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5 Easy Tips to Organize Your Photos

Updated on September 6, 2016
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Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge.

What do you do with all those photos on your computer?
What do you do with all those photos on your computer? | Source

Managing Your Digital Photos

Let's face it: we're all busy and who among us has perfectly organized photo albums on our computers? I know I don't - but I've found some great ways to work on that.

I take hundreds of photos a month and I have to be able to find them quickly and efficiently for articles, blogs, etc.

With hundreds and hundreds of photos to rummage through, I've developed a system to quickly find the photos I'm looking for without too much fuss.

With a little bit of time and patience, you can organize your photos in simple ways.

Organize your photos by date as soon as you can.  It only takes a minute.
Organize your photos by date as soon as you can. It only takes a minute. | Source

Tip One: Add a Date to Every Photo Folder

  • If you only have time to do this and nothing else, this step will help you more than anything else because it's much easier to remember dates around the time you had an event.

For example, I went on a beach trip last spring. I can't remember if I went at the end of March or in early April. But, it will only take a second to look at my folders labeled for March and April to find those photos.

  • If you're lucky, when you upload photos to your computer, your camera automatically and conveniently organizes your photos by date, thereby saving you from having to do this important step.
  • If not, as soon as you get the photos uploaded, go into your pictures folder and date each folder when you took the picture.
  • Here's a handy tip: your camera should also have a date and time stamp (if you set that up!) for each photo, so if you have 2,000 pictures stored on your camera because you never seem to get around to uploading them, you can easily refer back to your camera for accurate dates.
  • Be sure to put the year on the date, too. That way, you'll know that 12-25-12 was more recent than 12-25-11. All those Chrismas photos sometimes blend together, don't they?

Tip Two: Delete Unwanted Photos

  • If you delete unwanted photos immediately, you won't have to weed them out months or years later and they won't take up space on your computer's hard drive.
  • Yes, delete the dark, blurry images that are not useable. Also delete the terrible snapshots you never want anyone else to see.
  • Delete duplicate or very similar images.
  • If you resize an image for the internet and create a second copy of that image to do so, only save it as long as you need the image. For example, if you want to upload it to Facebook, delete the smaller, resized image after doing so. This will save hard-drive space and really, how often are you going to upload the same photo?

Source

Do you have your photos organized by subject?

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Tip Three: Creatively Name Your Photos

Let's say you get a little more time and you want to organize your photos even better. You have them separated by date, you've eliminated all the bad photos. Great job! A lot of people don't do this.

Now, begin to creatively name your photos. Why?

Consider this: "Christmas 2012" is a lot more vague than "red christmas ornament 2012" and it only takes a second or two longer to type the longer name.

Later on, when you want to locate that perfect photo you took of Aunt Margaret's unique Christmas ornament, you can do a search within your pictures folder and easily find that photo.

I personally organize my own folders by date and then by subject - I have tons of pictures of flowers and I needed a way to distinguish them from winter flowers and other types of floral subject matter.

Next step: organize your photos by subject, with creative names.
Next step: organize your photos by subject, with creative names. | Source

Step Four: Only Do One Folder At a Time

  • It can be daunting to tackle tens if not hundreds of folders all at once. If you're just starting to tackle a project like this, just take it a little bit at a time.
  • Start with the easiest ones first - the most recent. You'll make great progress and it'll go much more quickly because your memory will be more fresh.
  • Do just one folder at a time. That way, if you need to step away, you'll be able to pick up with the next folder.

I back-up and store my images on my "passport" - an external hard drive.
I back-up and store my images on my "passport" - an external hard drive. | Source

Step Five: Back Up Your Photos

All that effort and uh-oh, your computer crashes....

  • It's a really good idea to back-up your photos and it's even better if you "automate" the process so that you don't even have to think about doing the backing-up yourself.
  • I have an external hard drive on my computer and it stays attached to the USB port at all times except when I'm travelling with my laptop.
  • Every time I upload pictures onto my hard drive, my external hard drive automatically makes copies of all of my data - I don't even think about it.
  • This has saved me for more than just the obvious. Sometimes, I'll edit a photo and change it up. But, I'll forget to save it as a new copy and there have been times I've needed the original photo back. My external hard drive will have the original saved photo because it backed it up in the first place.
  • Not only that, as you make new folders and save your images by date, your external hard drive will automatically back up all your new copies.
  • To be sure, there are other ways you can back up your photos: you can upload them to image-storing websites, to other computers and more. However, nothing beats automating the process and external hard drives that can store terabytes of data, depending on how much memory you purchase.
  • One thing to note: always check to be sure your external hard drive has indeed backed up your photos. Automation makes the process easy, but double-checking keeps you safe.

