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How to Organize Photos

8 Steps to Photos You Can Actually Find

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A picture of a mom and daughter organizing digital photos on a computer

Organize all of your photos so you're not constantly searching for that perfect shot you never can seem to find.

Photo © Rayes / Getty Images
Does the thought of looking through your family pictures from two years ago or even two weeks ago make you shudder? Once you know how to organize your photos, you'll be able to pinpoint those cute pictures of the kids blowing dandelions in seconds.

Label Your Photos

You're looking for that picture of Little Johnny when he was eating ice cream and stuck a sugar cone in his ear. You know it was during the summer but you took a picture every day over those three months.

So what do you do now? You wish you'd taken the time to organize photos for easy browsing but now you have to sift through each folder, trying to remember exactly when you took that one picture.

What's the solution? Label your photos.

Sticking a label on your digital photos is the equivalent of writing on the back of a printed picture. The difference is, you can search through your labels on the computer and find related photos.

It's like having your own internal search engine for your pictures. All of your photos can be sorted by the labels to help you find the picture you're looking for in a few seconds.

Delete Your Photos

Digital cameras are great because you can take as many pictures as your memory card will allow. But do you really need 42 pictures of your kids frozen in the same pose? Not only do these pictures eat up valuable hard drive space, they also add clutter to your collection of photos.

Organize photos by getting rid of that clutter. You probably have thousands of digital photos and at least a few hundred that could be deleted. Slowly start going through them to get rid of the ones you don't need.

Out of focus pictures. Unexplainable pictures. Pictures of your kids with their eyes closed. Hit the delete button and don't look back.

Start a routine that keeps your photos organized. Every time you transfer your pictures from your camera to the computer, take the time to go through them right then to delete the photos that aren't worth 1,000 words.

Rename Your Files

Look at the file names of your digital pictures and you'll see something like IMG_6676. Instantly organize photos when you rename the file name to accurately describe the picture.

Think of it as a caption instead of random numbers that mean nothing to you. For example, IMG_6676 can be renamed to Johnny Catches a Firefly. Add the date into the file name for easy alphabetical sorting on your computer, such as 3-23 Johnny Catches a Firefly.

Rename several files all at once if you have more than one similar picture. This will save a lot of time when you're renaming a series of photos.

Change the Folder Names

When you transfer your digital photos to your computer, the camera software makes the folder name the date you took the pictures. That's great if you can remember the significance of those dates, such as little Johnny's baptism on August 14.

What about the thousands of other photos that are only organized by dates that aren't so important? Change those folder names to something more descriptive than a date. Instead of a folder named 04-05, change the folder name to Baby's First Solids. When you need those pictures of you feeding baby his first solids, you'll know exactly where to look.

Transfer Your Photos Immediately

If you were asked to count how many digital pictures were sitting on your memory card right now, would that number be close to zero? Believe it or not, some people wait until their camera tells them the memory card is full before they transfer the photos onto their computer.

This isn't a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, memory cards fail and you could lose all of the pictures you've taken over the past month or more. Secondly, dumping hundreds of photos at once means you won't have the time or motivation to label each photo, delete the bad ones or rename your files or folders. In other words, you'll never get ahead because you'll always be behind on your photo organization tasks.

Tranfser your pictures immediately so you only have small batches to organize at one time. You'll be more likely to go through a couple of days' worth of pictures in one sitting rather than a couple of months' worth.

Make a Hard Copy of Your Thumbnails

When you click on a folder of photos, you see thumbnails of all of the pictures you've taken on a certain date. Make a hard copy of your photo thumbnails so you can take stock of all of your photos at a quick glance.

As you view the thumbnails of your photos, push the "print screen" button on your keyboard and open up an image editor, such as Photo Shop, PaintShop Pro or Paint. Now hit CTRL-V to paste in the screenshot you just took. Hit print to have a paper version of your thumbnails.

Make sure you note the date the pictures were taken or the file folder name if you've renamed it. You'll be able to flip through your thumbnail pages to find the ones you want in seconds without the use of a computer.

Use Photo Organization Software

Organize photos, share and print them easily with photo organization software. Many of these programs are free and turn your photos into an easy-to-search catalog.

They have basic editing capabilities, such as red eye correction. Some help you burn photo CDs or DVDs and backup all of your files so you don't lose them.

Print Your Pictures

It's funny how excited we get over taking the perfect pictures of our family but then we never print them. These pictures of our kids live in our computer with no hope of escape.

Set your digital pictures free! Print and preserve your favorites within a few days of transferring the files to your computer. You'll enjoy those snapshots more when they're at your fingertips vs. tucked away in a file folder on your computer.

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