Published on October 30th, 20166
How To Organize and Edit 3,000+ Travel Photos
Traveling is fabulous – you’ll get no argument from me on that score. And thank GOODNESS for my many travel pics over the years. While I can still vividly recall sipping that tiny demitasse cup of espresso at a shady table on the Piazza San Marco in Venice in 1979, along with the cooling trickle of cold water in that outdoor shower amid the jungle in Belize back in the 80’s – with so many places and travel experiences now under my life-long travelin’ belt, my dodderin’ brain tends to dim on the details. So a stray photo of such long ago travel adventures is mighty precious indeed.
Then again, there’s ever that daunting post-trip chore of organizing and editing all those snapshots. And for a trip like the 44 day/8 country marathon I just finished, suffice my 3,555 raw images of Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Turkey and Greece…
Well let’s just say, the task looms more than a bit overwhelming.
Ah but I love nothing (save the travel itself) if not the passive joy of slowly wading through the digital memories of my many recent adventures – lingering on snapshots of the food I ate, the places I saw, and the amazing experiences I enjoyed. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since my return – reliving those many moments through my – did I mention? – three THOUSAND plus images.
And no doubt I’m not alone with being faced with such a monumental (albeit tenderly nostalgic) chore. Perhaps not 3k images in one fell swoop, but I’m betting you too have spent similar hours fiddling with your travel photos, dumping the losers, achingly evaluating the keepers, and organizing them into digital albums to share with friends, along with enjoying future walks-down-memory-lane.
So I thought I might share just what my process is for organizing, sorting, curating, and editing my digital travel memories. It all begins with my bff photo editing software: Adobe Lightroom (and quick to add, nope, I’m not an affiliate, I just A.dore this software).
The truth is, I honestly don’t know what I would do without my beloved Lightroom. Luckily I bought it back when you could purchase it outright. Now I believe you can only get it via a monthly payment. I *loathe* “renting” software, but still, for about $10 per month Lightroom is oh so worth it.
So let’s get started with how I use Lightroom to make some sense out those 3k images, and wrestle them into a set of nice neat digital packages so that three years down the road – I can FIND them and USE them however I like. There’s a TON of great online how-to videos on every blessed aspect of the Lightroom software, but today I’m just going to step through the process I use to upload, organize and curate my images.
1. Transfer images from camera to my laptop via the “Import” function in Lightroom – destination: folder BALKANS
2. Ditto transfer images from my phone – destination: subfolder under BALKANS: Balkans Phone
Note: re: the latter “Balkans Phone” pics – as the size/format of my phone pics are of course, far different than those images from my camera, I like to keep them separated by assigning a “phone” keyword to them. Later when I go to use them in a TL blog post, etc. I’ll need to resize them differently, so best to differentiate them right from the get-go. Note that other keywords that I use will be added after I’ve completed my “culling” (read: slaughter and decimate) process (detailed below).
Now then, some like to dive in at this point and delete the obvious disaster images. But with 3k+ images from 8 different countries, I prefer to start my edit by moving them (WITHIN LIGHTROOM!) into various country/locale folders. Thus…
3. Under the main BALKANS folder, I create folders for each country (e.g. GERMANY, AUSTRIA, SLOVENIA, CROATIA, BOSNIA, MONTENEGRO, TURKEY and GREECE). Then under each country, I also like to create folders for each locale I stayed in – I create these as subfolders under each country (e.g. Under the CROATIA folder, I create folders for Istria, Plitvice Lakes, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik).
With my folders and subfolders complete, now it’s just a matter of clicking on the main BALKANS folder, selecting the images from each locale (Ctrl A on a PC), then dragging and dropping them into the folders I created.
Note: with such a boatload of images from so many countries, I find that jotting a dated itinerary of where I was each day, helps to locate the beginning and end of the photos from Hallstatt, Austria for example. The phone/camera will automatically date your pics as you snap them, and you can set Lightroom to display the date meta data on each pic as you view them in the grid view.
4. I start moving the images first from the Balkans Phone folder. They’re already marked by the “phone” keyword, so I’ll later be able to filter them for editing and exporting. Once all the phone pics have been transferred to their respective country/locale folders, the Balkans Phone folder will be empty, so I can delete it (again, ALWAYS WITHIN LIGHTROOM!)
