Save Your Sanity Later: Start Organizing Your Photos NOW!

Organize photosI have taken photos of everything since the beginning of time. I am not joking...being Japanese American, it's kinda in my blood. Before digital photography, I put almost every picture into an actual photo album, and by the time I converted to digtal, I had 125 photo albums. We're not talking small albums, either - these are thick, heavy beasts, a single one of which could stun a yak. But now with cameras on your phone and everyone sharing photos on zillions of social media sites, how do you organize them all? It's simple. USE A NAMING CONVENTION and ORGANIZE those photos!

Don't make the mistake I did of not naming the photos with dates, events, and who's in the pictures. This sounds like a lot of work but trust me, you'll be glad you did it later. It only takes a few moments to label a set of photos shortly after you take them, but if you wait (and if you take a lot of photos), at some point you'll have a huge, unmanageable pile of Mystery Photos that will seem insurmountable. My husband actually scanned every SINGLE album page (this was not an easy task on my part - the siren call of CSI is strong) and then I renamed the photos to make it super easy to find each one. I used (and love) Adobe Lightroom because editing and renaming groups of photos is fast and easy.

Here's how I label photos: 2015 03 03 Debby's Birthday Sean laughing

Now, instead of IMG_30203.JPG (which isn't very helpful from an informational point of view), just LOOKING at the file gives us a ton of info: the date the photo was taken goes first, so they're always in chronological order, then the event, like a birthday or vacation, and finally who's actually in the photo. You can add something to help you remember something special about the photo too, which is helpful if you've got a series of photos of the same "scene". If you have lots of people you feature regularly in your photos, you can use their abbreviations: 1985 01 07 Nicole Birthday RD SD JD Santa Cruz. Adding the location is also very helpful, especially if it's somewhere special.

After you name your photos, create folders for every year, and then create a folder for every event. Name the folder the same way so it is always chronological.  For example, the folder name of that contains the photo 2015 03 03 Debby's Birthday Sean Laughing would go into a folder named 2015 03 03 Debby's Birthday. That makes it easy to peruse folders to find photos, and if you're Lightroom-savvy, you can get Lightroom to handle the file naming, separating the events and exporting to the correct folders for you.

NOW, having done all of that, if you're looking for photos of a particular person, you can search for them by name or initials.  

The bottom line here is to get your photos organized BEFORE the sheer volume becomes overwhelming. This way, when you encounter a Life Event in the future (maybe someone's getting married, and you need embarrassing pictures for a slideshow?), you can quickly and easily find what you're looking for without losing your mind or wasting time.