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5 Steps to Organized Photos: The Professional Process

Did you know that experts predict that 1.4 trillion photos will be taken in 2021 alone? And another nearly 8 trillion photos and videos will be stored in some manner – on computers, phones, CDs, external hard drives, printed, in the cloud, etc.!

While it’s understandable that people might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their photos, I feel strongly you shouldn’t apologize for them. Take the photos! But let’s talk about how to create a useable system that will allow you to easily access and ENJOY them, and ensure they are secure and backed up so that any stress or overwhelm is replaced with more positive feelings toward your photos.

Let’s get started!

The Organizing Overview...

  1. Centralize: Make a list of all your photo sources (computers, phones, CDs, external hard drives, memory cards, cloud locations, etc.) and get all your digital photos in one place – your new Photo Hub.
  2. Delete Duplicates: Exact copies have got to go! 
  3. Sort: Your new library is organized with year/month folders for all your photos.
  4. Upload to the Cloud: Now you can have your photos at your fingertips in your new organized library! 
  5. Use Your Photos & Maintain Your Library: The work is done and now it’s time to ENJOY your photos & your stories. Having a system and following some simple, but important routines will keep your photos secure and organized.

An essential component of a secure photo system is having redundancies. Technology can fail, accidents and disasters happen, servers can go down, a cloud provider may go out of business – it’s important to have a backup and multiple ways to access your photos (or any data).

The Golden Rule of Photo Storage...

The 3-2-1 Rule

  • 3 copies of your photos,
  • on at least 2 types of media (external hard drive, different cloud services, etc.),
  • with at least 1 copy off-site / in the cloud.

your photos at your fingertips

How are you currently using your photos?

How do you want to use your photos?

I ask every client these questions at the beginning of our first project call. Before any organizing, it’s essential to consider your answers to both. This allows me to hear what might already be working for a client as well as current challenges and frustrations, so that I can then provide solutions that are designed specifically for that client. It’s important to think about how you want to interact with your photos and to think about the end result of this process, even if getting there seems a little confusing.

I promise – there are solutions!

You play an essential role in the first step of centralizing – YOU know where your photos are located!

Step 1: Centralizing

Make a list of all your digital photo locations, then check it twice. Here’s a checklist of common photo storage to get you started:

  • Current computer(s)
  • Current phone(s)
  • Old computer(s)
  • Old phone(s)
  • Text messages
  • External Hard Drives
  • Memory cards / Cameras
  • Cloud Storage (Amazon Photos, Google Photos, iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Flickr, etc.)
  • Shutterfly or other photo printing company (Learn why this is not a backup.)
  • Facebook or other social media (only if those photos are not available anywhere else.)
  • Shared albums
  • CDs
  • Flash Drives

Step 2: Delete Duplicates

Next comes the fun part – deleting exact duplicates is always so satisfying! Here’s a look at a recent client project and the total storage she regained with just the first round of removing duplicates.

Step 3: Sort

Now it’s time to put your photos in an organized system. Year/month folders are what I use for my personal library and the vast majority of clients. Also consider if you want your videos organized with your photos or kept separate in their own video library, also structured by year/month. It’s simply a matter of preference, so consider what is best for how you use your photos & videos.

Step 4: Upload to the Cloud

Remember that 3-2-1 Rule? This is where that really applies. Your library is now organized and it’s time to give you cloud access AND security that your photos are save in more than one format and location.

Step 5: Use Your Photos & Maintain Your Library

The whole purpose of this process is for you to ENJOY your photos. Here we are! You now have an organized library of your stories and memories with your photos at your fingertips. 

Keeping your photos in order is like keeping your house or anything else organized. The little routines and small changes that we implement on a regular basis really do make all the difference. So what does that mean for your photos? Here are a few tips:

  • Practice a regular edit time. Daily, weekly, or whatever works for you, go through your camera roll to delete the photos that you don’t need. 
  • Identify favorites. Along with deleting the excess, marking your best photos will make it simpler for you down the road when you go to create a photo book or print your favorites.
  • Use folders. Yes, you have folders in your Photo Library, but additional folders on your phone can keep screenshots and other photos organized, accessible, and even hidden from your camera roll if you prefer.


My Professional Advice


The only way you’ll make progress is to simply begin. If you wait for the perfect conditions or for the stars to align, you’ll just continue waiting. For your phone photos, the very best step is also easy and works for iPhone and Android – use Amazon Photos. I have a free guide to get you started. Just sign up for my newsletter and it will be delivered right to your inbox.

Don’t quit at a roadblock.

Every single project has some unique quirk or challenge. You now have a resource to keep you going (me!), so no excuses. Also, zero shaming. Most every client thinks their photo mess is the biggest and the worst around. That’s just not true! Our photos are personal. These are our stories and memories, so it’s very natural for emotions to be part of the process. Feeling overwhelmed by all your photos is normal. I’m here to help!

Are we connected on Instagram? You’ll find even more information on the Photo Org highlight on my profile. Come follow and say hi!

More questions? I offer one-on-one coaching when you book a Digital Consult! We can even screen share so I can better assist you with your specific needs and I promise no question is dumb!

I’d love to help you organize your photos and design a backup system that will work for you. 

This post includes an affiliate link, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the link. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a great way to support creators and small businesses. Thank you!

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Hi, I'm Lisa

Photos have always brought me joy and are one of my favorite mediums for storytelling. But let’s be honest, the sheer volume of digital photos we all have can be overwhelming! It’s my goal through Scissortail Digital to help you tell your stories and improve the ways you work with your photos.

Learn more…

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