Managing Photo Libraries in Linux – A Simple Method.

I use my Linux machine as my primary machine for photography.  I import my pictures with a card reader, edit them as needed with GIMP, and then file them.  For backups I created a simple shell program with rsync which backs them up nightly to another disk.

I take about 1500-2000 pictures every year.  I only delete the absolute mistakes.  Right now I have about 12,000 pictures on my system.

I have been though several programs to manage my pictures.  On my mac I tried Iview Mediapro – which was then bought by Microsoft (and recently abandoned once again.)  I must admit – having used computers at home since 1987 I’m not too willing to surrender myself to a single program.  I’m sure that every year since I have owned a computer I have had to worry about migrating my data either because of the operating system, the computer, or the program.  This has influenced how I manage pictures today.

I use a simple directory structure to store my pictures.  For example – suppose I take Easter pictures on April 20th of 2010.  I will put all those pictures in a folder that describes them: “Easter_at_Bunny_House”.  Then that folder will be put into my overall picture directory – and will look something like this:


  • /storage is my storage folder at the root level
  • /storage/primary is a dedicated disk mounted at that point (I actually have a /storage/backup as well)
  • /storage/primary/photos – I store other stuff
  • /storage/primary/photos/dated – I have other photos which might be categorized (a clip art collection perhaps).  I also have others where I don’t know the correct dates yet (collections from relatives.)  Although I try to get everything into the ‘dated’ directory – there are other spots for some photos.
  • /storage/primary/photos/dated/year_2010 – Each year has it’s own folder, and within each year are 12 months (I copied a few years into the future so I wouldn’t have to do the months by hand)
  • /storage/primary/photos/dated/year_2010/d_Apr – I have the months listed alphabetically – so you will see “a-jan, b-feb, c-mar” and so on – just to keep them in order.

Why I don’t use IPTCIPTC is a great standard.  Unfortunately, many of the popular programs don’t use IPTC. Iphoto didn’t before.  I don’t know if they do now.    Here is a list of programs that work with IPTC.   The problem is simple.  Adding keywords to programs is a lot of work!

I find that by naming the folders correctly I can often find the pictures just through memory or a simple search.  This works a majority of the time.  When it doesn’t, I use Picassa for Linux.   I poiint this to my photo directory and can scan my photos quickly to find the one I want.

I have about 12,000 photos.  I am not dependent on a particular program.  I can move my files easily to another system.  If you have fewer photos a photo program might work for you (although good luck migrating in the future.)  If you have many more pictures a professional implementation might be worth your time.  For me – the simple method seems to work best and I am quite happy with it.