A Mammoth Project to Sort out my Photo Archive
I'm not the most organised person in the world. I'll be the first to admit that. I've been particularly bad when it comes to keeping my image library sorted. Over the years my collection of photographs has ballooned and gotten completely out of control. The situation has been exacerbated by using different pieces of software over the years and trying different methods of rating and storing. The result of all this is that I have a huge collection of images that needs to be sorted, catalogued and tagged. The idea is to eventually get everything online on my Photoshelter hosted image library. But it's a huge and daunting task. The biggest hurdle was just trying to figure out an approach. Figuring out where to begin was half the battle.
The one consistency in my giant mess of databases and catalogues, is that I've pretty much used the five star method to rate images that I like and want to keep. It's probably not 100% accurate, but it was a good place to start. I have a big Lightroom library that contains most of my images (also a giant mess) so I exported all the five star images from that onto an external hard drive as 100% full res Jpegs. I was planning to do this anyway as a backup, so this was a handy first step. This narrowed the number of images needed to be sorted down from hundreds of thousands to just thousands. 11472 to be precise. The idea of sorting, tagging and captioning eleven thousand plus images is daunting, but there are a lot of duplicates in there and I know I can narrow that down a lot. The thing is to come up with a strategy and not get distracted. I also want to be able to do this on my laptop as I want to be able to get into the captioning and sorting whenever I get a chance. And that's pretty much where I am now. I've worked out my process and the project is about to get underway. So what is that process I hear you ask?
I have decided to use Aperture for the process for a number of reasons. First of all, when it comes to sorting and rating, Aperture is fast. Stick it in quick preview mode and you can fly through images. Plus, it's optimised for retina displays, and my weapon of choice in this endeavour is going to be my Retina MacBook Pro (also extremely fast). I don't want to get into a Lightroom vs Aperture argument here, but I've been using both since both were at version 1 and I prefer Aperture for this kind of task. Anyway, once I've imported the photos into a clean and empty Aperture library I've set myself a strict step by step structure for the sort.
The first step will be a two stage culling. I've borrowed this process from Scott Kelby's Lightroom workflow. I will go through the images and flag the ones I want to keep. This will be a quick fly through, marking each good image as flagged. Once that is done I'll put the flagged ones in an album marked "Picks". The next step is to un-flag everything and go through this again with the picks and narrow it down further. The idea is to be as ruthless as possible. Once I've done this then I'll create another album with these and mark it "Selects". It's this set of selects that I'll then work from.
The next step is to create a root level folder in aperture (one that's not attached to a project) and inside that create Albums for the categories I want to sort into. So, for example, I have folders called Dublin, Landscape, Nature and so on. With these created I'll go through the selects and drag them into one of these albums. This will probably take a while! As I'm going to be uploading the finished albums to Photoshelter, so it's important that each image is in only one Album. I've come up with a way to double check this before uploading, and I'll get to that in a minute. Once everything is in the albums, the next stage is to start key-wording and captioning. this will be the longest and most laborious part of the process. To help make sure I don't waste any time, I'll make use of Aperture's colour labels to help keep track of my progress. I'll use different labels for different stages of progress. I haven't quite decided what these will be yet, but it will be something like: Red for completed metadata, Blue for Uploaded, Orange for "Needs some photoshopping" and so on.
Once I've finished this stage (which will probably take weeks) I'll start uploading each album. Once I've uploaded an album, I'll mark the photos as labelled blue. This way, when I go to the next album, if anything has been uploaded already it will be labelled, and I can just un-check it when I go to export.
Anyway, that's about it. I just thought I'd share my thought process on this so if you were contemplating something similar you would have some ideas as to how to approach it.