How to Organize Your Digital Photos

If you are like me, then you probably have thousands of digital photos stored on CDs/DVDs or a hard drive. There doesn’t appear to be any problems with the way you store you digital photos, until you need to find a specific one. At this point you remember how you stored your old printed photos in a shoebox in a closet somewhere and had no idea where a photo could be found.

In this post I’ll explain the method I use to organize my digital photos in an easy and efficient manner. I am able to find a specific photo or all photos of someone within a few minutes, if not seconds.

Photo Organizing Software

Before beginning to organize your digital photos, it is important to first get photo organizing software. This type of software usually saves your photo information in a database for quick retrieval. The organizer may also have the ability to backup, edit and print your photos. In this post I’ll just discuss the organizing portion of the software.

There are many applications that are capable of organizing your photo. The following lists some of the most popular.

  • Picassa ( – This is Google’s photos organizer, and many people like to use it. The best part about this software is that it is free.
  • ACDSee ( – This is one of the oldest photo organizing applications on the market and it has a lot to offer. I currently use a version of this application for organizing my photos.
  • iMatch ( – Another great photo organizing application that is also fast.

This is by no means a complete list, but one of these tools should be more than enough to organize your photos. If you find another one that you like to use then by all means use it.

Note: Before purchasing the photo organizing software for the Windows Vista operating system, ensure that it will run on Vista. Some software today may not run on Vista.

Tag Your Digital Photos

All photo organizers today allow you to tag your digital photos. When you tag a photo all you are really doing is assigning descriptive words to a photo. When you then select that word, you will be able to see all pictures that contain that tag. This is the most important task to do when organizing your photos.

Tags assigned to a digital photo can be as general or specific as you like them to be. For example, you can assign a picture with a tag of a country name, or you can specify a specific city in that country. It’s up to you.

The way I tag my photos is as follows:

  1. First I organize my photos in a standard directory structure I choose. For example, for a picture I take in 2007 at a family BBQ, the structure will look like: 2007\Family BBQ
  2. All pictures that are taken in 2007 will be located in that directory. Each year will have its own directory, with specific events in each of those directories.

  3. Now that the photos are in the directories, I can now organize them in the software. I click on one of the directories and begin by tagging the place, followed by the event and then the people.
  4. Note: Many photo organizers use the name categories instead of tags. In the following steps I will use the name categories, mostly because it is easier to understand. Also, I include square brackets in the names. They are just to distinguish the name of the categories, so you don’t need to include them.

    • For places I always create the following categories and sub-categories: [Country] – [Province\State] – [City]. If there is not province or state, I leave that tag out.
    • For events I usually just give it a name. If the event occurs annually, I will usually create a sub-category that includes the year. For example, [Family BBQ] – [2007].
    • For people, I will label the category in the format: [Last Name], [First Name]. This helps keep those who are related next to each other in the list.

  5. If there are specific photos I want printed from many different categories, I will usually create a temporary category called [Print] and assign those photos to that category as well. This way I will know exactly which photos I need to print.

Many people also rename the photos to help identify or organize them. I can’t be bothered to go through thousands of photos and rename them. I have organizing software that can do that quicker and easier than renaming.


Organizing thousands of digital photos can be difficult and time consuming. If you invest in a good digital photo organizer you will be able to organize your photo collection quickly and easily. Once you tag all of your photos, you will be able to find a specific photo in a matter of seconds instead of hours.

6 Responses to “How to Organize Your Digital Photos”

  1. ajay singh says:

    Hi there
    I need help in cataloging my digital images which I have in thousands. I am preparing an inventory of ancient art objects explored and reported from higher Himalayan region of Ladakh, Nubra Spiti etc pertaining my research. I am professor of art history at Banaras Hindu University, India. In fact I wish to put all details of the images or painting along the image so if required it can be accessed looking forward for help and guidance.


    • Paul Salmon says:

      Depending on the details of each image, there are several choices for digital photo management software. Picasa is a popular free alternative, and there are also paid options such as ACDSee. I use ACDSee, myself, and have cataloged thousands of digital photos.

      When organizing your images, you should first create a workflow that works for you. Create your tags based on the information you will need to search for, and then follow the tagging standards for all the images.

  2. I use both Picassa and Flickr for sharing photos over the internet but i use Flickr more often than Picassa..,`

  3. mrsnesbitt says:

    Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! WOW! Such good news!


  4. Paul says:

    I can help you no problem. Feel free to e-mail your questions at the e-mail address on my blog and I’ll help you out.

  5. mrsnesbitt says:

    Paul, you could be the answer to my worries. I will add you to my blogroll if that is OK with you…I have so many technical questions I do not know where to begin. I read your response to my post…you said you do not get many comments…I would like to comment here more ofetn as I waould like my blog to have some technical stuff on it……I would like a digg button, some technarati stuff…I don’t understand the feed business, I would like a Tag cloud for my topics instead of the list at the bottom of my blog…I would also like to know how to have a picture in my sidebar to link to a sunject/blog page or list…..phew! some list eh! But, I have found you now, I am going to add you as a friend so don’t go away!

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