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.

Organize Photos as You Take Them

Welcome to Part 2 of Organize Your Photos!  Today I’m covering ways you can organize your photos while you are taking them.  These simple tips can go a long way toward conquering your photo collection later on.

Miss the first part?  Check out Part 1 – Non-Digital Prints here.

Organize as You Go

These tips are applicable for long vacations as well as every day photo taking.  The most important lesson of this post is:

Purge pictures before you get attached.
Don’t let bad pictures ever make it to your hard drive.

Let me explain.

While you are out taking pictures:  Take a few minutes to flip through your camera.  Do this while you are in between things or subjects.  On my last vacation, I did this while we were in the car between sites.  If something came out blurry, delete it.  I’m talking pictures that are blurry enough that you can tell by looking at your tiny camera screen.

At the end of the day: If you are on a trip, take a look at your day’s worth of pictures.  For your day-to-day at home pictures, try doing this once a week.  Load your memory card into your computer but don’t copy the pictures to your hard drive.  Scroll through all the photos and delete more blurry ones or others that didn’t come out.  This way, you clear more room on your memory card for the next day/week.

Don’t feel like lugging your laptop on a trip?  On our last trip, we took our netbook with us, which was lightweight and perfect for going through pictures.  We’d take it to the hotel bar, watch the sunset, and go through our pictures over a drink.  If you have a tablet computer, or an iPod, consider looking into how to hook up your camera or memory card to it.  If you don’t have a computer with you, look through your camera again after you are settled for the day.

These “bad” photos are not abstract art.  I have to keep telling myself that.  If I leave them on my memory card and copy them to my hard drive, I’m likely to get sentimental down the road and think I might be able to use them.  Really, they’ll just end up rotting on my hard drive.

Next week, stay tuned for how I organize and back up photos when I get home!

Organize Your Photos: Non-Digital Prints

Welcome to two weeks of photo organization here at Almost Never Clever!

Summer vacation season has officially begun and cameras are going into overdrive.  I’ve put together a series of posts about how I organize my photo collection.  This system is what works for my Type A personality and will be full of tips!

35mm Photos

You’re thinking:  but wait, I don’t use 35mm anymore.  This doesn’t apply to me.

Do you have boxes or albums of 35mm prints in your closet?  What about boxes of old negatives?

I thought so.

I switched to a digital camera my last year in college.  I had four boxes of 35mm prints waiting to go into college scrapbooks.  Today, they’re nearly gone.  Nearly.  Loyal readers will know I’m almost finished with my last college scrapbook.

Here’s how I tackled the boxes.

Step One: Organize

Divide your photos categories:  You could sort them by year or by type such as vacations, holiday, etc.  I had one box for each year in school and then subdivided them by each event.

Label: Label each category and subdivision so you can easily tell what’s in the box when you look at it and when you open it.  I labeled the outside of each box with the year.  Inside the box, I cut up index cards and made little file tabs for each event.

Step Two: Scan and Back Up

Pick which photos to scan:  Not every photo is worth saving.  Go through photos and remove ones that you wouldn’t go through the trouble of scanning.  Because I used a home scanner, I decided as I went along whether each one was worth it.

Scan away:  I used my home scanner and scanned about 80% of the pictures in the box.  I scanned at 600dpi, which is a good quality setting.  Check your settings before you scan.  Most machines default to 200 or 300dpi.  The higher resolution, the larger the file will be.  Make sure you have enough space on your computer.

Consider using a scanning service:  There are services out there that will scan a box of photos for you.  This is a great option if you don’t have a home scanner or don’t have time to.  You can also use scanners at drugstores.  Most stores let you scan as many photos as you can fit on a CD for a few dollars.  Some examples I found online are ScanCafe and ScanMyPhotos.

Negatives and slides:  Many of the above-mentioned scanning services will also digitize negatives and slides.  If you are using a drugstore, talk to them about developing negatives to a CD.

Use Them!

Get them out of the box: If you are a scrapbooker, go ahead and start scrapbooking with the photos in the box.  If you aren’t a scrapbooker, consider putting your favorite pictures into albums.  Use the scanned photos to make lightweight photo books with MyPublisher, Snapfish or Shutterfly.  These are easier to show and manager than thick albums of 4×6″ photos.

Either way, try some format where the photos aren’t stored in boxes and people can actually look at them.  This may seem overwhelming, but if you begin to chip away at it, you’ll make real progress!

Share:  I upload a portion of the scanned photos to Facebook to share with my friends.  If you do this, make sure your privacy settings are locked down so you don’t share old photos with an unintended audience.   If you have a lot of old family photos, consider making CD’s and distributing to your family members so they can enjoy them.  This is a great option if there are other crafters in your family.


Whatever I don’t put in my scrapbook gets tossed.  There are a few small exceptions, but that’s it.  You have the photos backed up on your computer – this makes you free to purge the hard copies and regain your space.

Negatives:  Once you scan, one thing you really don’t need is negatives.  It felt fantastic to toss the box of negatives  and Advantix canisters (remember those?) I was saving for those just-in-case scenarios.

If you thought you could recycle:  I checked with my local waste authority during this process.  Photos are not recyclable.  It feels horrible to have to toss them in the garbage and I cringe when I think about how much I spent to have them developed.  This exercise will cure you from printing too many digital photos down the road.  This is a big reason why I only print as I go nowadays.

Leftovers?  Maybe some of the photos could use a new home?  I call this part sending my clutter to other people sending pictures to friends.  It’s really fun getting something from a friend in the mail.  I include a note telling them they aren’t duty-bound to save them if they don’t want to.

Phew!  Who knew I could write this much about purging pictures?  It really is easy and worth the small one-time commitment in exchange for more space in your home.

Stay tuned for more posts about photo organization!