How to Organize and Store Photos

Tips for Organizing and Storing Photos (via )Hi friends! One of the most asked questions that I get is, "How do you store your photos?" I'm always intimidated by the question, because I'm not the most organized person. Saving my photos to Flickr and keeping hard drives is my method, but I know there is so much more beyond that. For that reason, I enlisted my favorite Type-A lady, Laura Gummerman, to share her methods with you. This is the start of a three part series where we will share tips for organizing, scrapbooking and displaying your photographs at home. Today we're inspired to get organized. Take it away, Laura! 

Hi everyone! Listen, I know organization doesn’t sound the most fun thing to spend time on, but we have all spent time digging through files on our computers or phones looking for that one particular photo that we swear is “in here somewhere.” Having a system for keeping your memories organized is the first step in actually getting those photos printed and displayed for your enjoyment. I’ve been wanting to do an album of my husband Todd and me for years, and I’ve just never gotten around to fully organizing and printing all the photos. Now’s my chance! Since we're talking photo printing, it was another great post for our Canon USA collaboration.

So, when thinking about photo organization, the big question to address is, “Where should I store my photos?” Great question! There are a couple of ways to do this… Tips for Organizing and Storing Photos
Digital Organization: When I import photos from my camera or iPhone onto my computer, I always upload the photos to the same photo storing program, which could be something like iPhoto or Canon My Image Garden. I just recently started playing around with My Image Garden, and it makes it really easy to transition to the printing phase. Once my photos are uploaded, it’s important to go through and only keep the “good” ones out of each batch (no need to keep the ones where your subjects are mid-blink, etc.) Only keeping the best photos from the beginning will save you from having to go through and do lots of photo purging later. I also have a folder for each year (or for a major event like our wedding) on my computer, and I’ve found that organizing the events by year saves a lot of time when looking for a specific photo. In order to keep a safe backup for those photos, I highly recommend getting an external drive that has twice as much space as your hard drive so you can keep a copy of all your photos on that drive as well. This way, if you lose your computer, it crashes, or gets stolen, you still have your photos safe and sound on your external drive. You can either copy over only your photos onto the drive or copy your whole computer (which is what I choose to do with this program). Set a weekly or bi-weekly reminder on your phone to transfer over the data so you don’t forget. Tips for Organizing and Storing Photos    Online Storage: Storing your photos online is another great way to backup your files. Services like Flickr or Photobucket allow you to have peace of mind knowing that a house fire or theft won’t result in lost photos. Or if you want to keep your folders in tact, you can use a cloud option like DropBox or Google Drive. You can also access your photos from anywhere the internet is available or on the PIXMA Printing Solutions app, so that’s another convenient point. Depending on how much storage you need, these services can cost a yearly fee, but the benefits are worth it. Tips for Organizing and Storing Photos Photo Boxes: Once you have your photos neatly organized and you’re ready to start printing them, you can use a photo box as a holding place between the process of printing photos and putting them in an album or scrapbook. Since we were printing all 4x6s, the Canon SELPHY printer was perfect for knocking out the task quickly and easily. Use photo dividers to divide by year or event, and they will remain organized until you are ready to use them. I also use photo boxes to keep pictures from my childhood since digital cameras didn’t really become affordable until I hit college. Tips for Organizing and Storing Photos  Photo Album: Albums are a perfect way to organize and make your photos easily accessible. Elsie will cover her tips on scrapbooking in another post soon. But if you aren’t the type of person that would look forward to scrapbooking, then a photo album is the perfect solution for you. The nice thing about the photo album is that, since you aren’t designing each page yourself, it’s super quick and easy to just slip your photos into the designated slots. Once your photos are printed, you can quickly make several albums in 1-2 nights. All you have to decide is the photo order—easy! Plus, there are lots of cute designs and sizes to choose from (like these: 1, 2, 3, 4).

See? It’s not that hard! It just takes a little bit of purposeful planning (and maybe a few hours of getting your current photos into the right files) and you can breathe a sigh of photo contentment. Happy organizing! xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Elsie Larson

  • If all you need to do is store images then a simple hard disk backup may suffice but if you want a proper photo management software, then you should be looking at using a Digital Asset Management (DAM) Software.
    A DAM can either be cloud based or installed on a local system. Some companies prefer that either for security reasons or for ease of access. One company that offers both cloud and on-site server service is DBGallery. To use the on site server service, all you need to do is to follow download the app and set up the server and the client to connect to the database on the server.

  • Only keeping the best photos from each batch is extremely helpful. It’s a bit difficult to get into the habit of deleting subpar photos immediately, but we have to remember that digital photography makes this possible (and much less expensive)!

