- Cryosphere refers to any portion of the Earth's surface where water is in solid form, including glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, sea ice, snow cover, frozen rivers, lakes, and permafrost. The Cryosphere is closely linked to the Hydrosphere and plays a crucial role in the ecosystem and our everyday lives.
- I've chosen the name because Cryosphere encompasses a wide range of ice around the world. This blog is meant to chronicle not all glaciers, but those that I experience and photograph in my travels. My vision is to visit and write about as many glaciers and other ice forms as possible while I pursue knowledge and share experiences of a beautiful world of ice. I hope you enjoy the photographs and follow along as I go!

13 August 2014

Photo Tips: Photo Organization and Storage

Whether you're just getting into photography or a seasoned professional,  if you haven't yet worked out a system to keep your photographs organized and accessible you're going to be miserable. At best, you'll spend precious time searching for the photos you need, at worst, you may end up missing folders completely or accidentally deleting important files.

I'm here to talk about the system I've worked out to help me find anything quickly, and to ensure I don't lose any photos. Because, as those of you that know me have noticed, I often lose things.

Each of these sections could easily be their own article, so in the interest of keeping things shorter, I've provided a brief overview of each step of my workflow. If you have any further questions on detail or specifics please comment below and I will do my best to answer everyone's questions fully. 

Memory Cards

Please, please, please for the love of all things photography - do not store all of your precious photos on one memory card. SD, CF, and other media cards are notoriously fickle when it comes to long term storage. They need to be formatted regularly and taken care of to protect the life of the card.  See more tips for card care here at Digital Photography School. Continual use of a memory card while deleting files and reusing that space without formatting can dramatically reduce the life of a card and increase the chances of losing parts or the entirety of the data on the card. The biggest fear of any photographer is losing photos, so why risk it? If the files won't fit on your computer, get yourself an external hard drive (or two). If you're big on losing things, consider a few options for your cards. I always write my name and website on memory cards in hopes that if they do get lost, someone is nice enough to contact me. I've recently heard from a few photographers more even prone to losing things that a great option is to take a photo of your business card on every shoot for a similar purpose.

File Names

This should be an obvious one,  but something I overlooked for a long time. As you should know by now, there is finite number of photos that can be taken before a camera starts to reuse numbers. Canon cameras start you off with IMG_0001.CR2 or .JPG. These four numbers mean you can have no more than 9,999 photos before the camera must reuse the first number. Now, yes, the camera will typically make a second folder to start the next set in, but if you ever end up placing many images together later, it creates a problem. I'm not one to manually name my files, like Bird01.jpg or whatever, as even that could create problems down the road. I've talked to several professionals about this subject and the system I've adopted into my workflow is to have Adobe Lightroom do the renaming for me on import. You'll hear a lot about Lightroom from me - this is without a doubt my favorite program for all things photography, but more on that and the import process later. The naming structure I've set up is this: DC_DATE_###.DNG I start with my initials (DC_) and the date (20140813_ would be today) and follow it up with a unique 3 digit number (001-999). Lightroom lets you build in presets with this info and will rename all your files for you on import, as seen in the screenshot to the right. (if I go over 999 images, LR (Lightroom) knows to use four digits and go up from 1,000 instead of reusing numbers). I use a .DNG or Digital Negative file type for various reasons, but more on that below.
Using this renaming technique I've done away with a lot of confusion. First, it lets my clients know who they came from, it shows them the date it was shot, and not among the least important - it looks way more professional. It also avoids the hassle of coming up with names on a case-by-case basis and eliminates the headache of reusing the same file name.

File Structure

Speaking of importing, if you're using a program like Lightroom, Bridge, Aperture, or what have you
to catalog photos, you'll need a consistent and predictable way to keep folders to prevent them being moved and lost. Cataloging software will either place or find your files in certain locations, and it becomes a real hassle for you if you move them after the program gets it all set up for you. Find something that works for you and stay consistent. I organize everything in folders first by Year, then a program such as Portraits, Climbing, Biking, Hiking, Skiing, Travel, MISC, etc. In each of those folders will be sub-folders organized by date and location (i.e. "05.12 Monument Valley" or "05.15-19 Grand Canyon"). Sometimes those house the photos directly, or are further broken down by specific locations in another set of folders. It's certainly not perfect and this is the one area of my workflow I'm always adjusting from year to year. The point is though, I can usually remember which program or initial folder a photo is in when I'm searching manually through folders. Most importantly, once Lightroom knows where these files are I NEVER move them. O.K, once in a while I do, but then immediately jump into LR and point it to the new location so nothing goes missing.
Simple, yet predictably organized. About the only thing in my life that fits that description.


