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Cataloging Your Work February 19 2014, 0 Comments

Having spent more than twenty years in film and digital photography, I have work in every corner of my home, and studio. Portfolios are piled high and new work is still locked inside the catacombs of more than a dozen hard drives waiting to be cataloged and printed. Cataloging your work should be a priority, just as backing up your work should be. Cataloging your work is akin to a finger print of your life’s work. These easy steps will help you to catalog your work.

Using your computer programs such as Photo Shop or Light Room, you can create your files online. (Make a print out so you have a backup copy.) Most photo software will allow you to catalog images as you process them. You will begin by creating a file name for groups of images but also, be certain when using this component of your software that you name your photographs individually as you process them. Your software will automatically number your photographs but numbers do not jog the memory when you have thousands of images. Your camera type, f-stop, shutter speed and color temperature will automatically be given. If there is a space to add the date the images were taken, the time of day the images were taken and the lens used, log that information in as well. If not, you will want to manually add this information on the print out. For images on film negatives, similar steps should be taken by recording the name of the image, the f-stop and shutter speed, film type and speed, and the camera and lens used. This can be done in a paper notebook or in Microsoft word.

Why catalog your work?

  1. Easy access to specific images. It eliminates searching when you want to present work to a client.
  2. Identification. As you build your body of work, your style will emerge. One of your goals as a photographer should be to make your work identifiable with your style. No-one mistakes a Van Gogh with a Monet. You can more easily nurture the development of your style if you are able to look at your work as a whole. Creating portfolios is the easiest way to do this and it catalogs your work at the same time.

Portfolios are bodies of work that display your skill as a photographer. I have twenty to thirty portfolios ready at any given time. Subject matter is grouped together. Product photography, such as images of food are one portfolio, for example, while images of still life are another portfolio. Do not make the mistake of mixing work in the same portfolio. You want your portfolio to be diverse but subject matter should be grouped together. A potential client who is interested in food images for their restaurant is probably not going to care if you can photograph real estate. When I meet with a potential client I always take with me what they have asked for but also take with me a few portfolios that they might want to see but didn’t know to ask for. However, I never mix the work into the same portfolio.

  1. Copyright. Work should be cataloged for the purpose of maintaining copyright. You don’t want to lose track of what work you have filed with the federal copyright office as you build your body of work. Making a catalog documents when and where photographs were taken but also the type of equipment used, the f-stop, shutter speed and color temperature.
  2. Insurance. If valuable work is stolen or lost in a hurricane or other disaster, details about the individual pieces make identification easier and may make filing an insurance claim easier.
  3. Finally, in the event that someone uses your work without permission, you have a log of all information regarding how, when, and where the image was taken. This is a great way to provide documentation that no-one else will have, hence “proving” the original work is your own. (Also see blog on Copyright)