So, you’ve done the planning, taken your Go-Bag and had a wonderful time out and about exploring some ancient sites. If you’re anything like me, you take plenty of digital photos when visiting our ancient heritage sites. But what do you do with those images once you get home?

After a trip, a large majority of people will just hand around their camera, tablet or phone and let people view the pictures that way. Some selected pictures may get uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Most people will download the photos to their PC (often into the ‘My Pictures’ folder on Windows) and look through them that way. Many will take the camera card into a shop and print off selected pictures – the larger supermarkets offer this service these days.

But what if you want to review the pictures a month, six months or a year or more down the line? Could you easily find the relevant batch of photos? Could you identify a shot of e.g. a particular cairn, barrow, megalith or dolmen from all the others? With a little post-trip preparation you can organise the images from your visits, making them simple to identify and review.

Where was that? When did I go there?

Where was that? When did I go there?

First of all, a warning for the unwary: There are a plethora of applications available to organise a digital image library, for Windows, Mac and Linux systems at various pricing levels, which provide facilities for import, renaming, tagging, geotagging and other facilities, including full EXIF data editing. Some of these systems are aimed at the professional end of the market, with pricing and complexity to match. Others are free, but with a hidden ‘price’. I personally like Picasa from Google, but be aware that the licensing means that any images uploaded to their online web libraries will become available for Google’s use as they see fit. See section 11 of the Picasa EULA as an example. Other services such as Flickr have similar terms, so if control of your image content is commercially important to you, be aware of what you’re signing up for!

But assuming you have no immediate need of an online image library or cloud backup services, let’s go through what you can do to get minimally organised.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it's place.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it’s place.

Location – First of all, decide where to keep the photos on your system. If your default ‘My Pictures’ folder is not too untidy already, this is as good a place as any to get started, but be aware that an image library can grow large, particularly if you take lots of pictures over a long period (I personally have digital images going back to 1995, nearly 20 years worth!)

Folders – there are lots of ways to organise the folders for your photos. I tend to a ‘tree’ approach. A folder for each year, then sub folders for each trip I take. The sub folders are named by yymm and dd if necessary, followed by an indicator for the trip – in my case the main county. Multi-day trips may be split by further sub folders for each day, or each site if it’s an image-heavy trip!

Downloading – transfer the photos from your camera/tablet/phone to the PC as soon as you can. There are various ways of achieving this depending upon your device, but one rule of thumb: Once the photos have been transferred, clear them off the device! There’s nothing worse than after the next trip having to sort out which photos belong to which trip, or downloading duplicates. So drop them from the camera once you’re sure they’ve been copied safely.

Image Re-Naming – Most photos are downloaded from the camera with meaningless numeric names – DSCNnnnn, or IMGnnnn or similar nonsense. A handy trick is to multi-select the files you wish to rename (Tile view is useful for identifying simlar photos) and rename them en-masse. Doing this, the files will all have the same name, but with a sequential number appended. A word on naming conventions – I like at all times to have the date that the image was taken in the file name. So for instance, three pictures of Stonehenge taken at midsummer may be named ‘130621 Stonehenge (1)’, ‘130621 Stonehenge (2)’ and ‘130621 Stonehenge (3)’. If you’re working on older images, and aren’t sure where/when they were taken, the EXIF data held within each image will hold clues, and may even have the geotagging information to give you a precise location.

Tidying up – Finally, remove (read DELETE!) any photos that aren’t up to snuff. Out of focus, poor composition, or even just ‘uninteresting’ photos should be removed from your library unless there are *very* good reasons for retaining them. When showing your photos, or organising them into a photo-book as a permanent record to show people, you want them to think kindly of your photographic skills, so dump the rubbish shots!

Backup! – Now you’re organised, the final step is to make sure you have backups of your photos. Whilst cloud-based storage is currently flavour of the month, don’t forget to check the terms and conditions and make sure you’re not giving away any rights to your images that you’re not happy about. Also, be aware that online companies may withdraw services at any time, or change their conditions with very little warning, so make sure you have an offline back too if you go the online route. I like the Western Digital Passport USB drives. They’re small, draw power from the USB lead (so no mains lead needed), come in various capacities and are relatively inexpensive.

I hope this brief guide has been useful. If you have a different strategy for organising your own digital images, let us know in the comments.