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Thread: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

  1. #1
    RockNGoalStar's Avatar
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    How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Hi All,

    I have recently bought an iMac, having always been a Windows man. Whilst I am loving most of the features of my new machine, I am struggling with file organisation.

    I have all my photos stored on an external HDD and am looking for some advice as to what the way forward is in terms of organising my photos.

    Previously, in Windows, I have always created a folder for an event / shoot and simply dumped all of the RAW and JPEG files in there. I would then view my photos in Windows default picture viewer and then open the RAW file that I thought had potential and then edit it. Once edited, it would go into a separate folder inside the folder it was in, entitled PP (i.e. Post Produced).

    I am interested to know how other people are organising their photos on their Macs. Ideally I would like to purchase a couple of eHDDs to store my photos, one of which is an exact back-up of the other. I would like this back-up process to be automated, if possible...

    Aaaaagh, I am just at a bit of a loss. Any advice would be gratefully received.

    many thanks,

    Tom

  2. #2
    PhotomanJohn's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Tommy,

    I wanted to point out that there is no difference between the Mac and Windows in that regard. The Mac supports the same file format as Windows along with its own format. It doesn't care. I currently do what you have been doing by keeping each event in a folder and viewing and selecting the files in Bridge not that it is necessarily the best system. The point here is that you don't have to change your previous methods if you don't want just because you now have an iMac.

    John

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    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Tom; My system is probably not the best from a security point of view and is a little different because I have two iMacs; one at home and one at work.

    The images are imported into Aperture and put into a folder type Aperture calls "Project", these are labeled by name and or date. For instance; I may go out and shoot some old barns, some sunsets, my grandkids, some deer this weekend. When I import them I will create four Projects called Farms April 2013, Sunset April 2013, Family April 2013 and Wildlife April 2013. You will have to set up your own system and I strongly recommend this fellow for a series on how the program works http://www.apertureexpert.com/. Once a project has been processed as much as I want, It gets put into a new folder called Processed 2013, inside of a folder organized to be of similar images . The hierarchy would look like this from top to bottom for, lets say the old buildings; Processed 2013-Farms 2013-Farms April 2013. The grandkids would be: same top folder Processed 2013 then Family 2013-Family April 2013.

    If I want a picture of my grandson taken in May 2011, I look up the folder Processed 2011, then Family 2011, then May 2011.

    This is mirrored on the mac at work when I import.

    Both macs have two external hard drives and I use the Time Machine part of the OS to back everything up. The hard drives are swapped out once a week and the one not in use is stored in a safe (one at home and one at work).

    I suspect some more organized people would have a much better system.

  4. #4
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    One proviso to my system; All my processing is done in Aperture so if you want all the bells and whistles provided by Creative Suite then it won't work.

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    RockNGoalStar's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Thanks for the replies so far.

    I should have mentioned that I will be using ACR and Adobe Photoshop for my PP.

    Thanks,

    Tom

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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Hi, Tom

    I used Mac many years ago, then switched to Windows for work. As the prospect for editing photos appeared, I switched (back) to Mac about a year ago.

    While not being able to provide as much helpful insight as tbob, I am interested in following this thread as it unfolds.

    FYI: I originally imported my photos into iPhoto, but rapidly became disenchanted with it. I use Aperture 3 for editing, but all my photos are simply placed into folders which are named as groups that I can readily identify. So you can probably see my reasons for wanting to learn more about our common dilemma.

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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Aperture 3 is a cheap download for Macs.

    It will store everything in a library and you can have as any of these as you want. This sits above the project structure described above. You can share libraries between iPhoto and Aperture if you want.

    Aperture has a system called vault which enable you to copy your library and restore from it any time. The vault can be on teh same computer or on a different drive. This enables you to create easily a back hierarchy. It is quick and idiot proof (which i how I know it works!).

    You can also very easily copy the library and or the vault into the cloud, for example using dropbox or similar.

    Aperture, iPhoto and dropbox can all be configured in about 10 second to auto download when a camera or card is connected. You can easily name project folders at download and automatic configurations can be set to create events of a duration of a day, week etc.

    Files can be used with photoshop easily.

    However, if you are using CS6 - which gives the full suite of Adobe programmes in the cloud, you will be better off with that as it includes Lightroom 4 (similar to Aperture really) as well as Photoshop and lots of other useful stuff like InDesign.

    I use Mac and PC all the time so for my sins I get to use Aperture and Lightroom.

    iPhoto is very cheap and a bit like Aperture light. Hopeless if you want to do serious editing or handle large libraries.

    Both will enable you to handle jpeg and raw with simultaneous or separate downloads. Both support plug ins like Portrait Professional, DxO etc.

    If you are serious and want to spring the cash, I would choose Adobe Creative Suite 6 (CS6) in a cloud based subscription as you really get a huge amount for your money and it is kept fully up to date. Can share it across your different computers easily enough as well.

    For a simpler overall solution Aperture is so cheap as to be a no brainer.

    Adrian

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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    dup deleted
    Last edited by Adrian; 19th April 2013 at 08:39 PM.

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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Hi Tommy
    I made a similar transition a year or so ago and operated a similar file organisation to the one you describe. The only difference was my use of Lightroom as well as Photoshop. I still use both on my iMac.
    So whilst all my photo files are stored on an external drive they are catalogued and edited using Lightroom with more complex edits in PS6. All edits are saved back to the external hard drive.
    My fail safe is a second external hard drive which I use for backing up my entire system and the photo files using Apples Time Machine, which, in my view, is a truly excellent back-up system.
    If you use iPhoto or Aperture the default file storage is in a 'Library' folder within the program folder system. This, to my mind, does not give enough flexibility if an alternative editing program is introduced, hence the external drive solution.

