Introduction

Your photos may be the most important part of your media library. There are many ways to organize your photos. The types of photos, the dates they were taken, the people in the photos but most of all it is all about how you want to enjoy your photo library.

Maybe, you are an album kind of person. You want to open your "Wedding Album" or your "Trip to Spain Album." Or maybe you like looking at a year at a time.

You can arrange all your photos to meet your preferences. Once you review the following techniques, you can build your photo library to suit your own style.

Organizing Your Photos

Here is the process, one step at a time. I suggest you read this entire process before you start. Some of these steps may not be for you and others need to be modified to your style.

Remove Duplicates:Β Reduce the confusion, reduce the size of your folder contents, and avoid repetitious actions.

If your photo library is a few hundred photos you may want to manually remove the duplicates. Sort the photos by name and then visually review the results. You will see the duplicates which have the same file name. Delete the duplicate.

😎 WordCutter: If you have the same photo in multiple folders i.e. Favorites and Family, you may not want to remove the duplicate. You may want these folders to have duplicates. 

Rename Photo Files

In a perfect world, all your photos will be named to show the content of the photo.

  • My Wedding,jpg
  • MyWedding.jpg
  • my-wedding.jpg
  • Jan and me at the market.jpg
  • JanAndMeAtTheMarket.jpg
  • jan-and-me-at-the-market.jpg

Even better, they will all include the date in the file name.

  • 2012-12-03-my-wedding.jpg
  • 2016-05-17-jan-and-me-at-the-market.jpg

With the date and the event in the file name, you can easily search out all the photos from a certain time or from a certain event. However, we all know that we do not live in a perfect world. In our real world, your photos are named by the camera or the phone where you created the photo in the first place.

  • 20200311_081147.jpg
  • IMG-20181009-WA0000.JPG
  • Screenshot_20200217-205001_Google News.jpg
  • FB_IMG_1579057007573.JPG

If you look closely, you can make out the date. In these examples, you can see that one of these is a screenshot and another is FB or Facebook, WA, or WhatsApp.

But when you try to sort these, you are out of luck.

You can sort these by the photo attributes, the data contained within the photo like "date created", "date modified" and others. This is how the media management systems (last step) will sort the photos.

However, if the photo name contains the date and the event, that info will always stay with the photo.

😎 WordCutter: Do you need to rename your photos, not unless you are like me and just can't live with a dis-organized, crazy naming system.

So, if you can live with what you have, move on to the next step in this process. If you want to rename your photos, read on.

Manual Renaming

When you rename your photos there are some naming conventions or standards which you should absolutely follow.

The date format is critical.

  • Janurary 3, 2005
  • 01/03/2005
  • 2005-01-03

The year must be first, then the month and finally the day. This is the format that allows you to easily sort your photos by date. If you do not follow this rule, you are wasting your time renaming them in the first place.

Special characters are not to be used, ever.

  • 01/03/2005 No backslashes
  • #%! and so on, forget it
  • 2005-01-03 Dashes are OK
  • 2005_01_03 Underscores are OK

If you use special characters, somewhere down the road you will try to backup, copy, create a compressed file, and other file manipulation actions and you will be told that you cannot do whatever you are trying to do because there are special characters in the file name.

If your photo library is a few hundred photos you may want to manually rename your files.

How do you rename your files? It's pretty simple. Right-click on the name and choose "Rename" from the dropdown menu. Or you can just click the icon to the left of the name once and then click on the name itself once. Now you can type in the new name. See WikiHowΒ for detailed instructions.

Be careful not to remove the file name extension i.e. .jpg, .png, .gif and so on. If you inadvertently remove this file name extension the photo will disappear from your list because your computer, no longer sees it as a photo. It does not disappear from your folder; you just cannot see it until you replace the missing file extension.

😎 WordCutter: Find groups of similar photos visually or if you already have folders, you can rename all the photos in a single folder.

