Tackle this To Do List Item: Organizing your Digital Photos

So you thought you had a lot of old prints and negatives piling up?  Then you got this great digital camera and… last count in iPhoto for me personally was 10,001.  And yes, there are images that aren’t in iPhoto on my hard drive.  This is why the drive is a terabyte!  I don’t recommend keeping this many pictures and seeing that number forced me to face that it was time to clean up!

Sorting and Labeling

  • First things first, get the pictures out of the camera as soon as possible.  Otherwise you may forget and find yourself with a full memory card weeks or months later and pictures you completely forgot about.  Well, that defeats the purpose of taking them then doesn’t it?
  • Second? Just like with prints, get rid of blurry, duplicated, or uninteresting pictures.  Even if your images don’t take up much space on your hard drive.  Unlike with film, where the number of frames you can take by roll is limited, your only limit with digital is your memory card size.  Some find it helpful to limit the size of their card so that they are forced to upload them sooner.
  • Sort your photos by person, event, or year.(more on this farther down)
  • Once your photos are sorted, take the time to tag them.  Again, there are many software programs that exist and may even come with your computer.
  • If you cannot “tag” your photos, then at least name them something that lets you know what it is.  IMG_01234 means squat.  Family Christmas 2010 is at least a clue!
  • If you like to play with your images and use different effects, like converting an image to black and white, then add something to the extension of that file that separates it from the original and SAVE IT AS A COPY!
  • Break it into pieces and label while you are watching tv or traveling this holiday season.

Digital Organization Software

This software is a dime a dozen and many free options exist if you only google.  Instead of listing off what I use (iPhoto for personal stuff, Adobe Bridge and Lightroom for Professional) I’ll just give you some tips on what to look for:

  1. Tagging! This means you can add keywords and other information to make it easy to find the images you are looking for later.
  2. Sorting- My software gives me the option to both name the folder into which I am dumping the files (which usually is an identifier, like Ski Trip or Mom’s Garden) and automatically sorts my images by the month and year they were shot.  A nice back up feature for when I get lazy with tagging.
  3. Editing- it’s nice to be able to crop, remove red-eye, brighten and generally play with your images without crowding your drive with a ton of programs.
  4. Backup features! It’s becoming more common and if you can get then go for it!  Backing up your images is the only way to save them if they haven’t been printed!  Store them on DVD‘s or CD‘s with one click and your done!
  5. Rating System- This definitely helps when trying to decide what makes the cut to get onto the wall or as gifts.
  6. Albums, Calendars, Etc.- Programs like iPhoto allow you to easily create albums, calendars, even websites to be printed and shared.  How easy is that?

Speaking of Storage and BackUp

Just do it.  Just make it a habit.  It’s hard, but once you get into a routine it is well worth it.  I have paid the price ($100/hr) to have someone rescue files from my hard drive.  It took more than an hour.  Trust me, just back up your files.

Keep and original file in one place, and a copy in another. I store mine off of my computer entirely on one hard drive, and have another drive that I use as back up.  If you hard drive fails, is stolen, or damaged then this may be the only option you have for getting those files back.  Techs can do a lot but they cannot restore a melted hard drive. Yes, I also learned this the hard way.  If separate drives is out of your budget then grab a load of cd’s or dvd’s and some paper holders and just burn your files as they are to them.   Store discs in fireproof safes, lock boxes and special archival boxes.  Just be sure that you have a system for storing these if you do have to go back later to restore a lost file.  Label them like you would your digital files for easy retrieval.  Just don’t store your discs or your back up drive in the same place as your computer since fire, theft and water damage won’t save them if they are together.

If remembering to back up is too much of a hassle, there are many programs available that can do this automatically.  For Mac users such as myself, Time Machine will pay for itself the minute File Vault locks you out of your own files because you accidentally hacked your own computer on start-up. (remember what I said about me, photography, and Murphy’s Law?)  Also freeware like Carbon Copy Cloner make a copy of your drive that can fully restore it if it fails; programs, preferences, and everything.

Alternatively, photo sharing sites like Flickr, Shutterfly, Walgreens, etc. offer online storage.  Not only can you order prints and other cool gifts, but you don’t have the files slowing down your computer.


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