Past, Present, and Future: How to Organize ALL your Photos!

June 24, 2021

If you’re like most people, you have a lot of photos everywhere. On your phone, on your desktop, on your hard drive; oh, and then there’s your old laptop and cellphone from “before iCloud” that you know you have some photos on that you really need to do something with…. Yikes. How to organize all your photos? It may seem daunting, but here’s a step by step system to rein it all in.


Let’s Talk About Solutions For Backing Up Those Photos!

One of the biggest mistakes people make is that assuming that digital photos will always be accessible. The problem is that technology is constantly updating, and unfortunately, constantly failing as updates are made. There’s a saying in the photography industry that “it’s not if a hard drive fails, it’s when.” So having backups of your backups is key!

So, let’s go through some solutions for you to get those photos safely backed up!


#1 Round Em Up, Get Em OUT!


The first thing you want to do is identify where all your photos are and make sure you can access them. Plug in that old phone, that computer, and make sure you can boot them up and view the photos. Make a list of where everything is, and then we’re going to begin the process of backing them up.

Take a look at the folders and note down the size of the file folder. This will help determine the size of a backup device/cloud you will need to store the photos safely. Cell phone photos are much smaller in file size than photos taken with a point and shoot or on a DSLR. For most people, a 1-2 terabyte hard drive or cloud storage option is plenty! 

The good news? Storage prices have plummeted over the years, so you should be able to find something that doesn’t break the bank.


# 2 Decide Where to Store Your Photos


There are several different options to store your photos. Getting a game plan in place is great- just keep in mind the actual transferring steps come a little later on. Curious what your options are? Keep reading!

Hard Drives

These are inexpensive and easy to work. You just plug them into your computer and transfer the files. I prefer hard drives with solid-state drives (SSD) because they transfer faster and are a bit more reliable. Pay a little bit more, and it will save you the frustration of the transfer bogging down your computer!

Cloud Services

Services like iCloud, Amazon Photos, Dropbox, and many others offer services to upload and store your photos in the cloud. They sync with your phone, so you can set backups daily or weekly for peace of mind. You can’t beat the price of them; most of them are very inexpensive when you break it down! 

Also, be aware that it can take many, many days to back up all of your photos if you use these services. Upload speed depends on your internet speed as well as the file size, so don’t be surprised if it takes you a while to get them all loaded up in there!

I recommend that you store your most precious photos to a cloud service, even if you have them saved in other locations. This is because it’s worth knowing that if something physically happened to where the photos are stored, you have a backup.


If a cloud service isn’t your cup of tea or you live in an area where uploading is laggy, then a NAS (Network Attached Storage) may be a great solution for you! A NAS system connects to your network but allows multiple devices to access and store photos on it.

I personally use NAS as my day to day back up. Why? We have a hybrid marriage (he’s PC/Android, I’m ios/Apple), and our NAS system allows us to “digitally communicate” everything from photos to shared files on our computer. It’s like having your own private cloud within your home.


#3 Cull and Edit


You’ve decided what your ultimate organization destination will be. Now it’s time to Marie Kondo your photos.

You know how you take 123 photos of your dog doing something cute because you can? Well, when it comes time for photo storage, you’ll soon find out why you wish you didn’t. Every one of those little pixels that make up a photo takes up space. So, I highly suggest you go through the photos and delete those that don’t spark joy

Of course, this is optional, and I’d never deny someone keeping a photo of a precious pet or sweet baby. But I bet you can eliminate some of them (blinks, double chins, too much blur, that time your toddler had your phone for an hour, etc.), which will also make finding your favorites easier.

If your file sizes are very large (like from a DSLR camera), they may take a long time to view in the culling process. Consider a speedy photo renderer like Photo Mechanic to cull photos even faster.


#4 Organize


How you organize your photos is totally up to you. Use whatever method makes the most sense to you! For example, some people organize by year/month; some organize by the event.  Whatever way you organize them, be consistent across all the platforms you use!

This is another reason I love NAS system too- it’s just like organizing a regular file folder on desktop. Sorting and subfolders galore!

Now’s a good time to order prints too, since prints are just one more back up!


#5 Workflow Tips


Repetition and consistency are key when it comes to photo organization. Once you get a system down, stick to it!  Here are some tips for you


  • Once a week, go through your phone and delete anything that you don’t want. Sunday nights, chillin’ on the couch before the week starts for example. Then, go through your phone and set it to upload to the cloud storage of your choice overnight. Keep that critical eye and toss anything that doesn’t spark joy. 
  • When you are getting ready to go through old folders of photos, delete anything that isn’t worth uploading. Don’t waste time or space uploading blurry photos, misfires, or screenshots you don’t need.
  • Once you choose the way to organize your photos, do everything the same every time. Name the folder, edit out what you don’t want, upload the folder to whatever storage solution you choose. Once you have confirmed that everything has transferred, you can move on to the next. 


Phew!  Don’t you feel better now that you have a plan? Photo backup is like any other chore you’ve been putting off. Now that you know how to organize all your photos, it will be much easier to keep up, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!


Before there’s a photo tragedy, take some time to start working on preserving those memories of yours!  And if you need a photographer in the Phoenix area to create those memories for you, I’m ready to help.



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