How to organize digital photos

How to organize digital photos? Digital photos have been a fantastic new technology. However, with every new technological advantage, over time, we find out the down side of this fantastic new phenomenon.
The negatives for digital photography are clearly overwhelm - it is so easy to create hundreds of snaps from the one event. And now most of us are having to learn, how to organize our digital photos, as well as learning new software programs that go with it. On this page we look at how to really organize digital photos.

Steps to on how to organize digital photos

Of course there is some variety in how people approach this rather large job but here are a the steps I go through when I organize my photos.

  1. Download pictures
  2. Put in one temporary folder (I like to call it; ‘TO SORT’)
  3. Delete all bad / no significant photos
  4. Do a quick sort on categories
  5. Sort again and work on photos in more detail (Crop, edit and Name)
  6. Share your photos with others

1. How to organize digital photos - Download your pictures

I find this by far the most annoying job as the pictures show up in random folders and several photo sources need to be downloaded (digital cameras, iPhones, iPads etc.) to get all the pictures.

To make it easier; a card reader is a fantastic tool. One $10,- card readers tends to be able to read the memory card of a range of different cameras.

For mobile Phones in most cases you need cable to connect to your PC.

Note: On this page I mainly talk about how to organize digital photos. If you are not familiar with downloading them to the computer, ask a friend, relative or see if there is a good Youtube video that will help you (you will need to keep in mind the make and model of your camera, phone and computer as they all download slightly differently).

2. How to organize digital photos -
Put all images in the "To Sort" folder

Which ever way you download your digital photos make sure they all end up in one folder (I suggest the "TO SORT" folder) so at least your photos are organized in one main folder. To learn more about digital folders and folder structure have a read through this page.

I organize my digital photos on my computer in year and topic categories.

I have the following files; 

  • Digital photo’s > Year > Topic. The topic in this case is a ‘to sort‘ folder.
  • You can have another system say Digital photo’s > Topic > year. 

The difference between these systems is in how you think upon retrieval. To find a picture of my daughter, I first ask myself if I want a current or older picture. If I want a picture from 2012, my folders are as follows:

  • Digital photo’s > 2012 > my daughter (Ayesha)

If I would think differently but still want a picture of my daughter from 2012, I might create folders like this; Digital photo’s > Name Daughter (Ayesha) > 2012

If you would like to learn more about this concept which is called "mother" and "child" categories in organization speak click here.

How to organize digital photos - very important point:

Back up! All throughout this process and every time, you stop this organizing task for the time being. Please save the changes and back it up (using for example Dropbox or a hard disk). Losing precious memories and hours of work is preventable with a few easy steps. It also allows you to clear your camera’s memory cards giving you a clean slate to snap away with in future.

3. How to organize digital photos - 
Use the delete key!

Use a program that allows you to quickly view and delete pictures. Like windows photo viewer. Go through your pictures quickly, deleting all the bad, blurry, unflattering or 50 times repeated pictures. Keep your photos to only quality shots and special memories.

4. How to organize digital photos -
Do a quick sort on categories

In your ‘to sort’ file you now only have good quality pictures you want to keep. They will mostly have a similar theme or topic, create a folder for each theme examples of these are Folders for your children, a folder for Christmas or birthday celebration or the special holiday you went on.

Once you set up your more specific folders, go through all pictures and drag them to their ‘homes’ this will be folders with names that make sense to you and will be easy to find back when you are after a particular photo in future. 

To organize your digital photos ask yourself with every picture; ‘If I want to find it back in a year from now, what will I think?’ Create folders that repeat that thought pattern as described above and go through until all your pictures are sorted and the "TO SORT" folder is empty.

Another example from my own photo organizing system is say I am looking for a Christmas picture from 2008. I can find it as follows: Digital photo’s -> Photos overall sorted in category* -> 2008 -> Christmas

But you can also use: Digital photo’s -> Christmas -> 2008

*once photos are older than 2 years I file them in a folder called ‘Photos overall sorted in category’ this keeps my first folder 'Digital photos' less cluttered.

5. Sort again and work on photos in more detail 

Once you have emptied the "TO SORT" folder, it is time to go through all the pictures again. But this time, we will go through them in more detail. Make sure within the folder that you are happy with the snaps, crop, edit and work with the photos if you want to / need to. You should be left with organized and good quality photos. 

6. How to organize digital photos - Share your snaps with others

Decide if you want to send these photos on or share in any other form in which case you might opt to duplicate some photos and place them in different folders.

Prior to getting my photos printed I create a "TO PRINT" folder on my computer (or USB) which allows me to print all the photos I want in one clean sweep. There is a variety of options in regards to printing these days like bring it to the shop (on a USB) or order straight from the net. Either way having the photo's you want printed presorted will save you time and effort.

A few final things to keep in mind when organizing digital photos

  1. This is not the easiest organizing project.
  2. These steps are most likely not done in one sitting, this of course depends on the amount of photos you have. If you have years of digital photos to go through slow and easy does it. A commitment of say 3 hours a week will keep you moving forward. 
  3. Regular digital photo sorting time is recommended it is one of these great winter organizing projects, set a time and date and stick to this.

    It is also recommended to organize your photos straight after a holiday, or a big event like a wedding and added bonus is that you get to enjoy all the newly created memories this time around.

If you have years of photos to sort

Years of photo sorting can become a massive mountain to climb, if you are in that situation take say 150 pictures per full session and go through the above steps. another way of doing this is going through all pictures of one particular year or one  event. This breaks the project down in smaller achievable goals. You can then tell yourself you still need to sort through 5000 pictures, but at least the pictures of that special holiday are sorted.

At every little goal achieved, pad yourself on the back and continue with the next “pile of digital photos”. Once you sort through your pictures every year and / or every event, it becomes a manageable task and the joys of having organized photos is immense!

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