After celebrating Lucy’s first birthday, the real work began; I had more than 2,000 photos from that first year in a ‘Lucy’ file that needed culled, edited and turned into a book. Ha! While I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to document year one as much as possible, from the first hours of her life, to the quiet moments, to the milestones, to that time that Jack rested his head on her chest. (Yeah, I most definitely cried that day.) I’m happiest when I’m documenting – holding my camera and squaring up a shot brings me so much joy! I love how photography can capture so much in a single second. Or, more accurately, 1/100th of a second. I’m a firm believer in the importance of catching a memory, holding it tight to my heart and gifting myself the ability to look back on it. Cry with it. Laugh with it. Share it with loved ones.
Of course, the realist in me is also very aware that being click happy can lead to insurmountable hurdles – like, what do we do with all those photos?! Whether you’re using a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or your smartphone, in today’s social world, haven’t we all felt overwhelmed with the excess? How many of you have tried to find a photo in your phone’s camera roll – maybe from as little as 2 days ago! – only to get exasperated and say, forget it? I’m guilty of this at times, but when I asked if anyone would be interested in a post on how I organize, print and display digital photos, many of you said, yes, please! I hear you. I feel you.
So today, I’m sharing the methods that have worked for our family, because we shouldn’t keep these memories locked up behind a phone screen or getting dusty on our hard drive. Truthfully? The way I organize my digital photo files is relatively simple – mean it. I’m hoping that you may see a method that resonates with you, helping to cut down on your own visual clutter and chaos, too! Let’s get those photos out of the archives and out in the open.
Psst! See also: a fun, easy + stress-free way to document weekly baby photos.
If I take a photo I love on my phone, I add it to my ‘favorites’ and delete the excess immediately.
I think it’s pretty rare to take only one photo these days. Right? We seem to take multiple photos of everything, even those kind strangers who take a photo for you! So as soon as I’m done with a photo burst, I choose the top 2 or 3, and I delete the rest immediately. (I promise, you won’t miss them!) Truth be told, even a ‘favorites’ folder can become quite stuffed (I’m nearing 600, ouch!). If that also sounds like you, consider creating albums of different themes, such as Family, Pets or Travel.
(At least) once a month, I dump digital photos onto an external hard drive.
At least once a month, I’ll dump my iPhone favorites and any DSLR photos onto my external hard drive and into corresponding folders (I talk about the folders in the next step). At this point, I’m not weeding anything out – I just dump. Every now and then I’ll even scan an instant photo I’ve taken! Consistency is key to prevent the dreaded backlog.
I set up a file folder for each month.
It’s helpful to have a application to view your photos easily. I use Adobe Bridge, but it could also be iPhoto, Google Photos or a cloud-based system – just pick one and stick with it! For the purpose of this post, I’ll be referencing Bridge, but the same basic functions will apply to most photo viewing apps. My next few steps look like this:
- Open Bridge and find my external hard drive (this one has been serving me well!) where I store the majority of our photos and videos. On it, I have a folder titled ‘Lucy Sun.’
- Within that folder, I have another folder for each month of the year, like this: 2019-july. I then add my photos to the corresponding folder.
- At this point, I quickly cull through the photos, deleting any that I don’t love to the moon and back! Let’s say I dump 75-100 photos from July into the ‘july’ folder. (And yes, this is after I’ve already deleted most of the excess!) The chances of me loving each and every one is unlikely, and my goal is to cut that number in half. My biggest tip? Don’t overthink it!
Tip: If you’re looking to keep your digital photos organized but don’t have quite as many as I tend to (ha!), you could consider creating folders by year and sorting your photos by date.
If I see a photo I can’t live without, I create a digital copy and add it to a ‘print me’ folder.
While I’m adding my photos to the appropriate folder(s), I’ll make note of the ones that really stand out! At this time, I like to give them a ‘rating’ so that I can easily refer to them at a later date. Within Bridge, I like to give my favorites a 2-star rating, so that I can easily sort by the 2-star photos when it’s time to make an album. As I pick and choose those 2-star photos, I’ll drag a copy of the photo file onto my desktop. Here, I have a ‘print me’ folder, and that’s where I store them for the time being.
Tip: By giving my favorite photos 2-stars, I can demote them to 1-star at a later date, when I really start to hone in the superstar images that’ll make it to print.
2-3 times a year, I place an order for paper prints.
