Tips & Ideas

Nov 10, 2020

How to Organize your Photos and Keep your Zen

Whether you’re a content creator or photographer, you’ve probably landed here wondering how to organize photos because you just spent 74 minutes searching for one – and still didn’t find it. Frustrating, huh?

Well, you’re in luck, cause we put together a step by step guide that will keep you productive at work and ensure you can keep your zen too. So let’s get to it!

How to organize & store digital photos

1. Set a goal 

Before you start finding, gathering, organizing, and maybe even dumping photos, it’s time to ask yourself: 

  • “Why do I want to organize these photos?” Is it because you want quick access or perhaps you’re afraid of losing them? Write down why this is important to you – it will help you prioritize what part of the system to set up first and how extensive you want to organize your photos.
  • “What do I usually need these photos for?” Is it for current client project work, editing, campaigns, or expanding your portfolio? This will help you determine what scenarios you find yourself in when looking for photos. You can set up file names and folders accordingly. We’ll get to that in a few steps.

In the meantime, write these answers on a piece of paper or in your notes app. They will guide you through knowing how to set up your own photo organization system. Because although we’ll give you general tips and examples, there’s a way that will work best for you.

2. Gather your photos in one place

Alright, now that we’ve established why you even want to organize your photos – let’s start by gathering all your photos together in one place.

Where you can dig photos up from:

  • Phones
  • SD cards
  • Hard drives
  • Laptops
  • Physical prints in the back of a cupboard

Brainstorm every place on a piece of paper, gather every single photo, and don’t be lazy about it. You won’t want to do this process more than once. Now you’ll find that it will become clearer what type of photos you have and how you might search to find them in the future. 

3. Back it up

Once you’re done gathering – be sure to back everything up BEFORE you start organizing. 

Drag and drop everything onto a hard drive or a cloud-based service such as mac photos, google drive, or dropbox. There’s no need to organize these – they’re just here in case something happens during the process of organizing.

4. Pick your storage spot

Whether you should store your photos locally or on a cloud depends on two things:

  • “Who needs access?” If it’s just you, you can also opt for local storage. If you’re working in a team – cloud is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, you’re never up to date and lose a lot of time. 
  • “How much storage do I need?” Photos take up a heck of a lot of storage, so where you store them will also affect how much it costs you to store them. Check how much storage you need, how much this will increase in the next 1-3 years, and what service is best suited to you. 

5. Time to decide on a system, implement and stick to it

Alright. Now that we have all of your photos in one place it’s time to decide on a filing system that works for you. 

This will mainly entail:

  1. Naming your photos
  2. Filing your photos
  3. Tagging your photos
  4. Backing up your photos

Naming your photos as a professional photographer, content creator or marketer

Here is an example of how you can name your photos: 

Naming photos as a professional photographer

How you name your photos is up to you. Yet this might also depend on where you store them and what metadata is applied automatically to your photos. Either way, here’s a great example that can work for almost every professional photographer:


This will allow your clients to select photos by sending a list of photo numbers. You will also be able to easily find the photos, whether you can remember the client’s name or the location they were shot at. The date can also differentiate the photos if you shoot the client on several occasions. You can also optionally add NAMEOFEVENT.

Filing your photos as a professional photographer, content creator, or marketer:

While renaming photos you’ll want to create a digital filing system for your photos. Create folders you can drag and drop photos into. What filing system you choose is again up to you and depends on your professional needs, but here’s a good example to start with: 

  • YEAR
    • PHOTO TYPE/EVENT TYPE e.g christmas, portrait, family, pregnancy
      • CLIENT

As a professional photographer, you’re often asked for samples and want to easily update your portfolio. Which is why it’s usually helpful to group photos according to years and events.

Tagging your photos as a professional photographer, content creator, or marketer:

Tags will help you look for an image by searching for words that describe what you can see in the photo. So if you’re looking for a photo of a client’s dog, which you took 5 years ago – a quick ‘cute dog’ search in your database should locate it in no time.

Although image recognition is quickly becoming a thing – our computers aren’t tagging all photos automatically just yet and doing it manually with thousands of images can be draining. 

Automated software might just be able to do some of the work for you. Wordroom, a Lightroom plugin detects image content and automatically tags it. 

6. Back it up (again) 

No matter where you choose to have your main photo storage space – it’s ALWAYS best to have a backup. Because you really never know what can happen, technology can fail you, a fire can break out in your home, and so on… So better to be safe than sorry.

  • If your main storage is cloud-based: do a monthly or quarterly back up onto a hard drive (schedule it in your calendar, so you don’t forget)

If your main storage is local: either do a monthly or quarterly back up onto a hard drive and store it in a different location or do a back up to the cloud

How to organize and store photos: our general recommendations to keep your zen

We just dropped some of the best tips on how to organize your photos. And it was quite a bit to digest. So here’s a quick summary so you can keep your zen and get going right away: 

  • No procrastinating – organize your photos once, you’ll thank us for it later.
  • Set a goal: ask yourself how and what you’ll be searching for?
  • Gather your photos in one place. Every single one. Don’t be lazy.
  • Back them up.
  • Set up a system, implement, and stick to it. 
  • Don’t be afraid to dump.
  • Back em up again.
  • Stay zen by staying organized -> pop a repeat event in your calendar, to organize your photos regularly.

We hope you enjoyed our in-depth step by step guide on organizing your photos. Get to it – we can’t wait to see you on the zen side.

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