The Golden Hour:

How to get the most value out of this precious time.

Photo of grass at golden hour by Anton Darius from Unsplash.com

Photo by Anton Darius from Unsplash.com

Just after sunrise and before sunset, light refracting through extra atmosphere creates the “golden hour.” It’s named for the color of light, but the warm, soft glow may also add some value to your images. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Be ready to work fast.

This is no time to wander around looking for something to shoot. Know when the sun sets ahead of time and have a plan. Check the chart for the sunrise and sunset times in our area for the rest of the month. Also, technically, the golden hour may not be an hour long. The quality of light is based on the sun’s location in the sky, so latitude and the time of year figure in to the equation. According to this website, the golden hour in the DFW area currently
lasts 33 minutes. But it’s 57 minutes if you want to shoot in Alaska.

2. Check the weather.

While some clouds at sunset can create exciting drama in the sky, too many can block out the light and greatly reduce the effect of golden hour.

Photo by Joshua Earle from Unsplash.com

Photo by Joshua Earle from Unsplash.com

3. Adjust your white balance.

If you have your camera set to auto white balance, it will probably shift the color temperature of your shot. So the golden hour’s beautiful hues will end up looking a little bluer. Try setting your camera’s white balance to “shady” or “cloudy.” And shoot in RAW to make it easier to do additional adjustments in post.

4. Explore your options.

You can’t position the sun, but you should photograph your subject with the sun’s location in mind.

  • Front lighting: At this time of day, the light is directional but very soft. People and animals can often look toward the sun without squinting, and the light is very kind to faces.
  • Back lighting: Keeping the light behind your subject will often create a warm hazy glow around your subject. Consider using a reflector to fill in the shadows.
  • Rim lighting: If the sun is directly behind your subject, you might get a bright outline that separates it from the background, especially if the background is dark.
  • Silhouette: To accentuate the shape or profile of your subject, you can expose for the light behind it, making the subject go dark.

2020-09-golden-hour-sunflower-portrait5. Play with the light.

Shooting toward the sun opens up some other possibilities for your image.

  • Flares: Position the sun just outside your camera frame and see where the sun creates spots of light in your lens. Putting the sun on the very edge of your subject can also create interesting streaks of light in your image.
  • Haze: If the sun hits your lens directly, you may get cloudy overexposed areas in parts of your image (like the sunflower picture above). This is usually something to be avoided, but it can also create a beautiful glow that works well for some images.
  • Bokeh: If you widen your aperture and shoot toward the sun, you will increase your chances of getting little geometric spots of light in your image. This can really increase that magical feeling and make an average shot really special. See the effect it had on grass on the previous page.

6. Accept the challenge.

The whole point of Procrastinator’s Delight is to force ourselves to try new techniques and just get shooting. Go have some fun!

Momma Moose with Baby: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lynne Rogers Harris

photograph of momma moose and her baby

Momma Moose with Baby by Lynne Rogers Harris (ISO 200, f4.0, 1/320)

I have a friend that has a cabin in Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park. Three of us girls took a weeklong trip up there to get away and also do some wildlife photography. We were able to social distance quite nicely (well, except the plane ride, which really wasn’t bad at all).

The cabin is near a small lake so moose can often be seen around it, but this particular day we decided to go into the park and do a small hike. Lucky for us, we saw this momma moose and her baby crossing the creek directly in front of our parked car just after arriving. Of course, this was the highlight of the day.

When you have a momma and baby, you take the opportunity to shoot continuously and then later delete 95% of your images. One thing to always be careful of is that you want something — a tree or car or big bush or anything — between you and the moose; and you really don’t want to be too close. We were probably less than 50 feet from these two, but we had several cars and trees we could get behind.

Composition: What Do You Do When There Is No Subject?

Landscape photographers face a problem that other photographers usually don’t have: deciding on a subject.

By Jim Hamel

When a portrait photographer prepares to take a picture, there is no question what the subject will be: the person. Similarly, a wildlife photographer always knows what the subject of their photo will be: the animal. That’s not to say those types of photography are easy … but if you are a landscape photographer, you have, no doubt, spent countless hours driving or walking around looking for something — anything — to use as a subject. It is often the biggest challenge we face.

Now, sometimes picking a subject is not that difficult. If you have the Portland Head Light or the Golden Gate Bridge in your scene … well, it is pretty clear what your subject is going to be.

What about a standard scenic view though? Usually there are just some hills and trees in front of you with the sky as the background. It might be pretty. It might be a nice view. But what is the subject?

aerial photo of the Grand Canyon

Photograph by James Hamel

Even if you go to a remarkably scenic spot, you might still face the same challenge. You can go to the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley and still come home with nothing more than a bunch of snapshots.

So what do we do about this problem? Well, we cannot fix it entirely. We often just have to muddle through. The reality is that much of the world is just not that interesting or doesn’t translate well into pictures. That said, there are great pictures to be had even where there is no obvious subject. Further, there are some things you can do to mitigate this problem. Here is how I suggest you approach it.

STEP 1: Plan Ahead

Photography is in many ways similar to fishing. You can never guarantee success and some days will be better than others no matter what you do. Still, there are things you can do to improve your chances.

In fishing, if you simply drop your line into a random part of a lake, then yes, you do have some chance of catching a fish. The chances are not that great though. Real fishermen plan ahead with maps. They look for the structures where they know the fish hide. They race out to the best spots based on the intel they received. When they are on the water, they are using fish finders. They are constantly moving around to find the part of the lake where the fish are. In short, they make every effort to know where the fish are, and then get to those spots.

Similarly, in photography, if you simply walk around with a camera slung over your shoulder, then yes, you do have some chance of running into a beautiful scene that will translate well into a great picture. But the odds are not great. Rather, just as in fishing, you should plan ahead and find those structures and other things that might serve as a good subject or center of interest for your photo.

Here are a few excellent tools to find these subjects.

The 500px World Map:

This map will show you pictures taken by location so you can see what other photographers did in the area to plan to visit. (Editors note: I could not find this.)

Google Street View:

This feature of Google Maps will allow you to virtually walk around and explore an area ahead of time. The “pegman” feature will show you all sorts of angles and views. It is the next best thing to being there.

Simple keyword search:

If you are going to a distinct place, you can also run a simple search on that area through Google, Flickr, or 500px. Once you find a photographer or two that have specialized in that area, check out their websites.

There is a chapter devoted toward this subject in my book, so I don’t want to belabor the point too much here for those who have already read it. Just use the tools available to you to plan ahead and find features that might serve as interesting subjects. This will save you a lot of time.

STEP 2: Run Through the Features You Can Use

What features might actually serve as a useful subject for our pictures? Of course, such a list is nearly infinite. Anything from a blade of grass to a tree to a rock can end up being an interesting subject. But saying that doesn’t really help anybody.

In the context of coastal photography, here are some things to look for:

  • Old piers and docks
  • Lighthouses
  • Rock formations
  • Patterns in the water
  • Animals
  • Powerful waves
  • Clouds
  • People (for a sense of scale)
  • Reflections in the water

For landscapes, consider some of these subjects:

  • Old barns
  • Cows
  • Wind mills
  • Large rocks or boulders
  • Cliffs
  • Horses
  • Creeks
  • Bridges
  • Waterfalls
  • A hill or mountain peak
  • Abandoned cars or boats

STEP 3: There Just Isn’t Anything Here. Now What?

night photograph of tree by James Hamel

Photograph by James Hamel

When there just doesn’t appear to be a subject, just start looking for something you can use as a center of interest to tie the picture together. Sometimes it might be a cloud or one stand-out tree. Other times it can be the road.

If you cannot find one thing to be a subject, you’ll need to go in a different direction. Very often that means finding a pattern, shape, or line to serve as the centerpiece of your picture. A row of trees can sometimes work here. If you are dealing with a desert or barren scene, patterns in the sand can work well. Be careful though, as you often cannot see these patterns the way your camera does. You will need to look through the camera
a lot.

Black-and-white landscape photo with a road

Photograph by James Hamel.

Frankly, anything that you can turn into a line through your picture works as well. The line helps guide the viewer’s eye, which is ultimately what you are trying to do with a subject or center of interest in the picture. Roads and creeks are good examples. A winding pathway can work really well. You might also set up your shot so that a line or shoreline line runs through the picture. You can do the same with rows created by farmers or by hedges.

Remember that the subject of your photo isn’t necessarily a thing. It can be an idea. As long as the picture is held together visually by a pattern, shape, or line, the underlying subject can still come through.

STEP 4: The Wait

Sometimes the best pictures are created by setting up an interesting composition — even if there is no real subject — and then waiting for something to happen. Particularly in an urban context, it is often a great idea to set up your composition and then wait. A person may walk through the scene. Any number of things might happen to provide you with a great subject. Henri Cartier-Bresson was famous for this technique.

Does this technique work in a remote location or a landscape context? Sort of. You typically aren’t going to have a lot of people or traffic coming through your scene (and, frankly, that is probably the last thing you would want anyway). You might get lucky with an animal or some birds coming into your scene, but this is not likely.

The best bet is to return to your location later, if you can. Come back when there is something going on — a storm is approaching or there is dramatic lighting. Anything to create that extra “something” that anchors or completes your picture.

Sunset photograph on coast

Photograph by James Hamel

STEP 5: When All Else Fails … Using “The Scene”

I should mention that this article stemmed from an email discussion I had with a reader who posed the question, “What do you do when there’s no subject?” We talked about a lot of the concepts in this article, and he raised the point that sometimes the subject is just “the scene.”

I am resistant to accept this notion because it sounds a lot like taking a snapshot to me. I have countless pictures on my hard drive that were “a good view” or “the scene” but did not translate into anything more than that. That said, he has a point. Again, very often the subject is not a thing at all. It is a feeling or an idea. In fact, those are frequently the best subjects.

Final Takeaway for Finding a Subject

I am not pretending that I can solve this problem for you. Finding a great subject is something you will struggle with as long as you decide to keep taking pictures. However, I am writing this article for two reasons.

First, to acknowledge the problem, so you won’t think it is peculiar to you or that you are doing something wrong. For landscape photographers, finding a subject has been a challenge, is a challenge, and always will be a challenge. There is no technological development that I see changing this. If you find this part of photography difficult, you are far from alone.

Secondly, I want to provide at least a few tips for dealing with this constant struggle. Hopefully, planning ahead and running through a checklist of potential features will result in clear subjects for you. If not, then creating a pattern or leading line may help.

Finally, don’t overlook just waiting around or coming back later. Whatever you do, remember to work the scene from several different spot and angles so that you can be sure you’ve covered everything.

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel is not just a great photographer, writer, and teacher, he’s also one of our very own TAPC members. Check out his free photography guides and tutorials at Outdoor Photo Academy. You can also see this original unedited article.

The Best of Spring: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lynne Rogers Harris

photo of pink and purple flowers on a white background by Lynne Rogers Harris

The Best of Spring by Lynne Rogers Harris (ISO 200, f5.6, 1/2000)

Recently, I met a fellow photographer at River Legacy Park in Arlington, Texas, to try a new technique.

Another Trinity Arts Photography Club (TAPC) member had shared a video on how to shoot and process high-key images. This isn’t exactly high key, but the method used was about the same. I took a white board and placed it behind the flowers and shot a little over-exposed. This made it much easier to turn the background a nice white when editing in Photoshop.

I found that if I shot with the sun directly on the flowers, I had to do some maneuvering to get rid of the dark shadows. I actually shot several flowers that I thought turned out pretty good. I processed this with the white background, did a little cloning to take out
‘ junk,’ and voila — I had my image.

This photo is actually a composite of two shots. I thought these type of images with flowers made nice little cards, so I’ve printed several of them.

Surprise: The Story Behind the Photo

By Laura Richards

Surprise, a photo of an egret and a ... by Laura Richards

Surprise by Laura Richards (f/11, 1/500, auto ISO 400, 300mm)

Several years ago, my husband and I took a trip to several countries in southern Africa, including Botswana where we visited Chobe National Park. Driving through the park, we saw a wide range of animals and birds. On this particular photo, I was focusing on the egret. It was quite a distance away, so I wasn’t sure what kind of image I would get.

When I got home, I uploaded all my photos onto the computer. As I looked at this one, I wasn’t impressed with the egret, but then I realized there was a crocodile right next to the bird. The shape of the crocodile mimicked the curve of the grass so I never saw it while I was taking the photo. Ironically, the crocodile was in better focus than the egret, and I never knew he was there. The other thing that surprised me was the proximity of the two. I would think the egret would be a good snack for the crocodile, but there doesn’t seem to be any friction between them.

A lot of times I delete photos that I don’t think are great before I upload them, but I am finding out that there are hidden things in photos that actually make an interesting story, and you don’t see them until you enlarge the photo. I normally would crop this image, so the viewer would see the crocodile right away, but I wanted to show how easily you can miss things if you aren’t careful.

How Much Editing Is Too Much?

As you put Matt Kloskowski’s tips into action after this month’s presentation, will you be wondering if you’ve gone too far?

By Jim Hamel

So, how much editing is too much? Unfortunately, there is no answer to this question. Different people have different ideas on this topic. Some people want everything to appear natural, and the tipping point for them is when their photos do not. Others couldn’t care less about that, in fact, don’t want their pictures to appear natural.

Once you decide on your general philosophy, that sets a range for you; but even then how you approach each picture is still ultimately up to you. I will offer two additional  thoughts on this topic: one cautionary and the other encouraging.

On the cautionary side, I will say that beginners are much more likely to overdo the processing than people who have been doing it for a while. They will end up with garish colors or too much contrast, or they’ve pushed everything too far and generated a lot of noise, banding, or other effects. Although the HDR craze has largely faded (due largely to the ability of post-processing software to pull detail from highlights and shadows without resorting to HDR), it used to be quite common to see beginners proudly displaying totally overdone HDR shots. So be careful when you are just starting out.

On the other hand, don’t let comparisons of your edited photo to the original hold you back. I am frequently guilty of this one.

I gleefully edit away and then I go back and compare my edited photo to my original.
When I do, I see how far I have come and inevitably decide I have overdone it. It doesn’t
look like the original, and that bothers me for some reason. But you have to keep in mind
that nobody is going to see your original. All they see is the final edited picture. It will likely look just fine to them. Don’t let that hold you back.

All you can do is decide for yourself. To help that process along, look at others’ work and pay attention to whether you think it looks over processed or not. Go through a bunch of pictures on Flickr or 500px, and I think you’ll pretty quickly be able to decide where you fall on the scale.

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel is not just a great photographer, writer, and teacher, he’s also one of our very own TAPC members. Check out his free photography guides and tutorials at Outdoor Photo Academy. You can also see this original unedited article (with three more tips) and even more images.

Anole’s Lunch: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lynne Rogers Harris

photograph of a lizard eating a butterfly by Lynne Rogers Harris

Anole’s Lunch by Lynne Rogers Harris (Olympus M1 Mark III, ISO 200, SS 1/200, f2.8)

This was the first year back for the Butterflies in the Garden exhibit at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. As most of us know, the conservatory was in need of repair so we have missed this event the last few years. It was a cloudy day and I was expecting the conservatory to be dark inside and the butterflies hiding. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much light was coming through the windows.

After arriving, we were told new butterflies had just been released into the conservatory. They were everywhere. After shooting a while and talking with other photographers, I was about ready to leave when someone pointed out this anole lizard. He was a little camouflaged, but I finally saw him and he had a butterfly in his mouth. Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a photo. I took a few shots, and he soon crawled away with the butterfly still in his mouth. Later, I learned that the lizards eat the butterfly bodies but
not the wings.

Please join your fellow photographers when they post outings on Facebook. It’s always fun to shoot and learn with others; and you never know when you’ll get that one shot that makes the trip all worthwhile.

10 Things I Learned About Photography

By Mangesh Sangapu

Fast-forward a few years and I’ve grown as a photographer. I won “Photographer of the Year” in a local club and had photos featured on nationally renowned websites.

Looking back at my journey, I compiled the top 10 things I learned. Hopefully, this will make your journey a bit easier.

1. It’s an investment

money by Mangesh "Manny" Sangapu © Mangesh

© Mangesh

Camera prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, but the expenses don’t stop there. I started with a $500 Panasonic Lumix G7 and figured that would be it. Then came lenses, tripods, accessories, etc. Understand that photography is a hobby that requires various products. It’s not just the camera and lens, but much more than that.

All these products cost money. There’s no need to dive head-on into purchasing all these products, but understand that your camera and lens is just the starting point, and if you
stick with this hobby, you’ll eventually need more gear.

Don’t worry, as there’s a huge market for pre-owned lenses. There are sites like KEH that sell pre-owned gear, as well your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

2. Kit lenses limit you

Kit lenses refer to the beginner lenses bundled with cameras. They are given this name as it comes as a part of the camera kit. Typically they have higher f-numbers, like f/3.5, that can limit you to well-lit environments.

The higher these numbers, the more light you will need on your subject, unless you’re going for the dark look. The lower the numbers, the less light you will need around your subject.

In addition to your kit lens, I recommend starting with a 35mm or 50mm with a low
f/number, (e.g. 50mm f/1.8). To get comfortable with these lenses, try shooting exclusively with them for several weeks.

You don’t need to dive into buying all the low-aperture lenses, but having at least one in
your collection will give you a light advantage over the basic kit lenses.

3. Exposure is the main concept

The exposure triangle

I still remember the first time I modified my camera dials to change the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. My mirrorless camera has an electronic viewfinder so I could see how these factors immediately affected the final image.

It was at this moment that a light went on in my brain — because I finally understood exposure and why it was a big deal. Each of the three factors in the exposure triangle affect the amount of light on the subject. Once you learn exposure and get confident using it, you will advance by leaps and bounds.

4. It takes time

When I first got my camera, I couldn’t put it down. I took it everywhere with me: family
events, vacations, and even walks in the neighborhood.

The reality is that buying a camera won’t make you a good photographer. The pictures
you take five years from now will, hopefully, look better than the pictures you take today.
Photography is an art, and it takes time to craft those skills.

I recommend you take your camera everywhere. Learn ALL the settings and build your confidence with practice. Remember your camera doesn’t make the photos … it’s you and
the skills you apply through your camera.

5. You’ll see things differently

After learning exposure, I started looking around and noticing how light affected the environment. Today, even before I look through the viewfinder, I have a general idea
if the light needs to be modified. This only happens through practice and experience.

I can see images and notice color temperature (white balance), where the light source was in an image, and much more. The more you work with your camera, the more you understand how lighting affects your image. Eventually this will improve your vision to a point where you’ll see things differently.

6. Technical skills help

Close up photograph of a woman's eye by Mangesh "Manny" Sangapu © Mangesh

© Mangesh

Have you ever organized the files on your computer? Well, get ready to put those skills into use. Photography doesn’t end at the shutter button. A lot of time and effort is spent  after the photo is taken. This is where technical skills come into play. Whether you’re using Photoshop, ACDSee, Lightroom, etc, technical skills will make it easier for you to organize and edit your photography.

7. First, learn all the rules …

When I started photography, I had no clue there were repeating themes that were used to make a pleasing image. There are many photography principles that help you do just
that! I’ve listed several here and by no means is this a comprehensive list:

  • Fill the frame
  • Rule of thirds
  • Composition
  • Depth (3Gs: fore-ground, middle-ground, back-ground)
  • Movement through shutter speed
  • Depth-of-field

This is a small list to get you started, but learning these will only improve your photography. First learn all the rules … and then break them!

8. Find your community

Learning photography doesn’t have to be something you do alone. I joined a local photography club, and it really took me further. It allowed me to enter monthly competitions, and having my images critiqued helped me improve.

I also joined many YouTube channels and bookmarked several popular photography
sites like OutdoorPhotoAcademy by Jim Hamel.

The takeaway here is to find your community, talk about photography, and learn from each other to go further.

9. Respect the craft

There are a lot of arguments on the internet about sensor sizes, lenses, camera brands, megapixels, etc. Winning an argument won’t make you a better photographer, and you
waste precious time that could be spent improving your skills.

Photographers put years into their work. Respect the craft and the time others have put
into it. If you’re asked to provide feedback, be respectful and constructive.

Every day, someone new picks up a camera with the intention of becoming a photographer. Keep your distance from those online arguments and cultivate an
environment that’s friendly to the new photographer.

10. Make it fun!

Are you frustrated with your camera? Photo editor? Your skills? Then take a break from it and come back another time. Photography is meant to be fun, not frustrating!

If you’re photographing other people, remember you’ll transfer your energy to your
subjects. Be happy and you will get better poses from them.

Remember to enjoy the ride, have fun, and click away!

Mangesh "Manny" Sanga

Mangesh “Manny” Sangapu is a member of TAPC and the creator of OpenFilmmaker.com, where he blogs about photography and film. Go there to see the rest of this article, including comments about his photography equipment.

Barred Owl In Flight: The Story Behind the Photo

By David Roberts

Barred Owl In Flight by David Roberts

Barred Owl In Flight by David Roberts (324mm, f 5.6, 1/2000, auto ISO 2500)

One of the primary activities practiced at the Colleyville Nature Center (CNC) is photography, and the primary subject being photographed is wildlife, particularly birds. By far the most popular birds at CNC are the Barred Owls, with the spring mating season and subsequent arrival of the baby owls (owlets) being the peak time of activity for the year.

I was fortunate on a recent visit to find the ‘West Side’ female owl sunning herself in the
opening of the iconic ‘Owl Tree.’ After posing for some static shots in great light with awesome catchlights in her eyes, she decided to stretch her wings and take flight. I had witnessed this exact scenario many times before, as this is my third owl season at CNC. I knew there was a good chance she would fly instead of returning to inside the tree, so I was prepared with the proper camera settings. As with many things, timing is everything. Even though you know its coming, its amazing how easy it is to be distracted by conversation with a fellow photographer or simply removing the camera from your eye to scratch your nose. There is certainly an element of luck involved here, and luck was on my side.

