Tons of people use Lightroom. However, I’ve used PhotoMechanic for organization for a long time. It was a favorite with sports photographers back in the day when I first got serious about my photography. It’s inexpensive, fast, and has always done everything I needed when it comes to cataloging.
As for folder structures, to each his own, but here’s how I do it:
My folders are organized by location and year… if certain trips don’t produce a ton of images and I have more than one visit to a location in a given year, I will combine multiple trips’ worth of photos into a single master folder for that location/year.
For example, I’m working on my yellowstone20spring folder now, featuring images taken during my two week outing in June. Previously, I created a yellowstone20win folder from my two week outing in January. My first download to each of these folders would’ve been around 10,000 photos, which was ultimately whittled down to 1000-1500 following my first cull. That’s enough images that I wouldn’t want to combine them into a single “Yellowstone 2020” folder (and who’s to say I won’t be back in the park later in the year), but I have had years when I’ve combined images from 2-3 park visits into a single master folder. Same thing with my Pacific Northwest outings (which are generally shorter and produce fewer images)… they usually just go into a single “PNW YearNumber” folder.
Inside each of these master folders, I have an “originals” folder (RAW files), as well as separate “print,” “web,” and even “videos” folders if I record the latter. I know some photographers that just process at print resolution and upload those large files to the web. I prefer to keep my web files small (which is why my posts here on NPN are usually smaller than others’ posts).
As a result, I do end up with a number of master folders for the same location stretching over several years. Yellowstone, my most-visited locale, now has 40 different folders. Seemingly too many, but a) I can still usually remember when I took a certain picture, and b) I can always do a quick search in Photo Mechanic to narrow down what I’m looking for.
I keyword and rename (subject/month/year/location/number… e.g., beargrizzly0517ys1.cr2) all of my RAW files, which helps with searches, so while having 80-100 different trip folders may be clunky on the surface, finding images is a pretty smooth process. The downside? Keywording, renaming, titling and captioning (the latter of which I only do for web files) is a chore, and does take a bit of time.
Incidentally, you mentioned client images. Like you, I have my client photos—mainly sports stuff shot on assignment—organized by client (with event/year folders inside those master client folders).
Now wait for someone else to chime in and present a process that is totally different!