Date-based, topic-based, a mix of both? How we organize our images is likely as diverse as the many different genres of photos we all create as photographers. It’s personal.

Why I use a date-based folder structure

As I said, it’s personal. What works for me would not likely work for wedding, event and portrait photographers or maybe not even travel photographers. It all depends on how you need to find your images in your archives.

One of the first reasons I use date-based folders is because that’s just how I started with it when I first used Lightroom Classic 10 or so years ago. It has become what I’m used to. To go back and change it all would be a bit of a daunting task. 

The second reason I go by dates is that’s how my mind works when I’m trying to find images. When was that trip, when was that event, when did I go downtown with friends? That’s just how I remember when and where I created my images. Sometimes I need a little help remembering and that’s where keywording comes in handy in a big way. (Google Photos has also proved to be an amazing tool for finding images. As long as you back up images there, or were at one time on Google and have images from your posts there.)

How I set up my date-based folders

This is pretty simple. I use Lightroom Classic for my DAM (Digital Asset Management). When I import images from my SD cards, I set them up so that my files are named by year-month-date-image number. My main folders are set up by year, by month, by day. So when I import new images, I make sure I’m importing them to the correct year/month folder. 

Accessing images

Remembering dates for everything isn’t exactly easy and nor do I claim that I’m able to do that. So in addition to organizing my files by date, I have become much better over the years at keywording. Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, it’s a good idea to always add a few keywords upon import.

In the end, how you organize your own photos is dependent on several factors. What you photograph, what your purpose for the images is and how you best work. You may even find that a mix of date-based and subject-based works for you. The one thing for sure is that the better you organize your files, the easier it will be to find what you’re looking for when you need to.