photographer to manage their work that there is bound to be one that suits every ones style and level of organising.
There are two main reasons to manage your work:
Retrieval - Since the advent of the digital camera and its ability to allow the photographer to take many more images without the cost of processing every one, there is more of a need to store them in a logical and meaningful way.
If like me you have literally thousands and thousands of images, knowing where any one individual image is amongst them all would be a very time consuming if not nigh on impossible task.
Protection - It is important to have a sure fire way to protect your digital files so that they are always available. Unfortunately hard drives and storage media such as memory cards and CD/DVDs have been known to fail. Once this happens and if that was the only place your images were stored, you can wave goodbye to your work.
Losing files may not be a total disaster for the amateur photographer, sentimental loss is probably the worse thing. But if you are a professional photographer this can mean loss of income and many hours of work, definitely something to be avoided.
If disaster does strike and you lose your photos, there are software packages that can help to get them back for you.
The most basic way of storing your image files is on your computers hard drive. However it will not be long before you discover your memory being filled up, plus the fact that it is not a good idea to keep all your files in just one place, in case of malfunction.
I would recommend for any serious photographer to have a second hard drive for storing their memory hungry image files. These secondary hard drives can be either internal or external of your computer. I find the external ones quite good as it then makes them portable as well. The cost of buying an extra hard drive has fallen greatly over the years and a 300Gb external hard drive may now only set you back £80 of so (2008).
Burning your files to Cd's or Dvd's can be a useful back up system for the amateur photographer. However it can be very time consuming and retrieval of the files is also slow. You will also have to ensure that the disks are stored in a safe place to prevent them from being damaged. Having said that, I have known disks to fail for no apparent reason, so I would only recommend this way of storing your images if losing them is not that important or you simply want to use this method to pass them on to others.
There are many online photo-printing services that will also allow you to store a certain amount of your images in your own galleries on their servers for free. They do this in the hope that this will encourage you to use their services for your printing needs.
Again this kind of service of photo management is really only useful to the amateur photographer, as the amount of storage is limited (the amount of storage varies from provider to provider). However it does ensure that your images are stored on an external server and so should anything happen to your own storage systems at home you will still have access to your files.
A few of these providers are:
For the professional photographer a better way to archive their images and have a secure back up of their files is to pay for an external service provider to store files on their servers.
Some providers simply allow you to store your images with them; others also provide a selling portal, so that you can also sell your work through them. Prices will also vary to the amount of storage required, the level of security and access required.
These sort of professional photo management services have increased over the years and the variety of services available vary greatly too. So it is best to take your time to find the right package for your needs, especially if your income depends on your work.
A few of these providers are:
The ten thousand dollar question. The trouble is there is no one definitive answer to this question, as every photographer will have their own preferences on how to name and organise their work.
Luckily there are soft ware packages that are available to help make the process of organising your files a lot easier. Once again these range from basic cheap and cheerful ones that are normally free to download to the top shelf professional ones which can sometimes come with a pricey tag as well.
Which software you choose to use will depend on your preference for ease of use, design, reliability and price. However in my experience I find that price doesn't always mean better and that many of the free or cheaper packages are quite adequate for most photographers.
Many photo manipulation software packages also have a level of photo management built into them, so you may find that the software you use to polish your images will be adequate for your needs.
Here are a few of the software photo management packages available: