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Photo Organization Tips

In the age of smart phones and digital photography, it can be easy to accumulate tons of photos in a short period of time. If you're feeling overwhelmed by your photos, I'm going to help you find a step by step plan to get them under control.

DSLR camera

I felt like a bit of a hypocrite because I share so many organizing tips on this blog. But while I am organized in many aspects of my life, when it came to my photos, I was a HOT MESS.

The last time I ordered a printed photo book was somewhere around 2011, and I had thousands of photos on my computer, phone, random devices, and in boxes and bins throughout the house.

Since most of my photos were digital, I was able to shove my photo mess under the proverbial rug (my hard drive) for years. But I want to be able to easily access my photos, know that they are backed up safely, and display my favorites.

Thus, the PHOTO ORGANIZATION CHALLENGE. I was ready to get things under control, and I thought it would be encouraging (and helpful) to put my methods and process on the blog.

I'll be breaking this photo organization project up into several posts because it's too much to tackle in one sitting. Plus, I'm going to need time to work through each step between posts.

Photo Organization Challenge:

These are the topics and step-by-step projects I will cover.

  1. Consolidating / Categorizing Digital Photos (this post)
  2. Deleting / Editing Digital Photos
  3. Organizing Printed Photos
  4. Printing & Display Options for Digital Photos (coming soon)
  5. Preventing the Backlog from Happening Again! (coming soon)

The first bullet is what I'm writing about today.

1) Get All of Your Photos in One Place

If you're like me, you have photos on your phone, photos on your spouse's and kids' phones, photos emailed/texted to you from friends and family, photos on ipads/tablets, and photos on your camera, just for starters.

The first thing to do is to get everything in one place. Designate one computer for storing hard copies of your photos, and spend time downloading all of your photos to that computer. Or, you can use a program like iCloud to sync your photos from various devices under one main account.

If you're not an Apple user, Google Photos is a good option for photo storage.

I do use a Mac, but for now I'm opting to manually download all of the photos onto my desktop computer, and then sorting them in the "Photos" app.


2) Back Up Your Photos

I use an iCloud storage plan to back up my family's photos, as well as an external hard drive. I have one computer that contains the original, full size photos, and the external hard drive backs up that computer.

3) Organize and Categorize Your Photos

After all of your digital photos are together in one place, it's time to get organized. When I first started organizing my photos, I was creating categories for specific events, like "School Play" or "Beach Trip 2014." But I found that there were WAY too many categories, and no logical way to categorize the day-to-day photos that weren't tied to a specific event.

So I ditched that plan and instead decided to categorize by SEASON and YEAR. For example: Fall 2010, Winter 2010, Spring, 2010, Summer 2010, etc.

Each type of photo organizing software will be slightly different, but the key is to split the photos up into manageable groups or albums for each season, which will make the archiving and printing process a lot easier down the road.

iphoto categories

I do have a few stray categories for special occasions, but for the most part, I'm putting all of my digital photos into this seasonal format.

OK, that's it for the first part of the challenge!

The next step is all about deleting / editing your digital photos.

Is anyone else on board? I'd love to have you join me...this might not be the most fun process in the world, but we'll be SO happy and proud of ourselves when it's done!

If you're in for the challenge, or you have any photo organizing tips to share, please comment below!

If you're overwhelmed by your digital or printed photos, and you don't know where to begin, this challenge is for you. I'm breaking things down step by step and working my way toward having years' worth of photos neatly organized and ready to display or print into books.


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Saturday 5th of February 2022

Thank you so much, Kate! Even though it’s been awhile since you wrote this article, your method for organizing photos is the most straight forward method for my OCD brain!


Saturday 5th of February 2022

So glad to hear!


Tuesday 12th of March 2019

I have been putting off organizing my photos so long that finding a place to start seemed impossible. I am going to take your challenge. Here's hoping!


Friday 17th of March 2017

Hi, tripped on this site and in good time. I, too, have been scanning, organizing and editing photos. I have them sorted by decades and recent years, and facial recognition. I also kept the scanned photos it their own album, to avoid duplicating scans.. Going thru and editing the scanned versions takes time, as well as tracking down info from old photos from the folks. I have filed the hard copies by the name of the oldest person in the photo. I know I should let some go, but it's difficult to throw away the hard copy...and tips?


Thursday 26th of January 2017

Wow, I just found your website by accident when I was looking for an Italian Wedding Soup recipe that was similar to my Italian grandma's recipe. Yours was the closest recipe I could find. Then I started reading and searching your site & I got so excited the further I looked!! I love to organize and find new and excited ways to do things. My happy place is in the kitchen. I am now 61, caring for my 12 grandchildren and elderly parents. I find my strength and stability in God. Even when things are hard and complicated as I trust in Him and give Him my daily problems He always makes a way when I don't see a way! Thanks for your encouraging and uplifting site!! You have just blessed my day more than you will ever know!!!


Friday 27th of January 2017

Thank you so much, Kathy. Your comment completely brightened my day! I'm so, so glad that you enjoy my site. My happy place is the kitchen, too. :)


Saturday 28th of May 2016

This has been a challenge for me for many years (before digital ) as I was working on my family tree and came across so many pictures that were not labeled and no one to put a name to a face or date in time. Now in the digital world I like "Window Live Photo Gallery" where you can tag people, put a location and a time frame and then search for all photos containing that certain person or place. Plus it came with my computer so I didn't have to research other programs. My problem is, as you say, time and then how to label those when it comes to name change (marriage and such). More power to you. Maybe I will get back in the groove and get mine done as I nag all my family to do so as well.

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