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A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: Organize Your Photos!

A large number of photographs on a table | Motif

Reading Time: 7 minutes read

For many people, the New Year is a time to make big and small changes for the better.

May we suggest an uplifting life adjustment that will bestow lasting benefits? Why not organize your photos and make it your New Year’s resolution?

It will give you an opportunity to reconnect with the people, places, and memories you hold so dear and inspire you to capture more memories in the days to come.

Here are a few tips.

1. Organize your photos in one place

There’s nothing more frustrating than not remembering where you saved a favorite photo. Is it in the cloud? Did I save it to my laptop or the family desktop? Is it still on my camera’s SD card?  I’m sure I took it with my iPhone but now, what to do?

To prevent this pictorial foraging, start organizing by bringing all your photos to a single location. It can be a folder on your laptop, an online storage service like Backblaze or  iDrive, or an external hard drive (more on those later).

This has two major advantages. First, you won’t have to alter your organizational system mid-development because you found a surprise cache of Halloween photos. Then, once your system is in place, you won’t have to update multiple devices or programs every time you want to save one special image.

By organizing your photos in one place, you save yourself time and energy and limit disorder— all good things.

2. Develop a personalized filing system

What’s the best filing system? That will depend on what type of shutterbug you are and the number of photos you take. If you only take pictures at family gatherings like birthdays and graduations, you can probably create an individual folder for each event but, if your photographic interests are broad, you’ll need something more intricate.

You’ll have to develop a personalized filing system to meet your unique needs. To get you started, here are a few guiding principles:

  • Have one folder for each year. If your snapshot collection is broad and deep, you may not remember exactly when you took some of those old photos and may want to condense two or three years into one folder.
  • In each year folder, create subfolders that follow a timeline. Think months, seasons, or school terms. Be sure to add a number to keep everything in chronological order (“01_Spring 2019,” “02_Summer 2019,” and so on).
  • The next subfolders should be organized around specific themes. They can name events, activities, trips, hobbies, or landscapes.
  • Be as specific with your folder names as possible. If you love walking by the the bay, don’t have one folder labeled “Bay.” Instead, have individual folders for “Bay Sunsets,” “Tidepools,” “Bayside events,” and the like.
  • If your photographic interests are varied, you may need to create a folder for each. Have one for family, one for landscape photography, and another for artistic compositions. For each folder, follow the guidelines outlined above.

These guidelines can be adjusted, but they should give you ideas to begin developing your own system.

If you are a Mac user and use Apple Photos as one of the photo organizing tools, here is a quick note. Photos will automatically group your images into four categories: Photos, Moments, Collections, and Years. These can be useful for finding specific photos quickly, but we still recommend creating individual Albums based on a personalized system. Photos, algorithms are certainly impressive and helpful, but nothing can beat your intimate connection with these moments.

3. Whittle it down

With your filing system in place, it’s time to cull your collection. Go through and remove any duplicates, blurry images, or photos you don’t like. Don’t get too strict and delete something you may regret getting rid of. After all, a photo you find lacking may just need some editing to look more professional. Just do a quick scan and delete the irredeemable to lessen the clutter.

Some people believe you should rename your photos at this point. The argument goes that the human mind won’t recognize a string of information like “IMG_20190105_12345,” and think, “Oh, I remember that lovely picture of a Barrow’s goldeneye duck.” Better to name it “Barrow’s goldeneye at the bay.”

That’s a fair point, but let’s be honest with ourselves—none of us have the time to rename 500+ photos. It isn’t necessary, either. Programs like Photos visually display your collection, and you can scan with your eyes much faster than you can read file names.

With that said, you can rename multiple files at once. Simply put all the photos in a single folder, devise a naming convention—something like “Lake Tahoe_Vacation_2019”—and use the batch-rename tool. This tool will rename every photo in that folder in sequential order. While not necessary, it can make life easier if an image accidentally gets misplaced.

Rename Multiple Photos with Batch Rename Tool | Motif

4. Create a download schedule

With everything organized, we need to keep it that way. The best method is to set aside a specific time to download, store, and reorganize all your latest photos.

Be sure to get everything from your phone as well as your camera. Yes, your iPhone or iPad is connected to iCloud, but if you aren’t paying for more storage, you’ll only receive 5 GB, which can fill up fast. Downloading photos from your phone regularly is not only a good safety measure, but will also help alleviate storage stressors.

How often you want to schedule this download time will depend on your photography habits. If you take a lot of pictures, you may want to perform a download every week however, many of us can safely perform this task once a month.

5. Back up your photos

Don’t save your photos to a single laptop, please!

Laptops can be dropped, have coffee spilled on them, can be stolen, or their components can simply break down. True, operating systems have come a long way in protecting your data, but they’re not foolproof.

That’s why you always want your photos backed up. Here, your choices are either external hard drive or cloud storage.

An external hard drive is basically a big thumb drive. You can easily find a 1 or 2 TB hard drive on sale for about $100. That may seem pricey, but it’s incredibly cost effective for the storage space. With a 1 TB hard drive, you can store hundreds of thousands of images, no problem. They are also easy to use and don’t require an internet connection, but they can be broken or lost.

Cloud storage (or an automatic cloud backup) stores your photos offsite. You never have to worry about losing the cloud, you can schedule backups automatically, and you can easily transfer photos from one device to another. However, you need an internet connection, and if you take a lot of photos, you may need to pay for additional storage.

Our favorite approach is to pair them up. Purchase an external hard drive for physical storage and organize all your photos onto it. Then use an online storage like iDrive to back it up. Hey, these are your memories. You can’t be too careful.

6. Take the time to create physical photo books

We’ve focused on digital organization because that’s how most people interact with photography these days, though there is an even more creative way to curate your most precious photographs and photo memories.

Photo books are an elegant way to do just that. They can be themed on vacations, family gatherings, or experimental works. Whatever speaks to you, a well-designed photo book offers you both the structure and the artistic freedom for how you want to present those moments.

Someone looking through a custom photo book of their children | Motif

Store these physical books on the book shelves, coffee tables, or night stands. Not only are they a beautiful physical presentation of your most meaningful photography, they are also an enjoyable way to revisit your most cherished memories time and again.

Celebrating a New Year’s success

Organizing your photos makes for an invaluable New Year’s resolution, and you can take the tools you developed while organizing your photos to revitalize other aspects of your life!