© 2013 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It took me about two years before it dawned on me to add a date to each folder. Sure made finding pictures easier. LOL I never claimed to be smart, Cyndi!

      Great suggestions my friend; have a great weekend.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      BB - aw, thank you, you too! I hope Bev is feeling better. Yes, dates are good - in all forms, HAHAH.

    • photographyadvice profile image

      photographyadvice 4 years ago from UK

      Good tips! A couple I'll add is that I like to use the international date format, i.e. year-month-day. I find it easier to sort through large numbers of folders that way as you can easily locate a folder by year, then by month, and finally by day, just by its position amongst the other folders (when sorted by name).

      The other tip is that if you have time, it can be good to add tags to your photos. It's a bit like your renaming tip, except you can add lots of tags to a photo. It can be quite time consuming though. Something like Google Picassa can be used to tag photos and search photos by tags. (I think photo tagging is built into windows as well).

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Great tips, photographyadvice - I like your dates idea AND tags are good. I didn't add it here as not all computers/programs allow you to do with without using external programs, but even I need to look into tagging. :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      I think step five is one of the most important, because I was recently looking for my honeymoon pictures and realized they were on my old computer and not my newer one. I do have the photos and thought to myself, please don't let me have to scan all these in. Then, I remembered we have a external hard drive that Kevin has and used to back up tons of stuff in the past. I got it out and lo and behold the photos were on it. Crisis averted and Kevin saved the day by backing them up. Loved this article and am sharing it all over. Great tips Cyndi!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Janine - that's AWESOME! Yes, my external hard drive has already saved me more than a few times. I am thinking about getting another so I can have backups of my backups and get everything off my computer so that when my computer dies, I'll have everything in two places already. :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      The good old days of keeping photos in shoeboxes is over? No one told me!:) My daughter who is an event photographer finally has me organizing my photos the right way. Excellent advice CC.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      Keeping photos organized is definitely a chore. One thing I would suggest is to put the year first, then the month and then the day. If you use numbers, your folders will always be in chronological order. Otherwise 10 winds up near 1 instead of being around 9 and 11. I try to use tags, but I do have trouble taking the time to label them all. Excellent advice here.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Sunshine - hey Sunshine! :) Haha, you know, I do still have shoeboxes of photos, lol. That's GREAT that your daughter is an event photographer! Thank you for stopping by!

      MT - it is a chore, isn't it? Haha. You're right about that dates, for sure. Yeah, the tags - because I title my photos, I don't generally bother with tags, but that's also because I tag them when I upload them to my blog...I just can't make myself tag them twice, lol.

    • aykianink profile image

      aykianink 4 years ago

      "All those Chrismas photos sometimes blend together, don't they?"

      Yes! That is EXACTLY why I started dating things. Though for me, it was New Year's pictures.

      Here's a small tip: When naming pictures, use people's names. For instance, "Kite Day" is not quite as good as "Kite Day - Iris orange knots." This way, later, when you CTRL + F "kite" and "Iris" this particular image will pop up.

      "•Every time I upload pictures onto my hard drive, my external hard drive automatically makes copies of all of my data - I don't even think about it."

      Head's up. EVERY, and I mean every, single one of my friends that fixes computers has told me NOT to use the 'automatic backing up' of files that hard drives offer. Backing up is always a good idea, but the automatic stuff is not so good (apparently).

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great topic for an article! Now that I've gotten more serious about my photography and am taking hundreds of pictures each month, I've also had to get serious about my organization. It's been a slow process, but I'm getting better about immediately sorting newly uploaded photos. I still need to work on labeling more photos and deleting unwanted photos right away. All of your tips are right on! Thanks for the great resource.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks, thanks for breaking down a daunting task into doable. :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Oh Crimeny Cyndi! This is crazy...I just told my husband after all the photos I took yesterday - I have to go thru all my memory chips and organize them. They are not even in one place. That's what I planned to do today. Put a little football on, sit in bed and organize my pix! You came out with this in perfect time to help me!! TY

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Can I just hire you to come fix my mess-o-photos? :) Great advice, CC. Voted up and shared!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Aykianink - I love how you added more tips! :) I often include names. :)

      As for the 'automatic piece' - hmm, you gave me an idea. I always, ALWAYS check to see that my external hard drive has added everything correctly - I mean ALWAYS because I have to go through my photos so much. So...I'll add a little diddy in my article about making sure to check. :) Thank you.

      Rose - I know, right? I really had to start organizing once I upgraded my camera and REALLY went nuts with photos, lol.

      RTalloni - this is exactly why I wanted to share this article because I once was truly daunted by all my photos, but now it's all pretty easy. :)

      Kelly - HA! It's ESP: I had you in mind when I was writing this. ;) LOL. Just kidding, but I am glad it helped.

