Organize & Archive

Organizing and archiving digital images

Written by Deb Tappan

Tips from a pro about organizing, backing up and archiving digital photos.

asset-softwareOrganizing and archiving digital photos can be a bit tricky. But, it really doesn’t have to be. I travel a lot for the specific purpose of taking photos. When I get back home, I’ve got lots of images to transfer and organize.

I use my photo organizing software (also known as digital asset management) to create folders, organize thumbnails, create searchable fields, add information, and produce contact sheets and burn DVDs (or CDs). Not everyone has to use image organizing software this detailed but it actually has been a great timesaver for me.

The software creates a “record” of each and every image (along with generating a permanent thumbnail) and shows me (text field) on which DVD or CD I’ve burned the original. It also lets me perform searches and shows me all thumbnails that match those search terms all without ever having to load a DVD or CD.

acdsee-2Remember, all the originals are no longer on the computer, yet the software can still find them and tell me which DVD or CD they’re on.

I then just retrieve that particular DVD or CD and I’ve found my original image. The folder hierarchy you create resides on your hard drive but it’s a very tiny file. This saves you hard drive space! Hooray!

As for an organizing/archiving workflow, here’s one way of doing it:

  • Transfer your digital images to your hard drive.
  • Burn them to your DVD or CD twice, with an extra copy used as a backup. It is important to burn from the original files. Don’t burn your second set of DVDs or CDs from the previous set.Why burn two copies? If one gets stepped on say, by your dog, and gets scratched or cracked, you’ve not lost your photos. If you cherish those images and want to be real safe, store that second copy at a different locale.fires, twisters, space aliens could happen.Why burn from the original and not the first copy? Well, a copy of a copy isn’t as precise as a copy from the original. You can introduce artifacts or lose minute detail (yep, I’m talking about pixels here) and you don’t want that to happen.
  • Next, use organizing software to categorize the images on those DVDs (CDs) and add any additional notes (who was that in that photo? Grandma? … what was the event? where was the event? anecdotes, etc.)
  • Print contact sheets for the images on your DVD or CD
  • Store the contact sheets and DVDs (CDs)
  • Finally, remove images from your hard drive to reclaim space.

This may be a more detailed method than most people need but the main point is to find a flow that works for you. Then you’ll find it easy and, dare I say it, fun to organize and archive your digital files.

About the author

Deb Tappan

Natural history photographer Deb Tappan, a native of Indiana, received concurrent degrees from Indiana University in both Telecommunications and Environmental Studies before eventually calling Tennessee home with husband Paul and dog Utah.
Involved with newspaper production for many years, she "retired" from the University of Tennessee where she had served for 15 years. Deb now is dynamically engaged in her other life's passions.

For more than a decade, Deb has hiked in and
explored many of our national parklands. Through her photography, she has attempted to "transport" the magnificent topography, life forms, and natural history from wherever she finds them.

"Invariably the uniqueness and beauty of wild lands
always manage to move me. I'm awestruck by their diversity of texture and essence. It brings me great joy to be able to share those sights in this way and to, hopefully, nurture the same sense of awe and devotion to their protection and

Deb's interest in photography was kindled when she was quite young. "It is a gift from my Dad. He was the one who introduced me to photography and black and white printing. Using the furnace room of our house as the darkroom and
an old movie projector as an enlarger he showed me the magic of print making and capturing those moments of time."

Deb's photographic skills have continued to evolve. She maintained a wet darkroom (in a closet) initially and now has moved into
the digital age. A digital SLR rounds out her equipment. Not foregoing film, she uses a high end film/slide scanner.

In the spring of 2003, Deb launched her site and store which showcase her photographic work. Currently, her photographs hang
in residences and offices across the country.

In addition to her photography, Deb is involved with the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other academic pursuits and environmental causes.

isn't static."

Thumbnails are of photos by Deb Tappan - used with permission. Copyright Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved


  • Hi, I use Portfolio by Extensis. It is very robust and, among other features, allows for the creation of custom searchable fields. Perfect for my needs where I need to include species names, etc.

  • I personally use Picasa (which is free). You can make back-up sets to a CD, DVD or external and network drives. The software keeps a record of files that have been backed up so you don’t have to back them up again. It suits my personal needs. We have a review of Picasa at the site.

    However, if your needs are more sophisticated, you should research other software. Do a search for “professional photo archiving software.”

  • could you please share what “image organizing software” you use/ recommend? i am looking to archive a large image library to dvd