How I Organize and Store Photos

Being a photographer, people often ask me how I organize and back up my photos. I never thought much of my photo organizing until I found myself being asked over and over again and realized that maybe not everyone has a system that works for them already. So since I’m asked frequently, I thought I’d do a post complete with photos that I can direct people to. I know this may not be everyone’s jam so feel free to skip to the end where I talk about backing up photos. ๐Ÿ™‚

Organizing My Photos:

How to Organize Photos

So when you open “My Pictures” on my laptop this is what you see. I have all of my photos broken up by year (and yes, I have a ton of old family photos on my computer from before I was born thanks to being the unofficial keeper of the family photos). And then I have a separate folder for Christopher’s family photos (including ones of his parents growing up and extended family because once again – I have become the keeper of family photos, haha!). I have a separate folder for my photography business and a separate folder for anything else that just doesn’t have a specific place (for example, the “Other” folder includes photos of recipes I’ve made, ย gifts I’m working on, and my all time favorite: the folder entitled “photos that make me laugh” which include tons of embarrassing photos of my family that I’m not allowed to share anywhere else, ha!).

How to Organize Photos2

So let’s click into the “2008-Present” folder. Here you will find folders for every year since Christopher and I got married in 2008. Simple enough… let’s open up 2016 (since it’s the most recent completed year).

How to Organize Photos3

I chose to break up each year into three main sections, but you could easily ย have a folder per month or even one per season. This method stems from how I organized photos in college and graduate school because I would have 3 folders:ย Spring Semester, Summer, and Fall Semester. That just kind of stuck even after I wasn’t in school anymore. If I didn’t already have this system in place, I probably would have done this by season. So let’s open up the September – December folder and see what we find!

How to Organize Photos4

When you open up the September – December folder, you’ll realize quickly that my albums are in alphabetical order instead of chronological order (so notice that Christmas comes before Thanksgiving). You could definitely put a date at the beginning of each album so they stay in chronological order, but since several of my folders aren’t just from one particular day or week (i.e. “Oreo,” “Nannying,” “Friends,” etc) I chose not to go that route. And you will notice that every photo has a home. If I don’t have a place for a photo then it goes in the “Misc” folder.

Backing Up My Photos:ย 

1. At the beginning of every month I move ALL the photos that I took on my phone andย camera over to my computer. Sometimes I’ve already moved a few photos over for blogging or social media purposes, but at least once a month I make sure to move everything.

2. After moving all the photos over to my laptop I sort through them all and keep my favorites. Yes, Oreo is cute, but I don’t need 118ย photos of him laying in the same position on the couch. ๐Ÿ˜‰

3. I then back up all my new photos on myย external hard drive. Everything that is on my computer: music, documents, and photos are all already on the External Hard Drive so each month I only have to add the new stuff. It takes some time initially to back everything up on a new external hard drive, but if you keep up with it regularly (in my case, monthly), it only takes a few minutes to stay updated. If you don’t already have your photos backed up on an external hard drive, I really recommend it. For the past year I’ve been using the 1 Terabyte My Passport Ultra External Hard Drive and have really liked it. I also use Dropbox as a way to triple store really special photos, but not everything is on there.

So tell me, how do you organize and store your photos?
Love Rach


38 responses to “How I Organize and Store Photos

  1. So perfect and organized. Mine are by year on my desktop but by event I. The cloud. My post today is about fav photos and I was just telling someone thank goodness for technology being able to save our precious photos.

    • I know, right?! I’m so thankful to have so many different ways to backup and store our photos! I’m behind on blog reading, but I’m excited to catch up on your post about favorite photos! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. this is fantastic. i love that you’ve become the keeper of all the photos. and that ‘photos that make me laugh’ folder sounds amazing. i lost a lot of my photos a few years ago so now i’m crazy about backing things up. i just do year and then month, and sometimes within that month if we do something big like a wedding or a trip, that gets its own folder, otherwise it’s just a bunch of gym selfies and cat pictures and they don’t need their own folders hahaha.

    • I’m not exactly sure how it is that I have become the keeper of the photos. I think it started when I had some free time on my hands and offered to scan a bunch of old family photos. I uploaded them all to Dropbox for my family to have, but most of them still just ask me when they are looking for a specific photo because they know I’m likely to have a good idea of what year it was taken since I spent so much time scanning them all in. I don’t mind, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

      And girl, that album is hysterical. I probably only look through it a handful of times a year so I always forget how many great gems are in there. But it makes my day just so much more awesome when I do look though it. And typically I text screenshots to my sisters of the worst ones so they can be thankful that I’m nice and not putting these photos on social media. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I am so envious of your organization!!! I have GOT to sit down and do this!!!! I keep saying I am going to. And I said I was going to start with when Zoe was born and work back..and I still haven’t done that yet. Shes almost 4 months and I have about a zillion pictures of her already lol.

    • It’s so hard to set aside the time to really sit down and get organized in the first place, but once you have a system in place, it’s easy to maintain! I’m sure adding ANYTHING new in as a new mommy isn’t easy. So I totally understand that!

