How to manage your photo organiser

How to expertly and efficiently organise and managing your online photo storage.

Why should I keep my photos online?

Photography has rapidly evolved because of smartphones which means taking a photo – even a good one – is easier than it’s ever been. We take, save and share so many photos every day. That being the case, the need for an intuitive, efficient system to manage digital image and photo storage has become that much more important.

An online photo organiser is designed to help you manage your many image files and provide quick access to any photo as and when you need it. Using cloud storage to host your digital photo album won’t just help you save disk space, but also enhance access, security and organisation.

One place, any place

It can be quite difficult to locate a specific photo when they’re only saved offline; they can very easily end up scattered across countless folders on your computer without an efficient system.

If you’re a Mac user, for example, you might have certain photos synced from your phone in the Photos app, screenshots you’ve taken saved on your desktop, and images you’ve found online saved in your downloads folder, among other places.

It can be a mess trying to navigate through the many folders your images end up saved in, and even more so if your photos are saved across multiple devices: phone, laptop, external hard drive, etc.

Using cloud storage allows you to organise all of your photos in a centralised location without a bunch of other files getting in the way. All your photos will be contained in a unified space that you can access from any online device.

Protect your memories

Nobody wants to lose photos from their childhood or of the family. Old photos are always at risk of being damaged and can be easy to lose track of over the years. Luckily, you can easily combat this by digitising your physical photos with a doc scanner app and preserving them in the safety of the cloud. Cloud storage ensures that your most precious memories are always securely backed up. When you save a photo on Dropbox, you’ll be able to access it from any operating system or device with internet connection, even if the original photo or camera is lost.

If your photos are saved on just one computer, all it would take is one minor fault or crash to damage or lose those important keepsakes. When you save your photos on the cloud, you can rest assured that they’ll always be available even if disaster strikes on your computer or phone.

A photobook in your pocket

With a photo organiser app, you can keep every single photo with you wherever you go. Saving photos on the cloud means you can access them whenever and wherever you want, so long as you’ve got internet access. Being able to take your most important photos with you everywhere, without actually taking up any space digitally or physically, is a huge advantage of online photo management software.

Sharing is easy

Sharing photos with family and friends is also made easy with online photo management software. With Dropbox, you can easily share any file or folder even if the recipients don’t have an account.

These days, if you go on a family holiday, chances are everyone’s going to be taking their own pictures on their own devices. A collaborative photo management service like Dropbox lets you and your loved ones synchronise photo albums across multiple accounts in shared folders, so that everyone can contribute to and edit an album – from any device.

Space saving

One of the key benefits of using the cloud, for photos or otherwise, is that it helps you save disk space on your device. A single image file may not take up a lot of space, but considering the raw amount of pictures we take or save daily it can build up quickly, and end up taking a significant chunk of your disk space. Freeing up space on your device means it’ll perform better and quicker, and keeping your photos exclusively on the cloud is one way to do that.

What’s the best way to organise photos online?

Utilising an online photo manager has its clear benefits, but to make the most out of it, you should establish a consistent, concise photo management system. There are a number of things you can do to ensure your photo library operates as efficiently as possible.

Clear the clutter

Before uploading anything to your online photo library, you should first get rid of everything you don’t need. It’s so easy to subconsciously and needlessly hoard image files; you could have a bunch of images saved on your computer that you’ve used in presentations or documents but have never used since. Or perhaps some duplicate images that have been saved at different times in different locations, and there’s no use allowing this clutter to carry over to your online photo albums.

Go through all of the images you’ve saved and delete any duplicate photos and anything you don’t need before you start uploading. Make sure to regularly audit your online library and remove unnecessary files, so you’re saving space for your best photos.

Rename your files

Every professional photographer knows that a crucial step towards an efficiently organised photo library is to make sure your photos are well named. Keeping original filenames like 'IMG.1234.jpg' for example would only add unnecessary steps when you’re trying to find photos or a specific image, as you’d need to open each file to actually see what it contains. Instead, you should rename each image using a consistent structure or format that provides important information about what’s in the photo, without it being too long or complicated.

A reliable format for filenames would be to include the place or event where the photo was taken and the date it was taken; 'Marrakesh_Dec 2019_01.jpg', for example. You could be even more specific, like 'Marrakesh_Dec 2019_Medina Tour_01.jpg', or include keywords that can act as identifiers.

