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Organize Your Digital Life: Photos!

Step by step guide to finally organize digital photos! I needed this. Repin!

Lately, in my house, we’ve been reminiscing a lot. My daughter’s 8th birthday just passed and we’ve been reminded of how fast time has gone by. We’ve even been looking back at her baby photos, remembering the first everything. There are so many photos. At the time, each my husband and I had a cellphone with a camera as well as a regular camera each. And we had a video camera. And we had friends and family who were taking photos with their own phones and cameras and emailing them to us.

We’re so blessed to have had our babies in such a technologically advanced time. Our kid’s entire lives are documented in photo after photo for us to relive over and over again.

We don’t have those same phones or cameras anymore. As time has gone on, we’ve upgraded and gotten more modern equipment. And we don’t have the same computers anymore. I think we’re each about 2 or 3 computers away from the ones we had when our daughter was born. That means that the photos we took then have been transferred and re-transferred to no less than 5 computers, each making multiple back ups. Now, 8 years later, we have a messy file of photos of multiple years jumbled together and full of duplicates.

I know we’re not alone. While I’ve been working on meticulously sorting this out for a while, I’ve had clients in my real life organizing business who have asked me to handle their overwhelming photos for them. It’s happened so frequently, I’ve created a system. And today, I’m going to share that system with you.

Yes! Finally a way to sort through all those duplicate photos!

Step one: Get all your photos together. This might sound like it’s something that should have already been done, but trust me, your photos are probably all over the place. You’re going to want to check each computer in your household, plug in any removable hard drives or usb drives, remove photos from each phone and tablet, check Facebook for photos you’re tagged in or you’ve uploaded before a phone accident (download these), check your My Pictures file, your Downloads file and your desktop. If you know of another place you might have photos (discs, etc), you’re going to want to get those together too. Gather all of your photos together in a big file (they can be in separate folders, but make sure they’re all contained together so you don’t have to go searching around any more).

Step two: Scan for duplicates. You can do a search on the Internet for duplicate photo scanning software and download from a reliable source. I’ll warn you, most of the software out there is not very user friendly. My recommendation of course, is to hire a professional organizer for this (if you want to, you can hire me for 5¢ per image). If you have a few thousand files, expect this process to take several days. If you can’t purchase the software or hire someone, you can sort in step four, detailed below.

Sorting through tons of jpg jpegs

Step three: Create a folder for each year of photos. Within each year folder, create folders for each month. Now, start sorting your photos into each month. To know when a photo was taken, right click and get the Properties. If your file has not been corrupted (which if it’s older, it may have been), it should give you the date it was taken. If the date isn’t there or it’s wrong (I recently had several from my inlaw’s computer that claimed to be taken in 2017), you’re going to have to use your best judgement to place it. Try looking at the files that are around it for context. If you have a lot of images in a given month, you may want to sort them in to more folders within the month (ie: SeaWorld Trip; Graduation).

Step four: If you skipped step two above, this is where you look for duplicates manually. Go folder by folder, right click, go to View, and set the view to either Medium Icons or Large Icons. You’ll have to go folder by folder looking for images that look similar and then compare them manually. This is no fun and should probably be done in small spurts to keep from getting burnout.

How to rename a folder full of files at once

Step five (optional): Rename your files. I know for us, everything seems to be named IMG followed by a random string of numbers. You’ll never find anything this way. You can rename all the images in the folder in just seconds. In this example, we’ll say that the folder is SeaWorld trip. You’ll go to the folder, click on the very first image you see, press CTRL A (or right click and Select All) and then right click and select Rename. Now select the name for the images, and put the name and a space or underscore (_). For the SeaWorld example, we would name the file “SeaWorld “. Then just hit Enter and all of the files you selected will rename to what you just chose and a chronological number.

How to tag images

Step six (optional): Tag your files. When you start getting into the thousands of files, it can be hard to find what your looking for. After my father in law passed away this past fall, my husband and I went looking for photos of him for his obituary. We had to remember when we would have taken photos of him and then look in those specific files. Had we just tagged the images to start with, we could have just searched by name and come up with everything. It’s a long process to tag, but it’s worthwhile in the long run for having quick and easy access to specific images. To tag, simply highlight the image within the folder. At the bottom of the folder, you will see photo details. Click on Tag and enter in all the tags you want (anything you think you might search for someday). Importantly, click Save after you tag. Tab or Enter will not cut it here.

