Organize Digital Photos

Here I list the steps you could take to organize digital photos. I will also explain how to work with photos from film cameras towards the end of this article. By following these steps you will have your photos nicely organized and arranged for easy access later on. This technique does not use any photo management programs.

1. Download your photos to your computer. This is the first step when you organize digital photos. Remember to do this frequently. At the end of the day works well. If you are traveling and don’t have your computer with you, do this as soon as you have access to your computer.

2. Download the photos into folders. Name the folders by date. It is convenient if you make a folder structure (Year – Month – Date). For months and days with single digits, add a 0 in the front so they show up in order. You can also add information to the day folder names to describe the photos. If you have more than one event or subject in the same day, use a, b etc. after the date to distinguish. This also makes searching easier later on. For example, you can search for “Zion National Park” and get all the photos from that event folder. Easy access is what you want when you organize digital photos.

3. Go through your photos. Delete all bad photos - out of focus, motion blur, bad lighting, bad facial expression etc. I have seen some recommendations which tell you to keep only the photo that you will put in a frame and display. I disagree. It is easy to delete, but impossible to recreate. I have tons of photos of my daughter when she was a baby, and I cannot recreate them. And, storage is relatively inexpensive. So delete the photos you know you don’t need or like. Keep all the others. There may be similar photos with minor differences. I usually keep all versions.

4. Back up! I learned my lesson when I lost my photos from a vacation trip once. Now I have my photos backed up in three different places. In addition to the computer hard drive, I have two external hard drives. They have the exact same copy of the folders. The external hard drives are kept in two different physical locations. I also store selected photos on the web with appropriate privacy settings. With a nominal annual fee, you can get unlimited storage on Flickr, for example. Consider backing up using DVDs as well. In short, keep several copies on different media in different locations. Backing up is an integral part of digital photo organizing.

5. You can select the photos you want to print and copy to a temporary folder for printing. Once you have the prints, you can delete the temporary folder.

If you use film cameras, get digital copies when you develop your films. Or you can scan them yourself if you have an appropriate scanner. Once you have digital files, you could follow the same steps described above to organize your photos. Unless you keep detailed notes, you may not know the dates for each photo. Instead, use the time period (Jan 15 - March 13 for example) for all the photos from one roll of film. You can still divide them based on occasion or subject. If you want to keep detailed notes for each photo, take advantage of the camera counter as you are taking photos. 

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