This may be the most important concept in all of photography, perhaps even in life. Try to keep an open mind. It may make your life easier.
Some People Are Here To Help
There was a post on Lightroom Killer Tips that got me thinking about the need for us to try to keep an open mind. It's a site by Matt Kloskowski that I follow for a simple reason. It's useful. Matt has the best Lightroom blog I've found and he does it to help people get the most out of Lightroom. You don't have to pay or subscribe to anything if you don't like.
You also don't need to get defensive if he suggests something that flies in the face of how you've done things all along. I think most people who commented on his post tried their best to maintain some civility, but he clearly struck a nerve in folks to get so much feedback. What was the outrageous idea?
Shocking, I know. After all, there's a feature right there in Lightroom to automatically import your photos into date-based folders, so this must be the right way to do it. It's what Adobe wants.
Why would Matt suggest such a controversial strategy like using a descriptive name? He's out to ruin all of us, right? No. He's here to help. What he says makes perfect sense to simplify finding the photos you want.
Here's an example to consider. I used to take photos at a conference for Face and Body Art painters. Wonderful folks. Very talented and always surrounded by naked women to paint. It started to make me wonder if I should switch from photography to painting, but then I remembered I have no talent for painting. I digress.
Let's say that I want to find a photo from one of those conferences, but I don't remember exactly which conference it was or the date that I shot it. I just know that I'm looking for a photo of a bald guy with his brains on display. Which of these methods seems better to you?
1: I vaguely remember it was somewhere in the 2006-2008 period. I find the series of folders in that date range and start scanning them for the photo I have in mind.
2: I go to the folder path for Events->Conferences->Face & Body Art and look at the photos.
With option #1, I'm going in and out of folders based upon date. They could be by year, by month, even by specific date if I use Adobe's automatic tool. That's a log of maneuvering through folders. Even once I get into a folder, I could have photos from anything I shot during that year, month or date. There's no rhyme or reason to it other than the date.
With that kind of logic, I could have concert photos mixed up with a wedding or my uncle's bowling tournament.
Why You Should Try To Keep An Open Mind
I find that my mind works much better by topic than by topic or description than by date. You see, I'm one of those folks who forgets what I do after I've done it, even sometimes while I'm doing it. A date is rather irrelevant to me, other than for coordinating future events, like hotel or flight reservations.
There are some folks who commented on Matt's post that their mind works very well by date. Descriptions don't matter to them, I presume. I may be wrong, but I got the feeling that some of those commenters actually felt insulted by the insinuation that they use something other than date to organize their photos.
What I think they're missing is that the organizational structure isn't really about the structure. Technically speaking, there's no reason you couldn't throw all of your photos into one folder. That's because your photos have date and time information embedded in them from the camera. You can use Lightroom, Aperture or iPhoto to sort them all chronologically, whether they are in different folders or not.
I'm not suggesting that you keep all of your photos in one folder. I'm also not suggesting that date-based folders are wrong for everyone. All I'm suggesting is that you try to keep an open mind. Just because you've been doing the same thing for 13 years without a problem doesn't mean there isn't a better way.
Most of us discovered that walking was better than crawling. Riding a bike was better than walking. Driving a car is better than riding a bike…or is it? Walking or riding a bike has health benefits you don't get from driving a car. Which one do we choose? The one that best suits our needs.
If you're still organizing your photos in much the same manner that you started crawling as a baby, then perhaps it's time to rethink your methodology. Maybe it's time to think about the purpose of your folder structure, rather than simply repeating by rote that which you've always done. The mentality of “If it ain't broke, don't fix it” would have severely hampered mankind's progress over the millennia.
Here's the thing about new ideas. They don't necessarily invalidate what you've already done. They don't mean you always have to go back and rework everything. You can test the idea to see if it suits your needs. They cause you to think about your needs, and re-evaluate if your old idea is really working well or not. It's good to challenge your assumptions from time to time. If they hold up, great. If not, then you have an opportunity to improve.
That's why you should try to keep an open mind.