Tips for Organizing Digital Photos

Organizing my thousands of digital photos: it’s the task from my to do list that hangs over me like a dark cloud.  Digital photography is both a blessing and a curse.  Sure, you can take as many as you want and never run out of film, but then you have to manage your embarrassment of riches.

Here are some basic steps to get you going.


1. Set the date and time correctly on your camera(s) so that they are accurately recorded on your photos. 

Simple fix now saves confusion later.

2.  Delete on the spot.

After taking 12 pictures of that gorgeous flower on your walk, delete all but the best one.

Iphone photos Sept 2015 1380

3. Upload to your computer regularly and tag and file right away.


1. Collect all of the photos in one place.

I may not have been altogether raving in my review of Spark Joy, but when it comes to organizing, I really have embraced Marie Kondo’s idea of putting like with like and tackling the job of sorting, purging and storing once every last item has been gathered together.  So, dig out all of those memory sticks, gather all of the phone, small camera and big camera photos, and put them all in one spot on your computer.  Sometimes photos from the big camera go into a different place on your computer than the photos from your phone.  Find them all, and then make sure that as you add photos going forward, they all automatically go to the same place.

Then copy that place in multiple back-ups.  See #6.

2.  Create a filing and tagging system that works … for you.

Before you can begin to sort, you need a system for where to put your images.

Do you think in dates or by subject?  When you are looking for a photo, what would help you most to find it: the subject or the date it was taken?  Do you like to look at photos chronologically or grouped by topic?  Spend some time thinking about how you like to look at your images, and how you search for your images, and use that as the basis for sorting them.

For most people organizing personal photos, it’s a combination of chronology and subject.  Create folders for each year.  In each year, create folders for each month.  Then use predictable subject headings for each month: birthdays, holidays, celebrations, graduation, etc.

Once you have an idea for the big categories, you can begin to sort, purge and file.

This will not be a one-day job.  Think of this investment in your memories as a kind of mortgage.  Do you want a 15-year mortgage or a 45-year mortgage?

True story: when we migrated and launched Plenty last November, we lost two years’ worth of photos.  We had a deadline to launch the new site, so it was a lot of long hours of tedious searching for photos and putting them back into the posts to which they belonged.  It was hard work, but many hours on a short deadline is the best route to success in my book.

Other people prefer using a timer and spending 15 or 30 minutes a day on the job until it’s done.

Find your bliss and go with it.

Then copy your work in multiple back-ups.  See #6.

3.  Delete and tag as you go.

Tagging is one of those “do it now” jobs.  As soon as you upload a photo, take care of the tagging.  Minutes now will save hours later.

Befriend the delete button because no, you do not need three shots of exactly the same thing.  Delete, delete, delete.  Do it on your camera as you go, but certainly as you upload to your computer.  Sing it with me: “Let it go, let it goooo.”

Then copy your work in multiple back-ups.  See #6.


4. Maintain.

You’re done!  You’ve gathered, sorted and stored all of your photos!  You are now 15-45 photo-mortgage years older!  Now, strike while the iron is hot and set up a schedule on your calendar to regularly download photos from all of the devices you use to take them.  Doing this regularly, and starting soon after the initial big sort and purge, will keep the filing system fresh in your mind and your pictures will end up in the right place and will be easy to find when you go looking for them.

5.  Share.

Now that you’ve got an edited collection of your best shots, share them.

  • Share online.
  • Create photo books to store and highlight the best of your photos.
  • Use one of the memory sticks on which you backed up the photos (see #6) and plug it into a digital photo frame.

6.  Back up, back up, back up.

You know it’s the right thing to do.  You know you’ll regret it if you don’t.  Just do it.  Here’s a great overview of how and where to safely store digital photos.


There’s plenty more!  Check out our posts on

2 thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *