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Task: A System For Sorting And Organizing Your Digital Photos

We all have way too many photos and here’s how to get them under control.

Handing down photos from one generation to the next used to be as simple as handing over a few framed photos, some leather-bound albums, and packed shoe boxes. Now, you can take as many photos as you want and never run out of room. Some are posted on social media or shared among family and friends, but most are left unsorted and unnamed on phones and computers, backed-up on hard drives, or stored in the cloud. To help bring order to this digital disarray, consider these questions:

  • What do you want to happen to them?
  • Would your family know how to access them if something happened to you?
  • Do you want your kids or grandkids sorting through an unmanageable amount of digital photos to find the best ones?
  • Should some of these photos disappear forever?

The reason these are so important is because they’ve become our new memories. And we have too many of them. Here’s how to trim the fat and honor the photos that deserve it.

The cloud is where the majority of your digital photos live, possibly on Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, Amazon Photos, or Dropbox. Even though you may have unlimited space, it doesn’t mean you should use it. Only the best and most meaningful ones should rise to the top. Looking through a box with a few hundred photos that span decades is fun. Looking through the few hundred photos from your last vacation can be a chore. Add in the additional 25,000+ photos from the rest of your camera roll and it’s just too much. The lesson: If you took 400 photos on your last vacation, pick 10 to 30 of the best and archive the rest.

Start The Sort

You may take the photos with your phone, but a computer often serves as the mothership for your primary collection of photos, which is a fast way to edit, rename, and delete large batches of them. But before they get to your computer, or even the cloud, start organizing them at the source. Take some time when you’d usually be messing around on your phone and start deleting obvious ones (like your feet, something you were supposed to pick up at the store), narrowing down the duplicates (if you took 20 of your dog sleeping on the couch, pick the one you think is best) and favoriting the ones that really matter.

If you want to back up photos on hard drives or thumb drives label each drive like you would the cover of a photo album since they all look alike (“FAMILY, 2012”).

Some advice when you return to the cloud to sort your collection: Restrain Yourself.

Sometimes having limits can be a good thing. 5GB of storage equals around 1,000 photos. If you want to avoid paying a storage fee for the rest of your life, when you hit the limit you can thin the herd to only the best. Not easy, but 1,000 photos are still more than our grandparents ever took in their entire lifetime.

The Task

Keep your method simple and consistent, but start deleting and sorting. Put your spare time to good use to get your digital photo collection in order. Once you’re done with the main cull, you should take a few hours each year, perhaps around the holidays, and scroll through that year’s photos and favorite only the best 50 or 100, then using those to create an annual collection. We know this task can take longer than a day… or a week, but it’ll never happen if you don’t get started now.

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