How do you manage your photo files?

Posted: April 23, 2016 in Miscellaneous
Tags: , , ,

Help! I’m drowning in photos with more constantly on the way.  I never imagined I’d have this many, so I never considered how to store them other than by date or an occasional vacation designation.

How do you manage your photos?  How do you find what you need?  Is there a way to tag them?  How and where do you store them? I’m looking for any and all input ,because the longer I wait, the more difficult the process is going to be.

I currently keep files ( by date and either iPhone or Nikon) on my laptop, have an external backup (Seagate Passport), and copy all the files onto discs (I’m getting a rather large amount of them as well).

While you share your insights, here’s a fun-with-editing photo I played with not long ago.  Thanks in advance for your time and advice!

© janet m. webb 2016

  1. sonyavdg says:

    I use Lightroom for my photo library as well as editing. I am not quite as good with keywords as I wish I was – but when I do use them I can usually find what I am looking for

  2. Lena says:

    I am in the same position as you, and just got a hugh emount of photos on an external harddrive in no order at all. I never find what I am looking for either. . . I wish I could be of more help.

    • That’s OK, Lena. Thanks for responding. I do have an external hard drive, but that’s just for emergencies (which I hope never come!) I just have way too many photos to just scroll through every time I want something!


  3. Christina B says:

    I have folders for each month and sub-folders for the place/event where the photos were taken. I also back them up onto discs and we’ve started using backup onto the cloud through my google account as well, just to be safe. I still find it hard to find photos sometimes if I can’t remember when they were taken. I have too many to name each file though (which would be the solution to find them quickly afterwards).

    • Thanks for sharing what you do, Christina. I hope by the time I’ve read all the answers and then do a bit of research, I’ll be able to come up with a more workable solution. 🙂


  4. Well if I’d taken a gorgeous photo like the one in this post, I would certainly want to be able to find it :-).

    My filing system is relatively simple. I have one folder with Raw Files By Month and Year and another with my JPEGs. When I import these photos to Lightroom, I add tags to them so I can sort through them as I want. I also use Lightroom Collections but not always. I then have a third folder for post processed photos – my LightRoom exports with subfolders for high res, low res, and print …with subfolders in each. I don’t know if this would work for others, but it works for me. I am seriously considering migrating to a cloud as Christina B above, but right now am on internal and external hard drives. Good luck.

    • Lisa, what do you mean by raw files and JPEGs. Sorry, but I’m a novice when it comes to these things. I think I have to look more at Lightroom and the cloud. Some of my things are saved in the cloud automatically, I think, but again, I need to get a handle on it. Being married to an IT guy might help in the figuring out process. 🙂


  5. macmsue says:

    Great image. I have all my photos on an external hard drive. I’ve always used Microsoft operating systems so have no idea about organizing on a Mac and have torn my hair out trying to do the same on an Android tablet. I make folders according to the subject and then often have subfolders within them eg Animals – Birds, Insects, Reptiles etc I don’t worry too much about the date because I can usually find that in the photo properties. In my Family folder though I’ve found subfolders for each year useful and then even have subfolders within those. Using this system means I can usually find a particular photo I remember taking even though I have no idea of the date. I don’t use DVDs or CDs anymore because I think they’re already becoming “old Technology” and newer computers often don’t have readers in them. I don’t use the Cloud because I like to have my photos in my possession rather than a third party who can change the terms and conditions when it suits them. Hope this wasn’t toooo long winded for you. 🙂

  6. Prior-01 says:

    don’t really have tips – but I do love the photo edit here – wonderful>

    • It’s OK not to have tips. I’m glad you like the photo. Among the photo apps I have on my iPhone and iPad, Glazed and Distressed FX are the ones I’ve used the most. So many apps, so little time. 🙂


      • Prior-01 says:

        thanks J – and hear ya about so many creative options – so little time – have a nice weekend

      • You as well. So far it’s been a great weekend: it’s sunny and relatively warm, I just saved us a bunch of money on our phone plan, I’m making granola, and it’s only a bit after noon. 🙂 Add to that there is hockey on all afternoon with our very own Blackhawks playing to stay alive in round one of the playoffs tonight and life is definitely good.

      • Prior-01 says:

        congrats on the playoffs – and the granola sounds yum. – actually sounds like a delightful Saturday – and things here are chill – just catching up on some NBA games later and misc. stuff around the house. Peace 🙂

  7. Lightroom is a powerful catalogue and photo editor. You can add keywords, sort by ratings and more. Comes with Photoshop CC for $10 a month. Worth every penny.
    For backup I use Beyond Compare by Scotter to sync my files.