My ultimate goal for these photos (aside from rotating them in and out as my iPhone lock screen wallpaper!) is to get them OUT of the computer and UP where I can see them! 2-3 times a year, I dig through that ‘print me’ folder and place an online order for prints. Real, live, tangible prints! My favorite place to order photos is Artifact Uprising, because I love the thick matte cardstock and white border. Other times, I may upload my photo to Framebridge and have them create the print and frame!
Tip: If I create a new print for a frame that already has a photo, I always keep the old photo in the frame (I just layer it behind the new) in case I ever want to switch it back.
Once a year, I make a photo book.
This is more of a new tradition, but one I plan to continue doing! Pre-Lucy, I would create a photo book for our yearly anniversary travels (the California coast and road tripping Route 66 are among our favorites). Most recently, I completed a photo book of Lucy’s first year, and moving forward, it will be a family album by year. There are endless online options to create your own book, each with their own unique upload and layout editors, and most of the ones I’ve seen are fairly intuitive! I made Lucy’s first book through Artifact Uprising, and I chose their hardcover book with blush cloth. Although a little pricier than other (still great) budget options, I chose Artifact because I was sold on their beautiful cloth bound covers and silky book jackets. I can’t wait to continue the series and choose a new color, same size (I did the 8.5″ x 11″) for every year moving forward.
Tip: Other online options for creating personal photo books are Blurb, Snapfish, MPix, MixBook and Pinhole Press (which I’ve also used in the past and have been impressed!).
I keep extra prints in a memory box.
If I have photos that made the cut for a print but I haven’t yet used them for display, I stash them in a memory box. I have 1 (and only 1!) memory box, which encourages me to think twice about what I save. When choosing a box, I made sure it could hold a print up to 11″ x 14″, and I recycle prints I don’t absolutely love. (Are you sensing a theme by now?) I often refer back to this box if I want to swap out a photo on the fridge or a current frame! This is the box I use, and I lined the bottom with stiff cardboard. I actually picked up several of these a while ago, and each bin holds different loose items, such as fabric scraps, craft bits-n-bobs and miscellaneous camera gear.
Getting started is always the hardest part, but from the feedback I heard from you and your enthusiastic response, I guarantee it will feel so rewarding. Start small: Instead of 30 minutes of Instagram this evening, consider creating your smartphone favorites (or various albums), and delete as much visual ‘noise’ as possible!
Are there any other questions I can answer? What other helpful tips would you provide? Photography is truly one of my favorite subjects, and it’s an art form that has the ability to inject so much joy into your every day. So let’s get all that digital media organized – together.
As a full-time working wife/mom with two little girls (only one husband, haha), for me Chatbooks has been a time and memory saver. Essentially it pulls from my IG account, and prints all the photos into little photo books. I chose the Rifle Paper Co cover design, they’re lovely. This for me is genius b/c I’m doing all the photo editing (and selecting) as I post to IG – no additional work needed to get them to printed book form. (It only prints the images and my #texts.) I set it up the frequency to auto print/ship, and I get a new book or two every two months (I think?!), for about $35 each. I love it! I used to make self-edited family albums via Shutterfly, but it was SO time consuming, and I fell two years behind. I literally caught up via Chatbooks by hooking up my IG account, and it took one sit down of setting it up. LOVE! If you use IG professionally, you could setup a private account just for family pics, so that’s all that’s captured.
That’s amazing! I’d love to give them a try. I bet it makes great family gifts as well. Thanks, Karen!
I also use Chatbooks, not for their regular subscription but for our yearly family photo books (we keep one and also give to grandparents). So you can do both – one-off books or a subscription. I use the Rifle covers too! I’ve been impressed by the quality of them, especially for the price.
Wowza! Thank you so much for all this info. As a mom of two little ones the struggle is realll with the whole photo journey/battle. You guys are the best!
I have similar folders set up on my iphone- but those folders don’t show up when I try and transfer the photos to my harddrive. They are all just lumped into one folder. Did I do something wrong when I set up the folders?
I just go to my favorites folder and drag them over to my folders in bridge!
Since I can usually sort by date ( and so if I use my planner, also trip or event) pretty easily, and most cloud photo storage options will also source your location, I’m usually on the hunt for a *person.*
Taking the time to ID faces and letting iCloud (or similar) do the work from there saves me SO much time when I need a bunch of photos of one person or group!