      Terrye - haha, consider me hired! Now, when ya gonna fly me to Arizona? HAHAHA. HUGS!

    • aykianink profile image

      aykianink 4 years ago

      I helped Cyndi! Yay! *dance a jig of glee*:-)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I probably should follow this advice. I intend to indiscriminately take pictures because of the lack of cost and because it's easy. What ends up happening, however, is that the pics get filed away and never processed because there's so much. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Aykianink - you did! You did! LOL

      Alocsin - great to see you. Yeah, this is exactly what I did before and then...the picture amounts just...kept...growing, haha. This is what I figured out as a solution, lol.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      This I do and love the way I can look at a folder and pull from the contents easier. Great advice and very welld one, Cyndi! Always good to read your posts because I learn so much from them. Thanks. Voted up and shared!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Nobody knows better than I do that I have to organize my material better. I have been separating birds in each folder, or I should say I have been trying to do that. I have an external hard drive, which I believe has been storing my material, since the drive is filling up.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Dianna - Thank you so much! I appreciate you!

      Aviannovice - hehe, I agree - I needed to get organized and this hub is exactly what I did, haha. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Excellent tips Cyndi! I have been trying to do some organizing as I upload photos, but alas where does the time go!! I really like the idea of that large external hard drive. Definitely need to look into that as an option.

      Voted Up and Useful. Nice Job!

      Pearl

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Great tips from a great photographer. I am a bit anal and have my photos in three places; on my computer, on backup hard drive, and I keep my cards from my camera besides.

      I've changed my camera to put the date right on the picture so I can't forget when I took it. Its so frustrating to find a picture and have no idea what year, never mind month, it was taken.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Interesting hub! I have iPhoto and find it incredibly difficult to use. I have up to 5 copies of the same pics for reasons I have yet to figure out. Up and shared.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Grandmapearl - great to see you! Ah, you have reminded me that I also need to get back into writing more about my herbal hubs and such! Thank you, too, for your feedback!

      Tillsontitan - you are a gem! Thank you for your feedback, too! That analness will pay off - you just never know when. Cheers to you my friend!

      Glimmer Twin Fan - Thank you for stopping by! You'd think that with Apple's ability to use intuitive programming, that iPhoto would be easier to use. Oh well, lol. I hope you have a wonderful day!

    • Silwen profile image

      Silwen 4 years ago from Europe

      My Photo folder is quite messy and your tips are useful. The most important thing for keeping your photos organized is to organize them each time you upload them to your computer. If you leave them for later, it will become a disaster when you will try to find "that great photo" after a year. Thank you for your tips, they are really useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Silwen - haha, until I implemented these steps, my photos were a mess. Sure, it takes a little more time, but a little more time saves me a LOT of effort, haha.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I need to spend a day organizing all the photos on my drive. I wish I'd deleted the not so good ones first because that would have saved me so much trouble. Awesome article, voted up and sharing! :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Melanie - hehe, it definitely makes it easier if you weed out those darky, icky, blurry photos immediately and then it cuts down on your work for later. I hope you've had a great Wednesday! :)

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 4 years ago from Illinois

      Great suggestions Cyndi. It's easy to let chaos ensue when it comes to digital photos if you don't have a good system in place like you suggest. I label my top level folders by subject, then within each subject folder is a folder for each year, and then within each year folder are folders for months. I actually want to get all my photos off my laptop's hard drive and put them on an external hard drive. As my husband rightly pointed out to me, I will need to use a second backup method - another external drive, etc. Great tips. Voted up and useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Ktrapp - hehe, yes, even I need to get a second external drive. *sigh* LOL. Thank you so much for YOUR useful tips. :D

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      This is such a helpful article, and something I really need to do. I thought I was the only one who didn't have my photos organised! Thanks for this

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Vickiw - thank you so much! I'm glad you found this helpful. I had to get organized and I figured I could help others do the same. :)

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Oh how I need to organize my photos on my computer. I do have them by date but I really need to go in and delete some of them and reorganize them. Sounds like a project for me to do this weekend.

      Very useful hub!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Susan - thank you. :) Yeah, it really helps to deal with the "virtual clutter" every now and then - it makes life a little more bearable, lol. Have a wonderful day.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Great tips. There are just so many that like anything you just have to start somewhere and keep at it.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      FlourishAnyway - thank you! Indeed...it's a little-by-little thing. :)

    • joedolphin88 profile image

      Joe 3 years ago from north miami FL

      Its amazing how easy it is to organize pictures through our cell phones now. Hope you'll check out my tech article on a company called CellAllure they have a phone called the Lite S that is very impressive. Has an amazing camera for organizing just to pique your interest

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 3 years ago from Western NC

      Joedolphin88 - thank for your comments. Cell phones can be very handy for organizing, too.

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