We’re headed toward February, and hopefully by now you’re hard at work fulfilling some of your New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you feel motivated to take care of some of the clutter in your life this year – including household, calendar, and photo clutter!
After a busy holiday season, you’ve probably got a lot of disorganized photos on a bunch of different devices. There are tons of opportunities to take great photos during the holiday season, including photos of presents you want to buy, holiday decor you’re considering putting up in your house, holiday meals you ate, and fun gatherings with friends and family. The holiday season is a great time to take photos – but it’s also a time when photo clutter stacks up.
If getting control of household or calendar clutter is your goal, I highly recommend you enlist the help of a qualified expert from the National Association of Professional Organizers. You can run a search for an organizer in your area by checking out their “Find an Organizer” page, which lets you run searches filtered by specialty and zip code.
But if getting your photo clutter under control is your goal, I can help with that! In this post, I’m going to walk you through my simple step-by-step process for gathering, organizing, backing up, and sharing treasured images.
Let’s get started!
Step One: Take a deep breath.
Now that the post-holiday dust has cleared, you have a little time to take a close look at the images you’ve captured. Sometimes, this may lead to a feeling of overwhelm, as you reminisce about holiday memories from previous years and feel embarrassed or frustrated that you couldn’t locate those photos when you wanted to display or share them.
You may also be wondering, “What in the heck happened to my filing system?” or think, “How did this photo of my 1998 Christmas tree end up in my ‘Medical Records’ folder?”
It’s okay to feel frustrated, but I urge you to take a deep breath and say to yourself, “One step at a time.” Tackling your photo mess might feel a little overwhelming right now, but if you take it one baby step at a time (and I’ll walk you through each of those steps in this article) you will be able to corral your photos and come up with an ongoing photo organizing system that works for you.
So, take a deep breath, then dig into your next step.
Step Two: Gather and organize your photos.
The next step in your photo organization process is gathering all your photos into one place.
Gathering Digital Photos: (Note: If you’re using iCloud, and you’ve got it set up so it syncs your photos across all your devices, you may be able to skip this step.)
When you gather all your images in one place, it is easier to see what photos you have, get rid of duplicates, and organize your photos so you can easily access them later.
Get all your devices in one place (every device you have used to take a photo) and upload all the photos from each device into a folder labeled by device (i.e. Julie’s iPhone, Nikon Camera, Tom’s iPhone).
Gathering Print Photos: You also want to gather up all your print photos during this step, and make sure all of them are in one place.
Step Three: Check for duplicates.
You can do this visually by viewing the files. Just to be safe, create a folder called Duplicates and move any you find there. Then if you’ve accidentally moved a file to the wrong place, it’s easy to move back. You can also run a duplicate checking program. For Mac, my favorite is PhotoSweeper. For PC, Awesome Duplicate Finder is a good product.
A note about print and digital duplicates: We all have that overlapping time period when we switched from print-only versions of our photos to print PLUS digital. That was the time period when we could develop our film and get a CD of the photos. So before you spend time scanning prints you already have on your computer, check for any overlap there between your digital and print photos.
Step Four: Select the best photos to keep
Your next step is to do a review to select your best photos. You can check out this post for more details on deciding which photos to keep using a simple A/B/C system. In general, first you want to get rid of anything that is blurry, black, or poor-quality, and also purge any screenshots of things you no longer need. Once you’ve gotten rid of the “C” quality images, then it’s time to be more discerning and select only the best shots of a moment.
Step Five: Rename and organize your photos.
Your next step is to do a little photo organizing, so you can easily find the images you need later.
Organizing Digital Photos: I recommend setting up a folder system by Year and Month. Rename your photos according to date taken and event – but it’s a good idea to keep the original file name at the end of the end of the new file name. (i.e. 2016-12-25-Christmas day-IMG 2051). With file names, you want to be succinct and consistent. Then if you want to search by filename, it makes logical sense. For example, Christmas and Xmas are different names for the same holiday.
You can also include the device name (i.e. Tom’s iPhone) so you have a visual reminder of where the photo came from originally. To get the date the photo was taken, you can look at the information on the file following the name. Then move your files from the device folders into those corresponding Year-Month folders.
If you’re working on a Mac, you can rename your images in Finder, or on a PC you can get an app called Winsome File Renamer.
Organizing Print Photos: Grab a couple of photo boxes, and organize your print photos by event or category. Make sure you’ve got a large workspace for this project, and give yourself enough time to complete it without having to rush. For more information on organizing photo prints, check out our three-part series on print photo organization: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Step Six: Back up and/or secure your photos.
Now you’ve purged the duplicate or poor-quality photos, and you’ve got everything organized into categories. The next step is protecting your photos by backing them up. It’s vitally important that you protect your photos with proper backup, in case something catastrophic happens to your device, laptop, or print photos.
For print photos, it’s a good idea to scan them (or have someone scan them for you). You can check out this post for more information on that process. After you scan your photos, it’s still a good idea to keep your original prints – those give you another additional back-up copy, in case something happens to your digital copies.
I always recommend having two different kinds of back-ups for your digital photos: external hard drive, and cloud back-up.
You can buy an inexpensive hard drive at office supply stores, BestBuy or Amazon.com, and you should buy a drive that has plenty of space. Drives that are at least 1 TB are good – but larger is fine, too!
For digital cloud backups, I recommend full backups of ALL your photos and documents with Carbonite or Backblaze. You can set up these backups so they run automatically, so you don’t have to remember to back up your computer, and you don’t have to do anything manually!
When you sign up for one of these digital cloud backup services, they should walk you through the process of setting up regular backups of your photos.
Step Seven: Share your photos.
Want to share your photos with your friends and family members? Now that your photos are organized, and you know where all your favorite photos are, it’s the perfect time to share them with friends and family members.
Here are some ideas for sharing photos:
- Creating slideshows and publishing them on YouTube.
- Posting photo collections or collages on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
- Create Shared Albums in iCloud, or share your photos via Dropbox or Google Photos.
You can also discover ideas for displaying photos (and giving photo gifts) here.
Step Eight: Maintain your system.
Now here’s the most important part: In order to avoid having the photo mess creep up on you again, it’s critical that you maintain your photo organizing system.
As you take new photos and upload them to your computer, purge poor-quality photos and organize them into folders as you go. Plan to do a photo-organizing session once a month (or more often, if you take lot of photos) so you don’t end up back where you started!
If keeping vacation photos under control are a problem, read this post on organizing your vacation photos while you’re still traveling.
It’s your turn
Now I’m turning it over to you – it’s time for you to get rid of your photo mess, once and for all.
Use these simple steps to corral, purge, and organize your photos this month, and you can look forward to a photo-clutter-free 2017!
Need assistance with this process? Contact us to talk about how we can help.
4 thoughts on “How to (Finally) Tame Your Photo Mess”