An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

You know you are never more motivated to organize something than when you lose something you can never get back. At least that was the case for me. Many years ago, I accidentally deleted 3 months of my youngest child’s digital baby pictures. Luckily I have printed copies so it’s not really a total loss. However it was enough to make me realize that I needed a system to backup and organize digital photos so I never had to worry about losing another picture again. Especially since I rarely actually print photos out anymore.

I’m happy to report though that I haven’t lost a digital photo since so I think it’s safe to say my system definitely works for me. Although it involves 4 backups which I’m fully aware may be a wee bit much, ha! But I’d rather be safe than sorry and prepared for a variety of different emergency circumstances. And as well I want to be able to easily access older photos for different projects and such.

And yes, I realize there are many different ways to do this. I am simply sharing my method of backing up and organizing my photos that requires minimal time, effort, dollars and technology smarts 🙂

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

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Organize Digital Photos Into Folders

First I should start off by explaining that I organize photos taken with my DSLR camera in my Pictures folder on my computer. In this folder I organize the photos by year and then under each year photos are additionally organized by month. Folders are so easy to set up and maintain and makes finding what I need a breeze. I keep five years worth of pictures on my computer.

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

I store iPhone photos in a separate folder as explained next.

Backup #1 – iCloud Photo Library

Photos I take with my iPhone are set up to automatically upload to my iCloud Photo Library (here’s how to do it), and then the iCloud software automatically downloads a copy of them to my PC in the Downloads folder. At the end of the year I move the iPhone folder to the yearly folder under Pictures. That way at the end of the year all my pictures for a given year are together in one folder yet still subdivided to make finding what I need easy to do.

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

Backup #2 – External Hard Drive

The next backup I do is a regular monthly task. I backup my entire computer (not just the pictures) using an external hard drive. I just plug it in and it automatically starts the update. Super easy to use. I’ve had this one shown below for years but it doesn’t look like it’s still available. Here’s a similar one with good reviews if you are interested. I keep this external hard drive in my fire proof safe when I’m not using it.

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

Backup #3 – Memory Stick for Fire Proof Safe

At the end of every year I back up all the pictures from the year (DSLR and iPhone pictures) and copy them to a memory stick making sure to keep all the folders intact. Usually an entire year of photos for me can be stored on one 32 GB memory stick. I also store these yearly USB sticks in our fireproof safe along with other important documentation. This safe can be easily grabbed if we had to evacuate for a wild fire or flood. Why do this and the external hard drive you ask? Because I find it quicker to pull a memory stick by year to find an older picture. Remember I only keep 5 years on my computer so if I need to go back I simply have to grab the one specific year I’m looking for. It’s really fast to do.

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

Backup #4 – Memory Stick for Safety Deposit Box

Additionally I back up all the yearly pictures to one more memory stick. This time for our safety deposit box in town. It gives me peace of mind should something ever happen to our house. And yes I realize I have everything in the Cloud but like I said it’s just one extra level of comfort for me.

An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

For those that might be wondering, I also have quite a few photo albums from before pictures went digital. Those I have stored in my basement on a bookshelf tucked in a corner. The only backup of these I have is some baby pictures I scanned of my big kids. They were both born before digital photos were a thing 🙂

photo albums

So that’s my process to organize digital photos. It’s not complicated or time consuming which is nice and it provides me with much peace of mind as well. I have a friend that lost all her pictures in a house fire and it was devastating for her. Pictures are something you can never get back once lost so it’s important to have a system in place so that this doesn’t happen to you. I hope reading about my system helps give you some ideas. If you do something different please share in the comments so others can learn from you too. And as always, if you have any questions, let me know!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Filed under: Keepsakes, Organizing Basics, Pictures


10 Responses to An Easy Way To Backup and Organize Digital Photos

  1. 1
    Laura Daly says

    What photo albums are you using?

    • 1.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Oh they are so old now, most just from Walmart. They are 4×6 size with a strip in the middle to store the negatives.

  2. 2
    Alice says

    I do almost what you do except I haven’t done the flash drives. I think I will follow your lead on that. Excellent idea. Another thing I do is to use Carbonite to back up my computer. And I also have a external drive.
    Thanks for the tips.

  3. 3
    Cheryl Sandlin says

    My younger son is fifty yrs old and my older son died in his twenties. Photos are very important to me. I purchased a portable scanner that was not too expensive. I would take a couple of hours a day and scan all my old pictures.Now they are in albums but also on thumb drives in our safe! Besides going down memory lane I have my photos secure! I also scanned my Mother’s photos. Oh what a treasure they are to have.

    • 3.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      I’m so sorry about your son. It sounds like you have your pictures very secure. Thank you for sharing your system with us.

  4. 4
    Michelle Ayers says

    The app Amazon Photos automatically saves the pictures that you take with your phone and it even saves the pictures that you save to your phone! Like the ones that your family and friends text you!

  5. 5
    Kellie Ball says

    when my grandmother passed away a few years back we found heaps of old photos, bu the problem was that we did not know who all of the people were or why & when the photo had been taken.
    May I suggest that when you store your photos in your folders that you include a quick word document of who is in the photo, why, where and when it was taken. I know we all plan on being around for a long time and we all have excellent memories, however just in case you do forget this may well become an heirloom for future generations

  6. 6
    Nanisha says

    I’ve been a big fan of your site for a while now. Keep up the great work. Thanks


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