  • i found this website in Australia that may ship to NZ?

  • Does anyone have any ideas/tips for making an album of Project 365 photos? The photos are square and I like the calendar-like format of the Project 365 iPhone app. Thanks in advance!

  • Only keeping the best photos from each batch is extremely helpful. It’s a bit difficult to get into the habit of deleting subpar photos immediately, but we have to remember that digital photography makes this possible (and much less expensive)!

    I would love more tips specifically on how to organize photos digitally (and in iPhoto, if possible). I only halfheartedly use tags and ratings within iPhoto, but would really benefit from tips on how to accomplish this daunting task, especially since I have photos from different areas of my life: personal, professional, and blog-related.

    Thanks for the post Laura!

  • Thanks for this great guide! Something I have figured out after going through box after box of old (old!) family pictures of ancient relatives is that it is incredibly useful when the people who have taken the picture have written on the back what year it was taken, where it was taken and who is in the picture. This gives the picture life even a 100 years after it was taken, and you will not have to call up all your oldest relatives to try to find out if they know who the picture might portrait.

    So my tip is that if you want to save your photos for a life-time (which most of us strive for), just scribble quickly on the back what year it was taken, where it was taken, and the names of the people in the photo. I hope this was understandable, English is not my first language. 🙂

  • I should never use my phone when commenting on blogs! Sorry if it posted a zillion times!! :/

  • Thank you so much! Organizing photos has always been a big struggle for me. I can’t wait to try out these tips!

  • Thank you so much! Organizing my photos has always been a big struggle for me. I can’t wait to try out these tips!

  • How often do you have to replace the ink cartridge when printing off pictures in large quantities? That’s the one thing that holds me back from looking into printing pictures myself rather than having them printed somewhere else.

  • one of my goals for this year is to organize my photo’s better and start a photo album, definitely saving this post! great tips 🙂
    xo, cheyenne

  • I’ve printed a couple photo books these last 2 yrs. since my first grandson came into my life. I love seeing and holding a great hardback book with a whole year of my favorite pics of him. I’ve made these for 2 Christmases now for his parents (my son & wonderful daughter-in-law), which they love! Number 2 grandson is now on board and I’m preparing his first book for his 1st birthday in Aug. 2014. I found that Walmart’s photo service is great and Snapfish offers big discounts on their books. Love your blog and posts!!! Thanks!

  • I love using photo boxes! This post does make me think I need to print out more photos though…

  • Please please don’t call Flickr and Photobucket and Dropbix backups. They could easily lose all your data and Flickr forums are full of sob stories of people losing their photos when they thought they were safe. There are plenty of services out there that *are* backups and legally commit to keeping your file safe – Crash plan for one. Services like Flickr are for sharing and make no guarantee that your files won’t be lost (eg if one of their servers dies).
    You guys are pretty influential and it’d be really good to prevent people losing their photos by putting faith in things that were never meant to be used as back ups.
    Thanks for the other advice though 🙂

  • This is very off topic- but I am dying to know where you got that thick silver band…. I’ve been looking for a ring just like that and can’t find it anywhere! Please and thank you 🙂

  • Hi Laura & Elsie – Just wanted to let you know that I included this post on my ‘Friday Five’ (top 5 posts of the week) on A Few of My Favorite Things. – Lauren

  • Hi Tess!
    I would just search Amazon or other online stores for page photo sleeves like these:

    You should be able to find some pretty easily 🙂


  • Hi Kelly!
    You can get those photo sleeves online, these are similar to what I bought:

    Good luck with your album!

  • I used to be a photo organizational wizard… but then my hard drive crashed and although I didn’t lose the data, it was no longer organized. This was several years ago and I’m still trying to get a rein on all of my pictures (old and new).

    I use iPhoto, but I don’t love it. However, it does automatically organize your photos in years then albums on your hard drive when you upload them to iPhoto. Just left click on any image in iPhoto to get more information, or even pull it up in a separate folder window.

    I got a photo printer a few years ago and was super excited about it until I realized how expensive ink was and how often I would need to replace the ink in order to have great quality pictures. So, I still print from Target/CVS etc bc I’ve found that to be cheaper. Maybe the newer models are cheaper on ink?

    I am almost all the way through scanning all my pre-digital age photos from my youth thanks to this company: I’ve always gotten great results from them, and after trying to scan my pics in myself and realizing how incredibly long that takes, I was happy to pay them to do it.

