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Managing Your Digital Images

Information for the BC Community

Panini: Gallery of Views of Modern Rome

As you accumulate digital images on your computer's hard disk, you will undoubtedly begin to have difficulty locating specific images in your collection. There are many options and software products that will help you organize and keep track of digital images. In general, commercial products offer greater capabilities, but may also involve a software learning curve. Also, keep in mind that the more fully you catalog your images, the easier they will be to find (but, of course, the cataloging will require more time). This page describes several no-cost (in monetary terms, anyway) methods of organizing your images, some more time-consuming than others.

The easiest way to organize your images, of course, is in a folder structure that makes sense to you — for example, a folder for each course with sub-folders for each unit you teach in that class. The drawbacks to this method are 1) in order to find an image quickly, you need to remember which folder it's in, and 2) there is no identifying information associated with your images except for any you may have included as part of the file name.

This brings us to the topic of file-naming. Creating and using a standardized, descriptive file-naming/re-naming convention will not only help you locate images, but also prevent accidental overwriting of files. The State Library of North Carolina has a two-minute introductory video on file-naming best practices, as well as a three-and-a-half-minute video on what NOT to do when naming files. JISC (formerly the "Joint Information Systems Committee" in the UK) offers helpful information regarding Choosing a File Name on their site, as well.

If you are willing to invest the time, you can use Excel (standard on all BC computers) to record identifying information about your images. Doing so can also help you locate images more quickly. Be sure to include the filename for each image, along with identifying information such as the artist's name, title of the work, location of the work, and keywords that are meaningful to you. The records in an Excel spreadsheet are searchable and sortable, so that if you want to find records for all images on your computer attributed to a particular artist, for example, you can just search on that name. Once you have retrieved the results, use the "Find" or "Search" command on your computer to search your hard disk for the associated digital file name.

BC's Information Technology Services offers occasional workshops on various aspects of using Excel.

Software products such as iPhoto (standard on all BC Macintosh computers; look in your "Applications" folder on your hard disk) and Google's Picasa allow you to integrate some searchable identifying information with your images. For Windows machines, the free photo-editing software FastStone includes some image-management features. If you have a digital camera, it may have come with software that works similarly to these programs. Some inexpensive commercially available products for managing your images include IMatch (for PCs only) and Portfolio.

Useful Links

Systems for Managing Digital Media Collections. An external site created by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) with a good overview of the pros and cons of various image-management strategies.

Boston College Information Technology Services training schedule

The Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Images courtesy of Saskia, Ltd.
Top: Giovanni Paolo Panini, "Gallery of Views of Modern Rome," 1759 (Louvre, Paris); Bottom: The Ponte Vecchio, Florence