404 What now? Organizing Photos, Part 1

What now? Organizing Photos, Part 1

Memory Keeping Monday

When I travel, I often have at least three cameras with me: phone, point and shoot, and dSLR. It’s easy to take a lot of photos. How do I handle these when I get home?

I’m a strong believer in living with our photos. By that I mean, take them off of the computer or memory stick, and find a way that the whole family can enjoy them easily.

This three-part series is going to offer tips on how to choose from the hundreds (or thousands) of pictures taken on a single trip and turn them into a beautiful souvenir that your family will enjoy for years.

For this three-part series, I’m going to join in and tackle a large group of pictures I have sitting in my hard drive. In 2011 we went to Paris for 6 days for my sons first birthday. I haven’t done anything with those photos and will use this opportunity to create something(s) for our family.

Keep in mind, these tips are mostly focused on the photos. Future posts for Memory Keeping Monday will look at ways to organize journaling, ticket stubs and other odds and ends we collect while we travel.

Part 1: Organizing Photos

There are many reasons people take pictures when they travel.  It’s not always just to remember what we did. Some people want to take pictures to practice their photography techniques. Others use photography as a creative outlet. Still others use it as a way to connect with people. As family travelers, we often photograph our subjects in front of sites as proof that they were there. More often than not, we do a combination of all of these photos. I know I do.

Because we have so many reasons we take photos, it can be overwhelming when it comes time to sort through these photos. However, we have to sort through these photos. Unless we are good at taking exactly the perfect photo and only keeping the perfect photos, and never taking too many photos, there are a lot of photos on a single trip that we just don’t need. Let’s say, for example, we come back from a week’s vacation with 600 photos. That’s a lot. It’s not even 100 a day. If we were to make a slide show, allotting 1 second per photos, that would be a TEN minute slide show! If we were to make a book allowing 4 pictures per page, that would be 125 PAGES! Filling that space with photos that don’t contribute to the story of our trip is a waste. That’s why we have to curate our travel photo collection.

Before looking through the photos, take a few minutes to think of the final product you want to create. Do you want to spotlight your best photographs? Do you want an album of the things you did ranging from the smallest details to the biggest moments? Do you want to tell a story, or several stories, of the best parts of your trips? Will you possibly want to do a few of these things?

organizing photos



While going through your photos and reliving your memories, you may change your mind and want to go in a different direction than what you originally planned. That’s ok.

What I’m doing: We went to Paris for my son’s first birthday, which is close to Halloween. Since Halloween isn’t celebrated in Paris (except for some nightclubs which aren’t really appropriate for a one-year old) we spent his first Halloween at Disney. So, I want to create some kind of memory piece using a lot of the photos, but I know I will also want to use some of my favorite photos for other things (to put in frames, his birthday album…)

Now that we have an idea of what we want to do, let’s look at our photos. (If you haven’t already, upload all of your photos from all of your cameras into one folder on your computer.)

1. Delete bad photos. The first round of deletes will be to delete all the blurry photos, too dark photos, accidental picture photo, or any you just know you don’t want. If this is too hard, save all the photos in a separate folder that you can access later if you want to. You probably won’t access them.

What I’m doing: I started with around 400 photos.  I only deleted about 15 photos.

2. Group the remaining photos by a theme  into folders. If you have more than 100 photos, you will want to break them down into smaller sections. Look through the photos to see if any natural stories can be told from this. Some trips lend themselves more to a day by day story. Some stories are told better by themes. Figure out what works best for you and your trip. Keep each folder group to around 50-100 photos (unless it’s day by day then each folder will just have the day’s photos). Every photo should belong to a group. If you have a few stray photos either make them their own folder, put them in with another folder, or delete them altogether if you discover that there isn’t really any value to them.

What I’m doing: I have them categorized chronologically in sections. There are three folders: regular Paris photos, Halloween and Disneyland, and Birthday.

3. Work through individual folders to delete multiples. Now’s the time to fine-tune your individual folders. Delete any multiples that don’t tell a story. Don’t feel that you have to delete all multiples, though. If a grouping of photos tell a great story, keep them! But you don’t need 10 photos of front the Taj Mahal to know you were at the Taj Mahal. (My rule of thumb is to limit a grouping or series of photos to 3 photos.)

Added tip: Take notes to why you are keeping the ones you are keeping.

At this point, I always like to make sure that at least each person in my family has one photo from the day, so even if I don’t have a great picture of myself, I will keep one in.

What I’m doing: Since I know I want to end up with some kind of album, I am still going to keep a lot of photos. For the Halloween/Disney part I started out with about 80 photos. That’s really a lot for 1 day, even a Halloween/Disney/Paris day. Looking at these 80 photos I know that I want to have pictures of the theme park, signs of Halloween, signs that we are in France (and not Orlando or California), and my son meeting some Disney characters. After deleting a large group, I was left with about 60 photos. For me, that is still too much for one day. I realized that a large chunk of photos I was keeping were from a 5 minute interaction my son had with Goofy during lunch. After deleting more photos, I was left was around 43 photos that I feel give a good representation of the day with not too many theme repeats.

organizing photos



If you feel like you aren’t deleting enough, it’s ok. I know this is hard to do and we will have plenty of time to narrow down the pictures again. But for now, delete the ones you know you do not need.

4. Now pick out your favorites. Within your theme/individual photos create a folder called “favorites”. Put copies of your top 5-10 photos (or less!) into that folder. There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason to this. It’s just your favorite photos.

What I’m doing: I kept a picture from the beginning of the day, the end of the day, a picture of my son in his costume and one with him and pluto, and a photo of all 5 of us.

organizing photos



5. Repeat with each theme/individual folder until you have gone through all of your folders.

NOTE: While going through this process, it’s a good time to copy into their own folders any photos that you may use for other purposes completely. For example:

  • A folder for blog photos, facebook photos, or tripadvisor reviews.
  • Any photo projects you may have that are not trip-specific. For example, I keep track of “where we sleep“. If I have a photo in a hotel room, I put it aside so that I at least one photo from each hotel we’ve stayed at separately. I also put aside one picture of each of my children from each trip we take. I also want to have a separate record for his first birthday, so I’m keeping copies of those in a separate folder to sort through later.

What I’m doing: I went through all of my separate photos for my Paris 2011 trip. My kids were sleeping when I went through the “Halloween/Disney folder” and I was able to concentrate on the photos. They woke up by the time I was going through my other two folders, so I didn’t delete as much as I wanted to because I didn’t want to accidentally delete something. This is our reality. This is why organizing photos is so difficult. That’s ok, just do what you can do.

Also, while I was going through my regular Paris folder, I discovered so many pictures of my son that just show his one-year old personality so strongly. I didn’t want to delete all of these, even though there are repetitions. Not sure what I’m going to keep, but I want to have the choices there for later. I also made sure that I had at least one photo of the sites we saw, usually the photo was of one of us in front of the place (or inside), but if I liked a picture I took of the building, I kept it.

I started with roughly 400 photos and I was able to get to around 200 photos, 35-40 a day.

Now that we have the first step towards creating a souvenir of our trip, having the photos organized, come back next Monday to see what we have to do next.



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  1. I desperately need to do this with all my photos, which is thousands and thousands. I should tackle a few folders a night!

    • I think so many people need to do this with their photos. I also have so many photos and I’m just trying to do something with them other than keep them on my computer.