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How to Organize Photos – Digital and Prints

8 min read

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As a photographer, you undoubtedly have thousands and thousands of digital photos. If they’re scattered all over the place, you’ll find it difficult to locate a specific photo or look back on precious memories in an organized way. How can you achieve this without wasting hours of your time?

The answer is simple: know how to organize photos efficiently.

No matter what kind of photographer you are, the key is to wisely approach your digital images and turn them into an organized photo library that will serve you for years to come.

From AI software to smart culling techniques, here are some of the best ways to organise your photos.

example of a photo outtake that can be deleted.

If you may like to skip reading about organizing digital photos, click here to jump to the section for learning about organizing printed photos.

Delete Unnecessary Photos

When you organize digital photos, make sure to delete any that fall under these categories:

  • Duplicates – photos that look too similar to one another.
  • Bad photos – out of focus shots, accidental snapshots, images with unappealing compositions, and unflattering photos of people can all go to the bin or outtakes folder.
  • Files that aren’t your photos – memes, unnecessary graphics, and random files can all accidentally end up in your archive. Make sure to get rid of them during the culling process.

Extra Tip: If you’re not sure about certain photos that you recently took, don’t delete them immediately. Try sorting through older images first. The more distance you create between yourself and your photos, the easier it will be to look at them objectively.

collection of photos in Adobe Lightroom.

How to Cull Digital Photos

“Culling” refers to the process of sorting through photographs and picking out the best ones. Some photographers, especially in the wedding photography industry, hire people to cull photos for them.

Culling is one of the most important parts of the organizing process. It’s important to use software programs that can make it easy for you to look through your photos and highlight your favourite ones.

Here are some programs you can use to cull your images:

  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Photo Mechanic
  • ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate
  • AfterShoot

We recommend trying a few programs. Some people find everything they need in Adobe Lightroom, while others prefer the features that Photo Mechanic offers. The best program is the one that makes your life more comfortable. 

person making schedule on laptop.

Create a Schedule for Organizing Your Digital Photos

Organizing photos can be very time-consuming. The more photos you take, the harder it will be to figure out a good sorting system. Doing it all in one go can discourage you from organizing your photos in the future. 

To avoid this, you can start committing some of your time to organize photos. Some photographers organize their photos at the end of every month. Others do this every two months. The key is to have a specific date that you can rely on. 

If you make photo organizing a habit, you’ll find it easier to stay on top of everything, no matter how busy you are.

Use AI Software to Save Time

What if you don’t have time to cull and delete photos? You might only be able to back up your photos. This is where AI comes in. 

Photographers can use AI software to cull their photos automatically. Programs like Excire are ideal for anyone who needs to organize photos within a short period of time.

excire foto for photo management.

Excire is a program made specifically for photographers. You can use it to find the specific images you are looking for, cull, and add keywords or tags to your photographs in an organized manner.

The software also offers a handy feature that can make your life significantly easier. Excire’s AI tool will look through all the photos in your folders and pick out the bad ones for you to delete. It can also detect objects in your images, making it easier to search for specific photos.

This is a great alternative to manual work. If you want to create a collection of organized photos without needing to look through thousands of images in one go, Excire may be the perfect solution for you. 

photo side by side comparison in Adobe Lightroom Classic.

Folder Structure Ideas

Creating a folder called “Archive” and storing all your photos there might create even more digital clutter. To avoid this, you need to come up with a smart folder structure that complements your life as a photographer. A good folder structure will make it easy for you to locate any photo, no matter when it was taken.

Here are a few ideas on how to organise your folders.

By Date

If you often take smartphone photos, you’ll notice that your camera roll organizes your photos by date. This is a smart approach that can help you locate photos quickly. The key is to create albums for every month or year, depending on how many photos you have.

By Project

If you have a big project, such as a wedding shoot or a collaboration with a company, you want to make sure that you can easily access everything when your client needs it.

You can also use this approach if you specialise in stock photography and want to keep track of the photos you’ve already submitted or if you’re working on a photography project like the 52 Week Project.

To achieve this, create a folder for every long-term project you’ve worked on.

If you need even more structure for every project, you can create sub-folders for different days, weeks, or months, depending on the length of your shoots.

