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organizing digital family memories

How to (Finally!) Organize those Digital Photos

by Julie-Anna Vogel

“Do you have a photo of your kids?” “Of course… let me find you a good one!” And then the shock hit me…I have over 10,000 photos on my iPhone and a further 30,000 photos on my laptop. Finding the perfect photo, or any photo for that matter is a nightmare.

It was time to get organized. I set aside a couple hours and started Googling. Here’s what I learned.

This is going to take way longer than expected.

Back up! Back up! Back up!
I already use iCloud to share photos between my phone and my computer but now I’ve added iCloud photo library. I had to pay extra for this due to the size of my collection. Other options include Google Drive, Window’s One Drive, Drop Box and Sugar Sync.

I also went to Staples and bought a 2 terabyte hard drive as added physical storage. Unlikely, but possible, the cloud could get hacked and your photos lost. If you have a lot of photos, a hard drive is the most economical way to store them. But even hard drives don’t last forever; replacing them every 2-3 years is a good idea.

Delete! Delete! Delete!
Be ruthless. You really don’t want multiple copies of meh pictures. I’ve realized I don’t want most of the food photos I take. Once I’ve posted them on Instagram or twitter they are getting deleted. Also gone are the endless scenery shots, one (or three, I’m human) perfect Grand Canyon pictures are enough.

Pick one! Pick one! Pick one!
And then stick to it! There are so many options for organizing and storing photos it can be overwhelming. I did a straw poll of the photographers I know and Adobe Lightroom is the most popular. But most agreed it doesn’t really matter which program you use. What is important is choosing one and sticking to it!! Other suggestions include Shoe Box, Lyve, Mylio, Cyber link photo Director 8 and Capture One Pro 9. I’ve decided to use Apple Photos. It came with my Mac, connects easily with my iPhone and does as much as I want it to in terms of editing.

get those photos organized

Tag! Tag! Tag!
This is the truly tedious part yet the more the better if you need to find things later. Some tagging ideas are genres like seasons, sports, travel, family; special occasions like Jack’s birthday, Christmas 2016, Italy trip; and subject matter, for example, family group shots, architecture and food.

You can set most storage options to automatically group your pictures by date. Don’t forget to check that the time and date feature is turned on and correct on your camera. I just discovered mine was set for 1980 on my last trip! Turning on the GPS is another helpful tool for remembering where a shot was taken though it can chew up your battery faster.

File! File! File!
Set up a consistent folder system. Chose between a subject or date strategy. I prefer subject matter and have folders for each trip, each family member, each city we’ve lived in and special occasions. The trick is to do it often.

Although it feels like getting my photos organized is going to take forever, it is a great excuse for binge watching Netflix as I tag and file. And the next time someone asks to see a photo I’ll be responding somewhat smugly, “Sure! From which year and which country?” 😉


Julie-Anna VogelJulie-Anna Vogel has always wanted to go places: discovering food, people, natural and created things. She have traveled to more than 90 countries, and has lived in Canada, the UK, China, France and the USA. Follow her in uncovering what is through the doorway, on the menu and past the customs official. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it is the food you do not eat, the places you do not visit and the things you do not try that you will regret.