5 Tips for Organizing Your Digital Photos

Girls in front of laptop looking at digital camera photos

Our smartphones make it a cinch to capture every moment, from fancy entrées to goofy candids and enough selfies to fill the cloud. It’s estimated that 1.2 trillion photos will be taken in 2017, which begs the question: How will we ever organize them all?

Photo management has become such a conundrum in our modern lives that you can actually hire a personal photo organizer to tackle the task for a fee. But thanks to our handy guide, you can save yourself the money — and perhaps use it to buy some actual prints of all those digital photos.

Download Photos Consistently
Although popular knowledge says a habit can be formed in 21 days, it’s been shown to be more like two to eight months. Make downloading easier by tying it into other daily or weekly tasks. Did your pushups this morning? Good! Now take a few minutes to download yesterday’s photos from your camera or phone. This first step is the key to not only organizing photos but also protecting them from being lost or damaged.

Tip: Microsoft comes with Photo Gallery, which automatically opens photos when downloaded. There are also several third-party photo editing and management software options, like PhotoDirector, Adobe Lightroom, PaintShop Pro and more.  

Woman working at her laptop.

Plan for Future Photos
Set up a filing system on your computer with folders, which can be created by right-clicking on a blank area of your desktop and choosing “New” and “Folder” from the menu. Many people organize photos by both date and event. For instance, create a folder for each year, and inside of it, a folder for each month. Within those folders, create more for events like Amy’s Wedding, Baby’s First Birthday, Florida Vacation, etc. The goal of the folder system is to make it easy to find a particular photo you are looking for.

Tip: Label months by number, not month, so they are in order within the folder.

Editing and Renaming
Once imported from your smartphone, your photos are probably identified by random numbers that aren’t very handy when searching for a picture from kindergarten graduation. Once you edit photos for red eye, cropping or color, rename them according to what makes sense to you, then delete duplicate and poor-quality shots. Although this may feel counterintuitive, getting rid of blurry or unflattering pictures makes it easier to find the great photos you’ll want to share.

Tip: Add tags to photos to make finding them even easier. You can do this in Photo Gallery by clicking the “Add Tags” icon. Most third-party software photo programs also offer tagging.

Make Room
Once photos are organized and secure, it’s safe — and recommended — to delete them from your phone or digital camera, freeing up space for more photos!

Tip: If you accidentally delete a photo from an iPhone, the iOS 8 launch included a safety net: Deleted images are temporarily moved to the Recently Deleted album, where they are stored for 30 days. For Android, there is an app called DiskDigger, available in the Google Play store, that scans your whole device for deleted files.

Safe Keeping
Now that your photos are organized and you have a user-friendly method for keeping them that way, consider how to keep them safe. One way to save photos is by purchasing high-quality prints and creating physical photo albums. Another option is an external hard drive, which allows you to drag and drop photos. A drive with 500 GB of storage will hold about 200,000 photos, and at around $100, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to ensure your photos will be safe if anything happens to your computer. There are also dozens of online sites that offer storage, printing, and online sharing services. You can read more about online photo storage options here.

Tip: CDs/DVDs are a cheap and easy way to save back files of photos, but they can easily be scratched or lost, so using one of the other options is usually recommended.