    Finally, I store my pictures on a separate 1T hard drive that I then copy to another 1T hard drive that I keep in a fire safe. I know that seems a bit redundant, but I found it was a huge pain to get into my safe every time I needed access to my photos, so I keep one out and one in and sync them once a month. The one in my safe also has other important digital stuff on it too.

  • I’m so unorganized! I have a bunch of shoeboxes labelled by year full of photos! haha!


  • Love these ideas! I have to start making a point to print all of my photos. I really would love a photo printer and I’m saving up for them. I love these ideas though!


  • i am in the process of transferring my 30,000 pictures from my six year old macbook to my brand new macbook pro. in an effort not to clog my new computer full of pictures i am uploading a lot of my old ones to shutter fly. it is taking a while but kind of wondering why i haven’t always done this!

    Molly {Dreams in HD}

  • I love how you appreciate photos on this blog when so often digital images just get dumped onto Facebook or a hard drive and forgotten. I’m an archivist, so I just wanted to add a bit of advice — when choosing storage boxes, envelopes, photo albums, sleeves, etc. for photos, make sure they are acid-free! The word “archival” gets thrown around on packaging but it’s not really archival quality unless it’s acid-free. It’s also a good idea to give all of your digital images good metadata and clear filenames so you don’t wind up with thousands of images called DSC#####.

  • I think the photo box idea is perfect, a fantastic way to keep the pictures organised before they are placed into photo albums!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Becky Higgins Project Life has page protectors like above. Or We R Memory Keepers also has page protectors.

  • I am in major need of organizing my photos! Thank you for the great tips 🙂

  • About how often do you have to replace the ink cartridge in your photo printer? I’m always skeptical that I will be buying more ink than printing pictures.

  • I’m in the museum business and can’t emphasize enough how important it is to keep your printed photos in archival quality storage!

  • Have you guys ever tried printing photobooks online? With Shutterfly or something? I’ve been doing that for a couple years and it’s a nice way to do it I find and the online tools make it really easy and are actually pretty darn reliable when it comes to printing quality and delivery and such!


  • The ABM app has actually helped me with organization and printing in a way I didn’t expect. My printer broke recently in a cross-country move, so I’ve been printing my photos at store kiosks. (Waiting for photos to ship is not an option.) It takes FOREVER to resize all my instagram and ABM 4″ square prints into the 4×6″ size the kiosks print. With the new app update, I can just pop my 4″ square photos into the 4×6″ ABM template and resize (leaving white space on one side) in seconds, then store the photos in a folder for printing. It only takes seconds to print at the store – no resizing/cropping individual photos! Love love love the app.

  • Thanks for the tips…I have about 8 years worth of photos to print!! One of my goals this year is to actually get them all printed and organised in albums 🙂

  • I’ve been wanting to get photos printed for so long, but I never seem to come around to actually doing it. Having a photo printer myself would probably be a good idea, that will make it so much easier.

  • I do something similar but in a more basic way for computer
    I print my photos in a photo store and always put them in albums as soon as possible. I need to print them.
    Love the album sheets you use, i do not have them here, in Spain, as far as i know…

  • Good words regarding organization and I was especially inspired by your interview featured on Etsy today. I blogged about a new project, recipe or DIY tip every day last year on my blog, 365 Days To Getting Unstuck. I hope to find success such as yours on A Beautiful Mess; you ladies are truly talented and a source of inspiration! Keep up the great work!

  • So interesting how others store their photos. I wrote an article about how I do it a few weeks ago ( but I’m always interested in better ideas and ways. I wish I would print out much more of my photos though, maybe a new year resolution 🙂

  • Thanks for this!

    I use Apple album books in iPhoto. If you have a Mac – you have to get onto this.
    It’s as simple as:

    1. creating an album
    2. dragging the photos into it
    3. choosing your design (there are loads & loads to choose from)
    4. dragging the photos into each page (or several to a page)
    5. writing descriptions/captions etc.
    6. order/pay and it get’s delivered to your house.

    I do one for every year and every holiday and always get compliments when people see them at home.

    If you don’t have a Mac, try these online sites:

    Mademoiselle C. xx

  • My mum is the queen of organising photos. She has box after box, all in chronological order, with index cards. Unfortunately, I’m not quite the same.
    So thank you for showing me other ways to organise!

  • Hi Laura!

    We just saw that you provided a link to our Etsy shop in this article. We wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the link!!!!!! EEEEEK! We’re crazy excited to be included on this lovely blog! You can’t imagine our surprise as we saw our shop views jumping around all over the place.

    We’d like to thank you by offering an exclusive discount to your readers at our Etsy shop. If they use the coupon code “ABM20”, they will receive a 20% discount off their purchase.