And then you’re done. You now have easy access to your entire digital life and you have the layout for all your images to be saved to going forward. No more disorganized mess!

This is the way that works great for me and my clients. Do you have a way that works well for you? I’d love to know your system!

Special thanks to the following link parties that have graciously allowed me to post this article:

Dwell Beautiful, Frazzled Joy,
Average But Inspired,
Tatertots & Jello,
Serenity Now, Life on Lakeshore Drive

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30 thoughts on “Organize Your Digital Life: Photos!

  1. Pingback: Wordless Wednesday
  2. Chris says:

    Loved this article! Just what I needed. I’ll be in a sling from shoulder surgery for 6-10 weeks starting today. My goal during this time is to organize my picture books and label them well, scan all the older pictures in them and organize it all digitally. This is my 4th surgery and last so I have got to be exceptionally careful – thus time to work on my pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Chris. Wow! I hope your recovery goes smoothly. That’s smart to have a project you can work on. Those weeks after surgery can be so slow. Good luck!

  3. Suzanne says:

    I needed this–I have a goal of organizing a decade of pictures by the end of 2015–I am pinning this to help along the way!

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks so much for commenting and pinning! Good luck with organizing the photos. You can do it!!

  4. Clare says:

    Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you

    My pictures are a BIG OLE MESS

    thanks for the tips Sits’ta

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks for stopping by Clare! Good luck with your pictures!

  5. Michelle says:

    You can also do a search for duplicate file names on windows computers, maybe mac too, not sure but I have done it that way before. Thanks for the organizational tips!



    1. Christine says:

      Hi Michelle! You bring up a really good point. The thing to be careful about when searching duplicate names is two fold:

      1) Sometimes files have been renamed for an email or upload, etc. These won’t show in the search.


      2) A lot of cameras use generic naming systems. Usually something like img0001 and so on, and when you remove the SD card, it resets back to #1. This actually happened with our vacation photos from last summer: Each day’s photos defaulted to have the same file names.

      But yes, at times duplicate file name searches will work!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂

  6. Great tips…I have so got to do this! Pinning for when I have some time. Thanks

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Debbie! Thanks so much for commenting and pinning! 🙂

  7. thanks for the tips…I have to admit I have tons of photos..we have 2 externals, each 1 and 3 TG, all filled with our photos :). Luckily my hubby is diligently checking them most of the time to make sure it’s neatly organized 🙂

    1. Christine says:

      That’s fantastic that your hubby helps out! Sounds like you have a lot of awesomely preserved memories!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Thanks for sharing at TheSITSgirls link up!! This will surly change my life. 🙂

    1. Christine says:

      And thank you so much for stopping by and commenting 🙂

  9. christina says:

    Thanks SITStah… I needed this!

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks for stopping by Christina!

  10. These are all great tips! I always wish there was a way to tag photos on your phone- that is where I have the most trouble finding pictures! Stopping over from #SITS today!

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Samantha! There are some ways to tag with your phone, but because phones don’t always fully integrate with your computer’s operating system, the tags don’t always stay when you transfer them. If you’re storing your photos to a cloud service though, I would imagine you could tag.

      Hopefully that will be more integrated in the future!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I need to do this so much! My photo files are a mess! It is really the time factor that has kept me from even trying (excuse alert!). Thanks for this, it will help me get going. From SITS!

    1. Christine says:

      Good luck Debbie! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  12. Casey says:

    There’s software out there to remove duplicates?! I had no idea! I love you right now! (from SITS)

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks Casey! Good luck!

  13. Oh my gosh, I dont know where your find the time to dedicate to organizing photos. I should have done it on the get go. I think you should hire out. Thanks for sharing all the tips, they are great!!!

    Have a great weekend and if you have time join the Friday Feature Linky Party!!!

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Karren! I totally do hire out! It’s my real-life-when-I’m-not-blogging job.

      Thanks for coming by 🙂

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