Keeping Your HDR Brackets Organized

If you have been shooting for any length of time you probably have hundreds of images stored somewhere on your computer. If you are bracketing to create HDR images the number of files in your catalog quickly multiplies and can get out of control pretty fast. In this article, I’m going to show you how I keep my HDR brackets organized.

When I first started shooting HDR I gave no consideration to storing my images in any organized fashion. It wasn’t long before my catalog was full of random brackets that were completely disjoined from one another. I was still learning how to process HDR and now I was having trouble just finding the brackets that I wanted to process. What I needed was a plan, an organizational system that would help me keep up with the tons of images I was now bringing home.

What I found was a two step method that I still use today, it’s simple and it fits my needs.

Where To Start

At the beginning of every year I create a new folder to hold the photos that I will shoot over the next 12 months. As the year progresses, I create a sub-folder for each location I shoot. Inside each location folder I add a sub-folder for the dates I shot that location. The date folder is completely optional but it does help keep the clutter down, especially if I visit the same location several times throughout the year.

As an example, here’s what my 2011 image folder looks like:

Importing Into Lightroom

To keep my folders and catalog in sync, I create all of the location and date folders during the Lightroom import process. Adding the folders during import creates the physical folders on your computer and the folders within your Lightroom catalog.

Keeping Your HDR Brackets Organized - Curt Fleenor Photography

Clean Up Your Grid

The first thing I do once my images have been imported into Lightroom is place each set of brackets into groups called stacks. Stacking lets me keep each bracket sequence linked visually so they are easier to locate. More often than not, I will shoot the same composition many times during a visit. The result is that I end up with multiple brackets that look very similar. Stacking helps me keep similar bracket sequences separated.

Another advantage to using stacks is that any edits you perform in external applications, like Photomatix or Photoshop, are automatically added to the stack when you return to Lightroom. Every step of the edit process is saved and organized into one place. To create a stack select the desired images, right click on one of them and choose “Group Into Stack”.

Keeping Your HDR Brackets Organized - Curt Fleenor Photography
Keeping your HDR brackets organized is an essential part of your workflow and the first step to making the rest of your processing experience much more enjoyable. How you organize your image folders and catalogs is up to you and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The key is to find a system that works and stick with it.

My photographic journey has taken me from simple landscape photos into the world of High Dynamic Range (HDR) images and long exposures. I use these disciplines to bring out the beauty of the world around us. Landscape photography is my first love but great images are everywhere and there is an ever-expanding set of tools available to the modern photographer to help create a unique vision. This is an amazing field whose technology is expanding exponentially and I am willing to try it all!