Photo organization

Yesterday I started part one of 723 in what will be my ongoing attempt to get my photo collection under control.  This is a task that I've been thinking about and putting off for literally years because it's so daunting.  But when one of our cats died yesterday (rest in peace, Loki) and I was looking for pictures of him, I realized that it's time to actually do it.

My problem is simply that I have an absolutely huge collection of pictures and videos.  Ever since we got our first digital camera, I've been very liberal about taking pictures on vacations and such.  I mean, they're free, so why not take a bunch so that at least one comes out nice?  And, of course, ever since we got smart phones, I've been very liberal about taking pictures all the freaking time.  I have the OneDrive app on my phone configured to automatically sync them to the cloud and then down to my laptop, so I have multiple copies and they get included in my normal laptop backups.

A small sample of my picture collection

All that works great, but the issue is that I now have well over a decade worth of pictures and videos - over 12,000 files taking up about 60GB.  How the heck do you find anything in that many files?  My current organizational "system" (if you can call it that) is just to manually sort pictures from my camera roll into "albums", i.e. folders.  That's fine as far as it goes, but it's not very helpful if I want to find anything at a more granular level, e.g. pictures of a specific cat.

Step 1 of 723: Make a Plan

Ultimately, I want to be able to have some nice photo albums and still be able to search for individual photos based on date and content, e.g. pictures of my son from when he was two years old.  I  also want to be able to able to easily create and share photo albums, both with family and with myself through other devices, e.g. tablets, TVs, etc.

And, by the way, I really don't want to be locked into one application or service.  I've been collecting these photos for over 15 years and based on my experience with the software industry it's not unlikely that my collection will outlast any vendor I happen to pick.

Digikam main interface

So the plan is to start by adding tags to all my pictures.  Yes, this will take along time, but the idea is that once I have all the pictures tagged with the people and places that are in them, I can more easily search them, which will allow me to refine my tags as well as pick out meaningful groupings for albums.

To do the tagging and management, I decided on Digikam.  I picked this for several reasons:

  1. It's open-source and cross-platform (it runs well on Windows, despite being a KDE project), so it avoids lock-in on that level.
  2. It can write the tags I'm setting directly to the picture metadata.  So while Digikam has and uses its own database, I'm not tied to that.  The canonical source for metadata is the images themselves, which avoids a different level of product lock-in.
  3. It's pretty fast and makes it easy to navigate images.  The hierarchical tag structure Digikam supports is actually pretty nice for navigation.
  4. It's extremely powerful and gives you a wide range of editing capabilities and publishing/export options.

So far, I'm still working my way through adding all the takes.  Obviously that's going to take a while.  The process is tedious, but Digikam is working pretty well for adding the tags.  The interface takes a little getting used to, if only because there are so many options and tools, but once I got the hang of it, the tagging was pretty easy and went pretty fast.

The up side of the tedious tag adding is that I have an excuse to go back through many years worth of memories.  There are a lot of pictures in there that I haven't looked at in years and it's nice to be reminded.  This is also a good opportunity to clean up duplicate pictures and ones that are just junk, e.g. out of focus, too dark to see, or contain mostly my finger.

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