How to Organize Your Photos

Please welcome my guest today, Cassie from Mrs. January, a Canadian site about saving money to live a better life.  One of the areas of organization that sadly gets neglected in my life are photos.  I have them on my computer sorted by date and year but I tend to procrastinate what I do with them after that.   I switched from photo albums to photo books a couple of years ago but still struggle with whether to print them by event or year.  Cassie is here today to share how she stays on top of her photos by organizing them into albums.

If you’re anything like me, you are kind of a crazy person when it comes to taking photos. I take my camera with me everywhere I go, because you just never know when that perfect photo opportunity will arise! Since I am such an avid photo-taker, I have an abundance of photos stashed on my computer (since I prefer to shoot digital). I really do enjoy looking through all of my photos, but found it to be rather annoying to have to do it on the computer. Sometimes I would be in the living room with family members and they would want to see photos – and I would have to drag them all the way up to the office. I wanted albums! I wanted to be able to just hand over a book when someone asks to see our photographs – and now I can, since I just recently organized our massive photo collection.

I know it seems overwhelming to do a complete overhaul of your photos, but with my five step process, everything will be organized in less than a week – without any stress (hopefully)!

Spend one hour a day, for five days, organizing your photos so that the whole process isn’t stressful and overwhelming. You may be able to get done sooner if you have less photographs to organize.

My Five Step Process:

Day One – PURGE
Day Three – ORDER
Day Four – STUFF
Day Five – LABEL

PURGE: The very first thing you need to do is go through all of your photos and get rid of the ones that are blurry, too dark, too bright or of people you don’t even know. You should only keep the photos that you will enjoy looking at for years to come. Be sure to avoid keeping duplicates of the same photo, too.

CATEGORIES: How many albums do you plan to have?

For me, I have:
– 1 album for each pet.
– 1 album for family 2004-2008.
– 1 album for family 2009-2010.
– 1 album for miscellaneous (mostly my photography of objects and the outdoors).
– 1 album for my son 2008-2010.

Having categories like this works well because you can always find the photos you are looking for. Having a bunch of un-categorized albums with a bunch of photos shoved inside in no order – well, that’s just scary to think about. It creates chaos and chaos is not good!

Decide what categories you would like for your albums and then go through all of your photos and make piles. One pile for this category, one pile for that category, etc. Don’t worry about putting the photos in order by date, we’ll get to that tomorrow. Just make sure your piles are nice and neat and then put them aside until the next day.

ORDER: Now comes for my least favourite part – organizing those piles by date. Of course, you probably won’t know what the exact date was that certain photos were taken on and that is a-ok. You just need to put the photos in order the best that you can. For me, well – we moved alot, so I put my photos in the order of our homes! That way I didn’t have to remember any stinkin’ dates – I just had to remember where we lived first, second, third, etc. That worked for me!

STUFF: Since you have finished organizing those piles of photos, it’s now time to stuff those albums! Obviously, start with the earliest photos at the beginning of your album and then just start loading that baby up with all of your glorious pictures. This is the fun part, so try to enjoy it!

LABEL: This is the best part for any organizing junking like myself (hehe) – bring out that label maker! Ahhh, my beloved label maker. Make a label for each album and place it directly on the spine of the book. You can make a label for the front as well, but the spine is the most important, since that is how you will identify a particular album sitting on a shelf.

If you don’t have a label maker, you can easily make your own labels. There are lots of stores that sell blank labels and you can write on them yourself, or stick them into your printer and print some labels that way, if you hate your handwriting (like me).

…and there you have it, folks! My five step process to organizing your photos!

Be sure to put your albums somewhere in your home that you know they will be enjoyed. The living room or dining room is a great place to store photo albums. You can just pull them out and view them whenever the mood strikes. Seeing people enjoy those photos will be well worth the time you spent organizing them!

Organizing Your Digital Photos:

1. Upload photos to your computer and delete ones that you don’t like. I also delete duplicates and anything that’s blurry, too dark or too bright.

2. Date the photos and put them in the right folders. I have many folders of photos on my computer. My son (2008-2010), Events/Vacations (by date), each pet has their own folder, Family (by year), and then I also have a Photography folder and in there I have sub-folders such as food, plants, animals, landscapes, etc. Having things in seperate folders makes it easy peasy to find what you’re looking for. Try not to have too many folders or organizing your photos could become a very daunting task.

3. Back-Up photos onto DVDs every 3 months. Nothing is worse than having a hard drive crash and losing all of your precious photos! I have had this happen to me once before and I’m lucky my dad fixes computers for a living because he was somehow able to retrieve my lost photos. I still back them up every 3 months though, just in case dad can’t help me next time!