  10. #10
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Hi Tommy!

    Congratulations on your new Apple machine.

    I do my photo backups manually. The fresh shoot goes to the internal for production. When finished I shoot them to two externals. Then delete from the internal to keep the machine clean. I know! Old school, but it works for me. The folders are dated and categorized so I know where to look for something if I need it. I also keep the .jpgs (smaller files) in a separate folder on my internal and these are pretty much all I need of the best I have processed and are what I consider keepers. I also keep a folder of re-sized digitally framed copies on my internal for web use (even smaller files). I do not have LR and use Bridge in CS6 exclusively. I can view anything on any drive from Bridge. I also use Finder for quick views. It recognizes my .dngís (I convert everything to .dng on upload from the camera), .psdís, .jpgs, everything. I use the program SuperDuper to perform my backup operations.

    But as mentioned there is really no difference on how to handle your organization on either Windows or OS. But one thing that comes to mind is how you have your externals formatted. If your Mac can recognize your files you are good, but the formatting is a bit different between the two platforms.

    Now this brings me to one of the features I like best about the Apples. They can be booted from an external disk. So, I have a partition especially for this so I can clone my entire internal to an external and boot from it if things go horribly wrong.

    This backs my entire machine, programs, files, mail, everything. So in a pinch I can boot from the external and work from that. I have never had to, but itís there if I need it. Also done with SuperDuper.

    I run DiskWarrior regularly to keep my machine humming. The only way you can maintain the internal is to boot from an external and run the maintenance/diagnostics on the internal. Then re-boot the internal and back that back to the external. Freshly cleaned and backed! Very cool!

    You will need to format your externals to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) to be compatible and to make bootable. You do this from your iMac and Disk Utility.

    One of the other cool things about Apple machines is that they come loaded with great maintenance utilities. You can DIY easily and keep her doing everything you bought her for. Typically, you would never even have to do anything to keep her humming, and most folks donít. But itís cake if you do!

    Happy computing on your new Apple Tommy!

  11. #11

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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    May I second the suggestion of Lightroom? I have been Mac all along and joined Lightroom shortly after Version 1 emerged from beta. Until then, I had been using Photoshop and Bridge to edit and manage my files and organized my files in exactly the manner you report. It worked for nearly as long as my creativity allowed me to come up with folder names on an ad hoc basis. Events were easy, photos of more mundane subjects became increasingly more difficult to assign in a findable manner. But that is how my pre-Lightroom files remain. The post-Lightroom files are organized by date. The difference is in the power of keywords which, when well thought out, makes finding any given file a matter of minutes, if not seconds. The major difference in usage is that, for the system to work well, it is important that file management be done from within Lightroom - admittedly a weak point in the scheme but hardly insurmountable. The countervailing virtue is that the organization of the files is divorced from dependence on DOS-level organization and can flow across partitions and volumes. It does remain to be said that since it is another manifestation of ACR, I am able to regard Lightroom as my main, front-line editor. Few images make the round trip to Photoshop.

    I also store all my images (and .xmp sidecars) on an external HD. The Lightroom catalogue resides on the iMac's internal boot disk. Both the catalogue and the external HD get backed up to another HD via Time Machine. This is about as automatic and painless as it gets. There will be other solutions, no doubt.

    BTW, Welcome to the Mac world. Should you decide to continue on as you have, the Mac OS should set you no impediment.

  12. #12
    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    I had a similar issue when I moved over to an iMac a couple of years ago. On my Windows machine I just created a new folder every time I downloaded images but could find them because Windows thumb-nailed the folders - something I still miss on the Mac.

    I got into the habit of naming all my folders with a location, event, person....something I would remember in the future when I was searching for them. Actual downloading is done via Adobe Bridge (part of CS) and I find it does a very good job. The downloader pops up when a card is inserted, I can name the folder there and then (if it exists already the images are automatically added) and the browser itself works well.

    I have recently downloaded the Lightroom 5 Beta to trial. Not so much to see how the beta works but because I don't currently use LR and thought it a good chance to trial it properly for free. If its good I may start using that for all filing/processing.

    As to back-ups then I use the standard Apple Time Machine linked to an external drive.

  13. #13
    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    I had a similar issue when I moved over to an iMac a couple of years ago. On my Windows machine I just created a new folder every time I downloaded images but could find them because Windows thumb-nailed the folders - something I still miss on the Mac.

    I got into the habit of naming all my folders with a location, event, person....something I would remember in the future when I was searching for them. Actual downloading is done via Adobe Bridge (part of CS) and I find it does a very good job. The downloader pops up when a card is inserted, I can name the folder there and then (if it exists already the images are automatically added) and the browser itself works well.

    I have recently downloaded the Lightroom 5 Beta to trial. Not so much to see how the beta works but because I don't currently use LR and thought it a good chance to trial it properly for free. If its good I may start using that for all filing/processing.

    As to back-ups then I use the standard Apple Time Machine linked to an external drive.

  14. #14
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    Re: How best to organise your photos on a Mac

    Black Pearl - you can make thumb nail image folder son a Mac.

    One thing to remember guys, with all this shuffling stuff on and off the iMac. The latest iMacs usually ship with an SSD variant either a direct SSD or as part of the Fusion drive. This gives you significant speed benefits (I am currently using a quad core maxed out i7 with 2Tb Fusion drive) on processor intensive jobs like photo processing and library storage.

    It is work for the sake of it to create folders for each shoot when a cheap programme like Aperture will do it all for you (or Lightroom which is as good or better though a bit more expensive). It has the advantage of totally automatic backup and recovery, and will do advanced searches such as face recognition, really easily. It will also enable you to process custom settings (very handy if you are working in raw) across a whole batch of files to save you a lot of time.

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