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The Best Way To Organize and Store Pictures on a Computer and in The Cloud

best way to organize photos

I’ve just spent some time having a massive sort-out of my image library on my computer and now I’m done it feels amazing!  On the left is my picture library before my clear-out.  On the right is my library once I’d finished.  As you can see, I halved the number of pictures in my collection and freed up almost 100 GB! It wasn’t difficult and I used lots of tips and tricks to speed up the process.  This is a guide of how I achieved it.

DELETE ALL THE PICTURES YOU DON’T WANT

Deleting all the pictures don’t want is the most time-consuming part of overhauling your image library, however, there are lots of things you can do to speed up the process.

USE A DUPLICATE FILE FINDER

I guarantee you will be will be amazed how many duplicate files you have on your computer.  I normally pride myself on being organised and wasn’t expecting to find many duplicate pictures, if any at all, but this is what I found:

I had almost 3 thousand duplicates!  I would urge anyone to check for duplicates.  I used a piece of software called Duplicate Finder – Free Edition to identify all the duplicates.  I was able to delete them easily from within the program, you might be able to free up a ton of space in minutes,

DELETE RAW FILES

If you own a half-decent camera then the odds are you will have taken some pictures in RAW format.  Weighing in at around 25 MB a shot (sometimes more, sometimes a lot more) RAW files hog a lot of space on your hard-drive.  To review your RAW files, search your computer using the extension of your camera manufacturer.  Here are some of the most common:

  • 3FR Hasselblad
  • DCR, K25, KDC Kodak
  • CR2 Canon
  • ERF Epson
  • NEF Nikon
  • ORF Olympus
  • PEF Pentax
  • RW2 Panasonic
  • ARW, SRF, SR2 Sony

Reviewing these can make a massive difference.  I came across entire albums in RAW that I simply wasn’t bothered about keeping, so I deleted them, freeing up a huge amount of space.

DELETE VIDEO FILES

Video files are enormous; I found some on my hard drive which were over 1 GB.  Similar to RAW files, different camera manufacturers use different file types for recording videos.  Here are some common examples:

  • WMV
  • AVI
  • MPEG
  • 3GP
  • MP4
  • MOV

Search your image library for these common video file types and sort them by size. Even if you only review the top portion of these it is likely to free up a ton of space.  The largest file in my image library was a movie from my Go Pro camera when I accidentally left it turned on in my pocket.

REVIEW MANY AT A TIME RATHER THAN INDIVIDUALLY

You will find it far quicker to review all the thumbnails of an album than scrolling through every individual image within that album.  If you use Windows, select the Extra Large Icons view:

This will then give you a view of around 15 Extra-Large Thumbnails at a time:

Granted, you may not be able to identify subtle imperfections when looking at a thumbnail but you will be able to spot any which are underexposed, overexposed, blurred or incorrectly framed far quicker looking at 15 at a time.  Don’t be afraid to be ruthless in this stage – it’s better to have fewer high quality images than a larger collection of mediocre ones.

ARRANGE YOUR IMAGE LIBRARY IN A NEAT, LOGICAL WAY

Hopefully by now you will have greatly reduced the number of pictures in your image library.  The next step is to arrange the images in a neat, logical way.  To a certain degree this is down to individual preference.  I can only tell you what worked for me.

After some digging around online looking at the best way to store image files I decided to put them into files named using the following date format

i.e. YYYY-MM-DD

This way, when the folders are sorted by Name it shows them in the order in which they were taken; they are chronological.  The problem with using ‘British’ date format (which is what I was doing prior to this exercise) is that the Date comes before the Month, screwing up the order in which they are displayed.

After reversing British date format you should then put a short descriptive in the name of the folder, so your files look like this:

I have to say it is immensely satisfying having all my images arranged this way.  If you sort by name A-Z it lists everything chronologically.  The reverse also applies, so listing Z-A will arrange everything in reverse chronological order.

BACKING EVERYTHING UP

If you haven’t started backing up using cloud storage… you should.  It’s very cheap nowadays to backup a large amount of data in the cloud and it’s more secure than backing them up yourself on a hard drive; hard-drives can fail.

Lots of companies supply cloud storage.  The ‘best’ option is very much an individual thing. Dropbox is very popular, Apple users will tend to use iCloud, personally I use Google Drive (I’m a massive fan of Google products – I use them every day both personally and professionally – so it was the natural for me).  I pay $10 (about £6) a month for 200GB.

Do a little research to identify the best cloud storage for you.  There is a good article on the Guardian Website comparing some of the more popular options.

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