  8. ledrakenoir says:

    Have an external hard drive with 5 keywords searching on
    (quarter / year) (place / country) (primary motive / secondary motive) (names) (cause)

  9. Su Leslie says:

    Gorgeous photo Janet. I keep all my images in folders by topic, with sub- folders, often by place and date. I back-up to external hard-drive and put some stuff in the cloud. I have Lightroom installed but haven’t learned to use it yet. Not sure that’s going to help much. I really need to get on top of Lightroom.

    • Glad you like the photo, Su. Of all the apps on my iPhone/iPad, I’ve used Distressed FX and Glazed the most. So much fun to play with. Thanks also for the ideas. Of course as you say, getting on top of whatever you use is key.

  10. pike says:

    A beautiful image! Thank you for asking for answer to very difficult problem! 🙂 I don’t have it…

  11. Dan Antion says:

    I’m not sure I manage them at all. I put event (trips, photo shoots) related photos in folders. The rest are in folders by date. I post a lot on Flickr, and I add keywords there. If I find those, I get a clue as to the date. It’s imperfect, for sure but I usually find what I need.

  12. can’t really help with your question. i just file mine by both as you have it vacation and dates – but copy to a a second file, such as flowers, animals, sun, roads, etc. There are much more sophisticated ways to tags photos but i’ve never taken the time. I do back everything up on an external hard drive just in case,

    The pic is wonderful.


    • The external hard drive is key, Randy. I’m also going to have an external drive (another Passport) that I use to back up once or twice and week and then disconnect, just in case the RansomWare people attack me. Right now, I have one that’s attached to my laptop all the time.

      Glad you like the photo. Enjoy the weekend.


  13. I keep all mine on an external hard drive. I have lots of folders and sub folders. First i have folders called “people” and in that folders named: family, friends, random. In my friend folder each of my closest friends has a folder. I alos have a folder for places and inside that the names of states I have been to. Then i create shiort cuts.

    So in the friend folder is Carole (of course) and in her folder are shortcuts to places we have been. If another friend went along I put a shortcut in her folder too.

    Then I have a folder for scenic and inside that all kinds of stuff from architecture to water.

    THEN I have a folder for blog posts, and sub folders and shortcuts…oh my 🙂

  14. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I use Lightroom too, Janet. It has a powerful cataloging system as well as basic editing tools that are usually all that I need. And it has a nice feature for printing as well.

  15. I love the colors and texture in this photo, Janet.

    As far as storage goes, I think that cloud-based is the way to go. I say this after having an external HD die. Check out something like SmugMug. For a few $/month you can get into the tier that offers unlimited storage and secure viewing, if you wish to link to albums & images (no right-click copies allowed).

    I use iCloud and it is working out okay. The monthly fee seems like a drag, but if you price it against a comparable HD, with an average life of 5-7 years, it is not that far out of reach. There is also no equipment to purchase and replace. The cost is spread out over months instead of up front.

    Best of luck with your decision,

  16. Janet, I know your pain, I have over 8000 photos in various locations. I use dropbox on my main computer (free). Install the app on your phone and all other devices, each time you add, it gives you more MB. I take photos with my phone exclusively, and they automatically load into Dropbox. Not sure how it works with a digital camera, but it does need Wi-Fi.

    • Terri, I’d forgotten all about that. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll read more about it, but I know some people who use it and from what I understand, it makes it easy to share as well.

  17. It’s a constant challenge. I save two copies of each photo, one on each of two separate (but equal) external hard drives. It’s really a matter of when, not if, one will fail, so this gives me some peace of mind for the inevitable. You end up buying a lot of hard drives over time, but the prices have come down drastically in recent years, so it’s not terrible.

  18. happyface313 says:

    🙂 I keep photos on an external hard drive.
    Firstly I sort them by months – so I have files named Jan 2016, Feb 2016 and so on.
    Secondly I keep files sorted by topic. For example: if I do a beauty review I have a file named BEAUTY and it has sub files named by brand and month/year.
    I prefer not to use iCloud and all that stuff, because I want my pictures to stay mine.
    Hope that helps?
    Take care and have a very good weekend 🙂

  19. thirdeyemom says:

    Janet, do you have a Mac? If so email me and I will help you out. I’ve got 20,000 on my Mac and finally have them organized well!

