Organizing your photos in a few simple steps
Struggling to find a particular photo to show a friend or family member is frustrating. No one wants to spend time scrolling through a sea of images saved or shared in multiple locations, sizes, and pixel quality. What happened to the original version?
Challenges with your photo collection
The sheer number of photos across all of our devices has exploded. The average person takes 1000 photos per year. My clients typically have 20,000 photos on their phones alone! We take pictures of nearly anything that catches our interest in our daily lives. This creates a big disorganized collection that makes you wonder if some of your photos are lost or if you need to learn more technology skills to find them. Don’t worry; you are not the only one facing this problem. Here are a few ideas:
- Shopping photos. Keeping them all creates clutter, so go through and update your collection, removing the things you no longer need. Create an album of your shopping photos so you can find them easily.
- Quotes. These are often captured via screenshots, and your photo collection may not be the best place to keep them. The Notes feature is found on most smartphones and is great for organizing your quotes. You can also try Evernote.
- From Food to Hairstyles. These are also often captured using screenshots and can be put in a separate album according to a theme. Review this album and delete old images when ready.
- Text messages (SMS). Family conversations or important work and personal details can also be saved by screenshot; however, the iMazing app can be used with iPhones to save or print text messages and preserve conversation threads. With Android, you can back up conversations to your Gmail account by enabling the IMAP feature in Gmail settings and selecting SMS backup. Other tools like WideAngle and DecipherTools work for both iPhone and Android.
Deciding how to access your photos
Most people have a preference for where they store and view their photos. You may primarily use your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Keeping them on a centralized cloud platform lets you easily view your collection from any device. The most common storage spaces include Google Photos, Dropbox or Apple iCloud. Once you choose a location, you can begin organizing images.
Gathering the collection
Grab all of your photos and videos and transfer them to an external hard drive first. If you consolidate the existing digital images that you’ve gathered from computers, CDs, hard drives, and SD cards, this will ensure that you get every single one at the start of the process. Once you’ve gathered all of them in one place, it is easier to see what photos you have, get rid of duplicates, and organize them to access at any time.
Finding and preserving your favorites
As you pare down your photo collection, it becomes easier to find them. Here are some tips to get things under control:
Series: When we are trying to capture the memories of a group activity or event, whether it’s a child’s birthday party, a summer soccer game, or a playful puppy, we take a series of photos to ensure we have one or two good ones. But then we keep all of them! Go through your images and select your favorites and separate them into three buckets: A (Album), B (Archive), and C (Delete).
- Take care of the C bucket first by getting rid of blurry images, bad angles, and unflattering shots.
- Next, decide between the A’s and B’s. If you’re unsure about a photo, put it in the B pile and save it to a different folder/album. What is left are your favorites.
Duplicates: These photos are identical, and you want to keep the ones that are the highest quality. Picture This Organized uses software to identify versions that have been compressed, reducing size and pixels, and flag them for deletion. We want to make sure we’re keeping only the best copy of each photo.
Delete: Now that all the images are sorted by dates, locations, and events, and high-quality originals have been saved, you can permanently delete the rest without worry.
By taking it one small step at a time, you can organize and update your photos with a system that works for you.
A word about filenames
Often you’ll see photos in your phone or on your computer stored by filename assigned by your device, which may end in “IMG,” followed by a number and file type. A file type reading “IMG_0506.JPG” is not helpful when searching for your favorite photo of your daughter at her piano recital! You can create a naming structure to organize and search for pictures instead.
You can also use existing metadata to find the best version of a photo or video so you can keep the original and discard duplicates. Check the file size and file type.
File sizes can look similar but may be smaller, low-quality copies. Images that have been shared between users or to social media are usually smaller than the original. Tell them apart by looking at the megabytes (MB). Smaller photos use kilobytes (KB) with much longer filenames. Look closely and keep the larger files.
File types are also different sizes and qualities. Cameras and smartphones assign a number to each image or movie that you capture. Often they look like “IMG,” followed by a number and a file type extension. For example, “IMG_0506.JPG” indicates an original with a shorter filename.
Examples of other file types are:
- .JPG: This is how photos are named by devices. Most of your collection will be made up of these files.
- .PNG: This is a screenshot. You might capture an image on your phone for temporary reference but not keep it permanently, like a message on social media.
- .MOV or .mp4: This is a movie file, like a short video.
- .MP3: This is an audio file, like a voice memo or a song.
Organizing by people, dates, events, and themes using metadata
If you know the original file type, you can use it to search for photos. However, an assigned filename doesn’t really give you much information, so we recommend adding searchable information, such as the date taken and the event name to your photos.
Your favorite photos have importance because they are attached to memories, family legacies, or you find them useful in some way. Ask yourself what makes each photo significant to you and save it under a new filename. You are using metadata to make your pictures “searchable.”
Here are some of the most common themes our clients use when searching for their favorite photos:
- Who is in the photo? Search the pictures using names or by facial recognition. We recommend Lightroom’s facial recognition app or the People feature on Apple devices. You can also follow clues by using a representative picture to identify people in the photo you’re researching to identify them.
- When was it taken? Locate photos by date. Your camera will save the date taken to the image data. However, if your photo has been shared (via text, social media, or an app), the date taken may be changed to the date it was shared. When using a DSLR camera to capture moments, the date might need adjusting if the clock is off. Making adjustments can be tricky, so we recommend hiring help to change the date properly.
- Where were you? Find images by location. Most smartphones will save the location to the image data. To access this, the location or GPS feature needs to be turned on. If it wasn’t on, but you know where the moment happened, you can add the information to the image metadata using keywords.
- What event was it? Locate favorites by vacation destinations, holiday parties, or a specific birthday. Simply add descriptive words to the filename.
By sorting images using filenames, hashtags, and metadata, you can quickly locate your favorites and share them.
We love helping people spend more time sharing their cherished memories instead of trying to find them. Picture This Organized is flexible when working on client projects. Contact us to work remotely using video calls, phone calls, transferring digital files, or mailing your collections. If you live nearby, you are welcome to meet with us in person!