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Organizing Photos on Your Hard Drive

written by: kschurman•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/24/2008

Great organization is the key to finding digital photographs stored on your hard drive. Here are some tips for using Windows to organize your photos.

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    6 Tips to Organize Your Photos

    • Use folders. Become familiar with the Create New Folder command in Windows, because you're going to need it. Use a lot of folders and subfolders to smartly organize your photos. Give each folder a unique name, depending on how you want to organize the photos.
    • Organize by date. If you decide to organize by the date the photo was taken, give your folders names like "2008" or "2008, November." You can then place the photos taken on those dates inside those folders. Be sure to place the photos in the folders based on the date that you took the photo, not on the date you downloaded the photos from your camera, especially if don't download photos as often as you should. Keep in mind that many different brands of camera software automatically create a file name for each photo based on the date that you transfer the photos from your camera to your hard drive.
    • Organize by event. Some people would rather organize photos by event, such as a child's birthday or a vacation. However, using this method could create an overwhelming number of folders. If you choose to organize by event, it might be helpful to create a folder for each year and then create folders for each event inside the folder for each year. You also could create a folder for general events, such as "birthdays" or "vacations," and then create subfolders for individual events. By creating a subfolder system, you can more easily find particular photos.
    • Name photos by date. Your camera software and Windows will give each photo a unique name when downloading, but the names are generic and don't tell you much about the image. You'll need to rename the photos anyway, so you should further organize them with the name. For example, if you start the name of each photo with the date taken, the photos will be organized smartly within each folder. Use a format for the date that will easily sort alphabetically within each folder, such as "2008-11-23" or "2008-01-01." By leading with the year followed by the month and date, you can order the photos from earliest to latest, or vice versa, within each folder. Keep in mind that the "Date Modified" column in Windows will list the date that you downloaded the photo, not the date it was taken, so you cannot sort the photos easily by using the "Date Modified" column.
    • Name photos by event. Include the name of the event and the specific location within the name of the photo, such as "2008-11-23, Orlando vacation, swimming at hotel pool". When the photos are sorted alphabetically, you might have dozens of photos taken on Nov. 23 from your Orlando vacation, and they'll all sort together within the folder if you use this naming system. Then, by including a specific and unique location at the end of each photo's name, you can easily find the particular photo you want.
    • Name photos by person. Finally, you could include the name of each person in the photo's name. Referencing the above example, you could add the names of the people swimming, such as: "2008-11-23, Orlando vacation, swimming at hotel pool, Jimmy, Kelly, Grandpa Steven". With the names included in the file name, you later could do a Windows file name search and find all of the photos that include a certain person.
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    Further reading...

    If you have a bunch of digital photos that you'd like to rename quickly and easily, please read: Quick-Fix Photo Tagging - Rename Your Digital Photos in 4 Easy Steps