6 good tips how to organize all your digital photos

We all have our special ways of organizing things in life, don’t we?

Before the digital camera came to our world, everyone put their photos in albums. By that time most of us took 24 or 36 shoots before we sent in the photo rolls for process. Those were the days… But now when everyone is using a digital cam, we have an overflow of photos on our hard drives. I’ve come up with a technique that works for me and it might work for you too…

If we don’t take care of this mass of photofiles directly after import to PC there’s a big chance we won’t do it at all. Storage isn’t an issue today since drive space is so cheap to buy. I always take my photos in RAW format to be sure I got all information untouched (like the old-time negatives) for future use.

No matter if you use RAW or compressed JPG format, you still have to organize your files in a way you can find them easily days, weeks or even years later.

Follow my way to success:

1. Buy a BIG external Hard drive
I have an external 1TB drive were I place my photos only. I never place anything else on this drive to keep it clean. It doesn’t matter if you just take a few photos a year. Five or ten years from now you’ll thank me for advice you to use a separate disk for this matter

2. Back-up often!
Surely you have lost information some time because of negligence or just bad luck. A computer is always a computer right? :-). So with this said, back-up your photos often! Burn them on DVD/CD or use an extra disk as I do. I recommend you to backup your files at least once a week. Oh, you will thank me for this one too (smile).

3. Tag your photos with keywords.
In Lightroom you have the possibility to assign keywords on the photos you import. Don’t ignore this great feature. It’s a time saver when you got +7000 photos. You can easily filter your photos based on these keywords to get a better view. I use keywords like Family, Vacation, Paris, Jessica and Wedding etc.

4. Organize your photos
This is the one of the most important parts here. I’ve come up with a structure I like when it comes to organizing my photos. The first thing I did when I got my external drive was to set up a folder structure that could fill all of my future needs. I started by making a few main folders that I named: Private, Family, Friends and Travel. In each folder I created subfolders with the year the photos were taken. Finally I created subfolders into the year folders. These subfolders are named “Year-Month-Day NameOfEvent”. A typical structure for photos I took last year during a holiday in France could look like this:
“Travel/2007/2007-04-31 Weekend in Paris”

5. Get rid of the crap
I prefer to keep most of my photos in the camera before I start to delete the ones I think look bad. Everyone says it’s so great with digital cameras since you can delete photos directly if you’re not satisfied and then take new ones. Well it’s great if you have lack of space on your memory card but I’d rather delete them when I see them on a big screen. Even if the image looks good/bad on the display back on your camera it surely will look different on the computer screen.

So this means I end up with a lot of variations of the same motive. Therefore I need to start to clear out those images I don’t like after import to PC. In Lightroom I start by flagging out all “bad” images as “rejected”. This is my first manual filtering round. Second round I start by rating the images from 1-5 with stars. When I went through the images the first round I did notice some great shoots (the best ones). With this in mind I know when to give a 4 or 5-star or not. At this point I’ve given out just 4 and 5 stars.

By using filters in Lighroom I make all rated and flagged (rejected) images hidden. This way I don’t need to see the images I’ve already given a status (star or flag). The further I go the fewer images I have left to rate and it’s getting easier and easier for each rating-round. Finally I have photos with both keywords and rating and I can easily filter out the best photos from my weekend I Paris where Jessica is in the picture. :-)

6. Use more than one memory card
This is a practical and useful tip when you’re on a vacation or just out in the backyard taking photos of your kids. I prefer to have a couple of mid-size memory cards instead of one big. Think of the disaster if all your photos are gone because your memory card stopped working! With the minimum of two cards, you might still have some of your photos left on the other card. A few is better than none right? When you buy your memory cards, ask for a card with the right read/write speed for your camera.

This is just the way I prefer to take care of all my photos. You might have another way of doing it so let the rest of us know how you do it, please make a comment.

Best regards,


If you are a Lightroom lover like myself you probably going to adore this place. It's the paradise for all people who are looking for Lightroom presets. Make sure you subscribe to my posts to be first with the latest contributions. I wish you a very pleasant stay. Regards, Pierre

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  1. Hey Pierre, This is an older entry, but anyways, I wanna comment, so… I think this is a good article for messy people, because I’ve seen desktops or external/internal drives of some friends… and you just wanna start to cry… I’m one of those messy ppl in the real life… but when it comes to my computer files… I’m an organization freak… mostly with my music. You just need a little common sense to store all your files properly, not only photos, but other stuff as well, but I guess there are thousands of people who lack of this common sense… So, I hope more ppl read this article, they would be grateful, not today, or maybe not tomorrow… but someday… Cheers!

  2. Hi Pierre, I totally agree with your rules – my number 2 rule is even extended to a “disaster recovery” scenario: I always back up to two drives. One that I keep at home and do backups to every time I upload new pictures from a memory card to the PC; then I take it to a friend’s place and leave it there for a month or so. During that month I use the second drive in place of the first and then after another month I swap them around again, and so on. This way even in case of a fire at home I still have a copy of all my pictures in a safe place, losing at worst a month worth of files. Anyway, thank you for your tips!!! Take care.

  3. Great tips. I’m wondering what if I run out of names to use for tag or keywords. I’m new for Lightroom, just bought Lightroom 5. I think I have 10000+ photos on my 5T hard drive. I don’t even want to think about reorganize them, but I have to do it soon. Just by thinking of it, gives me a headache.

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