Managing and sorting photos from multiple digital devices

Sorting the masses of digital photos can be a real pain and often this task is given the lowest priority. Phones and cameras can easily capture family events and consume more and more storage every month. Memory cards in cameras do not offer infinite storage so at some point you need to sort your photos.
The majority of my photos come from iPhone, I do no dare allow iTunes to automatically sync my photos to the iTunes Cloud mostly because Apples iCloud is just not big enough for all of my photos.
I prefer to move my photos from phones and cameras to a folder on my PC where I can sort them, delete crap photos, edit and touch up and merge them onto sub folders like “Holidays\2012\Hamilton Island” or “Holidays\2012\Sydney”. Once I sort all of the photos into sub folders I then sync them back to my mobile devices as required.

Here is my standard photo sorting process.

Step 1: Move Files from Digital Cameras/Phones to a Local Drive

First I move all of the photos and videos from my phone and digital camera into a single folder (sub folder for each device) on my local computer (e.g “M:\Downloads\_Pictures_To_Sort\_PhotosFromiPhone2012-09-03\Simon\DCIM).

My M:\ Drive is my main data drive, the “Downloads” folder reminds me it has come from somewhere, the “_Pictures_To_Sort” folder reinforces to me that this is the master copy of photos and I need to sort them. The “\_PhotosFromiPhone2012-09-03\Simon” folders are sub folders that indicate where the photos came from and from what device.

Tip: if you sync an iPhone with a Mac but want to copy files from your iPhone as a file system just plug your iPhone into a Windows PC and after a few minutes the file system for your phone will appear.

Step 2: Renaming Photos (appending text to prevent conflicting names from different devices).

One downside of phones/cameras is the photos are often named “IMG_0001.jpg”, “IMG_0002.jpg” etc, this naming convention is great until the device or camera is reset and the naming convention reverts from say “IMG_2438.jpg” back to “IMG_0001.jpg”. This can be a real pain in a disaster recovery situation or when merging photos from multiple devices. I strongly recommend you batch rename the filenames and append unique device/date text after the filename (but before the file extension), this will protect files being deleted if you ever merged two folders together.

I use a program called Advanced Batch Converted (http://www.batchconverter.com/register.shtml) to bulk rename and resize my photos. Advanced Batch Converted allows me to append text to filenames, resize images, add watermarks, rotate and enhance photos. This program pays for itself after it renames its first few thousand images.

Before I open Advanced Batch Converted I create a new sub folder called “1” (1 is my equiv of a temp folder) in the folder of Images that I am about to batch rename, I then move any MOV videos into the 1 folder as Advanced Batch Converted does not convert MOV’s. I will manually add the text to the MOV filenames.

From Advanced Batch Converted program I click the File then Batch Mode menu, Add the few hundred images that I want to rename, Tick the rename box and enter “$_simoniphonesep12”(or other random string you want) into the new filename box. Advanced Batch Converted will keep the start of the filename (the $ indicates the original filename is to be still used. The file extension is automatically moved to the end of the new appended text). I then click Options after the output format and ensure that the image quality if $100%. I set the Output folder to a newly created subfolder called “.\1”.

Step 3: Sorting Photos (events and places).
After each photo and video is renamed in each of the sub folders in the DCIM folders from each device I can then start merging photos into categories. I usually sort photos into sub folders that describe the person/place or event. Where lots of photos are expected for one person/place/event I will add a month or other descriptor (e.g “Garden_2012a”, “Garden_2012b” etc) to try and limit the contents to less than 2000 photos as any more will often slow down a mobile devices when viewing large number of photos.

This process can take a long time but it offers the most reward as you can then sort your images into groups that can be then be easily synched to different devices later. Most Phones and Tablets have limited storage space and sorting your photos into smaller groups allows you to synced/de-synced categories as required.

Step 4: Delete bad photos and duplicates.

Today I have sorted 23GB of photos from 3 devices from 1~3 years old. If I did not delete blurry or duplicate images I would be just wasting space and time

Step 5: Rotate any images.
I then rotate images that are 90 or 180 degrees, this enhances the viewing pleasure on mobile devices later.

Step 6: Back up the photos

Before moving images to other computers I copy the master images to a folder where I will burn the photos/videos to DVD as they sit now. I also back up photos online to http://www.crashplan.com

Step 7: Scale Down Images

If you are only going to be viewing the images on a TV, phone or mobile device I would recommend you scale down the images resolution with Advances Batch Converted to a smaller size (e.g 1280×1024). This can save up to 70% of the final size. The smaller the images the more you can fit on a mobile or tablet device. Before you scale down images consider backing up the images first or printing the images you want at high resolution.

To scale down images using Advanced Batch Converted first open Advanced Batch Converted then click File then Batch Mode, then add the images you want scaled down then tick rename and type “$_sm” (this will append “_sm” to the filename giving you an indication that it is a reduced file size).

Click “Use Advanced Options” then click Options then tick resize then set the desired maximum resolution (e.g 1280×1024). Create a folder called “1” under the current folder before shrinking the images. ADC will auto shrink the images for you. When complete delete the bigger copies if you have backed up the high res images elsewhere.

Step 8: Copy the photos to the final destination
Once the photos are sorted I copy them to the final destination. I use a Windows PC to sort the photos but I move the photos to a Mac mini/other to then sync to my Devices. I then rename the “M:\Downloads\_Pictures_To_Sort” folder to “M:\Downloads\_Sorted_Pictures_Burn_To_Backup_DVDs”, this will remind me to burn the pictures to DVD’s and then delete them from the “M:\Downloads” folder.

Then I import the photos into iPhoto and then sync the new photos to devices with iTunes.