5. Then I drag ‘n drop all the camera images in the main BALKANS folder into their respective country/locale folders.
THE FIRST CULL:
6. Making it easy on myself – this first cull is a super quick run through of the pics in each locale, weeding out the obvious blurred images and the “what was I thinking?” disasters. Lightroom makes this super easy. By first setting the Caps Lock on, you can then go through each image in Library view, pressing “x” on any you want to delete – and Lightroom will mark the image as “rejected” and automatically advance to the next pic.
After I finish running through a batch of 270 images from say… Ljubljanna, x-ing/rejecting the losers, in Lightroom I can then filter for only the rejecteds and delete all in one click.
Note: Speaking of “blurred images” – my number one photo tip (for both camera and especially phone): Set the camera on “timer”. YMMV but on both my Sony MX and my Galaxy S4, the minimum timer setting is 2 seconds. I keep both set that way for general shooting, as that momentary pause after pressing the shutter ensures that the image won’t be blurred due to movement of the camera as I press the shutter. This is especially helpful on smartphones as they’re so light that even the smallest jiggle can blur your image.
For the batch of 3,555 total images from my entire Balkans trip, my first cull run resulted in 1,234 deletions! That’s more than a THIRD of all the pics that I dumped into oblivion. Still… that left quite a daunting amount of pics to sort through: 2,321 to be exact.
Obviously I have quite a lot of work still ahead determining just which of the remaining 2k+ images will end up in a TL blog post, but at this point in my photo editing process, I consider them all “keepers” and it’s time to start key-wording and renaming them.
7. Keywording: I try to keep my image keyword system pretty simple. I assign a year date for all my images, and for my travel pics, I keyword both the country, and the locale.
So for this batch, I first select ALL the remaining pics in the BALKANS folder and add the keyword “2016” to all 2,321 images. Next I select all the images in each country folder (e.g. GERMANY, SLOVENIA, etc.) and assign a country name keyword. Next I open the locale subfolders – selecting all the images within the subfolder say… Salzburg or Cappadocia or Lake Bled, and assigning a locale keyword – Salzburg, Cappadocia, etc. Lastly, I assign various other keywords like “people”, “children”, “food”, “sunset”, “panorama”, etc.
8. Now it’s time to rename each locale batch via a sequenced naming system: first the 4 digit year, followed directly by a two digit month; then a dash and a 3 letter country code; another dash plus the locale; and finally another dash preceding the automated sequence number. Here’s an example for one batch of my Balkans pics:
201610-TKY-Cappadocia-01 ( 02, 03, etc.)
Sounds more complicated than it is, and I have a preset naming template that makes it even easier. YMMV regarding what naming convention you choose to use, but for me, this method does the job. But no matter what naming convention you decide on – be consistent – use it across ALL your images.
9. If I’m not too blearly-eyed at this point, I begin the more serious curating process – going through the “keepers” and setting a flag for those that I expect to use in a TL blog post some day. These I try to keep to no more than a dozen or two for each locale or activity that I plan to write about. And later – when I go to actually write the post, I’ll further narrow them down if necessary.
In short, out of more than 3,000 images, I likely will only actually use about 500 for TL posts. These will be the ones that help me to tell the story, and I will be among my best technically. Still, the REAL work begins when I edit these within an inch of their pixelated lives. Lightroom has amazingly powerful tools for cropping, lens corrections, color correcting, light enhancement, fine-tuning clarity, contrast, etc. as well as tweaking the saturation and luminance of individual colors, along with adding veiled vignettes in white or black, etc. etc. etc.
You see, I’m really a rather mediocre photographer, and rarely is a photo you see in one of my posts a “virgin” shot, posted straight out of the camera or phone. Luckily I ADORE fiddling with photo editing. With Lightroom, it’s astounding how you can turn a ho-hum image into something truly spectacular!
10. Oh, and for all those “keepers”? VERY.IMPORTANT. After setting all my keywords – I head straight to my Flickr account, and upload the originals to the cloud as a backup.
Now what about you – how do you handle the daunting task of organizing and editing your travel photos? Do you use Lightroom? Would you like to see more TL posts on the technicals of using Lightroom?
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