Keeping Organised

Any freelance will tell you that there is a great deal of admin involved in keeping things running smoothly. As a photographer one of the more critical elements of my admin, apart from making sure I keep my accounting up to date, is to ensure my photo archive is accessible.

By this I mean that if I need to look up an assignment I shot a decade ago, this shouldn’t be an exercise in rummaging through a suitcase full of random CDs, DVDs and hard drives hoping to find the one I need (and keeping fingers crossed that it hasn’t become damaged and un-readable).

Since I went digital in 2000 I’ve kept a catalogue of every assignment I’ve ever undertaken. It’s a simple piece of software which I use to record each job. It pulls keywords from the captions I’ve written to the image files, so when I go to search I just need a place or person’s name or something relevant to the assignment and the catalogue will return thumbnails of any pictures with matching keywords.

When I click on a thumbnail the software tells me which disk or drive that image (and therefore the rest of the job) is stored on. Since all my storage is kept in strict order it’s easy to find any job pretty fast.

The software, called Media Pro, has changed little over the years; I can’t remember who developed it because it has been owned by various companies including Microsoft. It’s now owned by a company called Phase One and I have to say it’s been brilliant.

The beauty of its simplicity is that even when Phase One took it over I didn’t have to start all over again, re-importing every job from the last 15 years. I just had to buy a new licence to use Media Pro, and the software automatically recognised my catalogue file.

Now you might be wondering why I’d bother to bore you with all this back-story, but the simple fact is that clients occasionally need me to relocate a job from a few years ago (and they’re often on a deadline when they ask me to do this) and my ability to reach back, find older work and resupply the images as needed is a valuable part of my service.

Of course this facility requires admin time, reliable storage and very occasionally a little extra cost in paying for a new licence, but I take these factors into consideration when setting my fees.

When you’re looking to hire a photographer it’s well worth checking what their storage and archive policies are; how long do they store images for? Do they have a system for retrieving long-forgotten jobs at short notice? Is their archive duplicated and held in different locations to protect against loss through flood, fire or theft?

No one can 100% guarantee to keep everything for ever, but I’ve kept my system safe and accessible for over 15 years now. I wonder how many other photographers can say that?

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  • Robert Day March 9, 2016  


    Then again, I use MediaPro too; though I tried to upgrade to v2 when Phase One first took it over, that version really had not been tested enough. I had such trouble with it – and, I’m afraid, pretty short shrift from Phase One – that I reverted to v1 and I’ve used it ever since. Any my photographic archive goes back to 1968! (Though truth to tell, I have got a LOT of scanning to do before it’s all digitised, but I did do quite a lot a few years ago for a book project.)

    Photo sessions are organised into specific folders on a dedicated external RAID drive, first by year and then by trip or job, and given sensible names. Each folder then provides the name for the equivalent catalogue in Media Pro. (I originally trained as a librarian, so cataloguing comes as second nature to me.)

    As for backups; I learnt my backup protocols by watching what was done at work in the previous Day Job; so everything photographic is on the afore-mentioned dual RAID drive, and that is backed up monthly to a second external drive. Every few months, I swap hard drives with a mate of mine who lives in Lincoln, so there’s always eventually three copies of any picture apart from the working one.

    And I make a habit of not clearing down my used memory cards from the camera until I’ve done a monthly backup at least. (I carry a lot of memory. I wish I had enough work for that to be an issue…)

    The only problem is that I can find I spend more time organising than photographing, especially during the winter. I’ve just inherited a colleague’s photographic collection of around 30 – 40 boxes of slides from the 1970s to the 1990s. I can see that I’m going to be spending even more time indoors, especially as I may well have a book commission to come out of this collection…

    • Tim Gander March 10, 2016  

      That’s interesting that you had the issue with the updated version. When I switched to Mavericks I found my very ancient version of MediaPro no longer worked, which is when I had to research the alternatives. I could have had a free Microsoft version, but opted for Phase One in the end and it’s been trouble-free ever since.

      I always like the idea of RAID drives, but I’ve heard so many horror stories about them… even one the other day where one drive failed, and while the photographer was switching it out, the other drive also keeled over. I get the impression that if one drive is going to have a problem, the other will go with it. My system is slower (keep two standard external drives updated/duplicated), but there’s less likelihood of two drives dying at once. Plus RAID has always seemed expensive for what it is. Still, each to their own.

      The project sounds interesting, let us know when it’s published!