How I organise my photos

How I organise my photo files |

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.



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 once every few months.

To make this as simple as possible I keep a folder on Dropbox named 'YYYY - TO ORGANISE', and transfer pictures via the Dropbox App from my iPhone or iPad at their highest resolution. I also transfer the photos on my cameras to the same folder. This means that until you have them 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 few months of memory collecting.



I know this sounds mundane, but honestly you won't regret renaming each photo file. It means that if you compile photos for a project they'll instantly appear in chronological order if you use this simple naming system...

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 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. 



Next I transfer the photos from my temporary 'organising' folder over to the core photo folders I have set up on my computer.

I made the decision to store all my photos chronologically, and by adding a description of the photo in the name they're still searchable by event, location, etc. I set up the folders like this..

    >     YYYY
    >     YYYY
    >     YYYY
    >     YYYY
            >     ARCHIVED     <  This is where I keep all my original, unedited photos
                        >     YYYY-MM
                                    YYYY-MM-DD_DESCRIPTION_004 ...
                        >     YYYY-MM
                        >     YYYY-MM
                        >     YYYY-MM ...
            ☆  YYYY-MM-DD_DESCRIPTION_001    <  I keep all my favourite edited photos in the main folder
            ☆  YYYY-MM-DD_DESCRIPTION_002
            ☆  YYYY-MM-DD_DESCRIPTION_003
            ☆  YYYY-MM-DD_DESCRIPTION_004 ...
    >     YYYY
    >     YYYY ...



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, and I've put the following backup systems in place to avoid that from happening...

Hard Drives: I have two 1TB external hard drives which I manually transfer my files over to every few months as I'm sorting through them. I make sure to keep one hard drive hidden away somewhere safe in case of a burglary. 

Time Machine: I also have one more hard drive linked up to my Mac with Time Machine installed. That way If I'm stupid enough to hit the delete button on a photo by mistake I can go back in time, find the file and paste it back into my folder. This applies to all the files on my computer too, very handy!

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. That way if anything happened to my machine 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 photobooks 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.

Much love, x