Digital cameras make it easy to take way too many photos during the holidays or on that wonderful trip to Costa Rica. How do you keep them from becoming a growing electronic pile on your hard drive? We asked photographers, professional organizers and others how they manage.
1. Make time. Carve out a regular time to download new photos — daily (during prime-time TV) or weekly (first thing on Saturdays). Just make it routine.
2. Clean as you go. "As you upload, take the time to delete any photos that you are sure you will not want to keep," said Suzanne O'Donnell of My LA Organizer. It could save you grief and hard drive space in the long run.
3. Back up and store long term. "Transfer photos off your computer to an external hard drive, cloud or online gallery to save space," said Ashley Stanfield of Creatively Neat. Again, a routine is key. "I recommend twice a year, or every daylight savings."
4. Develop a labeling system and stick to it. "Part of the organization is knowing beforehand how you'd like to divide up your images," said Joey Honsa of Brass Tacks Organization in Los Angeles. Develop a naming system for photo folders. Many professionals start folder names with the year, month and date, then subject. Examples: 2013-12-25-Christmas-Morning or 20131210-tokyo. Start with the year, so when folders are sorted alphabetically, they will appear in chronological order.
5. Consider software. Our experts recommended Adobe Lightroom. Price: $149. There are free alternatives, but they aren't as flexible or sophisticated. Windows users can rename files in batches by highlighting all the photos in a folder (or simultaneously pressing Control and F4). Right click on the first file and select "Rename." Type in your new file name and hit Enter. All the highlighted photos will be renamed sequentially, as in: 131210-11 tokyo (1), 131210-11 tokyo (2), and so on.
6. Or, consider apps. iPhones and iPads have become a default storage crate for photos taken on the road, but Mac's built-in apps don't make the images easy to organize. Honsa said Photo Manager Pro, just $2.99, allows easy bulk transfers from mobile devices to computers. The app is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and it lets you arrange photos into folders on your mobile device.
7. Consider sharing platforms. Sharing platforms allow you to share your photos with loved ones right away while also prompting you to organize them online. Game designer Lisa Brown uses Picasa, which has a plug-in that allows easy export to social sites such as Flickr and Facebook.
8. Tag. Commercial photographer Chris Yuhico uses tags to label certain photos or sets of photos with attributes. Family member names, for example, could be tags. That means your folders might be labeled with vacation destinations and event names (Tokyo, Rome, Christmas).
9. Relive the memories. Part of the fun of photography is reliving the moments you've captured. Photographer Laure Joliet prints photos she's taken from her phone. "It helps synthesize the experience you just had and forces you to break up that pile of shots you just took." She recommends Social Print Studio, which turns Instagram photos into prints on thick stock. She also likes Walgreens' mobile app, the modern-day equivalent of dropping film off at the drugstore. "Sometimes the color is wonky," Joliet said, "but the prints are cheap and immediate, and it's fun to have them be less precious."
10. Let go. We said it once, and we'll say it again: Don't be afraid to delete. "When all else fails, just take some time letting go of the photos and albums that are of no use to you anymore," Honsa said. "Holding on to photos of exes, people you don't spend time with anymore or photos that bring to mind a negative time in your life is just bad mojo."