Managing my exponentially growing photo library
One of the not too fun aspects of photography is managing all your photographs — even though digital is probably easier than film. But like many people, I shoot more with digital and organizing and backing up rapidly growing libraries of digital media is a chore. I use Apple’s Aperture 3 program to both manage my library and do about 95% of my edits, which helps tremendously. Having good software is key but equally important is having a good workflow.
This weekend is the start of some much-needed library cleanup. I’ve added a 3 Terabyte drive to the system and now have some breathing room to restructure my one massive library. Right now, I have about 40,000 photos in my 600GB Aperture Library. I’ve decided to break the library up into multiple sections to make it easier to manage and not have all my eggs in one library. I believe I have a good photo backup strategy, but this weekend exercise is more about library management. Actually, I also have 2 interim libraries from Japan and my recent East Coast trip that I have yet to add into the main library. These interim libraries by themselves contain about 10,000 photos and take up 220GB.
I first considered splitting my library by category or topic but decided to use time instead. I figured breaking up the library by year or groups of years was more straight forward. In order to do this, I first needed to figure out how many photos I took and when. Back in 2002, I moved to digital and used iPhoto to manage my photographs. In the middle of 2006, I moved from iPhoto to Aperture. This is how my photos broke down.
|2002 – 2006||iPhoto Library||17,000 photos|
|2006 – 2010||Aperture Library||19,000 photos|
|2011||Aperture Library||12,000 photos|
|2012||Aperture Library||19,000 photos|
You can tell that the number of photos I take is increasing exponentially. It’s worse than it looks space wise since the earlier photographs were taken in JPEG with lower megapixel cameras. Of course, over the years, I have upgraded to higher resolution cameras and when I switched from JPEG to RAW, my library really started to explode.
Most of the photos in my iPhoto Library were taken with a 2.1MP Canon point and shoot in JPEG. The 17,000 photos only uses 60GB. Over the years, I’ve moved from 2MP to 5MP to 8MP to 12MP to 16MP and to 18MP. My Canon 7D is still my highest resolution camera at 18MP. My recent Olympus gear has reduced the resolution somewhat to a more manageable 12MP and 16MP. Luckily I don’t have a 36MP Nikon D800. Yikes!
I’ve decided to split the library into those 4 groups. I suspect that I will need to create a new library every year. The photos from 2011 and 2012 can be edited down somewhat and I will do that once I break up the library. But I’ve already thrown away a lot of the non-keepers. I’ve lost track of total frames shot between all my cameras but I’m guessing it is upwards of 150,000, so I’ve already tossed at least 55% of the frames that I’ve shot. We’ll see how 2013 shapes up. I suspect it might be less than 2012 but that would be reversing a multi-year trend.