  20. RuthsArc says:

    We all seem to have similar challenges. I store in monthly albums and do have difficulty at times finding things. Although I keep a “sentence a day” journal which helps. I’ve recently started using Lightroom and it’s good for adding tags to photos. But a big job to import past photo collection. Good luck with whatever solution you choose 🙂

  21. Great infortmation everyone has been leaving about this, Janet, I’m so pleased you decided to post on this subject. It can be dauting to try and sort and create order to the massive amounts of photos we take. I am trying some of these suggestions, for sure.
    The one you’ve posted here is awesome. Have a wonderful weekend …
    Isadora 😎

    • Izzy, I’m happy others have shared so much information. Now I have to process it, look at some of the options, make a choice, and get started. 🙂 Glad you like the photo and I hope you’re having a great weekend as well.


  22. pix & kardz says:

    love the image, Janet! regarding your question, i was curious to see what other people do. i have everything backed up on external hard drives, but it’s sorted the same way the images on my hard drive are.
    i have some specific folders for specific items: Christmas, Family, Timmy (our cat), etc etc, and each of these have monthly sub folders. so Christmas will contain folders 2007 (that was my first year with a digital camera), 2008, 2009 etc.
    For certain vacations or events, i will have a separate file for those – such as Wedding 2015, Mom 90, Germany 2012, Oregon 2013, and so on. these are then sorted alphabetically, so the individual photos are easy to find. f
    And for all other photos which do not fit into the specific categories, i just have monthly folders, titled Apr 2008, Apr 2009, etc.
    if I’m looking for spring flowers, I know they will be in the March, April or May folders of any given year, so that makes them easy to find. or if I am looking for some summer moments, those will be in either June, July or August. so far it’s been an efficient system, even with the continuous accumulation of images in the archives.
    i have never tried lightroom, although based on what others are saying, it seems to be a brilliant app.
    i understand that external hard drives have a shelf life too, so i am considering possibly a second one as a backup.

  23. Lovely image, Janet! I store my files with lightroom in folders by year, month and where I took them. You can tag your photos with lightroom so they’re quite easy to find. Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks for your suggestions, Nicola. I’m definitely leaning towards Lightroom. Do you pay monthly or did you buy outright? I’m not sure if you buy outright if you don’t get updates or something. Why would someone pay $9.99/mo if you could get the same thing for $149 upfront and never pay again? Maybe I’m missing something. Have to check the site again.


      • I bought it upright and currently work with 5.7. There’s an update to version 6 for approx $80, but many users do not recommend it. Lightroom CC is great what I’ve heard, so I would probably go for the monthly payment.

  24. Nato says:

    First, love the shot and edit on it. As for the storage, ugh. I am behind. However, this is what I attempt to do…. Load all the raw, unedited files into folders by event/theme, like July Hike or Soldier Competition. Then, as I use them for blogs, I made a sub folder within that and put the small edited copy of the photo in there. That way, I know I posted it and avoid reusing it and still have the original. Not sure this is the best method but it’s what I do for now. I think I need to read through all your comments above though to see if others have a better way…

  25. The bane of my life – finding my photo files. On my phone, they are automatically filed by date, so as long as I can remember which month/year it was when I took the photo I’m looking for, I usually find it. Otherwise I have to scroll through – ugh. Don’t even mention looking on my laptop for them! I keep promising myself that I’ll sort them all out – some day/week/month/year . 😮

    • That scrolling through, etc., is the feeling that led me to post this. Over the weekend, I’ve gotten my iPhone photos caught up until the beginning of 2016, by which I mean onto dics and then all stored in the 2015 folder. On the disc, I wrote a few words about what/where was on the disc. That doesn’t help on the laptop, though. I’m now working on getting my Nikon photos caught up as well, which is harder because they take up more room on discs, so I often have to break up files to record them. Small steps at least. 🙂


  26. I finally figured out the best method for me and my particular style of blog. I have folders on my computer that are assigned to a general area in San Diego. For example: downtown, hillcrest, mission valley, etc. Then I have sub-folders for particular places or things inside each area. For example, in my downtown folder I have gaslamp, horton plaza, etc. I also have folders designated for possible future blogs. As I collect pertinent photos, I put them in the appropriate folders. Once I use photos, I put them into a big “used photo” folder, just in case I need them again in the near future for any reason. After a while, I go through and purge stuff that is redundant or that I no longer need.

  27. solaner says:

    Tagging is a great idea. In case, you don’t have Lightroom already, give DigiCam a chance. It’s open source software. So, it’s free. Although it comes from Linux, there’s also a very good Windows port. You can get it here:

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