How To Organize Your Digital Photos in 5 Steps
We've all been there... A phone full of photos that don't get printed; a google photos account telling you it's running out of space; a computer full of photos in random places with no rhyme or reason to their organization (or lack thereof).
Our parents used to have shoeboxes full of printed photos (half of them blurry and pointless). Today, we may have replaced shoeboxes with digital folders, but we have the very same problem.
Our photos aren't getting organized and we aren't doing them justice. They hold our most precious memories, and yet we often shove them into a dark corner of our desktop computer or phone and forget all about them.
So how do we organize our digital photos so we can actually store our memories in a way that makes sense?
Let me help you.
I think I finally mastered how to organize my photos after some trial and error, and my method made it easy to document the year as the months progressed.
I found that if I have a good system in place for how I gather and organize everything, I can find what I need when I need it, and creating photo books or scrapbooks during or at year's end is a breeze.
So here's the method I use and how you, too, can organize your digital photos in a way that makes sense and honors all those precious memories. (FYI, these tips work well for organizing your videos as well)
How to Organize Your Digital Photos
Step One: Make Sure Your Date is Accurate
If all your photos are being taken on your phone, you can skip this step. But if you are using a DSLR or point and shoot camera, make sure your date is set correctly so you can easily organize the photos by date later!
Step Two: Edit & Delete Photos Regularly
Take time to go through and edit the photos and videos you've acquired every 1-3 months. This is helpful for maintaining space on your phone or photo account, but will also be a lifesaver when you are putting together photo albums.
I regularly scroll through my photos/videos on my phone or in my online backup account and make some ruthless choices. Sure, those 17 pictures of your 3 month old smiling are cute, but do you really need all 17? Pick one or two of the best and delete the rest.
(on second thought, maybe I’ll keep all of these… gosh, he’s cute!)
If you can whittle down each event throughout the year to only the best photos, putting together a photo book won’t seem so daunting because when it comes time, there’s no sorting necessary to find the best shots.
I also make sure I take the time every few months to clean off my SD card from my DSLR and edit and save any photos I want to to keep into folders on my computer (more on how I organize that later).
Step Three: Download Your Photos By Month
I have an android, so all my photos are automatically saved to my Google Photos account (similarly, Apple users likely have theirs automatically saved to the Cloud) and organized by month. After I edit out the ones I don't need (see step 2 above), I also download the keepers by month and save them to my computer. This step may not be necessary if you plan to just keep all your photos in the online account they are already in. I download them in order to create photo books, and I also save them to an external hardrive as an added safety measure.
Now how to organize all those photos…
Step Four: How To Organize Your Photos on Your Computer
There are lots of options for organizing your photos. Some Mac users might prefer to use iPhoto; it is simple to create smart folders that can group by date or location or person, and you can also create your own folders by event. I used to use this program but found that it took up too much space on my hard drive and I had issues with files shot in RAW (which is how I always shoot with my DSLR). Now I use a cloud-based version of Lightroom to edit and organize all my camera photos so they don't taken up hardrive space.
I also started my own filing system on my computer and found that it works wonders for keeping my photos in a place where I can find them.
The easiest way to do it is this:
- Create a folder on your computer for the year.
- Create subfolders for each month (because I’m OCD, I also put a number in front of each month so that they stay in chronological order instead of alphabetical - ie. "1-January" and "2-February").
- Create folders within the month for special events (ie. birthdays, holidays, first day of school).
With this structure in place, after I download photos from my camera or my phone, I move them into the appropriate monthly/event folder. Now I can find just about anything I need when I create photo books or when I am looking for specific photos from special occasions.
I also keep a “misc” folder for other events that occur throughout the year and don’t fit into one specific month. For instance, I have school folders for each child so that I can add photos from school throughout the year and use them to fill their School Memory Books.
Step 5: Back-up your photos!
You have several options for backing up your photos - please choose one! I once lost a bunch of photos when my external hard drive pooped out, which included pictures from my daughter’s first birthday. Thank God I had posted some on my blog and had web versions of them.
You can use an external hard drive (I would suggest no less than 1 TB in size; it will last you a long time and is under $50) like I did in the past, or you can use an online storage option. You probably already have an online photo account linked to your phone (like the Cloud for IPhone users or Google Photos for android users); just know that you may have to pay more each year for added storage as you begin to fill it up. You can also opt for a service like Amazon Photos or Dropbox. All of these will allow you to save your photos safely and access them from anywhere.
What to Do With Your Organized Digital Photos
Now that you’re all organized, what are you going to do with all those photos? This is really based on preference, some people love creating digital photo books on a service like Shutterfly. If you still love paper, I highly recommend our "On This Day" Album, which is a fun way to document the year month by month so you don't get overwhelmed come December.