I also like to print my photos (not all of them!), so I have a folder on my computer that has photos inside that I want to print. I keep them in there until I see a sale on prints and then I order them all at once and delete them from this folder.

Once my photos are printed, I organize them into albums. I have my albums set up the same way my folders are set up on the computer to make it alot easier for me when I’m putting the prints in the books.

I find that by uploading, dating and organizing my photos at the end of the day, makes the task easy and quick.

How do you organize your photos?

Cassie is a 25 year old mom living on Ontario, Canada. She blogs over at Mrs. January about frugal living, personal finance, organizing and Canadian deals & freebies. She is married to her husband of 2 years and has an 18 month old little boy.

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Pictures


38 Responses to How to Organize Your Photos

  1. 1
    Gwenn says

    Oh How timely! I just found a “stash and dash” box full of pictures. (You know, stash it all in a box and dash it away when company is coming.) I can’t wait to get started getting them in better shape.

    I love my digital camera so I don’t have many paper pictres.

  2. 2
    Jill says

    If you order through Shutterfly, they print the date the picture was taken on the back of the picture automatically. It’s photo printing genius and has made my life SO much easier. Worked out great for our honeymoon photos on a cruise we went on – there were all of these beach pictures and I didn’t know which beach was which…but the dates were on the prints!

  3. 3
    Bibi says

    I have so many photos and photo albums since before the digital camera. I keep those in photo albums, but there is so many of them. I really should re0organize them. I don’t think any of them are labeled.

    Ever since I got my digital camera I burn the photos I like on DVDs and I use Walmart online Photo Shop to print the ones I need for scrapbooking or to send to family members. The rest gets deleted . Gotta love the technology.

  4. 4
    Mrs. J @ Road Less Traveled says

    This is a really good idea. I have a box of photos. But most of my photos are on my computer. I think I will organize them by category and date, like you suggested, and I am awful about deleting those blurry unwanted pictures. I think it is time for a purge!

  5. 5
    Jodi says

    Thank you so much, this is perfect timing, organizing my photos is one of my goals for this year! After my mom passed away 5 years ago, I took all the photos they had, she just had a giant box under the bed stuffed with pictures, everything from our school photos growing up to vacations to whatever. It will take me a lot longer than 5 days but this is really helpful. I also hope to scan them all so I can give digital copies of everything to my siblings.

    For my own family, we take digital pictures as well and I hate not having albums to look at, seems like once they’re downloaded, they never get looked at again! This will be great as I sort and organize my own.

  6. 6
    Stephani Sawyer says

    I have actually just started a business to help with this exact problem! I will take photos and scan them or use your digital photos, and put them into a photo book for you. I know most people are capable of doing this themselves, but sometimes they just don’t want to or don’t have the time. I am hoping to turn something I enjoy into a business to help pay off student loan debt. If you are interested, please visit my website. And good luck to all of you trying to organize! 🙂

  7. 7
    Terri says

    I have only one quibble with your suggestions. Backing up onto DVD isn’t very reliable, really. My dh recommends an external hard drive, and backups every few days or at least every time I upload photos.

    • 7.1
      Laura says

      Yes I definitely agree! I use a Clickfree and it’s so easy to do.

  8. 8
    Julia says

    Do you think it is safe to leave your photos on online photo sites (shutterfly) for an indefinite period of time. I have tons on the site but no money to order prints. I seriously have anxiety over whether or not a site like that will go on for a long period of time, or whether i need to order prints before they close and i lose those precious memories.

    • 8.1
      Rachel at Jewish Mommie says

      Julia – I totally wonder the same thing. I keep so many of my photos organized on Snapfish but I worry that if I don’t order anything they may expire (I think they do but they send an email first – but what if I miss it!))

    • 8.2
      Laura says

      I would definitely also have your pictures backup some other way (ie: external hard drive).

  9. 9
    Cassie says

    Thanks for letting me a guest poster! I really did love this task, because I have been putting off getting my photos organized forEVER (we’re talking years, here!) and now it’s finally done!

    Terri – your husband is right, I would definetely suggest the external harddrive as well.

    Julioa – I would say NO. You never know if the website will shut down or not. I wouldn’t trust it. Just save your photos on your computer, DVD, or whatever until you do have the funds to order prints.

  10. 10
    Cassie says

    errrr Julia (sorry!)

  11. 11
    Christa aka the BabbyMama says

    I pretty much get caught at “purge”.

    Even on my computer. As in, I’ll only post pretty pictures of my family on Flickr but I keep every last file. I just can’t bare to delete them. I do try to keep them nicely organized, so that counts for something, right?

