It is surprising just how quickly an image library can be built up to contain thousands of files, but here are a few things you can do to manage your images

1. Synchronise folders for easier updating

Keep your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom library up to date by synchronising the folders within the library with those on your hard disk. To do this, simply right-click on the folder in the Lightroom Library module and select Synchronise folder. This will update your Library with any new or updated images found within the folder on the hard drive, and will delete any images from the library that are no longer there.

2. Keyword images when importing them

A lot of time can be saved by adding general keywords when images are imported. More specific words can be added to individual images later.

3. Organise folders

Keep images organised by placing them in a suitable hierarchy of folders. For example, you may have a series consisting of a folder and subfolders named My Pictures>Holidays>2012>Spain, or My Pictures>Portraits>Bloggs, Joe. This will make it easy to find a particular series or type of image.

4. Set copyright info at import

As well as keywording images at import, copyright information can be added in most image library software. Adding your name and email address will help protect your images if you plan to put them online.

5. import a backup copy

When importing images from your camera’s memory card, some software has the option to import the image files to two locations. Use this to guarantee that you have a backup copy of all your original files on an external hard disk.

6. Organise images in Lightroom by using colour labels and flags

As well as giving images a star rating, you can colour code them in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. For example, an image that is tagged red may be completely unedited, a blue image may need a spot of retouching, while a green image may be ready for print. Use these colour tags to keep track of what stage you are at in the image-editing process.

7. Create a watermark

Create a watermark

If you plan to upload your images online, it may be advisable to add a watermark that will deter other people from using the image on their own site. If you sell the occasional print, it is also advisable to add a watermark across the middle of any proof prints to deter people from scanning and printing the image themselves.

In most image-management software, watermarks can be added to images as they are exported, or you can add them manually using editing software. The best way to do this is to create a new layer above the image and use a text tool to write your name or place a copyright symbol very prominently over it. Then change the opacity of the watermark to around 30% so that it is still visible but doesn’t detract too much from the image. If you have to add watermarks to a number of images, it is worth saving this task as an Action.

8. Use Save As to preserve original images

After editing an image, use your editing software’s Save As function to save a copy. Apply a suffix such as ‘edit’ to distinguish the edited version from the original. This will ensure you always have the original, unedited file to return to in the future.

9. Use an external hard drive for images

Save all your images to a dedicated external hard disk drive. This will make it easier to find your images and will save space on your computer’s main hard disk drive.

10. Preserve adjustment layers by saving as a PSD file

When images are saved as JPEG files, any layers that you have created during editing will be merged to flatten the image. To preserve these layers so you can revisit them, save your images as Photoshop PSD files, or as TIFF files with the Preserve Layers option selected.

11. Keep a backup

Hard disk drives can fail, so it is strongly recommended that you use a second disk drive to regularly back up all your images.

12. Rate images

Most image library and catalogue software, including Adobe Bridge, Lightroom and Apple Aperture, allow images to be rated out of five. Use this feature to rate all your images, with 5* ones being among the best you have taken, 3* being average and 1* being those you could happily delete. You can then filter the images to see just the 1* rated ones to delete them, and show off your very best work by showing only your 5* versions.

13. Delete the rubbish

It may seem obvious, but make sure you delete any useless images to save space and keep your image library neat and tidy. Use the star-rating system to quickly find the 1* images you can delete from your hard drive.

14. Rename your pictures in batches

File names generated by cameras can become confusing when you have to search for a particular image on your computer. Instead of using these generic file names, rename images either when they are imported or by performing a batch rename.

Adobe Bridge allows you to perform a batch rename extremely quickly. Simply select all the images to rename, then right-click on one of them and select Batch Rename. A new window will open that will allow you to apply a name to the images. The simplest way to name an image is to choose some appropriate text – London, for example – then select the Date/Time option, which will add the date that the image was taken from the image metadata, and finally select Sequence Number. This should produce a filename for each image that looks something like ‘London 11082012 001’.

15. Use search filters to find the image you need

As well being able to search for images by using a file name or a particular keyword, most image library software will allow you to filter images using their metadata.

Hidden in each image file is a host of information, from the exposure settings to the particular camera and lens that were used to take it. If you or your camera has added GPS location data, then you can even use this to search for images of a particular location.

So, if you are looking for any night-time landscape shots you have taken, simply filter to show only images that have long exposure times.

Print contact sheets

Seeing a printed contact sheet of your images can help you to make editing decisions, and will prove useful when archiving prints

16. Create a contact sheet

Image browsers can help you view thumbnails on screen, but if you are archiving prints or creating an album, a contact sheet-style page of thumbnails may be useful.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture, ACDSee and PaintShop Photo Pro allow you to quickly and easily select images and create customised pages of thumbnail images.

In Photoshop you can create a contact sheet by selecting File>Automate>Contact Sheet.

In Adobe Photoshop Elements you can create a contact sheet by going to the Create Module and then selecting your paper size and a layout that allows 16 images to be shown on one page.