IMHO Google Photos is heaven sent for busy click-happy parents. Automatically uploads pics, auto creates event folders typically based on travel, easy to tag favorites, simple built-in editing, auto recognition of individual people and pets, and finally has integration for creating books. I ended up importing 12 years of my children’s photos.
I also use a Gnarbox for my Dslr and mirrorless as not only is it travel friendly, more importantly to me it automatically creates subfolders by date, making archives easier.
Organization. Photos. Lucy. A few of my favorite things!
I wanna know how you organize life! You told me you use Trello, yes? How do you organize life and house projects and family and work and everything in between? All of those categories blur into one, as they do for you, too.
Trello, a thousand percent! We organize a daily list by days of the week, and then we list out our tasks by day. We also have other boards for bigger projects – like the two flat! – and another board for upcoming projects. As we finish things on our daily board, we move items over from upcoming so we know that’s the next thing to work on. Organization is basically my favorite thing.
Oh sigh. I was really good about doing this the first two years and followed the same steps as you. We have two beautiful books but then I fell completely behind. I’ve been posting to Instagram consistently lately so I’ve been thinking of starting Chatbooks for the future and in the meantime spending couch time marking favorites to catch up on those missing photobook years. There. I wrote down my plan to the internet so now I must follow through…
If you say it on the internet, you HAVE to do it.????
Yep, the digital photos pile up so fast. I’m guilty of waiting to edit until I download to my computer and then it’s overwhelming and I have to put on multiple podcasts and power through.
I also use Bridge to view and rate. I also store pics in folders by year and month. I make a “best of each year” folder that I’ve set a limit of 80 photos (I copy each months favorites and cull down at year’s end) and I print only 20 prints from that and put them in an old fashioned photo album with an occasional extra print from that set of 80 for the wall. My kids appreciate the paper prints of themselves and I appreciate not having to make a photobook and keep most of it on the computer. I know a lot of people love photobooks but I have found them too much work. I’ve made a few and am never happy with the default result, have to spend so much time tweaking layouts and crops and which pictures go with which on a page, is it a balanced amount of showing both of my kids, not just too many of one child…
Love these organization tips…about to have a baby in September and want to get a good photo/documenting system in place to capture all the memories! I’d love to see a post about how you edit your photos. I notice they always look so high quality. We recently were gifted a Cannon and are learning to use it but have no clue on how to go about editing them.
I’m planning a little mini blog series on photography!
I love this! So helpful. What do you use to take most of your photos? The quality is stunning. Can always count on your blog for inspiration – thank you, Kim!
That means so much to me, thank you! I use a Nikon D800 with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (my all time fave lens). I’m working on putting together a photo mini series for the blog!
Thank you! I needed this so much. Question for you, I know you said you delete the access and ave your favorites. But what if you have a burst of photos but you don’t necessarily love any of them, do you delete them all and not save that memory?
Yup, delete them all – the memory in your mind will take care of the rest. ;)
I just started doing this after trips with friends. I print a handful of prints to share with everyone. I use Artifact Uprising or Social Print Studio. I also really like the photo strip option . It’s so novel to have a physical print that it pretty much delights everyone once they receive it. haha. Great post, thanks for sharing your tips.
I haven’t heard of social print studio! Looking them up, thanks!
You’re welcome :D
Do you edit your favorites on your phone before transferring them to your hard drive? Or do you edit them on your computer after? I’m good with organizing and culling, but the editing is what gets me!
A little bit of both, but mostly I wait to edit the FINAL selected photos before I make a book!
Thanks for sharing how you organize and celebrate your photos! Downloading all your photos onto an external hard drive is my favorite part of what you do. I know that sounds funny but it is so important to own your photos and not rely on a third-party service as the keeper of our precious memories.It does seem like more people are getting overwhelmed creating photo albums and I get that – but if you do not create an album what is the best way to document the sweet stories tied to those favorite photos? Would love your suggestions.
Thanks, Rita! If a whole album is overwhelming, choosing just a few to display in your home is a great place to start. Someone else recommended Chatbooks, which I think syncs up to your Instagram account. If you have a personal account that’s already a curated selection of your favorite photos, Chatbooks will pull right from there.
Hi, me again! Back with another photo book question! Are your Artifact Uprising books Lustre or Recycled Matte?
Matte all the way!