  12. 12
    Melissa P. says

    Thanks for posting! I love having my pictures organized. Have you all ever seen Creative Memories’ Memory Manager software? It is the best organizational software I’ve seen for digital photos. It automatically sorts by date, so I don’t ever have to label folders, etc. I can find any picture I need in seconds.
    If anyone is interested,

    • 12.1
      Heidi says

      Haha!! Great minds think alike! See below . . .

      • Melissa P. says

        Nice, Heidi! Yes, it is my favorite CM product by FAR. So thankful for it (because I am NOT caught up on my albums 🙂

  13. 13
    Heidi says

    I am a scrapbooker and a Creative Memories consultant and use their software called Memory Manager to organize my photos. When you import them, it automatically sorts them chronologically by the date stamp! In addition, you can also create folders that make sense to you (year, child, event etc). It allows you to place a photo in several folders at once without making copies and burning up hard drive space. Also, there is an automatic back-up feature that allows you to make a shadow copy of everything on another drive (external or otherwise). That’s not to mention the easy-to-use photo editing features, reminders of what you’ve printed or backed-up etc. I could go on and on. . . . the beauty is that it’s a bargain at $39.95 US. The CM website will archive your uploaded photos as well (and print the date stamp on the back of photos that you order).
    Not sure how I’d function without my MM software.

  14. 14
    Tracey says

    Excellent post (as usual btw!). Photos is one of the big things on my to do list for this year, so the purge, categorise, order, stuff & label for one hour each day makes perfect sense and chops into it into much more manageable segments. I probably won’t print them out and stuff, but I will look at doing photo books, as I love the space saving idea and the creativity you can have with them. Thanks again!

  15. 15
    Sharisse says

    Great post! I am not very good at organizing photos either but do make sure to back them up an external hard drive. I use which is Kodak gallery to share photos with family and friends. As far as my computer, I just have them labeled by event with the date (i.e. Michelle’s wedding 1/25/11) or something like that. I have a folder for each of my kids and then inside the folder their events with dates from their soccer games, school activites, etc… As long as you put the date in the same format for all of your folders the computer will automatically sort the date.

  16. 16
    Debbie says

    I needed to see this today to get motivated. I’ve put off organizing my photos forever. We’re talking up toward a thousand. I retired from the Air Force and moved all over and went all over. Sent duplicates to my Mom and when she passed away, I took all her photos. Oh gosh.

    I’m not going to get overwhelmed. I’ll purge first, then I’ll feel like I’m getting started. Thank you. Wonderful article!!

  17. 18
    Dave says

    Thanks for the organizing tips!

    I wanted to add a suggestion for people organizing their digital photos – add keywords! add captions! These are called “metadata” and they are the digital equivalent of writing on the back of a photo who is in it and where it was taken.

    The only problem is, you need to make sure you choose software that stores the metadata into the photo themselves AND uses industry standards to do so. That way, anyone (including a future you) will be able to see that information using virtually any software or computer. Google Picasa is one of many good choices that handles metadata well. (See my website for details on how other photo software handles metadata).

    Good luck

  18. 19
    Becky L says

    Great ideas on digital photography organization. I order some when I need them. Good thinking on a file with alot of photos and download and printed elsewhere and deleting that file. Had not thought of doing it that way. I have alot of photos that need organized, both by film which are older and digital. Thanks for the help. Now I just need to carve out the time to do it.

  19. 20
    Living the Balanced Life says

    Wow, this has given me a lot to think about. Having been married almost 30 years, 4 grown kids, 7 grandkids, we have a lot of pics! We have several boxes post-digital, plus a lot digitally. My hubby does have the digital ones somewhat sorted and labeled in folders, but the prints are just in several shoeboxes. This is a project I really want to work on and complete by spring!
    Eating for Balanced Living

  20. 21
    Coco says

    Love this post but I have a quick question. Do you have prints for your children to have when they are older? I have huge OCD with my pictures, and have a hard time deciding how to print things off and organize them because I take SO many pictures. Any Ideas?

  21. 22
    MJ says

    I am not a fan of printing out pictures. I upload them either thru Picasa or Google Drive and I give access to any persons whom I think wants to have a copy of that picture and those I want to authorize to view the pics. These sites also lets you categorize each album so it is completely clutter free – saves you a lot of space / money, too (instead of buying / creating improvised photo albums).


  22. 23
    Organizer says

    Consider using Nerxy file organizer

  23. 24
    Meenakshi says

    Laura, great tips! We are photo tools startup and I wanted to introduce to you Tru – a dead easy photo organizer that is effortless and automatic. It picks up all the photos from all your sources, de-dupes them and organizes them in an MMYYYY folder format that is easy to understand and universally acceptable. You can take it for a spin here: – would love to hear your feedback.


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