How to Gather Your Digital Photos for Picture This Organized

Spring cleaning season is upon us. While you’re busy cleaning out flower beds and closets, you may be considering hiring us to clean and organize your digital photo collection.

You’ve had your phone consult with us, and you’re getting ready for us to assess your collection.

Gathering your photos is the first big step. We can do this for you, but with a few hints, this is a job you can certainly tackle yourself.

As you begin gathering your photos, be sure to read our list of tips meant to help save you time, money, and energy.

These tips will help you follow our “best practice” recommendations for gathering your photos, so we don’t have to backtrack and re-do work you’ve already done.

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, most of the guidelines in this post apply to Apple computers, phones and software.

Make a List of Where to Find your Photos

You probably have photos on your phone and computer. But also consider these possible sources:

  • Old computers you no longer use.
  • Online sites such as Dropbox, Google, Flickr, SmugMug, Snapfish, Shutterfly, etc.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.
  • Camera memory (SD) cards.
  • Thumb drives or CD’s from photo labs, or ones that contain copies of photos given to you by friends or photographers.

Some of our clients have personal assistants or IT companies (e.g. UBreakiFix, Groovy Tech or Geek Squad) round up their photos and send them to us. It helps streamline the process if you let them know all the places they can find your photos.

Purchase and Set Up a Portable External Hard Drive

We recommend either G-Drive, Lacie or Seagate brands in 1 to 2 TB size. You can purchase your drive at or Best Buy.

To set up your external hard drive, connect it to your computer, open it, and create folders for each photo source. Examples of folder titles might be “SD Cards,” “CDs,” “Toshiba Laptop,” “Dell Desktop,” etc.

Note: If we are gathering your photos for you, we can purchase an external hard drive and add it to your invoice.

Copy Photos From Each Source Onto Your External Hard Drive

With the external hard drive plugged into your computer, it’s time to copy photo images and home movie files (.jpg, .tiff, .mov) from each source into the source folders you’ve created on the external hard drive.

Each source has its own set of set of instructions and things to watch out for.

Computers and Other External Hard Drives
Locate and copy photo and video files from your computer to the external hard drive. Don’t forget to check your Pictures, Documents, and Desktop folders – photos often collect there.

Try this process to speed up your searches:

  • Open your Finder window and choose a folder like Desktop from left menu.
  • Click on the “Group” dropdown and choose “Kind.”
  • Type in a file type in the search window like .jpg, .mov, or .mp4 and all of the those files appear in the window.

Download any images sent to you via email onto your computer. Find those photos (and any others you want to copy) in your Downloads folder, and copy them to the hard drive.

Importing photos from your phone to an external hard drive can be tricky! Smartphone cameras have their own internal “SD camera card” but there are several ways you can gather those photos depending on what type of phone and computer you have.

Before you import the pictures you took with your phone, be sure to download (or save to your camera roll) any images texted to you that you want to keep in your collection.

Mac Users With iPhones
Most of our clients have iPhones, but they save their photos in different ways. The easiest way to gather photos from your phone is to sync them with iCloud.

We’ve found that it’s most efficient if we have access to your iCloud account. If you’re comfortable with that, we can organize your library remotely, saving you the time and trouble it takes to copy images to an external hard drive.

When we work on your Apple Photos Library, we can preserve the links to Albums you already created and use our utilities to merge current and old iPhotos libraries, then find and delete duplicate photos.

If you don’t use iCloud to sync photos, there are a couple of other ways to gather photos from your phone. We are happy to advise you on those options if needed.

PC Users With iPhones
If you use a PC, this link provides helpful steps for transferring photos from your phone onto your External Hard Drive via a Windows computer.

We recommend following the instructions for transferring using the Windows Photos app or File Explorer. Make sure you specify to copy the imported files to a specific source folder on your External Hard Drive (e.g. “Patricia’s iPhone”), or the program will copy the files into the Pictures folder of your local computer’s hard drive.

Android Phone Users
If you have an Android smartphone, this article explains several different options for importing photos.

Camera SD Cards or CD’s
Most computers don’t come with built-in slots for camera memory cards or CD’s, so you’ll have to buy a card reader, and an external disc reader to plug in to your computer. These are available at most office supply stores or on Amazon.

Once you connect your SD card or CD, open the folder to copy the files to your external hard drive. We want to preserve the best possible quality file, so copy the original, if you have it.

Something to be aware of are folders containing “Thumbnail,” or “Low-Res” images. These photos are usually small copies of originals located somewhere else. If they are, you can choose to exclude the low-res copies from what you gather for us.  

If a low-res image is the only copy of that photo, (e.g. a photo downloaded from Facebook), be sure to give that file to us to keep in your collection.

Photo Storage Websites
If you have photos stored on online accounts like Google Photos, Snapfish, or others, these sites give instructions for how to download your photos.

We use special utilities that make downloading these files speedy and efficient. Unless you only want to share a certain album or selection of photos from one of these sites, we recommend giving us access to your accounts so we can export all of your photos for you.

Now You’re Ready for Us to Assess Your Collection

If you’ve hired Picture This Organized to organize your photos, we want you to leave the heavy lifting to us. If you run into any confusing snags along the way, we can step in to help you get the gathering done.

Once you send your external hard drive to Picture This Organized by UPS or FedEx, we are ready to assess your collection and dig into the process of organizing your images!

Contact us today and let us know how we can help you meet your photo organizing goals.

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