Friday, August 15, 2014

How to Organize Digital Pictures

Hi guys!  I wanted to share with you a quick little tutorial today about how I organize my digital pictures.  I got the idea to share this post when my girlfriend asked me for suggestions on organizing her picture files.  When I took a look at the 'system' she had in place, I was just honestly shocked.  There were pictures everywhere, in random folders, in no particular order.  It was complete chaos.

Before this, I had really thought that having a system for organizing digital photos was something that everyone just knew how to do and did with no problem.  I have never had a problem sorting and labeling and ordering all my digital pictures, so I didn't think anyone else did.  Boy did Melissa prove me wrong.  So I thought if this was an area my own girlfriend struggled with so much, there had to be other people out there who could use similar help and motivation to dive in and find some order in their folders of chaos.

I have utilized this system in one way or another since I got my very first digital camera, and works perfectly for what I need it to do.  I have grand plans of one day switching to a higher tech photo organization program, so I can supercharge my organization system by tagging every person, place and event in every picture, but that is a post for another day!  My current system has definitely stood the test of time, so I hope a few of you can get some inspiration to clear out the digital clutter and get your pictures organized!

I have a PC, but this system is simple and versatile enough to be utilized on any operating system!  First thing I do is open up my Pictures Library, which can be accessed from your Libraries folder.  This is just the basic photo organization software that came with my computer.

Once I'm in my Pictures Library, I created a folder labeled "My Pictures".  This is the folder that every single picture that comes into my possession get dumped into.  My phone, my camera, Melissa's camera, anything my parents send me, all gets uploaded straight into this file.  These are the original copies of every digital photo I possess.

Inside the "My Pictures" folder, I have created additional folders for every single year all the way back to when I got my first digital camera.  Once uploaded, every picture gets dumped into the year that the pictures were taken.  So every time I moved pictures from say, my iPhone onto my computer, the pictures go straight into the 2014 folder.

Inside each year folder are twelve folders for each month of the year.  After I drop my newly uploaded pictures into the appropriate year folder, I then drag them into the folder for the month in which the pictures were taken.

I also decided to add the number of the month in front of each month's name.  This way the folders are automatically sorted in the order that they occur throughout the year, as opposed to alphabetically.  This make it much quicker and easier to find the folder I'm looking for.

Inside each month is the final 'resting place' for each picture as it comes off my cameras.  Every single picture taken in a single month of a specific year is stored in this folder.  I sort the pictures inside each folder using the "arrange by: day" option in the upper right hand corner.  This way I can easily scroll through an entire month of pictures in chronological order.  I sort of wish it would sort with the beginning of the month at the top, but oh well, what can you do?

I used to further divide down the pictures by having separate folders for each day inside the month folders.  I found this was way overkill, and was more of a pain to open up 17 different folders full of like 5 pictures each to find the single picture I was looking for.  So I simplified and now have them all on display when I open up each month's folder.  A little more scrolling, a lot less clicking into and out of millions of folders (especially if you don't know exactly which month the picture you're looking for occurred in).

Like I said, I have used this system for years, and have updated and adapted it overtime so it perfectly fits my needs.  It is organized, orderly, and most important easy to keep up with.  I just make sure to drag and drop any new photos as they are uploaded into the current year and month folders, and BAM!  Organized.  No difficult thinking involved, just done.

While I was helping Melissa sort through her jungle of digital photos, she brought up the option of organizing categorically, i.e. labeling folders with the event or activity that the pictures capture.  This may mean having folders such as 'day at the park', 'lunch date with Mom', etc.

I personally believe that chronological ordering is a better system to maintain.  There is no need to sort through any pictures as you upload them, simply drag and drop.  Categorical organizing also brings up the problem of random no-event pictures.  Say you took a picture of your dog doing something cute.  Nothing special, just a cute snapshot.  Do you create a new folder for that single picture, or do you just let that picture float un-foldered?  Chronological organizing is concrete, you will always know exactly where to put a picture, because each picture has a definitive date.

One exception to this would be the option of combining the two methods.  In this scenario, you would first follow all the steps I outlined above.  Then, once all your pictures are in their respective month's folders, you could add additional folders inside the month for different events.  So the order would go year > month > event.  That way, you could have your pictures easily divided up categorically for reference, and you could also still have those 'no-event' pictures contained within the appropriate month and year folders.  This combination method would be a good idea for big events with lots of pictures, like Christmas, so one event doesn't dominate your entire month folder, making it a never ending scrolling nightmare.

Like I said, these are just my humble opinions on the subject, and what has worked for me.  All that matters is in the end, you have a system in place that allows you to store and organize your pictures so you can enjoy them later!  I hope this little mini tutorial helped, and happy organizing!


  1. I do pretty similar, but sounds like I leave out 1 step and add in a step. I do the year folder, then within the year I'll have folders for events and label them with the month first and then the event. So it would be August 2014 - Zyah's 6th Birthday. So then their sorted by month and then I can see the event. For me it eliminates trying to find the folder with the photo's. If I have those single pictures like you were talking about I have a folder that has misc. If I'm really on top of it then in the miscellaneous folder I'll rename the pictures if I know the date or names. :-) I'm a new follower and am looking forward to all your labeling skills and everything else.


    1. That's great you've come up with a system that works for you! Sounds like you have combined the best of both worlds, organized by month and by event! I love the idea of a misc. folder for those random pictures. Happy to have you following along :)