How I use and organize my photos.

I was asked on Facebook last night how I plan to stay on top of organization and how I actually use my pictures.

I think those are valid questions and ones I’ve asked real photographers before.  Everyone has a different answer and it ultimately comes down to what makes sense to each person. Some may think I over-do the photo protection and I’m okay with that.  (If they knew that I plan to carry my external HD in my luggage as we PCS so that the hard drive is not with the CDs in case the ship with my HHGs sinks, they’d really think I was paranoid.)

As I started answering my friends on Facebook the reply got longer and longer so I decided to make it today’s blog post instead.  And before I get to those answers, I want to say something:  I’m always looking for a smarter, easier, better, more convenient way of doing these things.  If you have great tips, I’ll take them.  As I write, I’ll share some things I plan to change in the future.  It’s a work in progress, for sure.

Question 1.  How do I plan to stay on top of the organization?
Answer 1.  By making it a priority once a month.  If I can spend 20 minutes organizing once a month then I’ll never again have a three year batch of photos to organize, with a week’s worth of work to trudge through.

Question 2.  What do I do with the pictures that I’ve taken.  A common problem many people have is that they take plenty of pictures but those priceless treasures tend to stay trapped on a computer for years, never seeing the light of day, or the page of a photo book, or, for heaven’s sake, being actually printed and placed in a frame or given to someone!
Answer 2.  I create an annual “Year in Review” book that is usually 75-100 pages long. The books come with 20 pages so I add lots of pages to the end.  It gets quite expensive but STILL no where near as expensive as my old hobby of scrapbooking, and I wait to order until Shutterfly sends me a 40% off coupon and I can combine it with free shipping, plus the discounts I have for being an annual subscriber.  I love having an actual, hard-cover book I can carry around and share with people.  The boys love to flip through these books, seeing how much they’ve changed over the years!

Click here to view this photo book larger

My Year in Review books include:

New Years, birthdays, Easter, Fall season, Christmas, and anything else we did that was a hallmark of that year (big trips/get out of debt/etc.).

THEN, I will also make additional books for big things:

I have an England Trip 2011 book and will make an Italy 2012 book.

Click here to see Photo Book larger.

I can’t wait to have time to create a “What we learned in Germany” book.  Not sure I’ll actually call it that but it’ll cover all the trips we took that were specifically to learn about Ancient history or WWII history.

I have a book on Parker’s birth, I want to make one for his first year.  (I’m so glad I’m writing this out… I need to actually do these things…)

I have a book I created out of pictures I took of “The Three Babies,” celebrating their first year.  (Parker and his two sweet buddies all turned one about the same time, so I created a soft-cover book out of a fun photo session we had with them.)

I’ve had pictures turned into decks of cards, mouse pads, mugs.  I’m corny like that.

I print large ones to put on the walls in frames though now I’m sort of addicted to the canvas idea.

Ultimately I figure this:  I can’t take too many pictures.  Even after a week of back breaking (neck aching) work, I don’t regret a single picture.  Because I have them stored I can always go back and make all the books I want.  I don’t ever have to go, “OH, MAN… I really don’t have enough pics.”

If I hadn’t taken them, I would be stuck.

Question 3.  How do I organize and store the tens of thousands of pictures I take.
Answer 3.  Now, to the nitty gritty:

On a 500G hard drive I have these folders:

Inside those I have each month, so if you were to open up “iPhoto 2011” you’d see:

If you were to open up the Nov 2011 folder you’d see:

Writing all these steps out makes this sound incredibly complicated but when I am looking for pictures from when we went pumping picking in 2010 I can easily click:

iPhoto 2010 > October 2010 > 9. Picking Pumpkins

(I have each folder numbered because otherwise my computer puts the folders in alphabetical order.  I prefer them in chronological order.)

This explains how I store them on the external hard drive.

I also store them on Shutterfly for the safety of having them online somewhere and because that’s my favorite site for creating the books.  (I am considering storing my images on another online vault and using Shutterfly only for the pictures I intend to print in books or gifts… that requires me to do some research and my plate is a bit full right now.)

