How I organise my photos
Ok here’s my guilty secret… I’m an obsessive photo hoarder. It's verging on 'Monica's closet' bad. Thing is my brain can be pretty rubbish at storing memories for me, but I know that if I take a photo I'll remember that moment forever. So ever since 2004 I've taken whichever compact camera I had at the time absolutely everywhere with me. That helped me to rack up over 20,000 digital photo files, all stored in different folders on multiple hard drives and they were getting more and more unorganised by the year. Back in 2014 (when I originally wrote this blog) I decided to tackle my photo files head on and get them so organised that it wouldn't take an hour of self inflicted hair pulling to find a particular photo.
It took me a while but I finally have a system which works, and because sharing is caring I thought I'd post it here in case you find it helpful with your own photo collections.
STEP 1. TRANSFER ALL YOUR PHOTO FILES TO ONE PLACE
I take photos on my phone, my compact camera and my DSLR, so the key to getting them organised is to make the effort to regularly transfer your photos from each device into one place. I try and do this at the end of each month.
To make this as simple as possible I temporarily transfer the recent pictures we’ve taken to Dropbox. This means that until you have them properly organised they're backed up in the cloud safe and sound. Then I delete the photos from my devices and memory cards so that they're prepped for the next month of memory collecting.
TIP: It’s worth knowing that Facebook, Whatsapp and the like compress your photos reducing the quality, so always try and save the original files so they’re as crisp as possible in print.
STEP 2. RENAME YOUR PHOTO FILES
I know this sounds mundane, but honestly you won't regret renaming each photo file. It means that if you gather photos for a project from various dates and events they'll instantly appear in chronological order, and by adding in a description to each one it means you can search and find photos really easily. I like to name my photos like this...
e.g. '2016-05-23_VENICE_001', '2016-05-23_VENICE_002'.. you get it.
You definitely don't want to manually rename each file individually though, that's no fun. To batch rename files Adobe Bridge is the biggest timesaver - simply select your photos, hit 'cmd+shift+R', set up your naming structure.. job done! If you don't have Adobe Bridge I'm sure Google can find you an alternative.
TIP: As you sort through and rename your photos, really think about the photos you are keeping. If it's blurry, a duplicate or doesn't hold a special memory for you, consider saving some space by deleting it now as it'll be a lot harder to delete later on if you're anything like me. It’s important to ask yourself why you’re keeping the photos and how you plan to showcase them.
“Begin with the end in mind” - Stephen R. Covey
..I like to remind myself of this quote as I’m sorting through my photos so I think more carefully about the memories I’m keeping and the stories I want to tell.
STEP 3. TRANSFER YOUR PHOTOS TO YOUR MAIN PHOTO HUB.
Every few months I transfer the photos from my Dropbox folder over to the main photos folder on the iMac. I like to call this my my photo hub. I structure the folders like this..
> MY PHOTOS
STEP 4. BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP!
Immediately after I’ve transferred the photos from Dropbox to my iMac I backup my photos in a few different places to avoid ever losing my precious memories. I've been through that pain before and it hurts really bad, so I've risk assessed every possible scenario that could cause my files to disappear. If you aren’t currently backing up your photos I really, really recommend that you start to avoid the potential heartache. I did some research and like to use the 3-2-1 backup method, which means having 3 backups in 2 different formats with 1 kept offsite.
Hard Drives: as well as my iMac hard drive which is my main photo hub, I have two 1TB external hard drives which I manually transfer my organised and renamed files over to every few months. I also make sure to keep one hard drive hidden away somewhere safe in case of a burglary.
Dropbox (Cloud Backup): I pay for 1TB of Dropbox space and copy all of my favourite photos (the ones I deem 'photobook worthy') into Dropbox in preparation for my photobook making sessions that I’m about to embark on. That way if anything happened to my iMac or my hard drives in some kind of natural disaster, my favourite files would still be safe and sound. You could also check out Cloudwards for a huge range of cloud storage options.
When it comes to physical photos, I'd recommend scanning any you have and applying the same process. I spent every weekend for a month scanning my childhood photos while binge watching Nashville, and it's great to know that they're all organised, backed up, and no longer hidden away inside bulky photo albums. Instead I'm going to make a photobook out of them which will save lots of physical space and make them so much easier to look through. That's next on my list, because printed photos are always better than digital ones.
I really hope you've found this post helpful, and if you have any of your own photo organising tips I'd love it if you could share them in a comment, x