  4. Great advice. Now I need to start working on mine. Thank you!

  5. I have a similar system that I use through photos on my mac I also have everything uploaded to snapfish and shutterfly from the start of our relationship broken into different events or time of they year! I also have a external I have everything on as well!

    • That’s awesome! Your photos are super backed up! It’s so sad to lose photos so I totally understand the precaution! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Great post!! You explained everything so well ๐Ÿ™‚

    This sounds similar to how I back up my photos, except my external storage is a server that Will created in our house that I access via cloud #networkengineerhusbandforthewin ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seriously though, if it weren’t for Will and his interest in computers/backing up data, I would have never done any of this on my own!

    And I also have to say that I SO relate to you having a million photos of Oreo sitting on the couch! HAHA Popcorn is basically my photography model.

    • Yay Will! So handy to have a husband who knows stuff! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And girl, you and I are so on the same page with our dogs-as-children. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. I have a pretty similar system, though I don’t have the monthly divisions. I like how you do that! I might have to incorporate that too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I love your organizational folder! I actually like to organize pictures and documents pretty similarly with folders upon folders to make things more clear and easier to find. As for backing up, I currently have my photos on Google Photos with the extra special ones also on my computer, and then all of them backed up on an external hard drive. My husband works in computer repair so we’ve seen far too many cases of people not backing anything up and spending thousands to get their data back, so we are extra cautious!

    • I totally understand that precaution!! I lost a bunch of photos from 2010/2011 when I stopped being good about backing up my photos. I was able to retrieve some of them, but lost a lot. It was sad, but I’ve been super careful ever since then! Sounds like you have a great system! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. We have a very similar sorting style! I have SO many photos on my computer that they have to be organised – or I’d go crazy!

  10. Erica | Whimsical September blog

    I NEEDED to read a post like this. I feel like I’m going to really regret not keeping my photos more organized. I don’t know why, but it’s such a pain to me. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I have thousands of photos on my external, but nothing is in folders. Such a mess. Thanks for posting this… it was honestly really good motivation to start TODAY with being more organized!

    • Yay! I’m glad it was a helpful post! I know it has to be so daunting to start organizing photos when you have to start from scratch, but I think you’re right – you’ll appreciate having it done later on! And once you have a system in place, it should be easy to maintain! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. You’re so organized, lady- love it!

    Le Stylo Rouge

  12. How I organize photos: I keep them ALLLLLL on my cellphone – hahahahaha! They’re dated – they remind me of what I did a year or two ago at this time! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. This is great! I really need to get an external hard drive to save all of mine. And I like that you do this monthly. I get so overwhelmed when I do take on this project because I don’t do it often enough. I have mine sorted by years and then I have a date with a title so they fall into chronological order. Then I have misc folders of just Brooklyn or just Rhett if they are pictures that don’t fall into another dated folder.

    • The very first time I moved all the photos from my phone over, it was like 2 years worth. So it was definitely a LOT of work! That’s a big part of why I make sure to do this monthly. That way I’m not just totally overwhelmed by it all at once! ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely do get that external hard drive (or some other way of backing up all your photos). I lost a bunch of photos from 2010 (the year we bought and re-did our house!) because I got behind in backing up photos. I was able to get some of them from my blog & Facebook, but they were all shrunken down and it was only the ones I had shared. That’s such a big reason for why I back everything up now!

  14. Wow! You are super organized! I feel like all of this would take so much time, but if it’s only once a month I guess it wouldn’t. I am bad about only backing up photos a few times a year when it crosses my mind or my phone needs more space!

    • It really doesn’t take long at all when I do it monthly. About 15-30 minutes of sorting through photos to decide which ones were my favs and which ones I want to go ahead and delete. And then it takes less than a minute to plug in my external hard drive and back up the new photos. Easy peasy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Oh my gosh, this is so smart! I need a system for backing mine up – I’m terrible at that!


  16. Nice task to do it every day!!
    Mรณnica Sors

  17. Really good system! I need to be better about regularly backing up photos on my hard drive. For now, I just have photos from about the last year on my laptop–organized into month by month folders. I back them up every few months on my external hard drive. I like the descriptive titles–I just use years/months because usually I can remember approximately when something happened if I’m looking for photos of a certain event, but I can imagine that that will become more challenging to remember as the years go by…

    • Or maybe it will just be better for your brain! Like all those brain games that people play to help prevent loss of memory later in life (like word searches or crossword puzzles). And hey, even backing all your photos up on an external hard drive every few months is pretty good! I missed a year and a half of backing up photos in 2010/2011 and ended up losing them when my computer died. I was able to retrieve some from the blog and Facebook, but it was only the ones I had shared and they were all sized way down. That’s such a big part of why I’m so careful to backup photos now!

  18. I love how organized and thorough you are with photographs! It makes sense, though, since you’re a photographer ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I usually upload my photos to Flickr and have a album for each month!

  19. I love that you organize your photos by date AND event!

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