So here you are happily several years into your role, working on marketing/web/design collateral. You’ve punched out a massive amount of amazing work and gosh aren’t you proud of yourself! Then you get that call from your favourite client requesting an image you used on the cover of that brochure for that thing way back when.

Sure, no problem. [Switch to internal dialogue] “Let me just look on jobs… oh what was it called again… oh no not that one… was the one before that… oh here’s the job… bugger its not here… there’s a crappy low res one… but where’s the high res!? Was it a stock pic? Can’t remember. Pants!”

Don’t go down the same entropic path to chaos as I have too many times. After numerous torturous hunts I finally just set up a media library once and for all. Best done on one of those days when you’ve got creative-block and need something repetitive, non-challenging but extremely worthwhile to do.

How to Categorise and Label your Images and Media

Labelling is a challenge when you’re receiving images from a million different sources with different naming conventions. To change or not to change?

I tend to stick with the original name, so if I am trying to source a higher res from a client later on I can give them the exact file name for what I’m after. This is handy when they need to go back to the original photographer.

Having said that, I recently designed a document with images that came from five different sources. It was the usual dance asking for imagery and getting a pile of low res web images, then finally getting high res and then having to chase captions and sources. One company, however, named their images with the caption and photography credit in the name. This is an excellent method as if it ever gets distributed, it’s plain as day where it came from.

When categorising, you could approach by project, or theme. I think it depends on the client and how you to need to access those images. But it is definitely helpful to have some subfolders within a client folder. Sifting through one giant folder is tiresome, yet having too many sub-folders is tedious. Break it up into logical simple folders. Avoid nesting too many sub-sub folders – the easiest way to dive you insane. Keep them all at one level.

Tag them with keywords for the content, persona, use and project. This gives you more chance of finding them later; e.g. Client, Jeffery, homepage, hero, doctor.


  • Where did it come from?
  • Was it client supplied?
  • Do they own it or did they get it from a third party?
  • Did your trusty designer look for it on Google, or was it purchased from a stock library?
  • Is it just research on a topic from Instagram and Pinterest?
  • Or are these potential stock images?

Either way, while working on a job, group these into folders accordingly. Save light boxes in stock libraries or download low res and store. It’s a shame to waste those hours having to “re-find” where something came from.

Be extremely careful with positionals. I once sourced images from Google when looking for “real” people shots for a photoshoot brief. These were then used in initial mockups which somehow made it into prototype. Somewhere along the line the idea they were final images was adopted… Eeek!!

Don’t worry, we solved that one before it went live. Please label images as positional in file names and PSD layers. Then when storing images, take care to ditch positionals so they don’t end up in your library to taint the waters of legality again.

Store this info in the metadata with the file:

  • who owns the image
  • is there need for attribution and if so what’s the required wording
  • are there limitations to how and how long it can be used.

Where to Store it

Like any valuable resource, whatever your choice, make sure you have a back-up in place. If your media library isn’t big you may choose to store locally, but with so many excellent cloud storage options available – which also offer great collaboration options – why not take advantage of them? Best to keep it in one central repository, but for different media, it makes sense to use an appropriate platform; e.g. YouTube for videos.

Make the Media Library Easy to Find it and Share

Google Drive is a free easy folder-based storage and sharing tool. It’s especially easy to manage and collaborate internally if using Google Apps for Work. You can add basic info to each file.

Extensis Portfolio is a more complex digital asset management tool that offers more options such as keyword tagging for cataloguing and searching your files. If you’ve got a lot to juggle this might suit your needs. It supports all common media formats including image, video, audio, PDF, and native documents from Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office.


Make sure you store your hi-res. Let me just repeat this one. HI RES!!!

I have a little blurb on hand to send to clients when requesting images outlining image size requirements. As most clients don’t have Photoshop, they might not be able to look at pixel dimensions, so just give them some parameters for actual file size; i.e. 4-6Mb jpegs.

Free stuff

Who doesn’t love something free! It may suit you to use free social to store stuff. Create a channel and add all your videos on YouTube. This is not only a simple storage solution, it also provides a broadcast interface for your sharable content as well. Facebook will store high-res too. Flickr is also great for images – with tagging, albums and passworded sharing options.

Check your download folder

Just do it now and see just how many iStock high res are hiding in there. Doomed to loss and obscurity unless you save them!


The key here is: don’t be lazy! Once you’ve got the media library set up, make a habit of filing images as soon as they come in, or at the completion of each project. It can get away from you pretty quickly. Speaking of which I’ve just finished a few jobs so better take my own medicine and get filing!

Written by Raeleen  |  3 April 2020