This image was captured on March 5, 2020, at 10:10 a.m. with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 contemporary lens.

Photo Organization Made Simple

By Jim Hamel

Got free time? Here’s a little lesson that may help you pass the hours, or days, or weeks.

My guess is that you want your photos to be organized but don’t want to spend any time worrying about it. And you want to be able to find your photos quickly. There is nothing
worse than looking through a bunch of folders for a photo you know you have somewhere, but being unable to find it. At the same time, you don’t want to create a cumbersome system. It will not be sustainable. You are likely to give up on your system and then your photos will have no organization at all. A cumbersome system is likely to take up more of your time than actually looking for a photo every now and then.

Or maybe you are just getting started with photography and haven’t thought about how to organize your photos at all. You may not have enough photos yet that you see the need. But starting out with a good process right away is the best way to go. It will save you a lot of time and effort so you don’t have to go back and reorganize your photos later.

The Tension: By Date or By Subject?

The two main ways people organize their photos are either by date or by subject. Both
methods have strengths and weaknesses. You might create a folder structure by date,
and that will allow you to see everything chronologically. Unfortunately, we all tend
to forget what we did on certain dates, and it might become problematic to find something from two to three years ago.

steel wool on fire night photograph

Photo by Jim Hamel

The other way to organize is by subject. That becomes a problem, too. It is hard to sustain, and there might be different subject matter in the same group of pictures. For example, take a look at the photo on the right. This is a night shot I took where I was playing with steel wool lit on fire in a park in northwest Texas. Into which folder should I put the photo? A Texas folder? Or perhaps a state parks folder? Or perhaps a night photography folder? Or maybe one for spinning fire shots and other such trickery? As you can see, it would be confusing. The temptation is to start duplicating the photos and putting them in multiple folders, which is just a waste. I use a system that gives you the best of both worlds and it’s really easy.

The Simple System

First, download your photos to your computer as your normally do. When you do so, a folder with the date will be created. Now, rename the folder you just created, keeping the date, but also adding a short description at the end. For example, if the folder that was created says “2017-12-09” and it contains images you took on a trip to New York, just add the words “New York” to the end. Now the folder reads: 2017-12-09 New York. Or if you took pictures at your child’s birthday party, add the words “Birthday Party” to the folder after the date. And so on. Do this to all the folders you create. Here is a snip of my hard drive so you can see how this folder structure will look:

TAPC-2020-04-org-screenshot

That’s it! You’re done.

Taking this step will do two things for you. It will keep your photos in chronological order, which is important because your brain often works in terms of chronology. We usually have at least a rough idea when we did something. You can go to the folder for any particular year and scan it quickly to find what you need. In addition, having added the description will now let you know the subject of each folder. The subject is in the name so you never have to spend any time going through the folders.

Using this System in Lightroom

If you just organize your photos on your hard drive, you are done. But many  photographers use Lightroom, which offers other organizational features that you can add on to this system. How does that work?

It is really pretty easy. First of all, when you import your photos, Lightroom will use the
exact same folder structure you created on your hard drive, so the system you created
above will also work in Lightroom. For example, looking at the structure we created before, here is how it will look in Lightroom:

TAPC-2020-04-org-lightroom

When I am looking for a picture, this is more than enough to let me find it quickly. If you want to use any of the other Lightroom tools to organize your photos, you can add them on. The best such tool is Collections. This is just a separate grouping of photos on whatever basis you want. Lighroom doesn’t actually move the photos, but it will look that way on your screen. To create a Collection, you simply press the plus sign, name it
whatever you want, and the drag some photos into it. This is great if you are creating a group of photos from multiple dates.

What about keywords? Put simply, forget about them. Unless you are selling stock photography, I wouldn’t even bother with them. You will spend more time keywording
photos than you will spend looking for photos. All you are doing here is adding a little one- to three-word description to the chronological folder structure that your computer is making.

It is really simple to do, and it takes virtually no time, so you will do it every time. It is all
you ever need to do to stay organized. I have shown many people this system, and it seems to work for just about everybody.

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel is not just a great photographer, writer, and teacher, he’s also one of our very own TAPC members. Check out his free photography guides and tutorials at Outdoor Photo Academy. You can also see this original unedited article.