I have multiple sources for photographs: iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, two canon point-and-shoots, and two scanners. I’ve amassed roughly 50,000 photographs since cameras became digital. I’ve tried Picasa and iPhoto to manage them, but I felt a huge barrier between me and my photos, in particular the digital files themselves. I know Apple wants me no longer to worry about such things, but it’s a need of mine: I need direct access to my files. So, this is my routine:

  1. Image Capture and/or other image capturing tool: Bring all images into the Pictures folder.
  2. Structurer: An amazing tool that let’s me make a ton directories like that. I make as many directories as needed depending on the dates of the photographs. The structure of the directory is YYYY_MM_DD.
  3. Then I move them to two Lacie external drives. I quickly move them off of my MacBook Pro because storage is precious on the 50GB SSD.

This ritual takes time especially when there’s hundreds of photographs involved. Structurer helps a great deal, but still. Yesterday I was introduced to Hazel, a Paul Kim masterpiece in ritual automation. Immediately I went to work to see if I could automate any of those three steps.

This process is applied to the Pictures directory so to the left you see Pictures. And then to the right you see an Organize Photos rule that I created.

What you see above are the details of my new rule Organize Photos. I started off by telling Hazel, “In the Pictures folder do whatever I’m going to tell you to files that start with IMG_ and DSC_.” Then I told Hazel, “Create subfolders based on the dates of those files and stick them in there.”

The folder pattern can be customized and that’s exactly what I did: YYYY_MM_DD. So from now on Hazel automatically generates subfolders using the YYYY_MM_DD pattern and puts all the photos that were created on that date into the subfolders. This is just one of many things Hazel can do. Magic.

Hazel is US$25. Just having my photos automatically sorted exactly the way I want them to be is worth the price. Get yourself a copy of Hazel, automate your computing rituals, and save yourself a ton of precious time.

Update 2012.03.07: Paul Kim, Chief Noodler at Noodlesoft, wrote in. The very last step that I explain where I customize the folder pattern involves a small right arrow (can be seen in the screen shot), the folder separator, which is not necessary:

… the folder separator at the start is unnecessary since it’s assumed it’ll create that first level for you.