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How to Organize Your Digital Photos in 5 Easy Steps

How to Organize Your Digital Photos in 5 Easy Steps

There’s something about January that always puts me in the mood for a good home refresh, clear out and general tidy up. To be honest (self-confessed neat freak here) I like to organize all year round. But I’m usually extra motivated at this time of year. Anyone else with me? I’ve been so busy these past couple of weeks that my husband started to worry that I wasn’t telling him something… but, no, I’m not nesting, just getting organized!

One thing that’s been on my to-to list for a while now is to organize my digital photos. If you’re anything like me, your (thousands of!) photos are scattered across a load of different devices, and hiding on old flash drives and memory cards stuffed in drawers. A complete mess!

And aside from making me feel overwhelmed, it’s not really aligned with the more minimalist lifestyle I aspire to. I’m a definite work in progress, haha.

Anyhow, I recently went about setting up an easy organizational system and I wanted to share it with you all! I can find specific photos so much more easily now that everything is categorized logically. But perhaps more importantly, I now feel that all those treasured memories are stored safely.

This approach doesn’t require the use of any particular software, although you’ll see below that there are various options for backup storage.

There are loads of ways to go about it of course, but this system is very easy to implement and can be tweaked to suit your personal preferences.

How to Organize Your Digital Photos in 5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Edit, edit, edit!!

Part of the problem (for me at least) is that I take way too many photos in the first place. With a smartphone in hand it’s really difficult to resist snapping a quick picture of the kids every time they’re doing something cute or new. Which is ALWAYS! And am I the only one that ends up taking 10 nearly identical photos, just to make sure I get a good one??

I’ve ended up with way more photos than I could possibly need or ever really be able to enjoy in the future.

So the very first thing I recommend doing is a purge! For me it meant deleting all duplicates, overly fuzzy/grainy/dark photos and basically anything that didn’t make me smile when I looked at it.

It can take a while, so I’d recommend tackling it systematically. Take on a year or month at a time, depending on how much time can grab.

This part was actually quite satisfying and left me with a more manageable number of photos to organize.

Step 2: Set up a basic filing system

Next you’ll need to decide on a central location to store all of your photos. I use the Photos folder on my computer which seemed like a logical choice!

Then start by setting up a folder for each year, going as far back as you have digital photos! After that, you have a couple of options for how you want to organize your photos within each year.

One simple way is to structure everything by date. So you would set up folders for each month or season within that year. If you prefix each month with a number (e.g. 01-January, 02-February etc.) the folders will stay in order.

I decided on a slightly different approach – organizing by event instead and setting up folders for holidays, vacations and special occasions. For example “California Vacation” or “Halloween”.

Personally I’ve found that this makes it easiest to quickly find the photos I want. But if you have a large number of photos, you could certainly create folders for each event or activity within your monthly/seasonal photos.

I then created a miscellaneous folder for all of the photos that don’t fall under a particular event.

In addition to the folders for each year, I also created a folder for each of my kids, which I organize by age. I love being able to look back at what my girls looked like or were doing at a particular age.

Step 3: Sort and add your photos

This will be the most time consuming part! But remember that once you’ve done all of the initial legwork, it’ll be so much easier to keep things organized going forward.

Start moving the photos from your various devices and drives into the relevant folders. I’d recommend tackling one device at a time. You can make changes to the initial file structure as you go along if you find that you need to add extra folders.

When you organize your photos like this, you’ll find that it becomes really easy to pick out the photos you need for gallery walls or photo books. Another thing on my to-do list 🙂

Step 4: Back everything up

At this point in my life, I’ve had enough technology die on me to know that I can’t rely on having everything saved in one place alone. Once your photos are organized, make sure that you back them up in at least one, if not two, additional locations!

I currently have a copy of all of my photos on an external hard drive. But since I can’t be trusted not to drop and break that (it happened to me in the past – the horror!) I plan on saving them all to the cloud too.

Here is a great article on the various online photo storage options available.

At this point feel free to go ahead and delete the photos from your memory cards. I don’t delete everything from my phone as I like to be able to access some of my favorites quickly. But this system will give you the ability to delete as many as you want and free up some space!

Step 5: Keep up with it!

Finally, make sure that you routinely copy your new photos to the relevant folders. You can add folders for each new year and event as you go.

You’ve done the initial work and from now on upkeep should involve minimal time and effort going forward.

You can also give yourself a well deserved pat on the back – and admire your beautifully organized photos. So satisfying!

Well there you have it… know you know how to organize your digital photos in five easy steps!

Do you have a system for organizing your pictures? I’d love to hear your own tips!

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3 Comments

  • Reply Jacinta Grand

    I recently organized all of my stock photos that I use for my content and website. It was a such a big project but well worth it! Are there any particular apps you’ve found useful for organizing your photos?

    January 18, 2019 at 6:32 pm
    • Reply Polly

      It feels so great doesn’t it?!! I haven’t tried any apps yet, but I do plan on testing out Lightroom soon!

      January 19, 2019 at 3:37 pm
  • Reply Jessica

    These are all great tips! My pictures are organized on my computer by month and year, but like you, I take way too many photos on my phone. I need to be better about deleting my duplicates. My plan is to try and sit down each night for a couple minutes and delete any from the day I don’t want. Now I just need to get them into photo books!

    January 20, 2019 at 1:34 pm
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