by Susan Caplan McCarthy
If you’ve found organizing physical photos overwhelming, you may want to give up before you even begin trying to tackle the vast number of digital photos you have saved on your smartphone, tablet, and in the cloud.
The same techniques you’d use for sorting and decluttering physical photos work for digital photos as well. Remember, playing some music, watching a favorite rom-com or television show, or listening to a podcast will make the process of sorting through your digital photos much more pleasant.
And, remember, you don’t have to complete this task in a single evening or even in a week.
Gather Digital Photos to One Location
Just as you want to gather all physical photos to a single spot for sorting and assessing, you also want to bring all digital photos to a single device – and then backup all these images.
Consider the photos stored on multiple smartphones, tablets, or digital cameras (not to mention disks and digital cards). Download everything and back up the images so you have them in three locations – hard drive, external hard drive, flash drive, the cloud, online services.
Decide which location you’ll focus your attention on when culling photos and use the other locations to back-up your edits.
Renaming each photo will make it easier to use your computer’s search function so you can locate the images you want with minimal fuss. Including a key piece of information, such as the event, a person’s name, a location, or the subject of the photos.
Including the date helps to anchor the information in time. Years from now you may struggle to recall if your Hawaiian vacation occurred in 2011 or 2012, so include the year. However, you might not need month and day for each photo, you might be happy labeling a vacation photo with the year, month, and location or simply stating ‘Christmas 2015.’ Be consistent when naming photos. For example:
YYYY-MM-DD-EVENT … so, 2019-10-10-50TH-ANNIVERSARY
Remember, the date refers to the date of the event and not the date you downloaded or resaved an image (which may be the date the computer assigns to a photo).
If the important detail is the location, include that information – MAINE-2016. If it’s a person, then – GRANDPA_JACK-1950S.
If renaming every photo is overwhelming, focus on the best, most important images, the one that tell the story of your family, the ones that you want to pass along to your children, nieces and nephews. Identifying photos by place, person, and year (or the approximation), helps others understand that these images have extra value.
Store in Files
Think of the files on your computer as mini photo albums. You can label each file with the subject of the photos contained within.
You can also create ‘deep’ files. For example, you have a file labeled “Birthdays.” Within that file you have files with the name of each family member … and, within those files you have other files, one for each year. This way, even if you don’t use the search function on your computer, you’ll still be able to find the pictures you want.
Back Up Photos and Make This a Habit
I know I keep saying this throughout this series of articles, but you want to back up all photos (print and digital) three ways – print, hard drive, flash drive, online service, the cloud.
So, scan print photos so you have them saved as a digital image and back up all digital images.
Also, schedule a regular time to download the photos you are currently taking – put this task and the specific time you’ll do it (once a month, four times a year, whatever works for you) on your calendar and treat it like a doctor’s appointment – maintain your photos so they don’t get out of hand again.
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I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.