Transitioning to Photos, aka the mega photo cleanup exercise

I finally upgraded my iMac to El Capitan, which included several major changes but the one which most affected me was the switch to Photos and goodbye to iPhoto (check out Macworld for more info). My iMac is from 2007, and it handled the upgrade just fine, except for one thing. My photo library hasn’t been upgraded in…oh, I don’t know offhand, but long enough that I needed to download a library upgrade. Even after upgrading, I still kept receiving a message saying that my iPhoto library needed to be upgraded.

Definitely not claiming to be a photographer of any skill, I require the bare minimum from my photo management tools: basic editing, and easy organization. I didn’t use a lot of the iPhoto features except for using Events to organize photos, and importing this way allowed me to be a little lazy with my library (imports were named for the most prominent thing which might have happened in that import, or dropped into a closely-related event).  So, since I knew I had a ton of crap photos, I opted to go through my thousands of photos–one by one–and enhance, keyword and geotag every one.

I started by locating my iPhoto library and showing the package contents (right click and select that option) and dragged the Originals folder to my desktop for easy access. The events were all intact, from my semester abroad in 2006 to last month’s wedding fun. This made it easy to ‘select all’ and apply relevant keywords and/or locations to everything (wedding, halloween, etc), and also made it easier to chunk the project. I used the ‘last import’ option in Photos to keep track of where I was in the project, since I’m still not entirely on board with the Moments, Years, etc kind of breakdown. I plan on using the keywords to create Smart Albums going forward.

When keywording, it’s helpful to create a plan ahead of time (like any taxonomy). Consider the types of photos, and the words you would use to describe them. I keyworded in a similar way to how I named Events in iPhoto; when I look for those photos in the future, there won’t be any dissonance with ‘how I USED to do it’ vs how it is now. I created a spreadsheet with the keywords listed:

  • Holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc).
  • Events (graduation, birthday, wedding).
  • Names – I’m also working through the Faces feature of Photos, but want to be able to build albums based on names, like certain friends, couples, pets, etc. And I’m glad I did it, because the Faces feature is more tedious to me than keywording.
  • Locations (in addition to geo-tagging, I also keyworded the location, which is especially handy for travel photos as well as other places, like my husband’s and mine first house, things like that.
  • Anything else I might use to search to find photos…the 5 star ranking in iPhoto hasn’t carried over into Photos, so that might be something you want to implement, or devise your own system. There is a Favorites feature, but it’s fairly generic.

So now, when I want to find pictures of, say my friend Danny’s wedding, I can search for his name, his wife’s name, and ‘wedding,’ and the photos will pop up. I also played around with using a convention like ‘danny + ashley’ but it felt redundant with the other keywords I employed.

Overall, I deleted over a thousand photos out of my library. I’m left with a collection that is evocative and looks great; every picture has been reviewed and optimized, and the experience as a whole was incredibly rewarding. It’s cheesy and cliche to say, maybe, but photos are definitely the gateway to memory.

What do you think?

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