Create Folder Structure

This whole folder topic sounds simple and it really is simple but there are some very key things going on here. If you look at the graphic below, you see the computer's hard drive Local Disc (C:) where we have created a folder named "Photos." And then we added five (5) photos to this folder. I am keeping things simple by using only five (5) photos. You may have thousands in your "Photos" folder when you start.

Here you have one (1) folder (Photos) which you created on your hard drive in your desktop computer, and it contains five (5) photos, this is our photo library. Let's say we really like Photo4.jpg and Photo5.jpg so we decide to add another folder to keep these two (2) photos separate. We call our new folder "Favorites."

OK, now we have our favorites in their own folder.

Keep in mind that our example here only organizes five (5) photos. Your real photo library has thousands of photos. And you want to have a lot more than two folders. You may want to have a "Family" folder and a "Friends" folder. How about a "Xmas 2015" folder? You may want dozens of folders. Let add another folder for photos that have family members.

Diagram of folder structure with favoritesAll right, now we have a "Family" folder so it will be easy to find our family members in our thousands of photos. And then, as they say, "there's the rub," because we had to create duplicate photos to populate our new "Family" folder.

Any single photo cannot be in two (2) folders at the same time without creating duplicate photos. That is simply how the folder structure works, with no options.

So now, with our two (2) duplicate photos or photo library has grown from five (5) photos to seven (7) photos. In a photo library of 5,000 photos, this type of folder structure would result in an extra 2,000 photos. And as you add more folders your library will grow and grow.

😎 WordCutter: Looking at the chart above, I could have moved Photo2.jpg out of the main "Photos" folder and into the new "Family" folder and avoided making a duplicate.

As you go through all your existing folders and photos, try to avoid making duplicate photos. There will always be some duplicates because of editing and other intentional photo modifications but the goal is to absolutely minimize the number of duplicate photos in your library. If you really need to have the same photo in multiple folders, you may consider using albums instead. And that takes us to albums.

Tags

Tagging your photos can really add to your photo organizing effort. But first, what are tags? To really answer this, we need to learn about photo metadata.

Metadata is the photo or the file properties information that is embedded in the actual photo. In photos, this metadata has a lot of info created when the photo was taken (created). What kind of camera, lens, location, and more? This is also where you enter tags, description, subject, and more. It's like writing info on the back of a paper photograph in the "old" days.

😎 WordCutter: This metadata stays with the photo no matter what application you are using to view or manage the photo. This means that you are free from using any specific application to manage your photos.

Adding Tags

So, here's how you add a tag to a photo.

  • Open Windows File Explorer and navigate to your Photos folder.
  • Choose the View option on the top command line.
  • Choose Large Icons
  • Find the photo that you want to tag.
  • Right-clickΒ on the photo.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the newly opened window and choose Properties.
  • After the window Properties window opens Choose the Details tab.

In this Details tab, you will see Tags in the Top Description section. Click on Tags and the field will be highlighted in blue. Move your pointer to the right over the blue and the window will open (turn white) and you can type in your tag. Your tags should be short, 1 or 2 words, like Favorite, Family, Xmas2012, John Smith, and so on.

After typing in your tag hit return and your tag has been entered. To add more tags, move your pointer over the Tags field again and enter your next tag.

IMPORTANT: Click the OK on the bottom of the window to save your tag(s). If you exit the window without clicking the OK button, your work will be lost.

If you want to tag a bunch of photos with the same tag at the same time.

  • Remain in the same View > Large icons window and turn on the Details pane by clicking on it in the menu. This will open a new window to the right of your photos. In this window, you will see the metadata from the photo you have selected.
  • Select multiple photos and now this window will show you the tags which are common to all the photos you have selected. Unless all the selected photos have the same tag, this will say "Add a tag."
  • Add your new tag and hit return to save the new tag in all of the selected photos.

That's it. You are now an official tag-insert-er. You can now search for photos that have specific tags and easily find the photo(s) that you are looking for.

😎 WordCutter: Tip - If your search comes up empty, check Advanced options in the top menu and make sure that File contents is checked.

Face Recognition

If you are adding names to your photos and you have a lot of photos to tag, you can use an application that has face recognition built-in which will automatically search through all your photos and identify who is in the photo. You can then instruct the application to create tags to add these face recognition results into the photo metadata. Now you will have the names of whoever is in the photo permanently embedded into the photo itself. Lightroom and ACDSee are two of the applications that do this.

Remove Duplicates

Reduce the confusion, reduce the size of your folder contents, and avoid repetitious actions.

Automated Removal

If your photo library has thousands of photos you are going to use photo duplicate removal software to do the job. Here are two examples. $40 dollars seems like a lot, but it will save you hours of time and you will be able to use the software as your library grows.

Duplicate-Photo-Fixer-Pro

Duplicate Photo Fixer Pro

This application features finding photos by content not just file size and file name. You choose what to keep and what to delete.

$39.99 with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Easy Duplicate Finder

Finds all types of duplicate files not just photos. You can run this on the music library and video library.

Try it for free then upgrade for $39.95

Search the internet for others and you will find some free ones out there. You may want to try them out but remember, if you accidentally remove the wrong photo, you are stuck. So, buyer beware.

OK, now that you have whittled your duplicates out, let's move on.

Automated Renaming Photo Files

If your photo library has thousands of photos, you are again going to use software to do the job. Here are two examples.

Bulk-Renaming-Utility

Bulk Rename Utility

This application will rename multiple files and folders in bulk. (Duh!)

Free for personal use at home, upgrade $92.95

EF Multi File Renamer

Renames files and folders

Free with upgrade available for $14.00

Search the internet for others and you will find some other free ones out there. There are a lot of options available, and it really comes down to how extensive your renaming effort will be.

Create Albums

This added organization tool, creating photo albums, eliminates the need to use duplicate photos in multiple folders.

While a folder contains the actual files (photos), an album contains a bunch of digital shortcuts to those files (photos). The album is a database of photo information.

So, your "Favorites" album does not actually contain your favorite photos, it contains digital shortcuts to your favorite photos. For example, you may have a photo of your dog which you love, and you want this photo to be in your "Favorites" folder, your "Family" folder, your "Pets" folder, and so on. An album solution would be to put your dog photo in your "Favorites" folder and rely on album shortcuts to have the photo in multiple albums like "Family" and "Pets".

Albums-using-3rd-folder-duplicates

You can see in the graphic above that we have created an album named "Favorites" and this new album has three digital shortcuts to Photo4.jpg, Photo5.jpg, and Photo2.jpg. We did this without creating any duplicate photos.

This is great, I don't even need any folders, I can just put all my photos in one giant "Photos" folder and then use albums to organize all my folders. Well, slow down because like they say, "There is no free lunch."

Unlike a folder, you cannot create an album unless you use a photo management software application that has the album creation function. Google Photos creates albums. Photoshop, MyLio, ACDSee and many, many other applications have this feature. And they all make it easy to create an album. You can do it one photo at a time, or a bunch at a time. You can do it by date, or location, or person, or many other options.

The problem is that when you use, for example, Google Photos to create dozens of photo albums you must be in Google Photos to see these albums.

If you go to another application like File Explorer, the album data, or structure in Google Photos, is not available.

The Google Photos albums simply are not there. All of the album data, the shortcuts, remain in Google Photos. It's the same for the other photo management applications. We will go over photo management applications in the last step.

It takes time to create these albums and if you ever switch from one photo management application to another, you may lose all your work.

If you decide to switch from one photo management application to another there are manual ways to create the same albums in your new application by exporting the album data from the old app to the new app, one album at a time. It is a complicated effort.

😎 WordCutter: While you are backing up your photo library to the cloud or another drive, don't forget to back up your photo application data.

Folders lead to using duplicate photos in your library. Duplicates are a bad thing, but folders will stay with your library no matter what photo management software you use.

So, how do I create a photo album? Each photo management application like Google Photos or ACDSee has its own quite simple technique for creating a photo album. Usually, it is a simple one or two-click process to add a photo to an album.