And to make matters even more complicated, I’ve heard that some people automatically store their pictures to HD without them ever landing on the main hard drive of their computer!  This would save me an entire step, but I have to do some research on this, as well.  Click here to see the link I was given to read about implementing this step.  (Like I said, I haven’t done this yet, but plan to.  I do know someone who uses this method.)

Finally, I put them on CDs.  (DVDs actually, because DVDs hold a lot more pictures.)

To keep track of all of this, I have converted a journal my mom gave me into a “Photo Organization Record Book.”   (Please disregard my horrible handwriting):

Date        Event                                      On Shutterfly  (Shared)   On CD      On HD

7/15   Parker and the purple flower          X                                      X                X

and so on…

On the page I can see clearly what I need to do with that event.  This is what I’ve been doing for the past week.  Flipping through this folder and making sure I’ve got all the events in all three places (HD/CD/Shutterfly).  I found many holes in my uploading to Shutterfly, and therefore many hours were spent uploading.  I found some holes in my CD burning, so I’ve probably burned about 8 DVDs of pictures.  And I will say most of the pictures were already safely on the external HD so that was comforting.

As I went through the pages, when I found that all the columns were fully checked, I wrote “Done” at the top and highlighted in blue.  That made it easy to flip past that page when I was looking for more holes.   (As for “shared” I rarely share the pictures on Shutterfly.  I found that it’s more work than I care to keep up with, which is why those columns remain empty.  The dashes (-) mean that the event in the row was either a video and not put on Shutterfly or I wasn’t really worried if the picture wasn’t on CD/HD… it may have been poor quality and I didn’t want to search to see if it was stored somewhere.)


That’s what I do.  And when I do this once a month, it is not a chore.  It becomes a chore when I put it off for three years! 🙂

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
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8 Responses to How I use and organize my photos.

  1. smilindown says:

    Great minds think alike! That’s pretty much how I organize my file folders on my computer, too 🙂

  2. Kelly says:

    This is such great, descriptive, and visual aids Jennifer. I have been struggling, ahem … man handling, organizing my photos for years. Currently I upload them to my desktop (which my husband says is totally unsafe) and leave them there until I edit. I was burning CD/DVD’s and backing up to an external HD, but it got full (with my side photography business and all). So the question came to do we buy another external HD or come up with another option? We decided to purchase iCloud yearly subscription where I have unlimited storage space and it’s a safe, non-electronic back-up. So currently I’m trying to weasel in time to upload individual folders to our iCloud account which also means we can access those images anywhere. You don’t have to carry your precious cargo in a HD on the airplane 😉 It is a shifting of gears and is taking time for me to adjust to because my time is so very minimal – did I say very? But I’m going to implement your notebook/check-off idea until I get them all in one place – it’s just a bear of a job. I do still do a mix of the traditional scrapbooking and I’m way worse off than you – six years! So I’ve decided to play catch up by designing similar style pages online through CM Digital and then print those and sliding them in to the traditional album – but my wanting to keep the same style as my previous albums is proving pricey. Sigh – what to do … Thanks for your helpful sharing of ways we crazy picture-taking moms can organize this craziness! Love ya girl!

  3. Amie Fisher says:

    Thank you so much! It’s great to know I’m off to a good start. Did I miss this part or –do you made CD’s by year? What kind of disc do you use?

    • Jennifer says:

      I can fit about a thousand pics on a DVD (currently using Maxell DVD+R 4.7GB) but I’m not picky. I try to put them on the disks chronologically. I also store them chronologically. 🙂

      • Amie says:

        Thank you! I’m still working on years of pics! I’m also looking for an online storage site for back up. Did you ever pick one? I’m looking for an easy to use, upload, store, and edit site…crazy how much info is out there!

      • Jennifer says:

        I never went any farther at looking into it. If you find one, let me know!

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