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Today, I’m going to give you a manageable solution for how to organize ALL your pictures… hopefully without losing your mind in the process. You can do this!
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.
This post does not cover WHERE to store all your pictures. If you’re deciding between iPhoto/ iCloud, windows photos, the cloud, a hard drive, Google photos, Prime photos (and on and on), check out my thoughts on which program makes the most sense for most people!
How to Organize Photos in 9 Steps
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 plan for it on my calendar, brew some decaf or tea, 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 doesn’t have to be super time consuming. Depending on how many picture sources you’re gathering from, it may take 30-90 minutes.
TIP: If you want a quick and easy edit, use the “auto” improve button in your photo program of choice. (I use & edit my pictures in Google Photos & often click “auto” for an easy upgrade.)
2. Start Current
If you haven’t organized pictures in 10 years, don’t get discouraged. (I have heard from people who use this tutorial to go through 20 years of their family history photos… it works for anyone!)
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. I suggest going in reverse chronological order. 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.
EXTRA TIP: 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.
EXTRA EXTRA TIP: Use Google Photos cloud storage 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 into folders 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!
This will make it so much easier when you’re ready to order printed photos or photo books.
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.” Occasionally, 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:
- external 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 confusing even though I have a Macbook and iPhone, so I never use it. Ever.
- both – the more backup the merrier
Call me old school, but for years, I still backed up my photos onto 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!
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. It will help to have a ‘why.’ Why are you organizing photos? The main reasons I organize my pictures are:
- to make an annual family photo album with Mixbook (or Blurb or Shutterfly).
- to easily create photo gifts with Mpix – the grandparents seem to love the 15 oz photo collage mugs!
- to create annual page-a-day calendars for xmas gifts! These are SUPER easy to order each year if you use this personal photo organizer system I’m describing. You can make them at Social Print Studio, using my $5-off code for your order: 4GQQTLZYP1
To quote Myquillyn Smith, “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.