Organizing your Personal Photos: Digital Edition

I just checked, and I officially have 1,648 photos and videos currently on my phone. This is an issue, people. And I’m fairly positive I’m not the only one. As a photographer, the funny thing is – my personal photos rarely get the time and attention they deserve.

When I first began photographing weddings, I took no less than 4,000 photos on a wedding day. Then I sorted them down to around 1,500 to deliver to my client.

Who in the world has the time to do anything with 1,500 photos?!

After being in this business for years, and after being a normal human being with a full schedule and a full life, I wish I knew this one, beautiful truth about photography:

Less is more.

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That’s why we treasure our grandparents’ photos, right? There are only a few sacred images we get to cling to.

Less is more.

That’s why we never ever do anything with the photos on our phone. It’s just plain overwhelming.

Less is more.

So if you are overwhelmed with all of your photos – remember that simple truth: less is more. You don’t have to document every tiny moment or every tiny thing. Just the highlights will do. Your kids, your spouse, and YOU will appreciate the gift of quality over quantity if you embrace this!

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Ever since creating the Guide to Organizing and Enjoying Your Personal Photos, I’ve seen a few people blog specifically about how helpful the digital photo organization has been (thank you Valerie!!). Since it’s been so helpful, (and since I’m in the thick of making my 2016 family album so it’s definitely on my mind,) I thought I would share it with you here!

The Guide to Organizing and Enjoying your Personal Photos is separated into 3 Phases:

1. Your Printed Photos
2. Your Digital Photos
3. Your Photos Moving Forward

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In this post, I’ll only be focusing on Phase 2: Your Digital Photos! Here is a brief overview of what needs to happen to organize all of your digital photos:

1. Purchase ONE external Hard Drive (2TB or more) to store all your digital images on
2. Put a File Folder System in Place (see images below)
3. Gather ALL of your digital images and put them onto that external hard drive, in order by date and folder
4. Back them up

The most important aspect of this system is the file folder system! If you don’t purchase a Master Hard Drive and follow a Master Filing System for organizing your photos, all of your digital photos will stay on several different computers and laptops, taking up space on your iPhone, old CD’s, USB’s, and scattered hard drives.

So HERE IS MY MAGIC SAUCE!! Take a peek at my File Folder Organization System:

Nancy's Photos Organized 2

As you can see, everything is organized by Year, then Month, then Event.

Now let’s pause and talk about that “Event.” Maybe it’s Father’s Day, maybe it’s a beach trip, maybe it’s Disney World, maybe it’s just life at home. No matter what it is, you still need to organize those photos within that event!

For example, if I take 100 photos at my kid’s birthday party, I’m never going to go back and really enjoy all 100 photos. I’d like to keep and enjoy 10-15 or so. That’s when it’s important to organize your Event Folder into 3 parts:

1. Originals (the place I dump all 100 photos)
2. Picks (the place I drag the 10-15 absolute favorite images)
3. The Event Folder (the FINAL folder of edited and re-named photos)

You can see below my personal event folder for our “1st Trip to Lake Gaston” with Milly:

July Events Folder 2

A few KEY tips for you to remember as you organize your digital photos:
• Gather all images from all over the place (laptops, phones, computers, CD’s, USB’s, etc) and put them onto ONE harddrive: your new most prized possession!
• You have to remember to also back those images up! I use Dropbox to back up my Final Event Folders only
• It’s helpful to create the entire file folder system on the Harddrive first, then drag your images into the properly organized folders
• You’ll be more likely to enjoy and print your digital images (even the ones on your phone!) when you have them organized!

Happy Organizing! To learn more about organizing your printed photos and establishing a system moving forward (so your phone isn’t so out of control), look into my Guide to Organizing and Enjoying your Personal Photos in the Nancy Ray Shop!

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  • Elizabeth McDougal said:

    Hey Nancy! I listened to your webinar a while back and am almost done with organizing my photos. It it a big weight taken off my shoulders, knowing I can enjoy my photos the way they are meant to be enjoyed. My favorite part is having a place around the house where I can swap my current favorites in and out before storing them!

    Thanks for the help with one the biggest tasks i've taken on so far in our home :)

    E

  • Oh, I love this! I already did something kind of similar -- organized by year, month, and event. But I'd never considered having the original, picks, and final event folders. I am fairly good about organizing all my photos (though not as often as I'd like), but I never do anything because there's just so many. Editing them down to a selection will definitely help. Thanks, Nancy! :)

  • Olivia said:

    This is so helpful--thank you! What's the difference between the picks and the final event folder? And how do you organize/name pics that are just from everyday life and not a specific event?

  • AnitA said:

    I'm working through 45000 photos from 2002-2017. I've Organised them like you have. Just a question, do you rename each image individually or in bulk? Also there so many cute shots of the kids- just being themselves. How to name these images?

  • Bridget said:

    I love this! Thanks for sharing. Question, how much time would you recommend budgeting for something like this? I know it depends on how many photos you have, but I'm curious to get a rough estimate because I'm often intimidated by the time investment.

    • Nancy Ray said:

      Hi Bridget! It's really all dependent on the quantity of images you have, but I think it could take anywhere from 3-6 months or longer if your image collection is extensive. If you purchase the guide, it walks you through every step and makes a large, intimidating project seem feasible!

  • Lauren said:

    I recently bought your guide and im working through my organization process. Question- do you use Apple Cloud at all? Also do you keep all the photos on your computer or just on external hard drive & dropbox? Thanks for all the help!

  • Maureen said:

    This is great Nancy! What company do you use to print your 2016 Family Album?

    • Nancy Ray said:

      Artifact Uprising!

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  • Melinda said:

    What program do you use to store your photos? I have a mac, and am just using photos right now. Do you suggest a different ptogram? And suggestions would be greatly appreciated! My pictures are a mess!