Managing Those Photos – Techy Stuff

Being a consulting IT Business Analyst  as well as an avid photographer, I was thinking the other day about how others manage their photos.  My  personal interests are quite wide as well as what my wife does so we tend to have a lot of information on home network.  In today’s world, I can’t help but think that many of us do have a bit of a network at home.  Or not :-)  I thought I would impart some information about what I have done from a photo perspective as it relates to the world of IT and a bit of info on home networks.  And, of course, managing all those photos.

Where are you storing your photos?

Sounds simple enough right?  I’m guessing that many folks will respond with the answer “That’s a no-brainer – my computer of course”.  Soooo… the bigger question here is – what happens if the computer crashes?  OR the hard disk crashes?  All those photos, not to mention, other perhaps important data will go away.  Depending on circumstance, data may or may not be replaceable.  Photos aren’t.  Are you backing up on a regular basis.  You know, my experience with many has been – NO.  They don’t think of this until it’s too late.  Granted – this is one of the downside of all this technology we are using.  Maintenance is a pain in the butt :-( 

There are several different types of storage devices out there, but if you have a small home network, it’s probably the easiest to have an external server or external hard disk of some sort.  Now this can be either attached to your computer in the form of a USB type device OR it could be a hard disk that sits on your home network. The advantage of the network type drive, is that they sit on your home network and are accessible anywhere.  Most of today’s routers have wireless capability so you can actually get your drive wirelessly as well.  Is there a downside?  Maybe – wireless is slower than say a direct hard wire on your home network. 

How big?  Size of disk is always a concern.  My answer – it depends :-)  I’m going to backtrack a bit.

The computer you use – is it a desktop unit or a notebook?  OR do you have both?  I’ll give you a bit of information on my home network to illustrate – it’ll be perhaps easier to understand.  Our downstairs office is allocated mostly as an accounting and printing environment.  It also holds our servers or disks.  Yes – servers.  I have 3 servers or external hard disks there.  Total storage runs about 6 TB.  This room also holds a desktop unit and our fax/copier/laser printer  and color printers.  The desktop unit is used for our accounting and printing.  The servers hold all our data.  One of the servers is utilized specifically for backups.  This room is also set up to be “hard wired” or using physical cable to connect everything.  We have a fax/copier/scanner, an older Canon one that is connected directly to the desktop and the two inkjets are connected to the network.  The external hard disks/servers are also hard wired. The router is a Cisco 1GB router with wireless and there is also a 4 port switch attached to accommodate all the things we have connected.

Our upstairs office is completely wireless :-)  We also have desktop unit there plus a little HP Laserjet for printing emails and those quick “things”.  My wife has her laptop and I have a couple also that are tied in.  We have several tablets that are also on our network. 

Downloading and Image Processing and Filing….

My upstairs desktop unit is where I do my off loading from my cameras and also any editing things.  The desktop unit is an HP TouchSmart with a 24inch display and one of those All-In-One Units.  I got this due to space constraints.  It does use an AMD processor that is equivalent to an i5 Intel and has 6 GB of RAM with a 1 TB internal hard disk.  I also have a 2 TB external hard disk on this unit as well.  I also have a TreeFrog 10 port USB hub attached.for synching my tablets, etc.  The external hard disk is using USB 3.0, so is very fast.  This desktop is used for everything except accounting, actually.

USB Hub

For the most part, the only thing the internal hard disk holds, is applications.  My photo software is mostly Corel Paintshop Pro X6.  I,of course, have the usual office stuff – MS office, etc. plus plus plus….. Do I use the internal hard disk for anything else?  Not really – I download directly to the external drive.  Every once in a while though, I need to use the extra speed that the internal drive provides, but not that often. 

From an imaging standpoint – Any preliminary down loading and processing of images is done on this machine first.  Once the editing is done, the images are then copied down to the main server.  Note – I said copied, not moved.  So… now I have two copies.  Once I back up the main server, I will delete the images on the image processing machine.  OR not… :-)  Depending on the type of work, it may sit there for a while too.  Especially the volunteer things my wife does.   Or my blog photos.  Once they are on the main server, my wife will usually print what she needs or email.  A lot of our stuff is usually for web or newsletters, so we will re-size images using Faststone Resizer if necessary. 

For downloading images, I prefer to pull the SD cards and use an SD Card reader.  Way faster.  The one I use is the Lexar one – it’s USB 3.0 and it’s pretty quick :-) 

USB_Lexar

Arranging Those Files

As a Business Analyst, one of the things I deal with every day, literally, is managing files.  When it came down to setting up a directory structure, we decided to categorize like this:

The highest level is named “ \Data”.  When I do a backup, I can just back up this one directory and I’m good:-) 

Under the \Data directory I then categorize based on what I do on that drive.  It looks like this :

Directories 

These are the high level categories that I use on a day to day basis.  Inside the Digital Photos directory we broke it down further to the following:

Events – these are the various events that we attend and take photos from.  They are broken down again to things like volunteer work or family events, etc.

Blog Photos – this is where I put my blog photos.  I copy the original here and then create a new directory called \web where I put the resized ones.  The directory is named the same as the blog. 

Backups – this is where I back up my SD cards.  They are further divided down by camera and then by date.

Camera directories

Once they are here, I can copy them to their respective directories.  Notice I said copy :-)  Once their are downloaded, I can re-format the SD card and its good to go for the next event/whatever. 

