Photo Cataloguing

   I got a request from someone recently concerning my methods of naming, tagging, and filing digital images. Here's the response:

   I'm just now getting into tagging, after having shot more than 200,000 digital images over the last decade or so... so I'm still working to develop my tagging methodology. I've used a number of different approaches over the years to title the images, and have returned to a simple formula for almost everything I now shoot: [place shot][date][serial number].

   For well-known, singular places, I simply use one name, like "London 08JUL02 3577.jpg." For more obscure places in the US, I'll use city and state: "Huntsville, AL 09JUL23 7475.jpg." For more obscure places in other countries, I'll often use the place, province, and nation, like "Old Fort Bay, New Providence, Bahamas 09JUL15 7216.jpg." It makes for a long filename, but how else to tell the story? 

   The primary exception to this is aerial images, which I name according to the trip, like "Air ATL-BHM 07FEB22 4210.jpg," using the airport codes, of course. If it's actually a city I'm certain about (like the takeoff or landing cities, or a notable city in between, then I'll name it according to the city, like "Air New York 07JUN28 3513.jpg.

   The rationale behind naming this way is because I normally remember shoots according to where and when, like "I know the shot I'm looking for was in London, and I think it was shot on the 2004 trip." That narrows it down to a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand images, and I know exactly where to look for them. Naming them any other way results in having to remember first of all how I named them, and if you're even a little bit off, the computer will never find it. Also, make sure to set your camera to record a 4-digit serial number instead of a 3-digit one. When I process them, I use A Better Finder Rename (Mac) to batch-rename the entire shoot. Don't even consider doing this by hand. If you don't already have a batch renamer, it'll be one of the best software investments you'll ever name.

   Filing them is a different matter. Here's the abbreviated folder structure I use to store them:

By Air (then by flight or city)

By Building Massing (liner buildings, flatirons, etc.)

By Building Part (I only move images here very judiciously from place-shoot folders, and only if the images are intended solely for architectural pattern books or coding, because it's easier to remember the shoot, as noted above.)

    3 Massing & Walls

(then within each of these categories, by specific patterns in my Living Tradition book series, like: 3-1 South Facing Outdoors, 3-2 Positive Outdoor Space, 3-3 Light Wings, etc.)

    4 Doors & Windows

    5 Porches & Balconies

    6 Eaves & Roofs

    7 Attachments & Sitework

    9 Interiors

By Building Type (again, I only move images here very judiciously from place-shoot folders.)


(then sub-types like Aviaries, Chickenhouses, Greenhouses, etc.)



    Curious Structures




    Mixed-Use Buildings



By Charrette Studio

By Civic Space (moved here judiciously as noted above)







By Creature (Animals, Birds, Buffalo, Cats, etc.)

By Event (social events, personal shots from business trips, etc.)

By Issue (5-Minute Walk, Bad TNDs, Curious Signs, Eyesores, Facadomies, Leaf Blowers, Meaningless Place Names, Obesity, Sprawl, Transect Violations, etc.)

By Land Type (Agriculture, Beach, Forest, Gardens, Hills, Lakes, etc... moved here judiciously as noted above)

By Location (this is the big one)


Bahamas (then by island, then by city... for other nations, it's normally by province or state, then by city)

Cayman Islands


    Central America (then by nation, etc.)


    North America

    South America

By Object Type (Agricultural Equipment, Art, Billboards, Birdbath, Birdhouses, Campers, Carts, Clothesline, Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, etc.)

By Private Frontage Type (moved here judiciously as noted above)


    Balcony Over Walk

    Common Yard



    Porch & Fence

    Porch On Walk

    Shopfront & Awning


    Terrace or Light Court

By Public Frontage Part (Bike Racks, Bollards, Civic Art, Clocks & Sundials, etc.)

By Public Frontage Type (Rural 1-6, Urban 1-6, both from Context-Based Public Works Manual I'm working on with Andrés Duany.)

By Texture (Asphalt Siding, Brick Paving, Brick Walls, Concrete, Earth, Metal Grid, Metal Mesh, etc.)

By Thoroughfares (Alleés, Alleys, Arterials, Avenues, etc.)

By Transportation Type (Airplanes, Bicycles, Boats, Cars, Fire Trucks, Motorcycles, Scooters, Ships, Subways, Trains, Trucks)

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press