Sorting Photos & Photo Annotation

by JL Beeken on 7-23-2011

I wish there was an easier way of sorting photos. But I realize some of us are organizationally-challenged and that’s half the fun. In a $5-per-truckload-second-hand-store kind of way. Sure, bring it all home if you don’t mind spending a week at the laundromat.

I’ve spent about 100 hours so far sorting through 3.5GB of photos sent by a cousin. It almost makes me want to give up genealogy.

I have two monitors but it makes me wish for four. These photos came in about 150 assorted folders containing as many as 7 duplicates. That’s not counting the ones that are almost duplicates of ones I already have that she emailed me sometime in the past.

Reading my process could make you dizzy so just skip to the moral of the story at the bottom.

First step – open all folders with one click in Photo Mechanic and, using the IPTC Stationery Pad, insert her name as the Source. Just so I don’t forget.

Go through all the folders deleting the ones I don’t want, i.e. her cats and people I’m not related to and might like if I met but don’t want in my genealogy collection. If I don’t know, toss those in the Unknown folder to ask her about later in a marathon telephone session or 600 emails. There’s someone posing with Mick Jagger. Ok, got it, cousin from her mother’s side. Not related. Well, someone had to win the Meet the Rolling Stones Contest.

Start with the cemetery photos because I’m already familiar with those. Use Duplicate Cleaner to find the duplicates and delete all but one. Sort them by MRIN into my MRIN folders. Then go through all my MRIN folders searching for duplicates because she sent some of these before.

Duplicate Cleaner doesn’t work as well as I’d like on photos so I download a trial of Duplicate Photo Finder. This would be quick except for a couple of details. The trial version doesn’t allow me to delete photos directly. AND the photos my cousin emailed in the past, and are already annotated, are smaller than the ones she sent by Dropbox due to Windows’ genius default option of compressing the hell out of anything it touches for email. Even JPGs that are already compressed.

(Pretty much everything is scanned as JPGs because it was back in the day before I beat her over the head about scanning and saving as TIFF.)

Sidetrack over to Photo Mechanic. Copy and paste the annotations on the smaller pictures over to the un-annotated larger versions with Duplicate Photo Finder on the other monitor showing me where the duplicates are. Delete the smaller ones.

Using Bulk Rename Utility, go through each of the MRIN folders (about 300) preceding all unmarked photos by their appropriate MRIN. Why? Because this is The Church of MRIN. It’s how we do things here.

Go back and look at the other photos. Start renumbering MRINs in Legacy for people I haven’t seen before. Like her siblings and their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, her parents, her grandparents, her great-grandparents and her mother’s mother and related others, our common 3rd great-grand aunts and uncles, you get the picture. At least the ones I can distinguish from the file-names. File-names range anywhere from “Daughters of George.jpg” to Dsc_0119.JPG.

Use UNUSED numbers in the Source Library (created by deleting 1,377 Quakers). Make new MRIN folders, drag and drop the pictures into them. Generally. Very generally because I’m a bit lost with multiple spouses and people posing with other people’s children. DO NOT use Bulk Rename Utility to add MRINs yet.

Write email to cousin asking her for a descendants chart with women’s maiden names, everyone’s nicknames (maybe I could find some of them by searching AKAs in Legacy) and marriage dates so I can sort the married-more-than-once people. Seems to be a lot of them. And figure out who the kids belong to.

When everyone’s where they should be, go back through the MRIN folders using Bulk Rename Utility.

Open each MRIN folder with Photo Mechanic and annotate each of the photos with caption, keywords and address where possible. I guess GPS would be too much to ask for.

I figure another two hundred hours and I’ll be finished sorting photos.

Be nice to your cousins. Annotate your photos! It’s easier to Search & Replace when you have different annotation styles than it is to work from scratch.

OK, let’s review. Photo annotation software: GeoSetter, Photo Mechanic, XnView, iTag. And why you should NOT use Picasa.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy Lavender 7-23-2011 at 4:42 PM

You know, I have a folder just like that. The biggest sticking point for me is the duplicates. They all have different filenames. I never know which ones to delete and which to keep….so I close the whole darn lot down and go and have cuppa! Perhaps if I were just to ‘move’ the offending duplicates some place until the courage is built up enough to wap them off.
I really need to face this photo annotation don’t I, it’s a bit like doing the ironing.
I hadn’t heard of iTag before so going off to have a look at it.
Thx for sharing your experiences, I do find them very useful
Cheers
Lavender

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JL 7-23-2011 at 5:10 PM

I’m not usually dealing with duplicates but now that I am I’m looking at keeping the largest, best quality ones. So, an original TIFF if there is one. If just JPGs – choosing the largest one. I recall that I received some of these photos previously through email so I understand why the same photos are two different sizes. For instance, 110K vs 150K when the pixel dimensions are the same. Obviously, I’m choosing the least compressed ones.

Annotating is a big word for embedding information in photos; i.e. caption if there is one, keywords (people’s names), addresses if they’re known, source and copyright if they’re known. Many other fields are available but that’s the basics. And, of course, GPS if it’s known or can be found.

GeoSetter is my #1 choice because the engine is Phil Harvey’s Exiftool and I think that’s as good as it gets. Exiftool itself has a bit of learning curve to it (harder than I want to work right now) but GeoSetter has a typical user-friendly GUI so the best of both worlds. I also use Photo Mechanic because it’s right up there in the top league. XnView seems happy with everything but I use it only as a viewer of metadata and haven’t explored its capabilities as a metadata writer.

iTag is OK as far as I can tell. It’s lacking the depth I’m accustomed to so I just looked at it briefly and went away.

Unfortunately, metadata standards are not so standard so I stay away from Adobe and everything else. I got tired of chasing it all around the block noting the differences. Picasa is so far down the food chain it’s not even worth bitching about anymore.

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