Tech Dads United

How I Sort & Store My Digital Photos

May 12, 2018
Brett Eldridge
Organisation, Google, Tips, Digital Photos, Family, Backup

So Your Photos Are a Mess and They Need Sorting

You have digital photos, and over time they have become a bit of a mess. You are not alone. I have been sorting and storing photos for years, and have run into hurdles and changed how I have done things many, many times.

I now have a pretty solid and scalable solution that really should not need changing. I am writing this post to share with you the system I use to store and sort my photos.

I will break this post into 3 main sections:

1. Storing Photos
2. Sorting Photos
3. Backing Up Photos
Digital Pics - Storing & Sorting

Firstly: Don't Use Photo Programs or Software

Photo managing software comes and goes faster than you think, and you could be left with a massive mess if the software stops and is no longer available. Also, photo managing software makes it hard to know where your actual photos are. I don't even like the way Apple stores and sorts your photos, as you can't even see them in the file structure.

My advice is to stay away from programs and always use the basic file system on Windows or Mac to store and sort your digital photos. That way, you know where they are, how they are structured and can backup easily any time you like.

How to Store Digital Photos

I use Windows, but a Mac is very similar.. I use the native folders structure to store my digital photos. Folders are easy to use, a folder can store other folders or files. When storing your digital photos, you need to think of a structure that will allow you to find them easily when you want to.

Here is how I store my digital photos: Windows has a folder called 'Pictures' so I used this as the main folder, and all of my images are in that folder. Inside of the 'Pictures' folder, I created a few category folders, because not all of my images are family photos. I created the following folders:

Family Photos: A folder for all family photos.
Photography: I take landscape photos, stored here.
Wallpapers: A folder for images that I use for my desktop backgrounds.
Stock Photos: A folder for bought photos for my business.
Temp: More about this later. A temporary folder.

Inside each of those folders I have sub folders that make it easy to find photos. The 'Wallpapers', 'Stock Photos' and 'Photography' folders just have a few sub folders like categories. But the 'Family Photos' folder has a very important structure.

Inside 'Family Photos' I have a folder for each year. 2018, 2017, 2016, and so on, right back to when I only have a few photos, and the last folder is '2009 & Earlier'. There are no photos stored directly in the 'Family Photos' folder.

Inside each of the year folders, I have another set of folders for each occasion that year. 'Christmas', 'New Years', 'Bretts Birthday', 'Vacation at Hamilton Island' and so on. Each year folder will have a similar set of folders, but not always the same. Once again, there are no photos stored directly in the folder for that year.

Inside each of the occasion folders is where I store all of my photos. It is very rare that an 'Occasion' would have another set of folders inside it, but it does happen. If there are an unusually large amount of photos, I would consider using another set of folders to break it up. EG. I went on a travelling holiday in California, so I had an 'Occasion' folder called 'California Trip', and inside of that, instead of dumping all of my photos, I created a folder for each town/city that I stopped at. It just makes it easier to find photos.

Renaming photos is not necessary. You can if you like, but if you are like me, and have thousands of them, just put them in their with their original filename.
Folder Structure for Storing Family Photos

How to Sort Your Digital Photos

If you are just getting around to sorting your family photos, you might have a big job ahead. But you just need to chip away at it, and it will get done.

Whether you have 10 photos to sort, or 20,000 photos to sort, the 'Temp' folder mentioned above is the key. You treat the 'Temp' folder as a 'To Do' folder. This folder allows you to take your time, and not get overwhelmed by the task ahead.

If you are just starting to sort your photos, put all of your photos in this 'Temp' folder. They can be loose files, or in folders, it doesn't matter, just put them in there. While you are at it, grab all the photos off your phone, and tablet and camera cards, and just put them all in there. It is messy, granted, but they are all ready to be sorted.

If you only have hard copies of your photos, you need to scan them, and place the scans in the temp folder. You might be interested in our other post: Going Paperless at Home.

From this point on, your 'Temp' folder is where you put all of your photos prior to sorting, and at any point in time, you know that this is your to do folder, and all of your other folders are perfectly sorted. The goal is to have your 'Temp' folder empty.

So you should now have all your photos in your temp folder, so you can start to sort. Take a look at the photos in your temp folder, and look for easy 'Occasions' to start with. You might see a bunch of family photos from Christmas last year, so start with those. Just create the folders you need in the 'Family Photos' folder. EG. Don't just go and add all the years, and occasions, just in case you don't have any photos for that occasion. Just add the folders as you need. Using the Christmas example above, you need to create a folder called 2017, and then in that add an occasion of 'Christmas'. Then, cut and paste your photos from your temp folder to the Christmas folder.

Important: Make sure you 'Cut and Paste', not 'Copy and Paste'. Or you will start creating duplicates.
Moving Family Photos from Temporary Folder

Backing Up Your Family Photos

This is critical. How many times do you hear people losing everything in a house fire or flood, and the most important thing they lost were all their photos... Having your photos in digital form does not stop this happening to you! But, having them in digital form does mean that you could back them up easily and if you back them up offsite, then you should never lose your family photos.

A backup is simply a copy of all your photos. There are numerous ways to backup your digital photos, but you need to ensure your backup is an 'Offsite Backup'.

An offsite backup means there is a copy of your photos, NOT in the same physical location. As opposed to an onsite backup, where the copy is in the same physical location. Backing up your photos to another drive in your computer is a great thing to do, and will protect your photos if you get a faulty drive. But, if your house burns down, you lose both drives at once, and all your photos. Make sure you have an offsite backup!

There are numerous ways to do offsite backups. One way is to physically do a backup onto a portable hard drive, and store it at someone else's house. Then, you can just update it every month or so. Another way is to use space on your web hosting if you have a website for your business. The most common way you can save your family pics off site though, is in the 'Cloud'. Many big companies offer a 'Cloud' service. Which really means you get a small amount of storage space on their server. Google, Microsoft, Apple and many more offer cloud storage for backing up your family photos.

I personally use Google Backup & Sync. It is really easy to use, and it backs up straight away. It is just a small program that you install, and then tell it which folders to backup. It will always keep these folders backed-up.
Backing Up Family Photos with Google Backup & Sync

Don't Put This Off

Sorting all of your digital family photos may seem like a task for another day... But please, do not put it off. You just never when something could happen to your photos, and they really are invaluable, and irreplaceable.