How I Keep Product Digital Photos Organized

photograph folders

Some people don’t organize their listing product photos, preferring to re-take them, but I do. This isn’t the be-all system, but it’s what I’m doing, at this moment.

My system is supported by a little bit of software, but you can do it without the software, if you don’t have many listings.

However, before you even start to save photos, think about this:

Why Bother? Maybe You Shouldn’t.

You may not want to keep the photos around.

Ideally, you get the item, clean it up, photograph it, list it, and then it sells in a week or so, and it’s out of your life.

If you’re a great buyer, and a great seller, old photos of stuff should not be in your life at all.

That isn’t me.  Some things sell right away, some take a month.  Some need some more help.

Reasons to Retain

Here are the reasons why I decided to keep photos:

Memories – I was selling off some ephemera and books and things my father had collected. I took a bunch of photos, and wanted to keep them, as a way to remember him.  (I also had some items of historical interest.)

Listing on Other Sites and Applications – I sometimes list on multiple platforms.

Editing Photos – Sometimes, the photos need some photo editing, resizing, or some review to determine if they should be deleted. Sometimes, I need to improve them and re-upload, to give the item a better chance of selling.

Centralizing the Photos – I take photos on my phones and two digital cameras. The photos have different file names, so they don’t cluster together. I needed to move them into a folder so they are grouped.

The Folders

For every product, I enter it into a spreadsheet I use for inventory and accounting.  The spreadsheet shows the inventory, what’s listed or not, and where it’s stored. I write titles in this spreadsheet.

Each item gets an “SKU” (stock keeping unit) number.  This is generated in the spreadsheet by using the “drag to autonumber” feature:  you type in a number, and then select the cell; then, drag the little “handle” in the lower right corner downward. The cells will fill in with increasing values.  (It also works with values like “p001” – it’ll fill in “p002” etc.)

So I drag down to create a bunch of SKUs, to be filled in with details.

Then, I create folders for each of these SKUs.  I use a little program I wrote for this, but there are tools out there.  You can also do a spreadsheet trick to make it write code like “mkdir p001” and paste that into your command line.

These SKU folders keep everything organized and searchable.

Centralizing Photos and Editing Them

Photos come into the system in three ways:

  1. SD cards from cameras.
  2. Dropbox’s Camera Upload folder.
  3. Copied over USB from my Android phone.

If I do a photo session, I may have hundreds of photos for ten or twenty items.

I move photos into the SKU folders, by hand.

From that folder, I review the photos (using a preview tool) rotate them, and delete the bad ones.  I may re-photograph some items, too.

I open photos that need cropping or color correction in The GIMP, and edit them.  Some platforms want square photos, and others like rectangular, so I’ll make versions for those.  Usually, though, I don’t photo edit.


Generally, I multitask a little bit.  Once the items are in the inventory spreadsheet, and grouped by product category, I’ll create drafts.  If I have five pants, I’ll create five drafts for pants.  Then, I paste in the titles, paste in the SKUs (into the title or into the SKU field if you have a Store) and save the drafts.

Next, I re-open them all for editing, in the eBay bulk editor, and go into the photo folders and start uploading. Because the SKU is already in the listing, finding the photos on the computer is simple.

Uploading takes a long time and kills my internet connection.  It can be two or three minutes over my connection, or even longer if I have photos coming in over Dropbox.  So, as each batch uploads, I move and edit the next batch of photos.

Once all the photos have uploaded, I save the drafts, to complete later.  (Ideally, I start my listings on Saturday and Sunday.)

Keeping the Photo Folder Smaller

I have hundreds of SKU folders, so scrolling through them can take a while, so I keep the SKU folders in the following folders:

  • incoming
  • active
  • sold
  • deleted

I wrote some software tools to help manage these folders, but all they do is move the folders around.  You can do it manually.

The key here is to keep the incoming folder lean.  The active is never going to be that large.  Sold and deleted can get huge, but it doesn’t really matter.

This system, like an system, can get messy, and break down, so it needs to be cleaned out occasionally.  That’s just how things are.  Overall, though, it’ll easily scale up into low hundreds of items, before you need any kind of formal database to track inventory and photos.

See Also

Organizations that keep huge libraries of photos use “digital asset management” or “media asset management” systems. The Mac’s iPhoto, Google’s Picasa, and Adobe’s old Bridge were scaled-down DAMs for photos. You can study those to get an idea of how to design parts of your photo workflow.

Current programs with some DAM features are Lightroom and Aperture, which are both commercial products.  They integrate DAM with photo editing.

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