Photo Strategies

April 27th, 2006 7:32 PM

For a long time, I’ve tried to consider what the best way to present my photos on this website is. I started out by posting only the best images from an event, meticulously adding metadata to each photo (title, depictions of people and things, location), and categorizing the album in the site hierarchy (Events, Parties, People, Trips).

This worked for a while, but there were a few problems:

  • I found that some albums were hard to categorize. “Trips” became a codeword for “photos during travels not caused by an organized event”.
  • “People” was meant to be a category of albums that featured a single person. It remains almost entirely empty.
  • When my photo taking really started to increase during 2004, I found that the labor involved with selecting images for inclusion in these “best images” albums was causing me to lag tremendously on actually posting the images. Adding metadata could be added progressively after the images were put online, but all the image pre-processing that occurred before uploading onto the site was creating a major bottleneck in the process.

So I started posting essentially every photo I’ve taken going back to 1999 (excluding some small photo sets that I took for business or otherwise didn’t want on my site). I got most of my backlog of photos onto the site, but there were still problems:

  • The browsing facilities on this website don’t make looking through tens of thousands of photos very easy. I had hoped that the faceted browsing pages for people, places, and things would help, but since you can only use one facet at a time, their use is fairly limited.
  • The new full-content albums weren’t getting sorted into the existing categories. This resulted in a divide between the old, categorized but filtered, albums, and the new, date-based, all-images, albums.
  • With so many photos being put online, I found I wasn’t adding metadata to many photos anymore. Part of the problem was the poor state of my home-grown annotation tools, but the end result was an almost complete lack of photo titles, a drastic reduction in annotated things, and almost no new people being added to the system (depictions of people already in the system were still added).

Recently, I’ve been reverting to my old ways, using Flickr to showcase my favorite images from a set before I have the time to post them on my site. I don’t like the duplication of effort required to annotate photos locally and on Flickr, but I find the ease of posting and the community aspects (contacts, comments and favorites) of Flickr to be worth the effort.

At this point, I honestly don’t know how I’ll proceed with posting photos. I believe it will likely be some sort of middle ground between posting all photos and posting only a few selects. However, I’m not sure where that middle ground is; At what point do I make a cutoff and say, “this photo isn’t good enough to be put online”? Perhaps the solution is to continue posting all the photos, but change the presentation on the site to only showcase a subset. This would be made easier if I could start extracting my existing photo ratings from Aperture.

I’d also like to get to the point where I have some integration between my site and Flickr, so that I only have to annotate photos once. (The problem I see here is that the complete lack of semantics in the Flickr tagging scheme is fairly limiting when dealing with the rich semantic annotations I’m used to using locally.) I’ve also wanted to open up my photos to commenting for quite some time, but I find that this ability on Flickr has me conflicted. As with the annotations, I don’t like the idea of comments being separated between my site and Flickr.

So that’s where I’m at now with my photos: confused. I don’t (yet) have a good strategy for uploading, annotating, and sharing my photos in the future. I want to continue working with both my own site and with Flickr, but don’t know what content should go where, or how it should be presented. I’m open to suggestions, though, so if you’ve got thoughts on my photos (too many to view easily? too hard to navigate? too little annotation?) or suggestions for how to make things better, I’m listening.