Albums offer a lot more flexibility and organizing features, but they stay with the photo management software. You may want to use a mix of folders and albums to achieve your goal.

 

Photos Software

Here are four of the best photo and home video software applications that will organize and synchronize your media. This is in my humble opinion. There are a lot of others, and it really comes down to your personal needs and wants.

PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM

Photoshop Lightroom is part of the Adobe software family. This is a powerful, high-quality application that has all of the professional photo editing tools. It has great library capabilities. metadata identity scanning, and cloud storage capability. There is a companion app for your phone which automatically synchronizes your phone data with your desktop Lightroom app.

It has a trial period that will let you use it and see if this is the photo application for you. After the trial period ends, you will be paying for the application and around $10 per month.

MyLio

Another powerful application that will edit and organize your photos. It advertises itself as "The Ultimate Photo Organizer." It has some nice features like allowing you to edit your photos while keeping the original photo protected without any changes. It has a companion app for your phone which allows you to synchronize your phone with your PC. Additionally, this phone app uses thumbnails of your PC photo library, so your phone minimizes the photo storage requirements.

Personally, I did not like the phone app layout, not bad but just not my kind of layout.

You can have up to three clients (two phones and one PC for example) that have full access to everything with a 25,000-photo limit. So, you can try it out and see if you like it. If you like it, you can use it with three clients if you like. If you want more clients or more photos, it is $10 per month.

ACDSee

Powerful, organized, photo-editing application. It has all the professional editing features plus metadata identity scanning. There is a phone app that synchronizes your phone photos with your desktop, but it does not have a gallery feature for viewing your desktop library on your phone.

There is no trial period and the software costs about $60.

Google Photos

OK, I like Google Photos. It comes with most Android phones and synchronizes your phone photos with the Google Photos Cloud. Google gives you unlimited space for all of your photos. Google Photos scans your photos for identity and location (if you want). It has a bunch of album and collage features.

It's not the application for professional photo editing. It's mostly about copying your phone photos and saving your photo library.

Did I say it was all free? Well, it is free.

Conclusion

OK, now you have organized your photos and you deserve a huge pat on the back. Using a combination of folders, albums, and tags, you have created a photo library that will withstand the future challenges of changing technology and application revisions.

😎 WordCutter: You have just completed the most complicated step in the entire "My Media ROADMAP" process, It gets easier going forward.

ITEM: Preserve the Photo File Date

I have over 20,000 photos and I am not a photo nut. I gathered all of these and I continue to do so, using my mobile phone. I had a few digital cameras over the years but as the mobile device became more sophisticated (and convenient) I use it exclusively today.

Somewhere along the line, I copied a few thousand of these photos to a DVD for backup. Subsequently, I moved these back into my real photo collection, not noticing that the photo date (file date) had changed and all of the photos from my backup DVD had the same file date. I caught this when I created a "date" folder structure. My new "date" folder structure collection had all of my photos correctly assigned to dates over the years except for a few thousand photos all taken on the same date. Bummer.

I looked at the metadata in these photos and noticed that the "capture" date was accurate and it was the photo file date that was the mistake. I used a photo renaming application and renamed all of these mistake photos to the "modified" date. So now by sorting by the photo name, I could get all of the photos back into the general time sequence that I had lost.

This is not a very elegant solution but it was good enough for me. The point here is that as you move photos into your new photo folder be careful not to change the photo file date. This is not as easy as it sounds.

One way to preserve the original file date is to make a ZIP archive file of the photos, move the ZIP file to the new folder, and then unzipping the ZIP file in the new location.

ITEM: Favorite Photos

OK, so you now have a very structured folder system and all of your photos are organized. But what about those very, very favorite photos that you often like to enjoy? For me, I broke all of my organizing rules and put a copy of my favorite photos into a "Favorite Photo" folder. Yes, this created duplicates but it is a very easy way to put your favorites collection on your devices without worrying about all of the organizing rules.