By Location

Location may be an important part of your work. If you often move from one place to another, you might benefit from organizing your photos based on their location.

Photo storage is meant to be convenient and personalized, so don’t be afraid to be specific. Create folders for cities or regions you’ve visited to make the searching process easier later on. 

For Printing

If there are any photos you’d like to print or store in photo albums, make sure to create separate folders for them. Keeping these kinds of photos organized will help you during and after the printing process, especially if something goes wrong. 

google photo organizing platform.

Find a Reliable Online Storage Space

If you don’t want to burden your computer with thousands of images, we recommend purchasing an external drive. This will help you stay organized in the long run. External hard drives are robust and easy to store in a physical space, making them the perfect companion for any photographer. 

Virtual storage spaces are a great alternative. After organising your photos, you can upload them to a platform and access them from your computer or smartphone at any time. Here are a few popular cloud storage platforms:

  • Google Photos – Made for storing photos and videos, Google Photos is a great tool for anyone who wants to locate and edit their photos quickly. 
  • Google Drive – This is a good storage option for anyone who has different media files. Documents, audio files, and ZIP files – along with photos and videos – can all be stored here.
  • Dropbox – This is considered one of the top photo storage apps. Premium users can use up to 3 TB of storage space. If you’re looking for a program that is easy to use, Dropbox is for you.
  • Amazon Photos App – This may be an appealing option for anyone who is already an Amazon Prime user. Even though the app has its limits, like limited free storage, it’s worth trying if you’re already subscribed to Amazon. 
  • SmugMug – This platform offers more than just storage space. They have an all-in-one photo website management system with storage, sharing, and an easy-to-use sales platform.

Extra Tip: To make sure your photos are safe, you can store your photos on an external hard drive and use a platform like Dropbox as a cloud backup. This way, if your external hard drive gets lost or broken, you won’t need to worry about restoring your images. 

photo being printed from Canon printer.

How to Organize Printed Photos

If you need photo prints for clients or personal use, you need to be extra conscious of storage. Digital photos won’t expire, but physical prints may be vulnerable to weather, light, and time.

To keep your printed photos in excellent condition, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use high-quality photo paper. This will improve your viewing experience and make the storing process easier.
  • Label your photos. If you’re planning to organize a large number of printed photos, make sure to write down the date, location, and any other important information on the back of the photo paper. Use an acid-free pen or pencil. 
  • Store your photos in acid-free envelopes. These envelopes will create an extra layer of protection. You can store multiple photos from the same date or location in the same envelope.
  • Purchase a photo box or photo album. Photo boxes make it easier to store and find physical prints. A photo album can be a good alternative to this, depending on the number of photos you want to store.
  • Avoid humid areas and direct sunlight. Make sure you have enough space in your home or studio to store your printed photos. 
person browsing through printed photography book.

Order Photo Books

If you have a few hundred images that you don’t want to print individually, you can turn them into a photo book. This is a great idea for anyone who wants to store their photos in a fun and personal way.

A photo book is easy to store and is significantly less fragile than a photo print. It looks professional and can be a great addition to your home. You can turn it into your own personal portfolio and share it with potential clients. You can also give it as a gift to a family member or a friend.

The process is simple. All you need to do is design your book and create a layout for your pictures on a photo book website. Some photographs like to print one photo on every page. Others like to mix things up and create a collage on each page. Depending on your needs, you can make your photography dreams come true through your book! 

It’s important to find a good printing company for your needs. An option that’s too budget-friendly might compromise the quality of your pictures. However, there are many local and international companies that are affordable and offer high-quality products.

Here are a few photo book companies that ship internationally*:

  • Mixbook
  • Blurb
  • Photobook Genius
  • MILK Books

*Make sure to read the shipping regulations on every website before you start designing your book. Some of the companies listed above, such as Mixbook, have geographical restrictions.

collection of photo prints being displayed on shelf.

Conclusion

Knowing how to organize photos will make your life as a photographer much easier.

These skills will help you provide your clients, friends, and family members with beautiful photographs whenever they need them. They’ll also give you the opportunity to go down memory lane comfortably. 

There are many options available, from AI software to personalised photo books. Try different things and see what works best for your needs.

Now that you have multiple options to choose from, why not start organizing your photos today? 

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
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