Photographer Education

How to Organize your Digital Photos

April 9, 2018

I'm Chelsy, a single mom in a small town, who loves photographing weddings, and helping photographers build their own businesses

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The struggle is real! My mom has shoeboxes full of photos from when we were growing up.  While I’m so thrilled to have those memories, the box is a complete mess.  There is no order, no dates, and honestly I’m not totally sure if some of these photos are of me or my sisters! Here are is my tried and proven system to organized photos in the digital world!

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I vowed to create a system for tracking photos of my kids.  This system carried over seamlessly to my photography business!  So here is my simple digital photo filing system.

Start with a fresh external hard drive

I like to keep my images on external hard drives. I do this for a few  different reasons.  First off I am constantly working on two different computers, a laptop and a iMac desktop.  Being able to just swap out hard drives allows me to keep my photos organized seamlessly!

I also like to keep one year on each hard drive.  This is somewhat like keeping all your printed photos of each year in their own shoebox! Luckily storage is becoming cheaper and cheaper each year! Here are some of my favorite external hard drives.

Next up is setting up your folders.  I break down my images by month, then a day, and the event.


Since the months are not in alphabetical order, I name them with numbers first such as 01 January 02 February 03 March ….

How to organize your digital images

In order for the moths to truly be in order you do have to do 01 02… 10 11 12… since there are more then 10 months.

Date  + Event

Once inside the months I also start with date 01.02.18 would be January 2nd 2018.  Since I would never remember what is in that folder based on date alone I will also add to the folder name what is in the folder.  If it’s a client it would be their last name, if its on of the kids it would be something like Skyler flowers.

Inside that folder I have a couple of more folders.  These folders are not really that necessary unless you are shooting in Raw format.

I have folders named RAW Tagged Final

Raw Folder

This is where I dump all the photos from that shoot or day.  After a photo shoot this happens before I do anything else! Especially when it comes to weddings!


The next folder I use is the tagged folder.  I use Photo Mechanic to sort through my raw files.  This program is extremely fast, and much more efficient then using Lightroom.  I will go through images and sort out keepers. Then I will copy those to the tagged folder.

When I’m ready to edit I will open the tagged folder only in light room. Once I’m done editing I export those images into my Final folder


One of the most important steps when exporting is renaming the files. I always include the date on the file, as well as the main name of the folder, in this case Skyler flowers. There are a couple of reasons why I do this.  One it keeps those images together, you know the date they were taken, and who or what is in the image.

The secondary reason is because when you go to print those photos the file name is often printed on the back of the image. This means that the date and subject will automatically be printed on the back when you print the photos!

Folder Set up

01 January

    >01.02.18 Grayson kitchen main dated folder




              >01.02.08-grayson kitchen-01

              >01.02.08-grayson kitchen-02

02 February

So there you have it the sorta easy way to organize your digital images. If your not shooting in raw, then you don’t really need the three folders inside the main dated folder.

Don’t mind my poor macbook’s battle scars, the poor thing has been through a lot. Adds character!

Pro Tip

Another tip I would love to share is for those of you who are working on a laptop!  It’s a pain to have external hard drives on your laptop if you are actually using it on your lap! My fix, velcro! Stick some velcro on your laptop, and hard drives and you don’t have to juggle hard drives or card readers! Here is the strip  I used, or here are some black dot ones!

A word to the wise

Don’t try and go back and organize the past 20 years of digital photos, I mean if your really a go getter, I’m not holding you back. My advice is to just start today, create a system and stick to it. This system also makes going back and creating family photo albums much easier!!


Let me know if this system works for you! How do you organize your photos?


How to organize your digital images - exact folder setup!
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