How to Organize Digital Photos

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by how many digital photos you have on your phone, laptop, tablet, etc.? Are you stressed by how it’s all mixed together in an unorganized fashion? Maybe you also feel frustrated when you cannot find a specific photo and you spend so much time and energy scrolling through your huge backlog. Also, because photos are digital, there’s an added downside of photos being out-of-sight-out-of-mind. But the looming number of photos sits there in the back of your mind, continuously causing stress. So, what if you took control of your digital photos once and for all and organized them into a simple system? Follow along with me as I walk you through the process of how to organize your digital photos. It will be SO worth it in the end!

First Step in Organizing Your Digital Photos

What’s Your Reason?

As with almost anything, it’s motivating to figure out what your driving reason is behind getting your digital photos organized. Do you want to find pictures of your kids anytime someone asks? Do you wish you could easily put together photo books or other keepsakes? Do you simply want to eliminate the overwhelmingness of having thousands of unnamed photos?

Whatever your reason, keep it in the forefront of your mind because you’ll need it for inspiration when the going gets tough!

Second Step in Organizing Your Digital Photos

Take Stock of EVERYTHING

When I help people organize physical spaces, we pull everything out at one time so we know what we’re dealing with. It’s similar with photo organizing. This means getting everything from your phone, laptop, online programs, external hard drives, and anywhere else all into one place to begin the organizing process. So, gather all the devices that are holding photos and start uploading them to one file on the computer where you’ll be working.

Third Step in Organizing Your Digital Photos

Create Your Plan & Structure

There are many ways to organize digital files, but it’s most important that you choose a structure that works for you. A good way to decide is to think about how you would look for the photos after the fact. Ask yourself questions like, “In three years, how would I look for pictures of my kids from Christmas?” Is it by year or by category? 

Chronological Structure

For some people, chronology makes the most sense. This requires a folder for each year and then subfolders for holidays, events, etc. within each year. Here’s an example to show you what this system might look like:

Category Structure

Another option is to sort by category first, and then the year within that category. This system is good for people who have a hard time remembering what year a certain event occurred, but they know where or what event it’s from:

Once you’ve chosen the structure, set up empty folders ahead of time so you have places to sort your photos in the next step.

Fourth Step in Organizing Your Digital Photos

Begin Sorting

This stage will take you the longest. It requires going through each and every photo and placing it into the corresponding folder. Break this up into smaller sessions and give yourself goals such as “If I sort through X number of photos by this date, I get ___ as a reward.”

Fun fact: you can sort photos while you’re sitting in front of the TV, and it’ll give you a great reason to binge-watch your favorite Netflix series! 

Depending on the number of photos you have to sort through, this stage can take an extremely long time, with many brain numbing moments and maybe limit the time spent during each session. Also, give yourself rewards along the way to keep yourself motivated. You’ll be so happy when you get through the backlog and no longer struggle in the search for a specific photo. 

Clean Up As You Sort

While you’re sorting, be sure to delete duplicates, blurry photos, and pictures you don’t think you’ll want or need in the future. A little bit of tough love now will help you pare down your files drastically!

Fifth Step in Organizing Your Digital Photos

After you’ve sorted through all of your photos, it’s important to put a plan in place for FUTURE photos as well.

One simple plan is to gather all photos from different household devices and family members on the 1st of the month. You can place all of the photos into a ‘To Be Sorted’ file (like the one pictured above) and then sort them into the correct folders at your leisure.

Also, each night before bed (or every Sunday), go through photos taken during the day and delete the excess (screen shots, photos sent to others, pairing down the 20 photos taken of one pose to your favorite 2 and so forth).

Whatever the system is, keep it simple so you’ll be more likely to follow through!

Sixth Step in Organizing Your Digital Photos

Backup Your Photos!

To save yourself a ton of money and heartache, it’s essential these days to back up your electronic files in at least 2 if not 3 areas. This subject could be an entire blog post in itself, so I won’t go into too much detail on how to do your backups but basically: your computer, “The Cloud” (check out online solutions like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Photo, Amazon), an external hard drive (recommended by a client’s IT guy), or the traditional format, print copy. 

The End Result

Organizing your digital photos is a daunting task, but it’s worth it in the end! Imagine having access to all of your favorite photos when you want them, plus the peace of mind in knowing that you have them backed up in case of an emergency.

If you have any trouble with this overwhelming task, give me a call and let me know. I would be happy to help you troubleshoot!

Happy organizing!


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