Organizing & Storing Digital Photos

Lee and I recently sneaked away on a two weeks vacation to the beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago with her family. Lee was born in T&T and actually lived there until the age of 10 when her parents moved to Canada. Most of her family still lives there so this trip was extra special for her since she hadn’t seen them in just over 5 years.

We brought two cameras with us for the trip, our waterproof camera for all day, everyday and beach picture and our SLR for times where we did more tourist-y things. Our phones stayed in her aunt’s safe for most of the trip so aside for plane pictures, there were barely used for pictures. Still, over the course of the two weeks, we managed to take just over 2600 pictures!

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Of course that amount was before we went through them and deleted duplicates, blurry or otherwise useless pictures. We try to only keep pictures that fall in the two following categories:

  1. Worth printing picture (beautiful or meaningful pictures that we would actually pay to print and display in our house);
  2.  Tells a story or memory we want to remember (some pictures aren’t as beautiful but they tell stories which make our trip the amazing experience it was and though most of these aren’t pictures we would ever print or display, they are a vital part of explaining the story and essence of our trip and therefore are worth keeping).

Any pictures that doesn’t fall into the two categories above gets deleted. Once we’ve slimmed down our collection of pictures and/or edited the ones that need it (using Picasa which is free) it is time to organize them. We’ve created a system that allows us to very quickly find any particular picture we are looking for whether by subject or by date. Here’s how:

First, we’ve created folders for every year and labeled them as such.

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Then, in each of these yearly folders are monthly folders all labelled as with the “YYYY-MM” format. Using the month’s number rather than abbreviation ensures that our folders are in the proper order (January to December).

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In each of the monthly folders are our pictures, all renamed with the following format: “YYYY-MM-DD Event name ##”. Labeling the pictures with the date mainly helps them stay in order whereas adding the event name makes it so much easier to find a particular picture. For instance we can search for “Easter 2015” and all the pictures from last year’s Easter celebration will come up. But we can also do a wider “Easter” search which will yield all of our Easter pictures from all of the past years (2015, 2014, 2013, etc…).

This is probably my favorite feature of this organizational system as we were able to create categories through the event name on each picture. For instance searching “Instagram” yields all the pictures which were posted on Instagram, the “Project” search yield a mod podge of all the DIY projects we’ve done over the years, the “Crochet” search yields all the pictures of my crochet creations…

Whenever naming a picture, we always ask ourselves what we would type in a search box to find this exact picture and simply use that. We try to include both specific and wider options in the event names, for instance instead of naming the picture from our trip “Trip to Trinidad and Tobago” we will name them more specifically  such as “Trip to Trinidad and Tobago – Maracas Beach”. This allows us to search for certain pictures in the following ways:

  • “Trip” to find the pictures of all our trips;
  • “Trinidad and Tobago” to find all the pictures of our trips to this country
  • “Trinidad and Tobago 2016” to find all of the pictures of this specific trip or;
  • “Maracas Beach” for all the pictures of our visit to this specific beach during our trip.

The options become endless and it makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for. Of course whenever we have more than one picture for a particular event, we add numbers after the event name (in chronological order in which they were taken).

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We try to upload up our pictures frequently (from all possible sources: SLR, waterproof camera, phones, etc.) and organize them at least once a month. Being consistent and not falling behind is the key to having this system working properly and easily.

Every time we complete a month, we upload a copy of it from our computer to both of our portable hard drives, this way, our pictures are stored digitally on 3 different devices and we can sleep soundly without fear or loosing them all if one of our devices was to fatally crash.

Do you have any sort of system to organize and store your digital pictures? Have you ever thought of saving them on multiple devices to minimize the risk of loosing them in the event one of them would fatally crash? Have you upgraded to storing on the cloud yet?


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