When was the last time you organized your digital photos? Your collection grows with every click of the camera, so it can quickly become a herculean task. If, against best intentions, you've fallen behind and are lost in a sea of images, fret not. You can kick this bad habit and get a fresh start. Consider these five simple steps.
Step 1: Delete, delete, delete
The beauty of digital photos is that you don't need to keep all of them. Most of us take more bad and mediocre pictures than we do good ones. You don't want to make more organization work for yourself than is truly necessary, so the first step is weeding out the ones that just aren't good enough to keep. Eliminate blurry shots, practice shots, similar shots and pictures you just plain don't like. Once you get rid of the shots you can live without, the ones you keep become much more special, and manageable.
Step 2: Establish a chronological view
Knowing that you will always see the photos chronologically in your digital-photo program will go a long way in helping you find what you are looking for quickly. A simple way to get photos in chronological order (or close to it, anyway) is to change the folder's viewing options. If you're on a Windows machine, in the "View" menu, click "Arrange Icons By" and then click "Show In Groups." When you arrange icons by "Picture Taken On," picture files are grouped according to the date stamp. Picture files that do not have a date are grouped under the heading of "Unspecified." If you're on a Mac, simply right-click within the folder and select "Keep Arranged by Date Created."
Step 3: Set up a few basic files
Some events are almost guaranteed to have photos associated with them on a regular basis (think holidays and birthdays). It's a good idea to use these constant categories as the basis for a very simple photo-filing system. For example, you may need only four essential folders for organizing photos: "Holidays," "Birthdays," "Special Events" and "Everyday Memories." Or go with "Spring," "Summer," "Fall" and "Winter," if that's easier for you, or you could even group pictures by year if you're really behind on your sorting.
Step 4: Add detail in sub-folders
Within the master folders, you can use sub-folders to contain photos for different events and help you keep things straight. For example, in the "Birthdays" master folder, you might have sub-folders for each member of your family, and for each family member, you may have a folder of pictures for each birthday year. If you have a lot of photos, don't get too stressed out or become overly nitpicky about the labeling. This is supposed to relieve photo stress, not cause more.
Step 5: Back up, back up, back up
Set up a system to back up pictures, whether virtual or via an external device. Then establish a backup routine that you do on a regular basis (at least once a month). With all of the backup options available, there is absolutely no reason to risk losing those memories!