    Kathleen + Corene
    KTdesign COllective

    PS: can we send you a package? Please email us an address where we can send you a little something!

  • one day i’ll catch up on organizing my iPhoto… and every time you post something about the Selphie, i want to buy one!


  • Oh man, I really wish photo printing was more affordable and easy where I live! Or that photo paper for printers were more affordable! Oh well, just have to be more picky with what to print!

    Thanks for the great tips! In the digital age, backing up the computer is soooo important! Also, drop box is another good cloud host for files and photos! 🙂

    Ngaio xx

  • I am super inspired by this, but here’s a question for you: my husband and I (read: I) love taking professional photos of our family and we usually can only afford actual prints (no digitals). As such, we have a few larger sized portraits (11×14 ) that are older now (from when our 3 year old was much younger) & have been replaced by updated photos. Do you guys have any suggestions on that? I’ve not found a photo album large enough to house those nor a photo box. So discouraging, haha. I’ve thus refused to tackle my drawer of photographs + my tin stuffed full of family photos from Germany. I won’t even get into my digital collection.

  • Perfect timing!! My goal this month is to get my computer organized and then backed up the rest of the way!! Thanks for the extra jolt of inspiration!

  • This is great advice 🙂 Thank you for sharing! Hope you have a great weekend!

  • I really need to start getting rid of junk pictures and put all my pictures on dropbox, I’d hate so much to lose all my pictures if my computer breaks down, that would be the worst :p


  • I am looking for a photo printer like the Selphy, however the reviews are all over the place. What is your opinion on the Selphy? Easy to use, or are there other printers I should look into? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi! It’s so sad how we don’t print photos as much anymore! i love going home to my mum’s and flipping through our old albums! it makes me want to have that for my kids! Do you have any suggestions as to where to buy the clear photo sleeves that you have pictured in the last photo? Preferably online as i’m from NZ! Thanks! x

  • I definitely need to invest in a photo printer… I’m always printing out pics online.
    the way to my Hart

  • This is a great post… this is an area that I need to work on. All my photo are all over the place and I can never find the ones that I am looking for. Thank you for sharing!

  • Great tips! I’m really excited to try printing photo books this year. I have seen so many great fabric bound ones that seem like such a nice alternative to scrapbooking for those of us short on extra craft time! 🙂

  • Laura,

    I love these tips. I think in today’s world of digital overload, we sometimes forget how wonderful printed pictures are. I’m the first to admit that I don’t print enough pictures because I have them saved on hard drives, the cloud, the iPad, etc. Yet, when I go to my grandma’s house, one of the first things I always do is pull out her stacks of old photos and photo albums. There’s something very comforting and… natural… about grabbing for printed imagery.

    Are there any online printers you love to work with? My fave is MPix and MPix Pro.

  • I’m thinking about reducing space by removing all the photos from their albums and putting them into photo boxes. I’d probably only need one box. I have one album I might keep because there are things written in its margins. I never look at the albums and it give me back some space in my night table drawer!

  • One of my goals for 2014 is to be better at printing out photos and DOING THINGS WITH THEM! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • What page protectors are you using in the album pictured? I just searched (fruitlessly) for half an hour for something similar! Thanks!

  • This was a good reminder to back up all my recent photos!! I had an external hard drive crash on me and I lost so many photos, now I’m a big pusher for cloud storage! So agreed that it’s worth the small fee some sites charge

  • I got a Canon photo printer for Christmas from my wonderful husband! I can’t wait to start using it and filling up my empty photo albums!!!

    Love this post!


  • i just loved this post! it’s inspired me to do something ive put off for far too long…taking my photos out of digital prison and into a cute album for all to browse! you’ve also sold me on the Selphy! thanks for the inspiration and links to the adorable albums…i love the peanut butter & jelly book 🙂

  • I love Dropbox for my storage – I set my phone to automatically upload new photos there and then I can always go and delete some after. For now I have a lot of storage space so I am getting lazy with purging out bad ones… Haha. I also set my iPhoto photos to go there. Makes it so convenient and worry free – like you said don’t have to worry about losing them in a fire, etc.

  • Where can you get the plastic sleves for photos like shown in the picture of the ring bound blue folder? I’ve never seem them here in Australia and don’t even know what to call them to start my search.


  • This is super helpful for me. I mean, anything organizational related is helpful 😉

  • I always used to love looking through photo albums when I was a kid, this is great motivation to start printing my own photos!

  • I have a photo printer still sitting in the box. You have inspired me to break it open and take a shot at it!

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