Thursday, September 11, 2014

Portraits of a Life – Step 3: Preliminary Sort

To bring the original family portraits and snapshots into the digital realm there are several steps that I follow. A series of blog posts will explain the workflow that is used for the Portraits of a Life project.

Step 1: Create a Digital Image
Step 2: Archive the Original Image
Step 3: Preliminary Sort
Step 4: Edit, Enhance & Restore
Step 5: Identification
Step 6: Finalize Organization
Step 7: Share 

The third step in the process is to transfer the digital images you took in Step 1: Create a Digital Image to your computer. If you are working through a lot photographs the process of organizing the digital images can appear to be very overwhelming. To simply the process I often do a preliminary sort of the images. The preliminary sort allows the organizational process to be started without having to make the final organizational decisions. The preliminary sort also makes the process of working with the digital content less overwhelming.

The first thing to do is to determine where on your computer you would like to store the digital images. On my computer I have a dedicated directory for photographs. Within that directory I have a sub-directory dedicated to the old family photographs.

Within my old family photos directly I created a folder with the name “_To Be Sorted”. This folder will house digital images that have been taken see Step 1: Create a Digital Image. When I transfer photographs to the computer I create the folder with the date the photographs were taken. I opt to use the filing structure “Year_Month_Day” this ensures that the data will always sort in chronological order (note a leading 0 is needed for single-digit months and days). The digital images are then copied from the digital camera into the folder. In the example below there are several folders of pending digital images to be processed.  

Michelle M. Murosky: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Step 3: Preliminary Sort

Depending on how you were working you may have photographed several different groups of old photographs. I try to make the most of my time during Step 1: Create a Digital Image and often do several different groupings of old photographs in one session. When you transfer the images across from your digital camera the images will be located in one large directory. An example of images in one large directory is shown below. The images will appear in the order taken by the camera. 

Michelle M. Murosky: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Step 3: Preliminary Sort

This is where the preliminary sort is useful. The preliminary sort allows the process of organizing the photographs to be started. I find it is helpful to do this step shortly after taking the images (within a few days). You may also wish to consult the original photographs before returning these to storage. I create a series of sub-folders under the dated folder. The sub-folders are based on the content that was taken during the session. Note these are preliminary folder names with the goal of moving your archive project forward.

To provide some clarity I will use a recent example based on a grouping of old photographs my husband and I photographed earlier in the summer.  The old photographs included individual formal portraits, formal wedding portraits, several old albums and numerous loose images. The folder names were a function of the content we photographed that day. An example of the working directory with sub-folders is shown below.

Michelle M. Murosky: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Step 3: Preliminary Sort
What do the different folder names mean?

Folders Named After Individuals

In folders that are named after individuals contain images specific to that person. The images may be formal portraits or snapshots. I opt to use the naming convention – Last Name, First Name birth year. I use the birth year as I have some individuals in my family tree with the same first name and the same last name.

Ex. Bukowski, Helen 1901

Folders Named After Events

If I can determine the photographs are from a specific event I will group these images together. The folder name will be associated with the event name. Some common events are weddings and anniversary parties. Others have included groups of photographs were the people are wearing the same clothes – for example a summer party.  I opt to use the name convention – Last Name, First Name – Event or Last Name, First Name & Last Name, First Name – Event.  If the event is unknown the folder could be named for the party.

Ex. McDonald, Loraine & Frances – 35th Anniversary
Ex. Murosky, Edward & Forgrash, Margaret - Wedding

Groupings of People

When I am working to digitize images I am often working with a large range of time periods. One batch of photographs may be my great-grandmother. The next may be my father and his siblings or myself and my cousins. I have found it useful to group family images together in the preliminary sort especially if the photographs include multiple people.  I opt to make the naming convention start with the surname of the individual/s who link the group together.

Ex. McDonald, Loraine - children
Ex. Murosky, Arthur – children
Ex. Murosky, Arthur - grandchildren

Old Albums

Another example is grouping images together that were included in an old photo album. During the preliminary sort phase I have found it useful to locate all images from an old album into one folder. This keeps the content of the old album together during the preliminary sort phase. You can make decisions at a later time if you would like to keep the album images together or to separate them.


The final folder I will make is to house the unknowns. If I have a group of old photographs where I currently do not know who is in the images I will group these together. Locating the unknowns together is useful. At a time in the future someone may be able to assist with helping to identify who is in the photographs. 

The list of folders above is a sampling of what I have used. The goal is to use the folder names that make the most sense for your archive project. The end goal is to reach a point where the old photographs can be shared with others.  

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