Archiving Files: 5 steps to solve your photo and video storage problem

By Alejandra Mendoza Villasmil

A misplaced file is as good as an unexisting one. Freelance journalists work hard to create quality content, and here we tell you how to keep it safe.

You finally get the interview. Have the perfect light to take the shot. Manage to have on-record testimonies for that story galvanizing your city. You download the material to your computer, write in a crazy rush of inspiration, overcome any writer's block like it was a summer breeze, and send the article to your editor. Finally, you close your laptop without turning it off or archiving files because you deserve the break.

The material stays on your desktop for a few days until you stop remembering what it was and send it, at best, to a general "Archives" folder – knowing that you will soon have to erase something or your computer will divorce you.

A few years later, the story pops up again, and you try to license and republish your article or write a masterpiece of a new article layered with your own historical records from your archive folders. You go back to the data you thoughtfully search and that Harvard study you don't quite remember the name of, but, your generic archive folder is just as messy as a preadolescent bedroom.

Thousands of versions of the same photo pop up together with raw material mixed with the 12 variants of the video you kept adding "definitive," "finished," "this time finished for real," and other suffixes.

Properly archiving files will go to the top of your mental new year's resolution list. You forget about it before October.

We have good, regular, and bad news for you:

  • Professionals have already solved this organizational problem
  • You are about to read some simple curated rules to follow so you can order your digital mess
  • There's no magic way to do it. You'll have to invest a bit of time.

Here are 5 steps to solve the archive storage problem that, now, you know you have:

1. Systematizing: archive folders are your best friends

Relax, you don't need to study dozens of PDFs to start correctly archiving files – not saying librarians' and archivists' work is easy, just clarifying that on a tiny scale it can be simplified. All you need is to press the button on the right side of your mouse and apply these 2 rules:

  • Use folders to divide and group your material
  • Assign a name to each project from the start
  • Follow the same logic for creating new folders across all of your projects

To start, observe how you naturally work. Reconstruct the train of thought that usually leads you to remember where a video is stored. Maybe, the first thing you remember is which outlet you recorded the material for, then where you did it. Finally, if it is raw or edited. Transform that into your default digital route and the bones of your own system for archiving files. It would look like this: 

Digital folders are the bones of your file archiving system ©Pexels

Bonus tip: creating a new folder that follows your system for archiving files before downloading the images and curating them inside it instead of a temporary location will save you time, just like making your bed as soon as you wake up. Things will be organized from the beginning, so no excuses can lead to piling unorganized material on the Desktop.

2. Naming archives: or the art of not renaming

Now, you created the structure for archiving files. You have folders where to keep and organize your material. It's time to import it into your computer:

When downloading your shots

Do not erase the original name when your raw material gets downloaded to your computer. Your camera produces an identifier for each video or image following the order it records, and you should archive folders without changing that ID. Actually, respecting this order is critical when trying to prove the integrity of any piece of material. And some formats actually need these names for the video to run correctly.

Instead, download the images into their designated archive folders following your already created route.

First, create the folders, then download the images: file archiving made easy

Respecting the file's original name, check. But what about archiving files you create after editing?

After editing and enhancing

Remember that you're the primary user of your archive folders, so everything should be adapted to what works for you. Here are some general tips to help you create a naming system to rule your archive folders: 

  • Instead of special characters (*, /, -), use underscore (_) or hyphens (-)
  • Make it easy to follow: not too long or too specific
  • Always include the version number of the exported file and avoid, by all means, using the word "final."
  • A ripe naming system could go: ProjectX-Location-Date-Version

Ironically, the most important thing for your naming system to work is not the name itself but to be consistent with your own guidelines. And for that, you'll need step 3.

3. Describing the way you're archiving files

If you are a freelance journalist, you probably don't count on an archivist team to catalog every take, so a simple Excel spreadsheet will do – and will likely become your bible for archiving files. Again, you're the primary user of your archive, so ask yourself: what information do you usually need when deciding the images you'll use? Do you cover fashion and entertainment? Probably you'll need to pay extra attention to specifying the names of the people on the video. Are politics your main interest? Then you'll need to describe the topics and the context of the shots.

Regardless of how much the number of columns of that spreadsheet may vary depending on your personal likings, you must clarify at least these 4 things:

  • Naming system
  • Name of the file
  • Location of storage
  • Legal situation

Try to think about the info that you'll need in the future if you want to use the material again or the legal details that usually get lost in time. If you have licenses and documents on paper, scan them and save them with the images. This documents could be a lifesaver in the future and a shortcut for successfully archiving files.

Scan any printed document related to the project and added into your system for archiving files ©Unsplash

4. Be afraid and a bit paranoid

The reason why there are methods for archiving files is that things get lost. Ask your car keys. Depending on the sensitivity of the material, you have to think about how to back it up.

Online clouds can help you access the material anywhere but prompt security breaches. If that's no problem, here are some great clouds for video and photos you could use: Google Drive, Mega (extra focus on security, Box

External hard discs, in the plural, tend to be the safest way to keep your material and are not as expensive as they once were.

So take those pretty and organized folders, your perfect spreadsheet for archiving files, and store them in at least 2 different places. 

5. Consistency is key… for life and for archiving files

Once you design your method for archiving files, stick to it. Keep creating the same routes for your folders and set the alarm to back them up periodically. If your using a cloud service, the sync would probably be done automatically, but it is always nice to check.

Hopefully, you'll have a long and successful career ahead. Being persistent with the way you preserve your sources will automatically build a personal library where to consult and retrieve the results of your hard work.

At The Story Market, we are all about honoring your work. We categorized your articles and have a team to properly label and store them to be easily found by possible republishers and retrieved by you with our own method for archiving files.We are not an audiovisual archive, just jet, but having the photos that go with your articles organized will sure come in handy when a republisher buys one of your articles and asks for some original material to go with it.

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