With the current digital media age, there are pictures EVERYWHERE. Facebook, Instagram, your phone, your spouse’s phone, text messages, google photos, your email, your computer, and on and on. This picture overload makes it feel really hard to know how to organize your pictures.
You can do it though! I’m hoping to simplify the “problem” today and give you a manageable solution for how to organize your pictures… hopefully without losing your mind in the process.
The main reason I organize my pictures is to make an annual family photo album (Check out this article for a few pictures of our annual albums.) Blurb is my favorite custom book tool, and Mixbook is my favorite click and drag bookmaking site.
This post does not cover WHERE to store all your pictures. If you’re deciding between iPhoto, windows photos, the cloud, a hard drive, Google photos, amazon photos (and on and on), check out my thoughts on which program makes the most sense for most people!
1. The Once a Month Photo Club
The main “trick” here is to understand the following steps and then schedule a time to organize your pictures every single month. I write it on my calendar, buy some wine, and spend a couple hours on it after the kids go to bed, usually with a show on in the background while my husband is geeking out – coding next to me.
It takes me about 2 hours because I take a LOT of pictures, both on my phone and with my DSLR and I like editing them. You could easily spend less than 2 hours once a month and still stay on top of your pictures.
TIP: If you want a quick edit, use google photos “auto.” (More about Google Photos later in this post.)
Grab my free printable cheat sheet and post it somewhere that will help you remember your monthly photo-organizing session! It has all 8 steps to organize your pictures!
2. Start Current
If you haven’t organized pictures in 10 years, don’t get discouraged. Here’s what you can do to ‘catch up.’ First of all, START CURRENT. Just commit to doing this month’s pictures. Forget about going back for now. Sometime in February, for example, block out an evening to work through January’s pictures. It might feel slow the first time, but eventually this process will get faster and easier. Develop the habit of doing this for a couple months. THEN, you can go back and try to catch up.
Once you’re current, the easiest way to catch up is to set small goals. Do the current month + 1 old month each month. Don’t do more than that if you’ll get overwhelmed. If you have the freedom, flexibility, and endurance to block out an entire Saturday to get caught up, fine. But most people would rather drink bleach while poking their eyes out. So, I suggest small progress. Baby steps. 1 old month + the current month. You can do it!
3. Gather Pictures from Multiple Sources for 1 Month
- shared photos from google photos, FB, or IG
TIP: To make the gathering process less tedious, get in the habit of immediately saving anything shared with you to your phone album. If someone texts me a picture or I see one on Instagram/ Facebook that I want to use in an album, I save it on the spot. That way, when I’m gathering photos at the end of the month, I don’t have to go back through Instagram, Facebook, and texts. I’ve already saved the pictures I want into my regular photos album.
I do the same thing with email. If someone emails me a picture I want to use in an album, I immediately download it and put it in iPhoto. Then, it’s already there when I go to organize the pictures for the month.
If you take a lot of pictures on your phone, go through them a few times throughout the month while you’re on the treadmill or watching a show, and delete the crappy ones. This will save you time during your once-a-month upkeep session.
Use Google Photos to manage your pictures instead of whatever the default photo app is on your phone. Move the default app to a random hidden folder so you don’t accidentally use that. Do all deleting in Google Photos because it will automatically sync to the cloud. Then, periodically just delete photos from your actually device. More about this in my Complete Google Photos Tutorial
4. Put all the pictures for one month in an album together
I used to organize pictures by event, but I’d find myself looking through my pictures folder trying to remember the name of a particular event.. was it called John and Julie’s Wedding, or Smith Wedding? 20 minutes later, I’d find a folder called something ridiculous like “JJ Wedding Best Ever 2015 Summer.” Organizing by month keeps things simple and prevents a lot of painful searching!
5. Delete Crappy Ones
Once you have all your pictures in one album for the month, start deleting. Immediately delete all the obviously crappy pictures. Delete as many as you can! If you took 20 in a row of your kiddos doing the same thing, try to pick your favorite one or two. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one who takes 16 in a row to try to get the perfect baby & mom selfie….)
6. Delete, Delete & Delete Some More
If you take a lot of pictures, go back through and delete more! Digital picture overload makes creating albums and products paralyzing. I’ve learned that from experience. It’s nearly impossible (and annoying) to sift through the hundreds and hundreds of pictures I have from my oldest daughter’s first year of life.
7. Edit (Optional)
If you care about the shadows, lighting, colors, etc… go ahead and edit the remaining pictures in your folder. When I used iPhoto, I usually just clicked “enhance.” Ocassionally, I also used lighten, and contrast.
In Google Photos, if I have time, I hit “auto.” The auto edit feature really makes a difference, but when I get behind, I skip the editing and just get the pictures sorted and in my albums!
If editing sounds overwhelming, skip it.
Once you’re done gathering, deleting, and editing, it’s time to backup that month’s pictures.
Your options are:
- hard drive – get the right kind for your computer: MAC option ; PC option… don’t stress about size and brand. Just grab one of those – either a mac or PC. Get at least 1TB. 2 or more TB is fine too. And you’ll probably never run out of room on here 🙂
- cloud – Amazon has photo storage for prime members; I use Google Photos; the iCloud is another option but I find everything about it infuriating even though I have a Macbook and iPhone, so I never use it. Ever. I would destroy it if I could.
- both – the more backup the merrier
Call me old school, but for years, I still backed my pictures up to a hard drive every month.
But, I’ve lost my hard drive a couple times, which induces extreme panic. Every time that happened, I would resolve to move my backups to the cloud. I finally moved all my pictures to cloud backup in 2017 and haven’t looked back. I moved everything on to Google Photos, and I LOVE IT!!! (Here’s a step by step Google Photos tutorial if you’re interested!) YOU CAN DO THIS!
Here’s that printable cheat sheet with all 8 steps for how to organize your pictures. Post it somewhere as a reminder.
9. Honestly, making up your mind is the biggest thing.
Decide you want to organize your pictures, and then start. As with anything, it will get easier the more you do it. Don’t stress about what you miss, or what’s undone. The point is to be preserving memories for your family in the future. To quote another blogger I like, “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Just go for it! Good luck!
May the force be with you!! Comment below with any questions or photo organizing tips of your own.
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