Photographer how the heck do you stay organized?

When you consider the 1st year you start photography, you realize you have no clients, no files, no idea and little to no equipment. Then a year later you have clients, ideas, and files coming out of every storage space you can imagine; from SD cards, to SSD drives and not to mention your desktop.The idea of storage is often overlooked yet with every project you have to find the space to keep them. So the big question is how the heck do you keep organized as a photographer?


As strange or boring as the word workflow may seem it’s essential to keeping things from getting out of hand, not to mention If you plan on getting help down the road it will come in quite handy. A workflow is simply how your work moves from start to finish or the process you use to get it done. The image below is a basic workflow that most are familiar with. This simple workflow below has 2 variables but most people will utilize only one. It shows that the photo is taken, stored on a card, copied to a drive then edited on a computer. It’s easy to do but it only shows part of the process. It can work if you do 1 -3 projects a  month but what if you are doing 5 projects a week? You will still need to have a way to save the files, keep them from getting lost later and from being all over the place.

The other option is to save both to a SSD drive and to a cloud drive like Dropbox Google Drive or Amazon Photos. With the cloud drive you can access your files wherever you are and share them quickly too. In order to figure out what would work best for you, you will obviously have to choose and review how projects have worked for you in the past, seeing which areas you need to improve and actually fix them. My recommendation is the following:

  1. Keep things simple
  2. Keep things consistent
  3. Check over them often for ways to improve
  4. Write down the steps if it’s more than 5 there are too many
  5. Research on better ways

If I were to give options as to ways to work fast and consistent I would recommend these 2 workflows:

GNARBOX a device that can back up the contents of an sd card with or without an IOS / Android device and check what was copied down to the ones and zeros. This is a professional tool so starting price is $499 (256gig version). The Gnarbox though expensive is a tiny computer with a built in SSD drive, a screen, wifi, software, can offload to 2 drives at once (both the internal and an external) and can even send to dropbox all while on the road. There are other devices similar but I cannot recommend them for all professional workflows one worth mentioning those is the File hub by Rav power

HEDGE An app used for film makers to copy the contents of a card and verified its been back up down to Ones and Zeros. Please note that though the app was made for film makers, it works just as fine with any other piece of content. The starting price for this app is $129.

House keeping

Now what we covered above was getting the files from card to storage, now how to keep that storage organized time and time again, even when you’re rushing to empty a card you forgot to do the night before a shoot. Well there’s an app for that 🙂 it’s called Hazel. What does Hazel do? Well it watches folders for contents and when it finds that content it puts them into the folders you tell it to.

So for example the above 👆🏾 rule found inside Hazel it says anytime a movie is found in my downloads folder move it to the movies folder. Yet that’s not the end because you can tell Hazel to sort by Day-Month-Year so this way you can find your files when your looking for them, Hazel is just amazing and it’s cheap too!!

A Storage system

A Work drive this is the drive or drives you use when actively working on a project or projects. They are suppose to remain empty and they are suppose to be fast.

GDrive SSD 500GIG Minimum

Sandisk SSD

Caldigit SSD

An Archive drive these are drives that store your best work, or any thing you’d like to hold onto for future purposes or just your legacy of work. These drives need to be huge in size and have a back up at least at 1 other location (on the cloud or outside of your office space).

Storage Enclosure (gives you room to upgrade in future) 

This box has 4 slots to hold 4 drives so if you use 10TB drives that’s 40TB of photo space to last the average photographer 5 + years. However please don’t use all the space for storage make sure and leave some for backup. The empty box cost $549 and you would still need to buy drives to put in. A little costly but worth it in the long run.

Here are the drives 👇🏾 I recommend to put in this 👆🏾 box IRONWOLF

A cheeper alternative to the box I mentioned above is a single drive. Keep in mind a single drive is not recommend as you will have all your eggs in one basket and should that basket fall you can lose it all. You can buy 2 keeping one active and put the other one with the back up in a cool dry place (like a closet).  Or you could back up to dropbox depending on how much space your dropbox has.

G-Drive 6TBSummary

So in conclusion what workflow are you going with.

  1. Are you going to continue to dump your SD cards yourself and stick to your random naming system?
  2. Will you use an app like Hedge which can automatically empty and label for you once you stick your card into your card reader, or even something like the Gnarbox which can empty while your on your way home form the shoot?

Lastly I believe which ever system you go with an app like Hazel is a game changer. Hazel works for those who label and organize and for those who could careless and just want to get down to the editing. The truth is whether you want to improve your storage system or not, eventually you will have to. The day will come, when that file or files go missing and you can’t remember which drive, which card, or which location you had it on, it’s then you will long for a better workflow.

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