This is also a great time to get in a nap...
If you've ever read the reviews when shopping for a hard drive, you've undoubtedly come across numerous horror stories of people who blame their drives for losing ALL of their data, photos, documents, and everything else important to them in digital form. And guess what? In most cases there is little to no hope for getting any of that back. If you're relying on a single device, be it a memory card, desktop computer, or external drive, to keep all of your important things in one place, you're asking for something terrible to happen. It currently takes me 5 external hard drives ranging from 1 to 4 TB each for me to keep 2-3 copies of EVERYTHING I've shot digitally since 2008. And it's worth it. I've already had two drives fail completely, but been able to continue on without losing any data because it was all backed up elsewhere. Drive failures are unavoidable. Blame the manufacturer all you want but they are always going to be susceptible to moisture, dust, gravity, large magnets, and other hazards that can easily wipe data from magnetic drives. Plan for the worst. And on that note, do whatever it takes to avoid keeping all your data in one physical location as well. I like to keep a copy of all my files in multiple locations. There are several easy options here - parents' houses, siblings, close friends, bank safety deposit boxes, whatever it takes. The further the better. Pack it in a cheap Pelican Case and ask them to throw it in the bottom of their closet, but make sure you update it every few months. In the event of a natural (or man-made) disaster, I want to know that my work is safely tucked away in another location. Yes, this can get expensive for several drives, but in a world where you can now pick up 4 TB drives for under $150, isn't that worth safeguarding your most important data?

File Types

Raw vs. JPG - This should be an easy one. If you're a professional or just looking to make the most out of your photos, shoot in Raw and learn how to use it to it's full capability. As cheap as memory is these days, there's just no reason not to. Raw files are essentially carrying all the data from the sensor as it saw the scene, whereas .jpg files are compressed by that tiny little computer inside your camera. Take control of how your photos look and shoot Raw. For more info on how Raw files compare to .jpg check out this Digital Photography School article.

DNG vs. Proprietary - I talked earlier about converting my files from Canon's .CR2 Raw file into something called a Digital Negative, or .DNG. This is a file type developed by Adobe as freeware, meaning no one person or company owns it, and it will always be free to use. Every company that makes digital cameras currently uses their own file type - with the exception of a few medium and large-format digital cameras which have already switched to DNG. Having this many file types causes problems for software developers who have to write programs for many constantly evolving and expanding file types. Now, it is hard to image a world where programers give up on Canon, Nikon, Sony, or Pentax's files and cease to include them in their programming, but who's to say that will always be the case? Many programs already are only written for a select few Raw files, and plug-ins or even separate programs are required to process them. But guess what? Nearly everyone is now recognizing DNG's and they are only getting more popular.

Aside from future program compatibility, there are other benefits:

File size - The way the file is written, the DNG is able to encapsulate all the info from the proprietary format into a smaller size. My files go from an average 26-28 MB each in .CR2 to around 21-23 MB each in .DNG. Not much, but it makes a big difference when looking at tens of thousands of photos.

Two is not always better than one
Sidecar files - If you use Lightroom or something similar to catalog, keyword, and/or edit your raw files, you've seen the .xmp file. This is a handy/annoying little file the program creates with coding to tell everyone that reads it what keywords or edits go along with that file. With .DNG they have reserved space for the info that the .xmp sidecar used to hold, eliminating the use of the extra file and easy confusion.

The best part? Adobe provides a free .DNG converter and Lightroom will allow conversion to DNG as part of the import process. It's simple and free, so why not?


