The Ultimate Kill the Clutter Challenge – One Month to Organize My Image Backlog

I’m always up for a good challenge and when I heard that Sam and Darwin were aggressively cleaning up their backlog of unprocessed files, I first thought they were both crazy for committing to a file bankruptcy day. Why would anyone artificially delete potentially great work simply because of time.

My second thought was… hmm, it’s probably worth playing along too. Several months (maybe a year?) ago, I started reorganizing my image library with the daunting task of cleaning everything up. I quickly became side tracked with more exciting projects and my images remain in an unfinished state.

So I’m going to join the bandwagon but with different goals. I will not be processing any files and I will not be deleting everything untouched come July 1st. What I will attempt to do, is finish cleaning up, keywording, gps tagging, adding meta data with everything neatly organized into categories. The only files that I will be deleting are the clearly bad frames. If there is any hesitation at all, the file stays and is appropriately filed away.

The Current Structure

To kick things off, I feel it’s probably necessary to explain how I manage files with the use of Adobe Lightroom. My images fall into 3 distinct categories.

  1. Fine Art & Stock. My first catalog contains all of the images that I consider my “artwork”. This is mostly my landscape and nature work and are the images that I license for use or make decor prints from. This body of work contains all of the images that I share with the public.
  2. Personal. This catalog contains all of my family photos. It’s a catch all from my camera, my wife’s camera, occasionally my parent’s camera, our phones, etc. This is a large collection of every day photos that are primarily a documentation of my life.
  3. Assignments & Events. Each commercial job or event that I’m hired for, I create a new Lightroom catalog. All of the image files from that project live here in isolation and once the files are delivered to the client, the catalogs are archived. These catalogs will not be part of this challenge.

The 30 Day Goal

For both my Fine Art and Personal image libraries, which combine to approximately 100,000 files, I will clean up the many folders titled “sort” and “fix these” and “missing XYZ data”. I will delete what’s clearly trash and move the rest into a well structured catalog, rich with keywords and location gps data.

Lightroom Catalog for Fine Art and Stock Image Files

Lightroom Catalog for Fine Art and Stock Image Files

I’m a bit obsessive with organization but at the same time, I don’t necessarily need to process or finish an image file until it’s needed. Especially considering that if I need a file created 5 years ago, there is a decent chance that I’ll want to reprocess the file again with newer raw conversion software.

Lightroom Catalog for Personal and Family Image Files

Lightroom Catalog for Personal and Family Image Files

So we’re now all at the starting line with a goal in sight. This clearly contradicts my desire for less computer time.

About the Author

I am a designer, artist and photographer living in PEI and the co-creator of the Photographer's Guide to Prince Edward Island. I have helped design this website and the many oopoomoo ebooks. Stop by and say hi on Facebook.


  1. Les Howard
    June 1, 2014

    I like the idea of using separate catalogs for each assignment. After that, I use one big catalog for everything else. Collections and Special Collections (usually based on keywords) help me keep things organized within the catalog.

  2. Samantha Chrysanthou
    June 4, 2014

    Crazy ideas are contagious. Good luck!


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