Old 01-21-2009, 01:07 AM   #1
John West
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Cool Image Filing Systems

The thread about iPhoto raises the more general issue of filing. For purposes of provoking some discussion, here is the rather primitive system that has evolved for me over the years. Go ahead, tell me I'm a dinosaur!

First off, the role of iPhoto (or maybe later on Aperature which I think does about the same thing) is to be my "dump" for downloads. Basically, since switching from film to digital, I use iPhoto to maintain some semblence of retrieval and sorting capability for the huge volume of unedited downloads from the camera. Basically each download is an "event", divided by date. The beauty of iPhoto is I can quickly and effortlessly find various events and scan through hundreds of images to evaluate or find what I'm looking for.

But like film, once I have downloaded usually there are a relatively small number of images that are good enough to take to the second level. Once those images are selected, they are copied to a totally seperate set of folders outside of iPhoto that are arranged by railroad and type of image file (scan, raw, print, jpeg). Each image is given a short file name that identifies the railroad, general location, or some other. This part is pretty primitive, but works because the number of images is a fraction of what I started with in iPhoto. My challenge here is to start using the various "metadata" fields to record information about the picture. This is the part where I'm waaaaaay behind because when I started scanning slides I didn't even think about attaching information beyond a file name. Shame on me. Lots of catch up to do here.

The above is intended simply to perhaps provoke some discussion. I would be interested in how other people file their pix, and how they made the transition from boxes of slides or negatives to digital files, etc.
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Last edited by John West; 01-21-2009 at 03:12 AM.
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Old 01-21-2009, 07:53 PM   #2
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I personally download using Nikon Transfer to "My Pictures", import to Nikon ViewNX and immediately backup the files to two (2) external hard drives and use Nikon Capture NX2 for all my editing. Only after that I can confirm the files are backed up, I reformat the memory card and only in camera is the format done. I find Photoshop too complicated and cumbersome for me to use, I have not a had a problem that Nikon's proprietary software has not been able to fix. Then again, I try to nail the shot with the camera and do less with post. I only shoot NEF ( RAW ) format. The same process goes for my non-railroad photo jobs as well. Just my way of doing things.....

-- Kevin

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Old 01-21-2009, 07:57 PM   #3
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I came up with a crude, but effective, file naming system that I have stuck to for quite a few years now.

Each image (whether a scan or a new one) receives a Year Month Day Image# Location

Thus, the first shot taken in Jan 5, 1978 in Harrisburg PA would be --

1978 01 05 001 Harrisburg PA

This system allows the standard Windows sorting to put all my images in chronological order within the folders where they are stored (which are also broken up chronologically).
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Old 01-22-2009, 04:13 AM   #4
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I think we had one of these threads a year or so ago; my system has not since changed!

Files downloaded using Canon's ZoomBrowser, which puts them into folders by day. Images reviewed, discards made, remaining files renamed as:


example: CSX.GaithersburgMD010209Q414.jpg

In cases where I have been out a while that day or something of interest transpired, I put a trip report into a text file in the same folder.

I'm not much into engine models or engine numbers so this works fine for me. Non-train shots have modest changes, usually RR is replaced with something like "Station" or "Switchstand" or what have you, and location can be expanded, such as WardGaithersburg for the Ward signal location, etc., etc. ,etc.
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Old 01-22-2009, 04:42 AM   #5
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Mine aren't quite as complex as the file name types mentioned above but here is what I do. If I shot a train today and it had the BNSF 1077 on the point my image file name would be this:


Of course the first part is the date in mm/dd/yy format and the following part would show the road name, the BNSF. The third part of the filename would be the road number, the 1077 while the fourth part would be the type of file which would either be a ".CR2" file or ".jpg" file. I've been using this type of filing system for at least two years now. I'm bound to never have an issue overwriting a file by accident since I'll never be using the same date. If for instance I have two or more shots worth saving of the same train I will add a "_2" or "_3" appropriately after the road number. I use the same technique for thumbnails and website. It also makes using the search on my computer easier. It can get tedious though which is why I was looking to use some software like iPhoto in the near future.
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Old 01-22-2009, 05:27 PM   #6
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I use Microsoft Expression (formerly iView) as for sorting, and metatagging, for filing I taught a seminar at the Center for Railroad Photography and Art about this, a PDF can be downloaded here:


This might be of help-
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Old 01-22-2009, 06:44 PM   #7
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An example of mine. Yes, very, very long, but leaves nothing to the imagination. Inefficient, but oh well, thank God for copy and paste.

Example: CP 3113, 1271, 8201, STLH 8225, CP 3111 on KLR train T08 at Ashburn, ON., October 19, 2008 at 0927_09

Locomotive #'s and reporting marks, RR (if other than the leader), train symbol (if unknown, sub with direction of travel), location, date, time.

All photos are filed in a folder for the date taken, and kept within a folder for the year taken and all this wonderful info is then catolouged in a spreadsheet (my so called idiot list). Now that I shoot with two cameras, each date folder gets suffixed with either D200 or D300. As I shoot RAW and JPEG simultaneously, I keep the jpegs on my PC and Raws on an external HD and burned on DVD's. I don't typically delete any shot other than hopelessly crappy blunders or grabs I take only to get engine numbers. Storage is cheap.

In slide days, I put basically the same info on each mount, and also used a spreadsheet to track everything. I have many slides unlabeled, but at least the idiot list will help when I tackle that problem... someday.
Mike Lockwood

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Last edited by lock4244; 01-22-2009 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 01-22-2009, 07:12 PM   #8
Dennis A. Livesey
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LightRoom or Aperture are the apps the working pros are using to do image filing and processing.

Like PS, these are the most powerful apps available. Also like PS there is a learning curve. Thus you get in as deep as you wish or can.

I think Aperture is outstanding. I am no means an expert, but it does what I need it to do superbly. Honestly, it easy to set up running and it makes management and adjustment of my images a very satisfying experience.

I currently set up the organization of my images by railroad. On import they are put into each railroad folder called a "project." To organize projects you use "albums" and other folders.

The "metadata" you add either during import or afterward allows you to search by railroad, engine number, date, name, etc.

This is how it is set up for me right now.


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Old 01-24-2009, 06:05 AM   #9
Dennis A. Livesey
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Is this mic on?

I Foam Therefore I Am.

My pix on RailPics:

I am on Flickr as well:

"Dennis is such a God, he could do that with a camera obscura and some homemade acetate." Holloran Grade

"To me it looks drawn in in Paintshop. It looks like a puddle of orange on the sky." SFO777
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