I’ve never been someone you’d call “organized,” which is strange considering my Type A(ish) personality. I love BEING organized, but sometimes, it’s just so hard to get there! Having adult ADHD (and growing up in a family where we were ALL diagnosed), it’s just been the norm- my parents’ biggest battle with me growing up was getting me to clean my room (I’m sure my dad will leave a sweet sentiment regarding this ongoing war in the comments section). And now that Matt & I have a home of our own, it’s still my biggest struggle, except this time it’s an entire house instead of one bedroom :).

That’s not to say I don’t desire organization- I LOVE, really love the feeling of a clear desk, a tidy living room and squeaky-clean kitchen. Nothing puts me at more peace than having my living space organized. But again, it’s GETTING there that’s the problem. And that’s another thing about ADHD- I’ll look at a room, get completely overwhelmed (no matter how small the mess is), and instead of just digging in, I’ll forego it completely. It’s an incredibly frustrating cycle!  During my first year of shooting weddings on my own, I encountered this issue when it came to file storage and organization. Fortunately for me, my wedding photographer/mentor/friend came over for an afternoon of shooting, tomato soup, and business help, and one of the things she taught me was the importance of CONSISTENT file naming. Prior to her help, I was naming folders in a different way every time I uploaded new images, which made organizing and accessing my archives an utter nightmare.

These days, I have a method for naming everything! From files to hard drives to PASS galleries, I never have to wonder what I named an event when I’m trying to access my old files, which makes locating them a breeze. Let’s start big and then get smaller:

  • As of now, I keep all of my images on external hard drives to make working on the go easy. This year I’ll likely be upgrading to a multi-hard drive system like Synology, but for now, I work off of 1 TB hard drives until they’re full, then I move onto another one. Each drive is named “AGP#”, with the number being whatever sequence the drive is in my collection.
  • Within any particular drive, there are one or two overall folders: “2013” and “2014” are the ones on my latest drive, to help me locate files quickly according to when they were taken.
  • Within those yearly folders, I break it down even further- Engagements, Personal, Portraits and Weddings. Tracking with me? Here’s a visual-

When I create a folder for a new wedding/session and import the RAW images, the folder will stay in the same location as the 2013 and 2014 folders- once the images from a wedding have been completely edited, PASSed and delivered, then and only then are they moved into the “2013 > Weddings” folder. It helps keep me up to date on anything that has yet to be completed.

So this is what my hard drive would look like prior to me completing the Smalley Wedding-


Now. Let’s talk about file naming.

  • Every engagement session is named “GroomBrideES.” Simple as that. “JohnEmilyES,” “DanSarahES,” etc. etc. I never switch up the order just to keep things consistent.
  • Every wedding is then named “NewlastnameWedding.” So… if the groom’s name was John Smith, it would be “SmithWedding.” Even if the bride is keeping her maiden name, I name the wedding folder with the groom’s last name so I don’t have to guess.
  • Anniversary sessions are just “HusbandWifePS” (for “portrait session”) and ballerina sessions are “NameBalletPS.”

Within every folder, I break it down again. I do this as SOON as I upload the images after a wedding so that I don’t have to worry about it later. Let’s use Ware & Liz’s wedding as an example. Immediately upon creating the “SmalleyWedding” folder on my hard drive, I then insert four more subfolders:

  • Favs
  • Finals
  • LR (I create a new LightRoom catalogue for each wedding and session).
  • RAW- within the RAW folder there’s another subfolder called “5starred”- it’s where I put all of my top picks after culling my images in PhotoMechanic.

The “Favs” folder is just for any images that really pop out at me as I’m editing, so if I wanted to share a quick photo to Facebook before the blog post, that’s where it goes. The “Favs” folder usually ends up getting deleted after all is said and done because all of the final images are in the “Finals” folder, so “Favs” is just redundant.


Now. One more breakdown. I also divide up the “Finals” folder to make finding particular images within a wedding day easier. Here’s my group of subfolders within “Finals”:

  • 1-Favorites (these are all of the images I’ve chosen for the blog, album, submissions, etc)
  • 2-Getting_ready
  • 3-Bride_groom_portraits
  • 4-Bridal_party
  • 5-Ceremony
  • 6-Family_formals
  • 7-Reception_details
  • 8-Reception


I know it may seem like a lot of extra work to export the batch of images and THEN have to separate them into different folders in Bridge, but again: the goal is to make locating images later a breeze for me AND my clients. And actually, the images that go into my “1-Favorites” folder are selected during the editing process in LightRoom- I just rate those particular images with 5 stars, so when I’m done editing, I export the 5 starred images FIRST, and then the rest of them afterwards. Sorting the rest of the images in Bridge literally takes less than 5 minutes.

Phew! That was really long. But hopefully it was helpful! As always, if you have any questions, sound off in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Lessons Learned: File Organization

January 23, 2014

  1. Alex Hinders says:

    Well, you’ve inspired me to reorganize on my day off today 😉

  2. Emily says:

    This is the third post I’ve seen about photo organization in two days… I think the universe is trying to tell me something!

  3. Erin Schrad says:

    So you haven’t ever had an issue where you have files or folders named the same thing? I would worry about having two Jack & Jane couples or more than one “SmithWedding”, which is why I incorporated dates into all my file naming just to avoid that. So even if image files are in different folders, the only way there are two files with the same name anywhere on my system is if they are copies of the same image. So I usually do “YYYYMMDD-ShootName-Seq#” for my image file names, and then folders are dated as well to keep things chronological. “YYYYMMDD – Shoot Name”.

    So is this what happens when OCD meets ADD?? Because, girl, I have that same desire to be super clean and organized like a model home, but in reality am overwhelmed by the process! There is this whole room in my house that I basically pretend is not there! Honestly, if I could just bring myself to throw some things away, that would probably be half the battle. But then I feel like I should be disposing of it more properly… either recycling or donating or something. So that impedes my process. I just need a declutter fairy!! (And don’t get me started on paper filing… ugh!)

  4. Jessica Bulloss says:

    Wow! This is so helpful! I also have adult ADHD and totally related to all of this and LOVED how you put it together. Will defiantly be changing my own organizational system! Thank you!!

  5. Kristina says:

    My parents had the same issue with me Abby and then keeping a house clean! It’s such a big struggle!

  6. Lauren Jolly says:

    This was so helpful, Abby! I’ve always kind of wondered if my way was the best way and how other photographer do this. Thanks for the insight and I’ll probably be switching some stuff around!

  7. […] a few of the posts that helped me out a lot!!  This post by Stephanie Messick and this post & this post by Abby Grace Photographer were big inspirations — I am so thankful for all the “for […]

  8. […] to worry about having that one hard drive with me if there’s an event I need to edit! (see this post for more information on file […]

  9. Jason Walton says:

    Hey! thank you so much for this. It was an immense help to see your file structure. I’m a music photographer which is different from weddings, but it all applies perfectly to file organization. Thanks again!

  10. […] part! I can’t take credit for this at all…as I was doing some research I came across Abby Grace’s blog post on file organization and I got this idea from her. Breaking down each wedding category is extremely helpful for me!! Not […]

  11. […] To read more about how I organize my files, go here! […]

  12. Kelley says:

    super duper helpful, thanks Abby!

  13. […] blogged about file naming a while back (you can read that post HERE), and today, it’s all about folder naming! Once a wedding is edited and ready for delivery, I […]

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