If you’re like me ( and let’s face it : thousands of other parents ) – your phone, your hard drive and your Instagram account are full to the brink of your children’s photos. But can you find the ones you like easily? Are they ordered in a way you can have a clear view of your photo collection? If they’re not, you’re missing a trick and should get them organised pronto. Here are our steps to a well organised photo collection.

1. Organise your folder structure: 

Yes, it’s an obvious one but so easy to get wrong. Decide what your folder structure is going to be: are you going chronologically? Or by event? Or by who’s in the photos? A combination of all would  work too. Below is our recommended structure – think about managing it in 3 levels (well, potentially 4 but more on that later) :

Level 1: All your photos in one place

You don’t want to be hunting your photos all through your hard drive! Make a habit of keeping them all in one place for easy management.

>Sarah’s Photos

Level 2: Selection by year

Chances are, some events will be repeated from year to year : get a simple chronological order in place and you’ll find it a lot easier to manage, search and cross-reference

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
    >Photos 2013

Level 3: Further refinement – including the “who, when and where” info in the Folder name.

Do pay attention to what your folders are called – the names don’t need to be this exhaustive, but I find it does help. The point is, they need to make sense to the future you. If you search for a photo 5 years fro now and open a folder entitled : Jake_May – will you instantly connect it with Nana’s visit?

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

File names

Are your photo files named DSC_9019 or Image_3097?  Chances are, if you saw them in your file catalogue, you wouldn’t have a clue what kind of photos they were without opening each one. However, if you renamed all the photos to something a bit more meaningful, like : Molly_Park_April13_122 –  you get all the most relevant info – who’s in the photos, where and when they were taken without having to open them. They are search friendly and so even if your folder structure collapses, you can still look them up quickly. If you’re using a photo management/editing package like Lightroom Photoshop, you can rename ( and even tag) all the files at the point of download. Otherwise, you can very easily rename them in batch afterwords – here is a little handy tutorial on how to do it : http://www.mediacollege.com/computer/file/batch-rename/

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
                    >Jake_Nana_0512_001
>Jake_Nana_0512_002
>Jake_Nana_0512_003
>Jake_Nana_0512_004
>Jake_Nana_0512_005
>Jake_Nana_0512_006
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

2. Select your best photos

This will hurt. I know, I know. The thought of getting rid of any photos of your precious little baby is a daunting one. But hear me out. If you’re keeping ALL of them in the same place and having to trawl through ALL of them to find the few amazing pics, you’re wasting a lot of time and are more likely to miss the really good ones that you’d love to show to the world. So here is your baby-steps, 1-2-3 solution to making this task a bit more manageable.

When you have half an hour or so, pick one lot of photos ( perhaps from the first month of your baby’s life or a specific event) and go through them with the following key

1: The Picks: go through your photos one by one and  “star” or “favourite” in some way all the really good photos – well exposed, well composed, best frame out of a few similar ones, showing something unique or just making you smile. Only the good ones. Not the “kinda good”, not the OK ones. Just the really really good ones. These will form your “Best of ” collection – ready to be shown to friends and relatives or displayed in any way.

2: The Rejects: in the same way you went through your photos to pick the stars, now go through it again and pick the obvious duds. Blurry? Delete. Strange facial expression? Delete. Bad crop? Delete. Trust me. Get rid of them now. You will not frame them, send them to relatives or find time and inclination to ‘fix them” (unless they truly are one of a kind and depicting a very special moment in your child’s life)

3. The rest : not good enough to make the cut for the “best of” folders. Not bad enough to just get deleted. Keep them all together in one folder for reference, as “spares” and because you can’t bring yourself to cutting them all. Maybe archive. But don’t mix them with the Stars.

So finally, your promised Level 4 or your folder organisation is your “Best” and “Others” folders. Easy.Peasy

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Best_Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Jake_Nana_0512_001
>Jake_Nana_0512_002
>Others_Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Jake_Nana_0512_003
>Jake_Nana_0512_004
>Jake_Nana_0512_005
>Jake_Nana_0512_006
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

You could of course attempt the selection through a different key – 5stars / 4 starts / 3 stars etc – but will you remember what was the difference between 3 stars and 2 stars? Whatever system you chose, the key is to stick to it and keep it up. If you have a large batch of older photos to organise, start small. First, set up a new structure which will serve you from now on. Then go step by step through your older photos in smaller batches, starting from the most recent ones. This can be quite a labour intensive job so do it in a way that works for you. Don’t take too much on either – if you have 10 000 photos to go through, concentrate on getting the main structure: levels 1, 2 and 3 in place, and go back to making more choices later when you’re no longer drowning in disorganised photos. And make sure that all new images that come through are dealt with according to your new system and best practice straight away. You’ll thank yourself!

3. Back up

This should really go without saying but please, please make sure you have more than one place you keep your photos. Burn them to a separate hard drive, create an online backup – just make sure you have somewhere else you can get to your photos in case your computer gets stolen, broken or the hard drive corrupts. Flickr now offers 1 terabyte of free storage ( equivalent to 500 000 full resolution photos) and  you can make it as private as you want. Just do it.