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Image File Organization Part Two

In "Image File Organization, Part One" I introduced a folder structure for organizing working image files that come off the camera for editing. In part two I will expand on a file structure for derived work from your working files. In other words, images output from your edits. After all, one image may be saved at several different sizes for different needs. These files I consider to be my Portfolio pieces. While they may not all be displayed in a typical portfolio format, they all showcase my work, whether on Facebook, Flickr, Shutterfly or my own portfolio site.

Before moving forward though, I strongly suggest taking a quick inventory of all the typical formats you use in your image sharing. Take everything into account. Social media sites like Facebook or MySpace, image sharing sites like Flickr and 500PX, forums, blogs and personal web sites. Anything where your images are posted and shared. You might also keep print output in mind as well since these files need to be stored somewhere. In particular, take note of image sizes and whether they are watermarked or not.

Here is where I suggest you compare and see if there are any overlaps that can be combined. For example; if you post a branded 800 pixel wide image to Flickr and a branded 1000 pixel wide image to 500PX, consider just doing the 1000 pixel image for both.

Once you have your list of what your image needs are it's time to start building the file structure for your output, or your Portfolio folders. Here is a typical structure;

As you can see, the first part looks like the Personal file structure for your working files from Part One. The difference here is that only output images are kept in this structure. No RAW files, no PSD files, no TIFS, etc. When I edit an image and save it at a specific size to my Portfolio directory, I know exactly where to find it when I need to upload it.

Each folder created under the Portfolio folder relates to a specific image format. For example; The Social Media Sites folder might contain images that get posted to Facebook, a forum, or other social media site. These are formatted to, as an example, 800 pixels on the long edge with a watermark. For my Image Hosting Sites I might have images that are 1000 pixels on the long edge and a different watermark. Then my Personal Portfolio Site may have an unbranded high resolution image.

When I am done editing an image I will then save it at the appropriate sizes, watermark them as needed and save them in their respective folder. When I am done editing I will then close my editing programs and open up my browser. I'll upload the images to their respective places, make whatever comments and I'm done. Once that is completed I will then take those images and move them into a sub folder labeled Posted. This lets me know, at a glance what has and has not been posted to the web.

Everything in its place and a place for everything

A common practice many photographer use is to keep their various edits in a sub folder under their working folder (i.e. 2015-01-01 Brief Description). The only problem I see with this is that if you need to re-send and image or post an image to another location you now have to search through your catalog to that exact photo shoot, drill down to the folder containing your edits and pick out the size needed. If you need several images that means doing the same process to each folder location. This is time consuming and a big pain.

The simpler solution is to go to that one folder that contains all your pre-formatted images for the size you need, select all the images needed and send them off to where they need to go. No searching through countless folders.

Customize as Needed

Like the working image structure, this section can be customized as needed. If you would rather have the folders labeled Facebook instead of the generic Social Media, by all means do so. Again, the goal is to keep things organized in a simple and effective manner that allows you to find your work.

Between parts one and two here you should have a basic structure for your private images. In part three I will discuss two structure systems for client based work. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to post in the comment section below.


  1. Kudos on your simple and excellent explanation of a date based file storage structure. I have evolved my storage over the years to resemble this approach. I have reached almost total karma in following this simple process. I like you use LR religiously for all my storage, naming and finding of images, so agree there is no better program now, which is still actually getting better with each revision.
    I do store all my edits (.PSD’s etc) within the same folder as the “master” rather than separate them out as you suggest. To achieve visibility and function, I use the keywords with LR to find them. I always include the keyword HDR for example in any that I have created using Photo matrix or such like. Like wise B&W for edited color images, Watermarked where appropriate and so on. Additionally I give the keeper a star rating of 1 or 2 stars, and leave the “others” at zero. I also keep the same file name (extensions are different) so they all fall into place next to each other. I even use grouping with LR to condense the previews etc.

    I do use the flags within LR to indicate their post processing status, blue flag = published in my world. I don’t put many images into the social media world, but could easily add the respective keyword for Flickr or FaceBook I suppose. so its easy for me (via LR) to find all the images I am looking for by selecting the date/ shoot folder, the star or keyword. This gives me the karma I mentioned earlier, no lost images.

    I also rely on the file name of the image which you haven’t mentioned yet I know, but used in conjunction with the system you show, can compliment the whole set up. I use the following format:


    Where YYYY is the year (2015), CCC I use as the 3 digit reference to the camera I used (50D, 5D3 or even IP for iPhone) and the image number is the sequential one from the camera, which I reset to zero at the start of each new year. Unless you have two cameras the same (Not that lucky I am afraid) this should prevent any duplicate file names when both cameras are used at the same shoot.

    I do select images for editing in other programs and use the export or edit with function in LR mostly. But if I need some images to be reworked in a program outside the normal ones, I just export “as is” to a folder on my HD and then point the program editor to this folder to continue working. Once finished I save them there, and reimport them back to original folder alongside the master, with the correct keywords in LR.

    Thank you for a great blog and the simple explanations that you offer. I enjoy learning all aspects of photography and you are certainly part of that process for myself.


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