Keywords can be your best friend if you use them constantly and consistently. Something I'm always trying to improve on! Any decent cataloging software and even, apparently, windows explorer will allow you to add keywords to your files. This makes finding specific things super easy.
Say you have a client looking for a photo of a bear in a field of yellow flowers. Maybe you've spent years shooting all kinds of bears and know you have many examples that would work for that client. Where do you start? If you used your keywords well, three seconds could bring you every photo that contains the combination of 'Bear' 'wildflower' and 'yellow'. Instantly, you have plenty of shots to choose from to send your client, eliminating hours or manually checking through thousands of folders.
I always try to add keywords for plenty of situations that I could use down the road, some examples I use;

Region (i.e. Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest or Desert Southwest)
State (Utah, Colorado)
City/Area (Salt Lake City, Arches National Park)
Specific Location (Downtown, Fiery Furnace Trail)
Specific Subject (Main Street, Delicate Arch)
Descriptive terms (building, concrete, stone, sand, arch, trail, bear, wildflower, etc.)
Prominent colors (Yellow for a lot of yellow flowers, Red for red rocks in Southern Utah)
Environment (Alpine, Desert, Coastal)
Names (John Doe, Glacier Lily)
Latin Names (If you know Latin names for plants/animals this works really well to add them for those searching the web for specific things).

When it comes time to look for specifics you'll know exactly words what you need to use to search for.

I know all of this can be overwhelming at first, but build your workflow now and keep it consistent and you will really thank yourself down the road!

That's all for now - if you have any questions about anything related to this article please comment below, or any further questions for all things photography - feel free to email me. My most common questions will be answered in future articles as well.

Don't forget to sign up for updates via email on the top right of this page to make sure you always get the latest news/tips sent to your inbox!

Thanks for reading, and keep shooting!

David Crane


  1. Cool article. I use bridge (I have CS5) but want to get lightroom at some point. I've been pondering folder/file naming conventions and keywords for some time now. The keyword system isn't as good as I'd like it to be in bridge (coming from engineering tools that work a little different) but with some manual labor can be useful. As you said, it takes consistency to have any value. That's a big project to go back through all my photos and update them...

    The question I have for you is why you chose to name your folders starting with year and then on to the description. (FYI that is what I have done in the past as well). It seems like after several years of shooting I won't have a clue what year to look in, when manually browsing folders (or narrowing down the search in bridge). The other option would be to set folders up per activity type (i.e. climbing, skiing, biking, camping, etc... and then year). Did you consider this, and why did you settle on the year first?

    Also, how do you handle situations like a camping/climbing trip. I have so many trips where I have the kids and good camping pictures and we are also climbing. i.e. Pictures of the kids at the crag (but not actually climbing). Do you separate the pictures even though they were taken during the same event?

    1. Thanks Tyler, great questions. I chose to separate by year simply because it seemed like a logical breaking point in what is otherwise a continually infinite number of photos. At some point I must break them into sections as not everything fits on one drive. Unfortunately, yes I do run into the fact that up until this year I was spotty on Keywording, so when I search for something older it requires more effort. I left out the rating system I use as well, though. In lightroom I start with a batch of photos and rate everything I want to take a second look at with 1 star. After several rounds I narrow it to a few photos with 3 stars and those that I see as portfolio pieces get 4 or, very rarely, 5 stars(if I'm not mistaken, Bridge allows a similar rating system). Now I know when I go looking for something, it's usually a photo with 2 to 3 stars and I can select my older drive and view all photos for 3 to 4 years with a select number of stars or higher. This makes that process much simpler. Still, not ideal. And yes, sometimes it does come down to searching a year at a time. Then I'm further motivated to keyword the new imports more completely...

      As far as multi activity trips, this is where my Travel folder came into play a few years back. It's essentially for everything that doesn't completely fit anywhere else. I try to break down those big trips into subfolders by day or by activity, depending on the trip, but I won't ever split them into multiple folders at the top level. When you do start searching it's easy to recognize a photo from a similar location of the one your searching for, so when I get close, I want to know they'll all be together. This is one part of my workflow I'm always adjusting. It's difficult to set up folders that will split everything logically and evenly, as it sounds like you've noticed as well.

      I've also heard of a few programs you may want to try out. I'd highly recommend LR but there are others. Picasa, iPhoto, Windows Photo Gallery, Shotwell, ACDsee, Zoner Studio and XNView all reportedly help organize and keyword photos, though I've had limited expedience directly with any of them. I have, though, used bridge for some time and it couldn't be hard to beat that.

      I hope that helps.

      - David