When was the last time you organized your digital photos? Your collection grows with every click of the camera, so it can quickly become a herculean task. As the chaos in your collection becomes more and more daunting, it’s easy to fall into the “I’ll do it tomorrow” cycle.
If, against best intentions, you’ve fallen behind and are lost in a sea of photos, fret not. You can kick this bad habit and get a fresh start.
Consider these five simple steps to get your photo collection buttoned up.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to your firstname.lastname@example.org. For more columns, go to scrippsnews.com.
Step 1: Delete, delete, delete
The beauty of digital photos is that you don’t need to keep all of them. Most of us take more bad and mediocre pictures than we do good ones. So weed out the ones that just aren’t good enough to keep. Eliminate blurry shots, practice shots, similar shots and pictures you just don’t like. The ones you keep then become much more special and manageable. Set your egg timer for 30 minutes tonight to get started, or if you have a laptop, have it on your lap as you watch your favorite programs, and get to it.
Step 2: Establish a chronological view
Knowing that you will always see the photos chronologically in your digital-photo program will go a long way in helping you find what you are looking for quickly. A simple way to get photos in chronological order (or close to it) is to change the folder’s viewing options. If you’re on a Windows machine, in the “View” menu, click “Arrange Icons By” and then click “Show In Groups.” When you arrange icons by “Picture Taken On,” picture files are grouped according to the date stamp. Picture files that do not have a date are grouped under “Unspecified.” On a Mac, right click in the folder and select “Keep Arranged by Date Created.”
Step 3: Set up a few basic files
Some events are almost guaranteed to have photos associated with them on a regular basis (think holidays and birthdays). It’s a good idea to use these constant categories as the basis for a simple photo-filing system. For example, you may need only four essential folders for organizing photos: “Holidays,” “Birthdays,” “Special Events” and “Everyday Memories.” Or go with “Spring,” “Summer,” “Fall” and “Winter” if that’s easier for you, or you could even group pictures by year if you’re behind on your sorting. Whatever basic folders you decide to use, fewer is better because you’re much more likely to file new images as they come in if it only takes one or two clicks.
Step 4: Add detail in subfolders
Within the master folders, you can use subfolders to contain photos for different events and help you keep things straight. For example, in the “Birthdays” master folder, you might have subfolders for each member of your family, and for each family member, you may have a folder of pictures for each birthday year. This is a great project to do while watching TV. If you have a lot of photos, don’t get too stressed out or become overly nitpicky about the labeling. This is supposed to relieve photo stress, not cause more.
Step 5: Back up, back up, back up
Set up a system to back up pictures, whether virtual or via an external device. Then establish a backup routine that you do on a regular basis (at least once a month). With all of the backup options available, there is absolutely no reason to risk losing those memories!
On a final note, make sure you actually enjoy the photos you take. Every season, pick a favorite photo to print out. It will motivate you to keep pictures in order, and you will have a physical reminder of memories that might otherwise only be seen on a computer screen.