I know I took that photo, but I can’t find it!

The other day I needed to find this photograph I took of the last Studebaker ever produced, a 1966 Cruiser.

From the beginning I’ve stored my photos on my hard drive in dated folders grouped by year. When I remember about when I took a photo, I can find it fast. I knew I visited the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend several months before my parents moved away from that city. I remembered well that they moved away in August of 2014. So I had to look only through my 2014 and 2013 folders to find the subfolder with this photograph.

But that’s no longer my norm. I’ve made tens of thousands of photographs since beginning this photography hobby more than a decade ago. I frequently can’t remember when I took a particular photo.

I know, I know, I should have been using some sort of cataloging software all along. But having never stuck with any hobby for this long, I never saw this problem coming. I did try Lightroom for a while last year for its cataloging and tagging system, but I found its user interface to be so byzantine that I gave up on it in frustration. And it would be an enormous project to tag every photo I ever made.

Hoch lebe Deutschland!

Fortunately, I’ve uploaded a lot of my photographs to Flickr, which has some AI that guesses what’s in each photograph and tags them accordingly. And I wrote quick descriptions on most photos when I uploaded them. So when I wrote that recent post about my poor Toyota Matrix’s last days, a quick Flickr search for “Matrix” returned more photos than I could use.

But for every photo that I’ve uploaded to Flickr there is at least one more that I haven’t. The dozens of photos I shot on that 2013 visit to the Studebaker National Museum are among them. But it’s unusual now that I can remember when I took a particular photograph.

So I ask you: what is your solution? How have you categorized, organized, tagged, or indexed your photographs so you can find one when you need it?


21 responses to “I know I took that photo, but I can’t find it!”

  1. ztryfe (@1ztryfe) Avatar

    Jim, I also upload to Flickr, most of my shots, public or not. I follow the “yyyymmdd” format, plus a highlight for the day or a pointer to a particular shot that I liked that day:

    “20160904 Tijuana / Rosarito / Ensenada”

    “20160228 Thelocactus Double”

    I additionally have folders for camera, film and some of the lenses, preceded with “Gear – ” or “Film -” :

    “Gear – Minolta XD11”

    When using Flickr bulk uploader, the tagging can get messy and inconsistent, I found having folders as tags was straightforward to use.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      For a while I had every photo on my hard drive also uploaded to Flickr in private albums arranged by date. I quit doing that for two reasons: (1) concerns about Flickr’s long-term viability under Verizon and (2) it made my Flickr space a cluttered mess and I didn’t like it. But thanks to Flickr’s automatic tagging it did help me find photos!

      Props on using old-style UNIX date format. I do something similar: my folders are labeled yymmdd subject camera lens film. If I leave camera-lens-film off it means I used whatever my default digital point-and-shoot camera happened to be at the time.

      For years I’ve used Geosetter to geotag my photos. I also use Windows’ built-in features to enter camera, lens, film, and my name to the EXIF. So there is some data there.

      I think I’m simply going to have to embark on a project to select a cataloging/tagging platform and just catalog/tag my photos. I keep deferring it because holy cow does that sound tedious and boring.

      1. ztryfe (@1ztryfe) Avatar

        Hey, Release Engineering pretty much forces me to use Unix date formats ;). I bet you know what I mean.

        That project on cataloging photos sounds just a tad better than watching paint dry.

  2. Joshua Fast Avatar
    Joshua Fast

    I use lightroom and it’s brilliant. You don’t have to tag to the nth degree. You could just tag the entire album studebaker museum and it would pull it in a quick search. I typically tag people, event, camera, lens, film, developer.

    I’ve been using lightroom for 4 years and i’m still working on tagging older pics. Look at it long term, i personally wouldn’t depend on a internet source to keep and catalog your pics. If flickr ever does go the way of myspace you will still have to tackle your hard drive. Better now than after another 10,000 pics.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I found Lightroom’s tagging functionality to be super frustrating. I make software for a living — I’m good at this stuff — and more than once wanted to put my fist through my screen over tagging. Maybe I should try again. After a couple hours of meditation and a couple Xanax so I’m better prepared.

      1. Joshua Fast Avatar
        Joshua Fast

        Over-Tagging is a no no for proper mental health. I love how it starts recognizing people and auto tagging them. It’s amazing to be able to do a search by name. Just ignore the develop tab and stay in the library, it will be second nature before you know it. Stick with your key points and tag people, event, camera, lens, film, developer, done.

