Lost In A Mess Of Digital Photos?

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." --Arthur Ashe


Big mess? Me too, you're not alone. A big mess of digital photos on your phone, your partner's phone, your home desktop, your office, your tablet, and on and on. You have photos everywhere, but you never seem to get to actually look at them and enjoy them. And it's the same thing with your videos, music, books, and data. It's all a big mess.

It can be overwhelming. Well, don't give up. You can get out of the mess! Divide and conquer, that's the name of the game. Take it one step at a time.

I don't know anything about your mess, but I do know all about mine. So, let's talk about my mess.

How you sync your photos is crucial.

One of the key issues with my mess was how all my devices interacted with each other.

Phone talking to desktopFor example, I would do a wonderful job of synchronizing my phone photos up with my desktop only to start noticing problems a few weeks later. The problems were the result of my laptop talking to my desktop and synchronizing a different photo collection to my desktop which would cancel (overwrite) my phone to desktop sync.

Home Network connectine devices.As you can see, my devices were all syncing independently from each other. It was very easy to overwrite a high-quality file with a low-quality file having the same name. Also, any "meta-data" information could be lost the same way. In short, this just doesn't work.

Home networkIt wasn't until I had my, phone, desktop, laptop to tablet all synchronized together that I finally started to make some positive progress. In this example (which is what I use) all my devices synchronize to my main desktop PC. Wherever there is a conflict, I have things set so that the "newest" file overwrites the oldest file. And every time I update even just one file on my desktop server PC, it automatically updates all the other devices.

Without having all my devices properly synchronized together, changes made on one device would be canceled out by changes made on another device.

BTW< I like SyncBackSE from 2BrightSparks.

So, in the big picture, I was tearing down my progress as fast as I could do it.

If that sounds confusing, it's because it is confusing.


OK, that sounds a little patronizing, I know but that is one of my problems. I was so paranoid about screwing up my photos, my irreplaceable photos, that I made .ZIP files of everything before I did anything. I went crazy with these .ZIP files, I even had .ZIP files zipped up inside of other .ZIP files. Then when I unzipped them, I just added to my overall mess of duplicate files.
Now don't get me wrong, play it safe with your irreplaceable files but lighten up on the .ZIP files.


I have, over the last forty years, amassed over 20,000 photos. Most of this has taken place during the last 20 years since I have been carrying around a digital camera (my phone). Most of the previous paper photos have been digitized and are part of the 20,000.
Photos digital
All of this continues to grow at a rate of around two hundred (200) new photos per month or 2,400 photos per year.

To you, this may be too much stuff or maybe you are chuckling and saying, "This guy is just an amateur!"

My point is that everybody is different, with unique needs, tastes likes, and dislikes. What is great for you may be a disaster for me.

We all may not have "too much stuff" but we probably have "excessive stuff" in the form of;

  • Duplicate photos
  • Unnecessary or unwanted photos
  • Blurry or unusable photos
  • Photos that need to be in the trash, not in your collection

It's the same deal as cleaning out your refrigerator or pantry at home. Just do it, and don't forget that cheese back in the corner. It's really gotta go!


  • You must complete the synchronization between all your devices before you even think about renaming your files.
  • The same goes for tags and any metadata comments. Not only do all your files need to be synchronized but you must pay attention to the source vs. the destination so you don't lose your new data.
  • Even with 100% automated sync, it is a good practice to perform a weekly check to make sure everything is going what it is supposed to be doing.

What is the meta-data?

Each one of your photos keeps information or data "inside" the photo itself. The date it was taken is "embedded" inside the photo. There are a number of different pieces of data embedded inside the photo.

Along with the default information or metadata that is automatically embedded inside the photo there is also the opportunity for you to embed your own personal data. Things like, "2010 Wedding" or "Barney the Dog"

It is possible to lose this meta data by synchronizing a "no metadata" copy of your photo over the one that has the good metadata. You need to keep this in mind when you are building your libraries.


So, I have cleaned up my collections and started a system to keep them clean. And that is the general idea. Wait a minute, what about the enjoyment part? Well, check out Home Media Basics to get to the enjoyment part. Hey, there is no free lunch!