I probably should write up a big blog post about this because I have some very strong opinions. I’m in the middle of a major project to digitize, catalog and organize around 40,000 slides and negatives and about 50,000 digital native images. This is just my family archive. The Historical society archive is smaller but harder to do. It’s comprised of about 1500 glass plate negatives from the early 1900s and then abut 150 large old physical scrapbooks that are from local clubs and organizations. The info goes back to the founding of the town but he books themselves are deteriorating rapidly and need some form of preservation.
I use Lightroom for all my cataloging so this is all based on Lightroom. I also use Lightroom CC Classic not the cloud version.
Decide on a file naming scheme first and do all file renames outside of Lightroom.
Decide on a physical image file storage scheme and then move the files into it before you import into LR.
When you Import the photos use a keyword preset that includes process keywords that make sense to you. Mine are @needsCaption @needsCopyright @needsCreator @needsKeywords @needsNames @needsTitle @partialKeywords @WIP
WIP is for ones I am working in the develop module. As I finish each task on a photo I remove that kayword from that photo. By creating smart collections I can quickly see how many photos are in need of what cataloging step.
Think about how you will search for images and then develop a robust hierarchical keyword history. Use special characters to separate process and disposition keywords and no spaces allowed for portability later.
On the keywording part, think through how you will be searching for the pictures. I actually defined a big portion of my LR keyword structure before I did any actual keywording in the app. I went through several iterations of it with a small 1000 image sample catalog before implementing it on the big catalog. I cared about Who, What, When and Where and set up structures to capture that. I have a well defined hierarchical set of keywords so that applying a keyword at the bottom of the tree automatically includes the upper keywords. My top level is written all in CAPS so that I know it’s a major category, below that I use a well defined plan for singlular vs plural, scientific names and common names using synonyms and then to individuals. I have a lot of animal pictures so I actually keyword into taxonomic categories but that is a function of the images I am dealing with. For people my top category is PEOPLE then I keyword them with names in the format lastname_firstname_middlename For married women I include maiden and other names as synonyms but usually my visible one is the name I know the person by. For events I have a top level category EVENTS and then within that keywords of birthday, party and so on and then specific ones within that.
So for example: I have 3 pictures I took of my rams in snow . Initially they come into LR with the process tags all as keywords and the year as a keyword. Yes I duplicate years in my keyword scheme. My first step is to look at and decide if I am going todelete any. I very rarely delet any pictures, disk space is cheap and I’d rather have more options for later. Then I decide to keyword them all. I know the names of each ram in the picture so I add those as keywords. now I have all 3 with keywords of Desert_Weyr_Tiberius, Desert_Weyr_Wick and Desert_Weyr_Wentworth. By adding the bottom sheep name they automatically also got keywords of ANIMAL, ovine, sheep, domestic_sheep, Breed_BWMS That’s my Who. Then I added the keyword Garvin_Mesa which also adds Paonia, Colorado, United States and PLACES keywords. That’s my Where. I added a keyword of snow, which also added WEATHER as a top keyword and I added a keyword of winter which added SEASON The date and time I took the picture is already in there because it was in the file my phone captured so with those keywords I’ve answered the When question. For digitized images I’d go in and edit the date time original and date time digitized fields in the EXIF data for the image.
By just adding 6 bottom level keywords I’ve now actually added a bunch more. I decide that is all so I delete the keyword @needsKeywords since I’m done with that process on those photos. I also am done with @needsNames so I also delete that keyword from the photos. I decide that only 1 of the 3 needs a caption so I add it to that one, and add a _no-caption keyword to the other 2 so I know I am finished with that part. Then I delete the @needsCaption keyword. I did my import with a preset that included the creator of the images (me) and the copyright data so I can delete the @needsCopyright @needsCreator keywords too. Even better would have been to remove them from the preset but I haven’t gotten that done yet. I’m not going to title any of them. I also am done with doing keywords and I have no plans at this time to do any editing of the photos so I delete the @needsTitle @partialKeywords @WIP keywords and add the _no_title keyword. Again I could really benefit by making some more detailed presets but haven’t done it yet. These pictures are now fully cataloged. The entire process to do the pictures took me about 2 minutes. I’ve spent far more time typing it out for you than I did to do the task but it was all predicated on a rich, robust keyword hierarchy that I had predefined. The searching is simple I can select all with sheep and find these and many others, if I need just Black Welsh (my BWMS breed) I can do that, or maybe I want all pictures of Tiberius because I’m doing a scrapbook page about him and his grandfather Kirk and want to have pictures of both of them at the same ages. For most ordinary folks you can think of replaceing my sheep names with people names. I have far fewer pictures of people since it’s just me and my husband. This is a really long winded way of trying to explain the full process of cataloging I use.