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’m happy about the “Stude” photo. I’ve been saying for years, a guy owned one of these on my route, when I was a paperboy in Milwaukee. It had to be ’66 or ’67. Everyone I tell that story to tells me that Studebaker wasn’t producing cars then and I keep saying they did, and it was a smaller type car. This picture proves it!


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yes! Built in Canada, powered by Chevy, but very real!

      1. DougD Avatar

        Of course it’s real. :)
        Chevy engines came from just down the road in St. Catharines engine plant.

        I just sort photos by year and upload date with a descriptor in the file name, but then again I don’t take tens of thousands of photos.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Oh wow, I didn’t know the engines were Canadian too!

  4. tbm3fan Avatar

    I don’t upload to any storage site. Yet then I have been taking pictures since I was six years old dating back to 1959. So you want negatives I’ve got negatives even from back then I saved them, Go figure. Yet then I saved Life magazines and front pages back in 1962. You want slides have I got slides. With my first SLR all color was shot using slides.There are shopping bags filled with processed slide boxes that I have lugged around since 1971.

    So I have just purchased archival storage sheets for slides and negatives. Probably spend a year moving the slides into the sheets, labeling them for binder storage and decide which I want to scan. I don’t even want to think about all the B&W negatives from the past and may leave them as is and start afresh with current negatives shot being put into sleeves after choosing what to scan. Bottom line I believe in hard copies and will always have all my negatives and slides.which could end up spanning 85 years easily.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have negs back to 1976, and I’ve digitized them all. I have all my negs in plastic boxes in the closet. I’d like to figure out a better solution someday!

  5. SilverFox Avatar

    I use a similar system to you I guess. I have all my photos in year folders and in the year folder I create folders for the thing I was shooting so for your trip I would have put 2014/Studebaker National Museum/
    I do use lightroom over the top of this for things that are related and I may someday need to find, for example, all the picture I took of my fiancee. So my lightroom tagging is minimal.
    It’s a simple solution which has worked fairly well for me for quite a few years.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If I can push past Lightroom’s fussy interface and do minimal tagging, I’d be so much better off.

  6. SilverFox Avatar

    oh and for negs that I have scanned they go into year/camera so 2017/Pentacon

  7. analogphotobug Avatar

    Cudos to you…I need to get more organized………Last week a friend asked me for a photo of a very specific cloud formation. Found some, but I know that I had a better one somewhere……….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I get you. I’m actually in much the same place, unless I can remember about when I took the photo.

  8. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    My current workflow:

    Photos get dumped from camera to the computer into a holding folder and sorted into folders by year/month/general subject.

    Go though a folder delete the crap & unnecessary duplicates. Do any photoshop work, and then change the file name to identify the picture. I try to be consistent with a who/what/where/when format, with suffix letters as necessary.

    Once that is done that subfolder gets moved to the finished year folders, and backed up to a second PC. The pics also get uploaded to google photos as another backup.

    Once there are at least two copies somewhere then I can delete the original off the camera.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve played with changing filenames but I never found a smooth solution for that and so leave them as whatever the camera or scanner set them as. I have a disk shadow set up here that automatically copies my Photos folder to an external hard drive, but I don’t have a viable offline backup solution yet. I wrote about that last year and nothing’s changed: https://blog.jimgrey.net/2016/11/11/how-do-you-back-up-your-digital-images/

  9. ehpem Avatar

    My cataloging is haphazard at best. Quite a few images end up on my WP site, and I tag them there, so I can sometimes find things faster that way. My primary sort for film is by camera type as all my scans have a camera code, roll number for that camera and frame number. I use LR and when I remember to tag photos before I output smaller versions for my blog, and those tags end up in the metadata for the images that can be found pretty easily too, if the tags are good ones (there’s the rub).

    What I like about LR is that you can tag one photo and then select all the similar photos in a roll, or group of shots, and synch the tags. I start with general tags that will apply to a whole roll of film (camera, film, general location, etc) and synch to the whole roll, then select individual shots that can share another tag or two, until there are only a couple of individual tags left to apply.

    If really pushed to find a film shot, I might go back to FilmTrackr, on-line app that I have on my phone that I use to keep track of rolls of film. Sometimes I enter info about individual shots, and those are geotagged so I can see the info on a map if I want to, or search the notes I took. I download the data as a spreadsheet annually, and plan to print a summary to include in the front of annual books of negatives, though I have not got to this final stage yet.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like you have a system that works well enough for you. I need to come up with such a system of my own!

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