Organize Your Photos: Take Control of Your Hard Drive

You don’t need fancy pants software to get your photos under control.  They key is: have a system and stick to it.

Don’t be intimidated!  You can get your photos under control.

This is part 3 in a series about organizing your photos.  Miss parts 1 and 2?  Visit Part 1 – Non-Digital Prints and Part 2 – Organize as You Go.

Purge & Share

Purge again:  If you’ve done a good job purging as you go, this should be easy.  Once you load the pictures onto your hard drive and have a bigger monitor at your disposal, delete any bad photos you may have missed.

Pick some to share: Don’t wait around to create albums.  Pick some of your favorites and upload them to Facebook, flickr, or Picasa.  This is great for family and friends who live out of the area who can’t come over and look at your albums.  Remember when we took 7.5 gigs of pictures on our last vacation?  I picked my favorite 200 to share online.  Take a couple prints to your office and tack them above your desk!

Basic Organization

Folders by Date & Event: I copy all of my pictures into folders and title them like this: “Year-Month-Day Event.”  For example: “2010-01-23 Disneyland.”  Naming folders this way means they will auto-arrange in date order on your hard drive.

I’ve also started keeping a “random” folder for each month to throw random pictures I take around the house.  This month’s folder is “2011-06 June Random.”

Want to try this but you don’t know what the dates of half your pictures are?  Try right clicking on a picture or hovering over it with your mouse.  If your camera has the date set correctly, the date taken is embedded in the file on your computer.  This is separate from the date you put it on your hard drive.

Copy and Sort Pictures Regularly:  If you are coming back from a trip, do this as soon as you get home.  For everyday use, set a realistic goal like once a month or once a couple of months.

Why should you do this regularly?  Because while I was writing this post, I found a folder of unorganized pictures spanning several months that I thought I had lost.  Yup, I learned my lesson.

Set a reminder:  Do you use an email program?  Yeah, you do.  Did you know it comes with a calendar?  I’m talking Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or even Microsoft Outlook.  Don’t use your calendar?  It doesn’t matter.  Figure out your goal and create a recurring event on your calendar.  When you create that event, set it to email you and remind you each time.

I’ll show you with Gmail, but it’s very similar with most programs:

Set how often you would like the event to repeat.  Want to organize photos monthly?  Set it for every month:

Then set a reminder so the calendar will send you an email on that day every month:

I use this technique to set reminders for things like paying bills and remembering when to get my oil changed because I’m nerdy like that.

Yes, this is a lot to think about but you can have a system and it can be very simple!  Still want more?  Stay tuned for some advanced ways to organize.


11 thoughts on “Organize Your Photos: Take Control of Your Hard Drive

  1. These are such great tips and posts. I’ve never taken the time to use a photo organizing program because I can pretty much do everything I want to do right in my folders. I organize in a very similar way and never have trouble finding anything. I have no problem purging either. With a digital camera we take so many photos. I don’t need 10 shots of the same thing so I pick my 1-3 favorites and move on!

    • Thanks! Usually photo organizing programs drive me crazy because I can’t have everything exactly how I want it (and if you’ve gathered anything from these posts, I am pretty particular). The folder system lets me control everything how I want it. I use Picasa for basic editing, but not for organization.

  2. I am happy to say, organizing my digital photos is just about the only thing I am on top of. I organize in folders by year, inside of that by month, and inside of that by date & subject. I don’t use numbers though…so I’d do June 20 instead and am now wondering if I should switch over to numbers now that you’ve mentioned it will automatically organize them. Sometimes for one reason or another a folder will not be in the correct order in my folder.

    • The numbers work for me because I don’t have to do subfolders. I like having all of the folders in one big place so I can scroll through and see them all. The auto-arrange is the best part!

  3. Hmm… put the date on the Folders might help… I just do a generic folder of the year and then the sub folders have the name of the event or trip.

    • Yup, the dates are super helpful. You don’t realize how much you forget when something happened after a couple years go by. Plus, it helps me not to have to dig through several folders by year thinking something happened 2 years ago when something happened 5 years ago.

  4. I just found your site and love your tutorials. Thank you very much. They are exactly what I was looking for. Do you have any tutorials about how to get pictures from Snapfish to my ACDSee Pro Mac?

    • Actually, that’s one of the more annoying things about Snapfish in my opinion. It costs money to download the photos that you upload. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but once you upload or develop film with them, you don’t have a way of getting a digital copy out of them without paying 25 cents for the first photo and 5 cents thereafter (limit 50). I feel like there should be a way to “free” you photos from snapfish if you’ve uploaded them. I’ve stopped using Snapfish as a place to store my pictures for that reason. Good luck!

  5. Pingback: 10 More Things To Do On A Cold Winter’s Day – Down-Home South Jersey

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