How to Organize Your Digital Photos – Essential Tips

In Photography Business by Stefano Caioni2 Comments
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Learning how to organize your digital photos can be complicated.

Every day whether you are out and about trying your new gear or just hanging out with friends, you are probably taking tons of photos.

In short, these are the key points you have to follow to keep your digital photos well organized:

  • Transfer your file from your memory card to your computer as soon as you get home from a day out shooting,
  • Have an easy to remember, clear folder structure,
  • Use external devices to backup your digital images,
  • Be selective with the photos you keep,
  • Iterate and improve on your digital photo catalog

If you are a hobbyist or a professional photographer, finding the best way to store and organize digital photos can make a huge difference and save you a lot of time.

The next step after getting a lot of pictures is to transfer to your computer and save your files correctly. Organizing your photos can be stressful and annoying to do if you don’t have a systematic method in place. Taking the time to learn what to do will save you hours of sorting through hundreds of photos later on to find the exact picture that you’re looking for.

Organize Your Digital Photos

Why organizing photos is important

Let me show you exactly everything you can do to start organizing your photos like a pro.

The first thing to do is to decide whether or not you want to categorize your collection by date or by moments (camping trips, holidays, vacations, friends, family, etc).

Photo Organization Folder Structure

Either have your main folder as the year and month (2019 folder with each month inside) and keep your subcategory folder within each month.
For example, your main folder’s name with all your pictures inside could be “Photos,” and within that folder, you would have each year.

Within each year, you can have something like this:

Photos / 2019 / 2019-08-Italy-CinqueTerre / 2019-08-Italy-CinqueTerre.jpg
Photos / 2019 / 2019-09-Japan-Tokyo / 2019-09-Japan-Tokyo-001.jpg
Photos / 2019 / 2019-09-Japan-Tokyo / 2019-09-Japan-Tokyo-002.jpg
Photos / 2019 / 2019-09-Japan-Osaka / 2019-09-Japan-Osaka.jpg

I wrote an extensive article on how to specifically use a software like Lightroom to manage your photos in your computer. Read my article about how to organize your photos using Adobe Lightroom.

Useful Video Guide on How to Organize your Digital Photos

For those of you who like watching a video instead of reading, during my research, I found this cool video from Jeremy Martel on how to organize your photos. He follows a similar approach to mine.

Enjoy the video.

Backup Your Digital Photos

If you have a collection of photos that you keep on your computer or hard drive, then it’s imperative always to make sure you back them up. 

If you don’t do this, it’s not about if you lose your photos, but when.

Too many people make the mistake of not backing up their photos and lose all their memories due to unforeseen circumstances.

Backing up photos doesn’t take long, and it’s something you should do to make sure you have your pictures for the rest of your life. 

I use two hard drives, one as a primary workhorse storage drive and the second as a backup.

This way, I’m sure that I have two copies of each file and avoid losing my photos.

I find that the best and cheapest is the Seagate Backup Slim 2T, like the one in the image. It’s a small, portable, and fast hard drive (USB 3.0).

Seagate Expansion Portable 2TB External Hard Drive HDD – USB 3.0 for PC Laptop (STEA2000400)
  • Easily store and access 2TB of content on the go with Seagate Expansion Portable hard drive
  • This external hard drive for Windows computers makes backup a snap just drag and drop
  • To get set up, connect the portable hard drive to your Windows computer for automatic recognition no software required
  • This USB drive provides plug and play simplicity with the included 18 inch USB 3.0 cable
  • Enjoy long term peace of mind with the included 1 year limited warranty

I bought two of them, and you should consider buying it too. 

I also take them with me when I travel.

If you have a bigger budget, I also recommend buying the excellent Seagate Desktop. It’s an 8TB Desktop External Hard Drive with USB 3.0 as a primary storage unit for home.

Seagate Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive HDD – USB 3.0 for PC Laptop and Mac (STGY8000400)
  • Ideal for the home, office, or dorm, the Seagate Desktop Drive offers 8TB of enormous desktop storage for photos, movies, music, and more
  • An external hard drive for Windows or Mac computers, simply back up with a quick drag and drop
  • The perfect laptop hard drive or PC drive, just plug into to a computer for automatic recognition no software required
  • Includes an 18 inch USB 3.0 cable and 18 Watt power adapter
  • Enjoy long term peace of mind with the included 1 year limited warranty

Delete With No Mercy, Keep Only the Best Shots

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to take as many photos as possible per picture that you take. 

No one wants one picture to be taken and find out their eyes were closed.

Similarly, you don’t want to take a shot of a beautiful landscape and find out you had the wrong exposure settings.

Especially in the beginning, I recommend taking a minimum of 5 – 10 pictures per photo you want to add to your collection (or even more). Then you can choose only the best and delete the ones you don’t like.

This way, you won’t lose yourself in a labyrinth of image files you don’t like and are just taking space on your hard drive.

I recommend using Lightroom since it’s a great tool to go through your photos and add tags to them. 

Read more about Lightroom in this guide.

Use the Right Tools. Photo Mechanic

Lightroom is not only an editing software; it’s also powerful for its organizing tool. But it’s not the only one.

If you want to take it a step further, many professional photographers use Photo Mechanic for its speed and efficiency it brings to their workflow.

Photo Mechanic is not an alternative to Lightroom, but a photo managing tool with which load photo previews faster, add ratings and color labels to your collection in a more efficient way, and add metadata to your files (such as copyright, date, etc.), perform batch actions and much more.

The great thing about Photo Mechanic is that you can use it with your preferred editor too. 

You can use Lightroom and Photo Mechanic together and harness the power of both at the same time. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like an in-depth guide on how to use it in your workflow. 

And if you want, you can download a free trial from their website.

Doing Things Right the First Time

I want you always to do the right thing when it comes to organizing and saving your photos.

It’s essential to stick with a routine when it comes to taking pictures and managing digital files.

Set a specific time to edit and organize your photos, or you’ll end up coming back to a mess of digital files and taking up more of your time than needed.

Some people like to wait until they backup their photos to their second hard drive. I believe the best possible thing to do is to delete any unwanted images immediately after copying them from your camera and before doing the editing.


If you want to organize everything neatly, it’s essential to stay consistent and experiment at the same time. 

Consistency and routine will help you get in the habit of doing things right away and saving you a lot of time.

Whatever way you decide to organize your photos, make sure to stick with it. Developing a system can take time, but if you keep to the same system, it makes a huge difference. 

Shoot as many pictures as possible, delete them regularly, and organize and edit them with the right tools. Do it as soon as you get home!

I hope that you’ve been able to learn a thing or two from this article, and you’ll be able to put your photo organizing skills to use. Take your photo editing skills to the next level, become more organized, and get the most out of every shot!


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