How to Organize Digital Photos

How to Organize Digital Photos + Free Downloadable Checklist | Photo Organizing | Rooms Need Love

Since it’s Save Your Photos Month, let’s talk about how to organize digital photos and videos. This can be a large undertaking for the average parent photographer with 10 billion unorganized photos but, trust me, you will be glad you did. Get your free Digital Photo Organizing Checklist before you start.

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Can we stop for a moment and talk about why you want to organize your photos?  Not just organize them, but back them up? My motivation comes from a frightening experience a few months ago…

Windows (stupid Windows) did an update and we got completely locked out of our computer. I was beyond distraught thinking that we had lost those first few months of my daughter’s life in pictures and videos. Fortunately, my amazing husband worked a couple IT jobs and he was able to recover our computer and all our precious memories. (Did I mention he’s my hero?)

What is your motivation? Join my Facebook group to let me know why you’re ready to organize your digital photos.

Ready? Don’t forget to download your free Digital Organizing Checklist before you start!

Step 1: Backup to a Cloud Service

The first step you should take is to download a couple apps for online photo storage. Having your photos backed up to a couple clouds will give you peace of mind.

The storage services I use are Google Photos and Shutterfly. Both services feature automatic desktop uploaders, apps for your iPhone and tablet, and free unlimited photo storage.

I’ve been using Shutterfly for years. Combining unlimited photo storage with the ability to create beautiful photo books, cards, and gifts directly from the storage site make it difficult for me to change services.

 How to Organize Digital Photos | Rooms Need Love

Photo storage is unlimited but video storage is paid. There are three different pricing levels – $19.99 a year for 60 GB of video storage, $49.99 for 300 GB of video storage, and $139.99 a year for unlimited videos. The pricing isn’t bad when you look at it per month, but I know what it’s like to be on a budget.

For that reason, I use Google Photos as a second backup for photos and so far the only cloud backup for my videos. It is also the app I use to automatically back up the photos on my iPhone. In order to get unlimited storage, however, your photo and video files are reduced in size. You can choose to back up the original file size, but you’re limited to 15 GB.

Need another reason to use Google Photos? You can connect your Google account to Shutterfly so there’s no need to upload your photos again unless you want more backup.


Dropbox is another option for photo and video backup, however, they do not offer free unlimited storage. I found I ran out of free space just from uploading videos.

Step 2: Set a date for a monthly photo download

Set a monthly appointment to download all your photos to your computer. Put it on your calendar to recur each month. You can also write down your recurring appointment on the digital photo organizing checklist.

Step 3: Decide on a main location for all your photos

This will be on your computer or external hard drive. (Be super safe and have an external hard drive that automatically backs up your computer, okay? You will be glad if you ever have a stupid Windows update moment like we did.) Collect every photo into one centralized place so you aren’t searching around for everything. Think of it as the digital photo equivalent of the first part of the KonMari method to “take everything out.”

Step 4: Sort Photos on Your Local Storage

The beauty of cloud services are that they automatically sort your photos for you by date. I’m guessing that may not be happening on your local drive. You will need to sort your photos by date. This is a long process, which could take several days to complete, but the relief you will feel once it’s organized will make it all worth it. (Just remember not to stare at the computer screen too long without taking a break!)

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Create a folder for each year, simply titled “2016” or “2017.”
How to Organize Digital Photos | Rooms Need Love
  1. Within each of these folders, create a folder for each month, titled “01 – JAN,” 02 – FEB,” 03 – MAR,” and so on. Once you do one year you can copy the folders into all the remaining years.
How to Organize Digital Photos | Rooms Need Love
  1. Wherever your photos are currently stored, right click to sort them by date.
How to Organize Digital Photos | Rooms Need Love
  1. Start adding photos to their respective dated folders. If you don’t know the date check the photo “properties.” Hopefully the dates will be correct.
  2. Once you have your photos sorted you can sort by events (birthdays, vacations, holidays, etc).

Step 4: Declutter

Now that your photos are organized, go through each folder to delete any dark, blurry, duplicate, or all around bad photos. You don’t need to clutter up space on your hard drive or wonder why you have that unflattering picture of yourself. (That’s always a fun surprise when scrolling through your photos. Yikes!)

Step 5: Rename your photos (optional)

Professional photo organizers will tell you to rename your photos rather than use the general “IMG_1012.” It’s a great idea, and kuddos to you if you do it.

Here’s what I recommend:

Do a little bit at a time. During your monthly download appointment, rename the most current photos. Once you’ve done that, go back to one previous year/month and rename those photos. You won’t get overwhelmed if you take it bit by bit, and I don’t want you to be overwhelmed. There’s enough of that in life already.

As far as naming conventions, I would use a date (i.e. 01.01.2012) with the names of the people in the photo and/or the event.

Step 6: Create a file to record your memories each month

Keep record of what happens each month. Create a note in Evernote or start a doc in Google Drive so you can access it on the go. This will help you in creating your family yearbook.


  • Milestones
  • Events/activities
  • Quotes
  • Holidays/celebrations

Are you ready to get started? Join my Facebook group to get accountability in your photo organizing project.

How to Organize Digital Photos + Free Downloadable Checklist | Photo Organizing | Rooms Need Love

More about Jena

Hey! I'm Jena Love, and I encourage busy women to simplify their possessions and organize their lives so they can focus on the important things in life.

2 thoughts on “How to Organize Digital Photos

  1. Ashlee

    I cannot even begin to describe how crazy some of my files are on my computer. I do so much work for my professional career, as well as my blog through my laptop. I definitely needed this read to kind of kick start me into getting in there and figuring it out! I may go through and separate them by year, I love that idea! Thanks for the tips!



    1. Jena

      I’m so glad this was helpful to you! Good luck with the project!


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