Awesome Tips for Organizing Digital Photos

Digital Photos

Your digital photos are the same as all your other digital files – they need to be organized to find what you want and know what you have.

Not as easy as it sounds. In a recent post, I suggested that you create an unopened email folder within your email account and drag all your unread emails into this folder as a first step to getting your inbox to zero. Let’s consider doing the same with your digital photos. One of the reasons that people avoid organizing photos is that there are SO MANY! It can be overwhelming. So to start the clean-up process, make up a folder for ‘Uncategorized Photos’ and move all of your photos that you have not sorted into this folder. Instant organization! Yes, kind of. Maybe more like instant calming of chaos.

Start with Folders.

Now, decide how you’d like to organize your digital photos. Maybe chronologically, by year and month (that’s how I do mine), or maybe by holiday/event or family member. Start making up folders for your system. Don’t feel obligated to start sorting your photos this minute. Baby steps work well with this kind of project. It’s the next step.

So, here we go. Start sorting your photos. If you are going to organize by date, look up the creation date of each photo by right-clicking on the photo and clicking on properties. This will give you a creation date. Then move that photo into the correct folder. This sounds like it will take a lot of time, but once you get started it goes pretty fast since you will be able to group photos from the same occasion easily. And don’t think that you need to do ALL your photos at one time. This project is workable to complete in small increments.

Here’s another tip from my colleague Seana Turner, of The Seana Method, on deleting photos.

Or you could be like me. Just start today, by creating folders for the system you want to use and start dropping photos in a current folder starting today. Don’t worry about the older photos. They can live in your ‘Uncategorized Photos’ folder for now. I’ll tell you a secret. I started sorting my digital photos in 2011 and have not yet gone back and organized my older photos yet. For me, that’s organized enough.

One of the reasons that people avoid organizing photos is that there are SO MANY! Click To Tweet

Remember to back up all your work!

By the way, you could do the same exercise with a cluttered computer desktop. If you have tons of documents on your desktop, create an “old desktop documents” folder and slide everything in there!

Do you struggle with getting and staying organized?

Are you afraid to start an organizing project just to be overwhelmed or lose motivation in the middle, to be left with even more chaos? You are not alone. That’s the fear of most people who don’t have time to allot to a big organizing project.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.

15 Comments

  1. Judy on November 24, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Don’t post your photos to a site like Flickr without saving all the original photos in your computer (and on a site like Mozy or an external hard drive). Once you upload to Flickr the only way to download is ONE photo at a time.

    • Janet Schiesl on March 8, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      Oh, that sounds terrible Judy. Technology is supposed to make life easier.

  2. Seana Turner on March 8, 2021 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for the shoutout, Janet. This is such a huge project for pretty much everyone these days. I think of how photos are spread across devices (including those old computers), and there really are just so many. I loved your “Click to Tweet” quote!! I was just reading Judy’s comment and thinking how much there is to learn. Definitely start with the current photos.. I feel the same way!

    • Janet Schiesl on March 8, 2021 at 2:32 pm

      Yes, I think, “start where you are” is the best method. If people look at years of photos to start the project it’s too overwhelming.

  3. Linda Samuels on March 8, 2021 at 9:36 am

    I use an iPhone. The photos are stored chronologically, and the iPhone groups them by year automatically. Also, you can search by location and person. They also “live” on my desktop, iPad (everything is synced) and are backed up automatically on an external hard drive and cloud storage. Besides the fact that I have TOO many photos on my devices, I don’t feel the need to organize them into folders further. Is there an advantage to creating folders if they are already organized by year?

    • Janet Schiesl on March 8, 2021 at 2:30 pm

      Linda, I organize them to 1. separate the business from personal photos, 2. I save them on my google account, 3. I like to rename the photos so I can search by date, person, place, etc.

  4. Sabrina Quairoli on March 8, 2021 at 10:08 am

    I love digital folders for digital organization! Thanks for the tips! I transfer my photos to my server automatically, and it is sorted by date order. If there is something I have a lot of, like blog posts for my DIY blog content, I make folders with the same name as the blog post, so I can easily find them in the future if I want them again.

    We also like to do folders for events for our personal events (when we had them). The year was always where we started, so if we remembered the year, we could go to that year first without visiting all the folders.

    • Janet Schiesl on March 8, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      A naming convention is very important when setting up digital folders. You know that the more information in the name, the easier it is to find things. I think once people learn this concept they are off and running.

  5. Janet Barclay on March 8, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve been working on this for quite a few years, and every time I think I have my system down pat, I find folders of photos I haven’t organized. I think I’ll take your advice and put all of them into an Unsorted folder so at least they are in one place. Thanks to both you and Seana!

  6. Linda Samuels on March 8, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    It sounds like that works well for you, and that’s great! I’m going to keep them as they are, which takes zero time, and it works for me. My only issue is how many photos reside on my phone and desktop. And since they all sync, it’s a bit tricky with deleting things because I think it deletes them in all places. To be figured out. 🙂

  7. Julie Bestry on March 8, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    I’m happy with the photo folders on my computer. I’m happy with the photo albums on my phone. It’s when I want to do anything with them that it all gets wonky! Thanks for the great advice!

    I had a digital camera for a few years, so all of those photos are well organized in folders on my computer (and backed up to a hard drive and cloud storage). But the photos I’ve taken with my phone frustrate me. They’re all backed up to iCloud photos, but you can’t take them off your phone without deleting them from iCloud storage too, so I only keep the photos I want to see all the time (like the 4000 I took in Italy!) on my phone, and the rest I download from iCloud to my computer and put in folders. But I hate the way iCloud dates them as if they were taken today, even if the data for each picture acknowledges the right date. I’m sure Google Photos is the way we’re supposed to go, but…I don’t wanna!

    • Janet Schiesl on March 9, 2021 at 7:28 am

      Julie, one of the things that is so frustrating when organizing photos is dealing with technology. It becomes a second project learning about the options and how to use them. Things keep changing so you have to stay on top of things.

  8. Kristin Zucaro on March 9, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Thank you Janet! Not only do I have so many photos, many of them are ones that I could delete and they’re sitting there taking up space for no reason. I think I hesitate to get started just because of the sheer volume! Your tips will help be do the work with ease. Thank you!

    • Janet Schiesl on March 9, 2021 at 10:55 am

      Great Kristin. Yes, start where you are. Create a folder for this month. Then once you get a system started you can go back and slowly do the backlog.

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