Thursday, April 16, 2015


Ask anyone what they’d save first from their burning house and more often than not they’ll say photo albums. But what if your ‘albums' are spread between your phone, iPad, laptop, a few hard drives and a bunch still on your camera?

Digital photos have made life easier in many respects, but also pretty complicated if you don’t have some sort of storage system in place. This is by no means exhaustive, but if you’re facing a heaving mountain of digital files in desperate need of some organising, this might be a good place to start...

1. Collect your content.

Gather your camera and memory cards, your phone (if you take photos with it) and any random USBs or CDs from family/friends that you want to add to your collection.

2. Set up your library.

Choose one central point to collect your photos, usually a laptop or desktop computer. Create a main folder called Photos or something similar and then a filing system of subfolders within, for example:

 A dating system might make the most sense for you, if you take a lot of photos. Create a folder for each month within a year, using the numbers 1-12 to keep your folders in order (or your computer may arrange them alphabetically). Within each month’s folder, you can create yet another folder for a specific event. It might seem like overkill but when you’re looking that cake-smeared photo of your niece on her birthday, you don’t want to be searching in here:

3. Dump everything onto your computer.

With your folders set up and ready to go, it’s time to add some content! For this step. you’ll need a card reader or the USB cable that came with your camera, plus your USB phone cable.

Line up all your cards and devices on one side of the table. As you upload the images from each, put them on the other side of the table so you know which ones are complete. 

Start with the worst offender - your phone. You might need to search online for “transfer photos from iPhone to PC” as appropriate to your devices. Create a folder called “iPhone” in each year’s folder and put everything into the same folder to start with - you can sort through them once they're on the computer.

Go and have a cup of tea and a biscuit while you’re waiting.

Now for your camera's memory cards. My preference is to again just dump the entire contents into a main folder (the year or month) and sort/file as the next step. Repeat with any additional storage devices you want to consolidate.

4. Delete anything you don’t want to keep.

There is no point sorting and saving files you don’t need - blurry shots, multiples, etc - so go ahead and cull the excess.

5. Sort into individual month and event folders.

Starting with your phone photos, sort the photos by date and then add them to each month’s own iPhone folder (or create event folders if you have enough images from each event to warrant it)

Create event folders as required and sort the rest of your images into their new homes. If you like to edit or manipulate your photos in some way, go the extra mile and create folders for images that are unedited (I call this folder SOOC = straight out of camera) and one for those that have been edited and re-saved. 

6. Create back-up copies.

Buy yourself an external hard drive, something around 2-3TB capacity. If you’re super cautious, like I am with client photos, you can go nuts and have 3 copies of everything, stored in different locations. At the very least, have one external drive that you can copy your entire photo library onto in case your computer ever dies (this WILL happen at some point).

Choose a frequency to copy your future photos across to the back-up - this will depend how many photos you take but monthly might be a good place to start. Add a reminder in your diary at the start of each month to copy the previous month’s folder onto your back-up drive. Keep this hard drive somewhere secure, separate to your computer.

If you find your computer is getting full, you might want to begin truly archiving your images. Before you delete anything from your computer, make yet another copy on yet another hard drive (so you have it in 2 places before removing from your computer). Keep this second set of drives in a totally different building.

Let’s review!

So now you’ve got a computer full of images, and some camera memory cards you can empty to use again. Your phone photos are backed up so you can free up some memory for plenty more, and you’ve got a back-up of the whole lot that you can refer to if anything every goes astray.

Check out more posts about photography on The Beetleshack, including tips to improve your picture-taking and what to do with all the photos you now have safely stored digitally.


Kate Dyer
Chief Colouring-In Officer

A child of the 80's, Kate was raised on country music and family camping adventures. She documents more recent adventures on her blog This is My Family. When she's not pulling her house apart, Kate aims to rid the world of cheesy family photos. Find out more at Urban Safari Photography.


  1. A great reminder and encouragement. I need to get organized!

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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em