How to Organize Pictures on your Computer

If you struggle with knowing how to organize pictures then check out this first part of a step by step series which will guide you through getting your photos under control and organized once and for all.

Last year I read Marie Kondo’s best seller, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and although I still battle the clutter everyday, its basic principles has helped me to control the “stuff” in my house.  Where I do suffer from enormous amounts of “clutter” and disorganization though, is in my digital life, most glaringly, in my photo organization. I have photos EVERYWHERE and I don’t mean beautifully printed out, matted and framed! This is despite having Adobe Lightroom and the know-how to sort this issue out. So I have decided that this summer is the summer that I’m finally going to organize pictures, videos and all things digital and I’m going to document it all here on the blog so hopefully it can help someone who is suffering from the same problem.

As you might know, I am a photography educator. I teach people how to use their cameras, photography basics including Adobe Lightroom and how to organize their pictures.  Why then are mine such a mess? Its not for lack of knowledge of how to do it. I believe its more that my home is completely overstuffed with photos everywhere I turn. They are on my iPad, on my Phone, in text messages, emails, on hard drives, flash drives, and on a whole other PC that I no longer use! And to make matters worse, every day I add to this crazy pile. Some day my kiddos are going to look for a photo of themselves aged 3 and I won’t be able to find one and believe me, its not because I haven’t taken any…  This makes me very sad so enough of the craziness!

Let’s Begin!

Step 1: Picture your Ideal System

I realize we are all starting at different points in this process so before you start moving things around, give a little thought to your current situation.

  • What system if any you currently use?
  • Do you want to stick with it or develop a new system?
  • Perhaps most of your photos are already in Lightroom and its the others that you need to tackle.  This is the case for me.

In my Lightroom Library, everything from 2013 to date is pretty well organized, but I still have the issue of iPad pics, emails pics and old PCs and laptops to sort out.  If you are just a beginning photographer you likely have no bad habits yet so you get to start from scratch. Organize pictures doesn’t even feature on your todo list yet. Give yourself a pat on the back 😉

Give some thought to your current situation and how you could improve upon it. Think about the end goal of all that picture taking. At some point I’m sure you’ll want to retrieve your beautiful images or perhaps it might be someone else doing the searching.  Will they be able to understand your system and find what they are looking for?

Step 2: Get your Equipment

I can hands down say the Adobe Lightroom is the powerhouse when it comes to organizing pictures and photo management.  If you are not already invested in a system that you are happy with then you can purchase Adobe Lightroom 6 outright or you can subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud which includes both Photoshop and Lightroom.

You will also need a place to store all of your photos.  In my opinion it is better to first have anything in one place and then back up from there and my “one place” of choice is a 3 TB External Hard drive.  I purchased this one from Amazon but do your research to see what’s a good fit for the size of your photo library and your budget. Ultimately you will have a back up of all your images, but as of now, this is your single place for all your photos for $9.99 per month.

Step 3: Gather your photos

My last step in this phase is to gather all of my photos in one place.  I know I have a ton of duplicates so this should help me get over this issue and my one place is going to be my 3 tb hard drive.  I also have issues with videos and video clips, but right now I ‘m focusing on photos! I might even end up needing a 2nd drive purely for videos. We shall see…

Next, I’m going to do a search on my laptop, my Old PC, my iPad, iPhone and a few other random drives I have lying around.  If you are joining me on this quest, then you might also want to check out old CDs, old Phones and flash drives. I’m pretty confident all my other phones were at one point put onto my computer, so I’m not too worried about mine.

So I’ve created a folder on my external hard drive called “PHOTOS TO BE ORGANIZED.” The next step is to copy everything that is currently all over the place into sub-folders within this folder. If your photos are already in folders, keep this folder structure when you copy your images over. If they are not, then just create sub-folders to represent each device or starting folder and label appropriately. You can drag and drop your images onto this folder or simply “copy” and “paste” each folder individually.

So this process is going to take a little time, but I cannot stress enough the importance of gathering everything in one place.  In my next post, we’ll discuss importing the images into Lightroom in such a way that future retrieval will be a piece of cake.

Over to you!

So your homework for this week is:

Step 1: Think about your current situation and how you need to improve of that.

Step 2: Purchase a dedicated external hard drive or decide on the single place to gather all your photos on.

Step 3: Gather all of your devices with images on them. Download the images into sub-folders within the PHOTOS TO BE ORGANIZED folder on your hard drive. Do not delete them off these devices yet until they have been further backed up.

Would you like to join me in organizing your pictures? If so sign up below to get the next blog post delivered to your inbox and get a copy of my CameraShy Gear Guide as well. 


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I’d love to know your biggest challenge with all of this so let me know in the comments.

Happy snapping