A quick hint that I discovered in my research.  Always re-format that SD card in the camera you are using.  This has to do with how the camera stores images.  Some cameras store the image data slightly differently and you may hit a point where the card just stops working.  Just a thought.  There is software out there to recover the information, but still…. just to be safe.  And while I’m at SD cards – get good ones.  SanDisk/Lexar/Sony/Panasonic – there are probably more out there.  Your instruction manual on the camera will usually list the supported cards,  Class 10?  Well, for me, I tend to stay with the Class 10 cards wherever possible.  I also have some Class 6 cards.  Personal preference.  Class 4’s are the cheapest, but if you need to do high speed sequential type shots, the card may not be able to record the images.  Movies are a good example of why you need the faster cards.  I tend to use the faster cards in all my cameras.

Places – As the name implies, these are the various places we visit.  Typically on holidays, business trips, etc.

People – When we are visiting a specific person, we put the pics here.  These might be as simple as Grandkids :-) 

Properties – we have revenue properties and invest in real estate.  Anytime we do anything that pertains to real estate, they go here.

Stills – BIG area here – anything that relates to close ups, plants, product photography end up here.  Landscapes, though are carefully put into the \Places directory.

Test Photos – I use this directory when I’m doing test shots with various cameras.  If I keep any here, they get moved.

To Be Sorted – sometimes I’m using several cameras across an event.  My wife can use up to 3 cameras.  This is the sorting area before they get moved.

I have other directories depending on what I need at the time.  Now remember, this is just on one computer.  The directory structure is duplicated on the main server as well!

Sounding like a lot of work?  ABSOLUTELY!!! 

This took a looonnnngg time to put together.  It started with a single server and expanded as I started to run out of space.  Which brings us to another area – how much is enough space?  Interesting question:-)  Again this evolves over a period of time.  One of tougher things to look at.  In today’s world, if you shoot even with .jpegs in fine mode, your photos can be anywhere from 2 MB to 12 MB depending on the camera.  Technology is also bringing the price down very quickly.  I decided not too long ago that I wanted a fairly large disk and got a 4 TB one only to find out that once I backed up everything, I had sucked up 2 TB!!  Now this was 4 or 5 computers over a year.  Bottom line – don’t be scared to get too much space.  If you are a serious amateur and using RAWs, they start at 25 MB per photo and so you can fill up disk pretty quick :-)  AND this is just photos!!!

Other maintenance things.  Have you ever heard of defragging?  If you are in Windows, one of the things that happens is when you started to write to the disk, those bits and pieces can be put anywhere there is space. Without getting too complicated, a file can technically be in several spaces.  Defragging can put those files in what’s called contiguous blocks – together, for all intents and purposes.  Ever noticed that over a period of time, your computer seems to get slower and slower?  That’s because the disk is seeking to find those files.  Depending on how much you use your PC, defragging can keep it running nice and fast.  Caveats?  YES – if you happen to have one of those solid state drives on your computer (SSD’s they’re called), you shouldn’t defrag them.  Research has shown that it doesn’t help them for some reason.  Many because they don’t use a physical platter, I think.

SD Cards and How Many Should You Have. 

This has a always been a bit of a nitpick with many.  I’ve heard everything from one to a bunch :-)  When I’m on a formal shoot, I tend to take several cameras.  I personally try to stay with smaller cards – 4 to 8 GB ones depending on the shoot.  Other times, like holidays, I’ll use higher capacity ones.  In either event, I’ll off load them as fast as I can.  Call it paranoia :-)  I also try to use separate cards for each type of event an not combine events on one card.  That may change depending on what I shoot, but for the more formal events, this is what I’ll do.  Something less casual, where I’m only going to be shooting say 10 or 20 shots, well, that card might stay in there a while.  That card will get backed up and re-formatted OR I’ll slip in a new card before heading out on a formal shoot.  I recently got a Pelican Case for my SD Cards – it’s not the only case, but just a better way to manage stuff :-)  I don’t have to worry about losing a card if I’m in a hurry, which can happen and has on certain event shoots.  Thankfully they fell into my camera case 🙂

Pelican Case SD cards

What About the “Cloud” ?

Recent technology called the “cloud” has become more and more of a reality.  For all intents and purposes, you are storing your data or photos somewhere in cyberspace.  Saves you having to acquire hardware,  The one thing here, is that eventually you will have to buy space.  For us, we have something like 100 GB of photos if not more and most places charge for that type of space.  Sorry – not for me.  The other side of it – I want to make sure I have control over my stuff.  There are several out there – DropBox, OneDrive to name a couple.  How do I use the cloud?  Well, as a BA, I use the cloud to transfer information between computers.  Sometimes I have to work from home and there’s no VPN, so the cloud is an easy way to move information.  Certain social events where I take candid photos – I’ll the photos in the cloud and grant access to certain people so they can download the photos.  Much easier than making a gazillion copies :-)  And then the ugly one – what happens if the provider goes broke or something?  Not that it happens that often, but for me – no thanks.  I’ll stay with my own gear.

Assessing What You Need

Each person has a different vision of what they need.  For me, I have always worked on the premise of having the right tools for the job.  I am prepared to get the equipment I need  to do my “stuff” efficiently.  If that means acquiring more disk, so be it.  If I need to get another camera – so be it.  Compared to other reviews I’ve read, I tend to look at these tongue and cheek.  I use that information to fill my knowledge gaps and proceed based on what I want to do.  For many, that’s not as easy as it sounds.  It all breaks down to doing some research and finding the way.

Onward…..

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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