Some photo management tools allow you to tag photos with additional information. Where this isn’t possible, it’s important to include as much relevant information in the name of the file. You can include words like 'Holiday', ‘Food' or 'Nature', for example, and then any time you search for that word you’d see all results relating to the term whether or not they’re saved in the same folder.

This would be handy if, for example, you wanted to see all your family photos at once but they’re saved across several folders. Or perhaps you want to view every black and white image you have, regardless of whether they’re photos, screenshots, designs or otherwise. Using specific keywords in file names will make it easier.

You just want to make sure you include enough information so that if you were to look at the name of the file, you would have a good idea of what’s featured in the photo without having to open it, and without having to know which folder the photo is contained in.

Whichever naming system works best for you, remember that consistency is key.

If you name files using, for example, a 'Location_Date_Activity' format. e.g. 'Marrakesh_Dec 2019_Medina Tour_01.jpg', but then start using a different structure, e.g. 'Medina Tour 02 Morocco 12/2019.jpg', down the line, the order that they appear in the photo viewer will become muddled. It would then be trickier to locate specific images. So, once you have a system that works for you, keep at it.

Create folders

Once you’ve established a reliable naming system, it’s time to figure out how to categorise and sort your photos so that they’re not all piled into a single folder, which would be a nightmare to find things in.

The most efficient method would be to start by creating core folders separated by category or format, such as Photos, Screenshots, Downloaded Pictures, Design, etc. Then, within each of these wider core folders, you can begin to break it down by date, with subfolders for each year. Within those, you can create a subfolder for each month of the year. If you’d like, you can end the chain there, or you can further break it down into folders for each event, activity or place in that month:

My Photos > 2016 > January 2016 > Jamie’s birthday party > 'Jamie & Jane dancing 09/01/16.jpg'

Screenshots > 2020 > February 2020 > 'Lady Gaga ticket confirmation 19/02/20.png'

Document Scans > 2018 > December 2018 > 'John Smith Passport Scan 08/12/18.pdf'

Certain images, like for example scans of documents or a vintage movie poster you’ve downloaded, might not necessarily be best categorised by date, which is why we’d suggest using image formats and themes to distinguish the core folders, before using dates as subfolders. For non-photo images, you might not feel the need to include month-based folders, but may have other characteristics that can form subfolders:

Design > 2020 > Adobe Photoshop > Remote Working Poster.psd

Downloaded Images > Movie Posters > The Shining Minimalism Poster.png

Downloaded Images > Memes > GIFs > Rihanna laughing.gif

For photographs specifically, a Year > Month > Event/Activity structure is most efficient.

Import photos with your photo organiser app

Device syncing

The Dropbox desktop app allows automatic syncing of images between your device and the cloud, so any time you save an image on your computer or phone, it will be immediately backed up to your online library. With the desktop app, your Dropbox folder would appear just like your offline files do on File Explorer for Windows or Finder for Mac.

Any time you add to, remove from, or edit in this folder, these adjustments will then update in your Dropbox account and any device connected to it. You can choose which folders or subfolders certain photos are backed up in, and which photos you want available offline.

Adding printed photographs

Considering the many benefits of online photo organising services, you might now also want to digitise any printed photographs you have and add those to your online photo collection, and fortunately that’s not as difficult as it may seem. You don’t need to find a scanner to digitise print photos, these days you can do it simply using an iPhone or Android camera.

The Dropbox photo scanner app lets you easily scan and upload documents in PDF or PNG file formats and save them directly to your Dropbox. There are a number of useful photo editing tools and features for resizing, cropping and adjusting your scans, and even Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to search for text within a scanned document.

Organising photos with cloud storage

While there’s no real one-size-fits-all approach to how to organise your image library, if you follow the general framework and tips described above, you’ll find it easier than ever to locate the photos you need, whenever you need them, from wherever you are.

Remember to be consistent with whatever system you create. It’s easy to establish a well-organised structure, so once you start to add new photos, be sure to stay structured so you can easily keep track of everything over time.

Ultimately, you want to create as few steps as possible to get to the image you want. And when you use an online photo organiser app correctly, you can get exactly that.

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