Step-by-step tips for organizing and archiving your digital photos, including those from your digital camera and your phone.

Annual Family Photo Book

I didn’t really make any resolutions this year, but I did have a goal of trying to get my digital photos organized, backed-up, and used! I need to take care of my non-digital photos as well, but it felt easier to tackle the digital ones first.

One of the things I get frustrated about with my digital photos is that there are so many of them and it takes forever to find the one I’m looking for. This is my own fault because I took the easy way out each time I was downloading the photos from my camera and didn’t take the time to edit or rename any of them. I had some of my photos backed up on CD’s or flash drives, but I wanted to also have them on cloud based storage so I have copies that aren’t physically in my house in case of some sort of disaster.

So far I’ve made it through organizing 2010-2012. Here are the steps that are working for me.

1) Delete the duplicates. With digital cameras, we often take multiples in order to get the “perfect” shot. Instead of keeping 10 slightly different copies of the same photo, only keep the 1 or 2 good ones.

2) Decide where/how you’re going to store your photos. I didn’t want to have to keep all of mine on our computer because they take up a lot of space. I’m using flash drives for when I want to access them day-to-day and then I’m also uploading them to the Amazon cloud for longer term storage and safety. I’ll also keep the last 2 years on our home computer and delete them after that point. All the flash drives are stored in a box in our office. I put a label for the year(s) directly on the flash drive so it’s easy to find the right one.

3) Edit photos. This can be done now or later, but I’m trying to start editing and enhancing at the time I download them, so that it’s a time-saver later.

4) Create a folder structure. I created folders in the format YYYY-MM and put all the photos from that month into the correct folder. This seemed more manageable because I could set goals to get a few months done at a time without just staring at thousands of photo files. You may want to do yours by event, but I would strongly suggest starting your folder naming structure with the Year and Month.

digital photo organizing - folders

5) Rename your photos. Use the date the photo was taken, event name, and then sequential numbers. If you put the date first, they will all fall together in chronological order. When you do your sequential numbers at the end make sure you use a format of ##, so if it’s the 1st picture, instead of 1, use 01. You’ll thank me later. Maybe this is obvious to most, but I didn’t do that the first few months and ended up going back and redoing them once I realized without the zero, they wouldn’t be in order once you got into double digits.

digital photo organizing - names

6) Upload to your back up source. If you’re using a cloud based back up, it may not be as easy to rename your photos after they’ve been uploaded, so I suggest you do your renaming and all your editing first. I used the same folder structure on the Amazon cloud as I did on my computer/flash drives.


7) Create yearly photo books. I saw this idea on Pinterest from Eighteen25 on creating family yearbooks, and it really pushed me to try to get a photo book done for every year. I had a voucher I had purchased from Living Social over the holidays, so I used that to create my photo book of 2012. I’m trying to work on one book a month for the next year (we’ve been married for 12 years). I know the earlier years will be harder to get done as I need to get our non-digital photos scanned. I’ll be looking for deals on scanning services. 🙂

Here are some snapshots of my 2012 book. I had the year printed on the back cover.




8) Keep up with it! Last but not least, I’m trying to get the photos downloaded from my camera and my phone regularly rather than letting several months go by and then having a few hundred to go through. I take photos on my iPhone more often than I do my camera these days, so I have been using the iCloud feature to automatically save the pictures on my computer. Then I organize my phone pictures in the same way I described above along with the photos from my camera. I don’t differentiate between the two in my organizing process.

I have my 2011 photos organized, but I haven’t finished my book yet. I still have a few days left in the month to meet my one-a-month goal – I can do it!!