I love digital photography for the ability to take 500 pictures of my daughter eating her first birthday cupcake, knowing that the perfect shot will be in there somewhere. But this also means my computer gets bogged down with tons of photo files, often with no label, date, or organizational system. So months later when I’m trying to find that favorite shot among the 500 to frame up for Grandma, it means a lot of wasted time and endless searching of archives.

Since a new year means a fresh start, I’ve gathered my top tips to get that photo library under control, pared down and uber-organized.

1. Start with a program that works
Whether it’s iPhoto or Picasa, find a photo program that you like and use it for uploading and organizing all your photos. These programs are designed to help you, and will make organizing and editing a cinch.

2. Delete, Delete, Delete
Whether you do it when you download the pictures from your camera or you do it once a week, force yourself to go through your pictures and trash the ones that didn’t turn out. You’ll save yourself the trouble of searching through hundreds of dud photographs and save lots of space on your computer’s hard drive.

And while we’re talking deletions: Once you download pictures from your camera card, delete them! Start with a fresh card every time. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself faced with a Kodak Moment, only with no room on your memory card.


Related: Essential tips to help you organize your photos,
and the new apps and services that make it easy


3. Use a labeling system you’ll remember
While it may be tempting to organize your photos by events, I highly recommend you start with dates. Organize folders using the hierarchy system of year and month. Then, within each month you can organize more specifically by event, subject or people. Trust me, in two years when you’re searching for a specific picture, you’re more likely to remember the date, than if you titled that folder of vacation pictures “Trip to Grand Canyon” or “Vacation 2012”.

4. Back Everything Up!
There is nothing more heartbreaking than losing pictures of your loved ones during a hard drive crash or a toddler distractedly deleting photos instead of staying on that kid-friendly website. I thought it would never happen to me, but it did. And thankfully, my favorite photos were safe and sound online. Whether you upload to an online photo service like Picasa, Photobucket, or my personal favorite, flickr, make sure you also save them on a DVD, or better, a cloud service or external hard drive like the ones we recommend here.

5. Pick a system and stick with it.
Whether you use one of the ideas above or come up with something that works better for you, once you come up with a plan, stick with it. Next time you’re scanning the archives for that favorite picture from summer vacation, you’ll be so glad you did. -Molly

[photo: a love supreme photography]