Weekend project: organizing photos
A few steps will really help you find your images
If you’re like me, you shot 1000s of photos and videos in 2021. And if you’re like most, you’re not really sure how to find them.
Reader Jarek writes in: “I have a conundrum. How do you organize your photos? Do you use folders, subfolders, etc? I used to use Picasa which would automatically take all my photos and put them in folders based off years and months. Loved that, but I found that it was mislabeling photos and saving duplicates. Now I wonder if I even need folders? Any tips, programs would be greatly appreciated.”
Thanks Jarek! I’ve got some ideas on this, and the bad news is, there’s no magic formula. (Also, Google discontinued Picasa in 2016.) You have to put in the time and label them.
There are automatic methods, and they’re a good head start, but nothing beats actually naming or captioning photos for easier search. I come home from every shoot and create a folder on my hard drive with the name of the shoot, whether that be “Christmas 2021” or subject’s name, from Leisha to Seligman, Arizona. I rename all the files to the name of the shoot. (How to do on Mac and Windows.) I use a pro software program from Adobe, Lightroom Classic ($10 monthly) to import and sort, which might beyond non-pros. But the concept remains the same. Know where everything is on the computer to manage.
And what of your mobile photos? I have some ideas.
Offers some basic tips on its website, but many don’t work very well. For instance, it says you can type in the name of a business or museum in the iPhone Photos app and it will catch it in search. Easier said than done. Sometimes it works. Most times it doesn’t, even though the name is clearly marked in the EXIF info captured by Apple.
On the iPhone Photos app, I have found that the most surefire way to find images is to organize them into albums, which is rather easy to do. For instance, we’re all getting asked to show proof of vaccination. I took a picture of the card, and created an album called Vaccine so I could easily find it. (By default, our images are set to all images, or Library, and we have to poke around through dates to find what we want. But by selecting the Album tab, you can get right to what you need.)
Big life event? Special pictures of the kids? Organize them into an album, and not only will it be easier for you to find them, but Apple too. With labeling, you can search for them, and get the results. To create an album, click the Select tab at the top of the page, and then pick the photos you’re interested in compiling. Click the Share button at the bottom of the screen and scroll to “Add to Album.” Here Apple lets you either add to an existing album, or create a new one. (iPhone users know they only get a paltry 5 gigabytes of storage space to back up their photos to Apple’s iCloud service, which would last me about a day. Many end up spending $9.99 monthly to store them to 2 terabytes of space.)
The Amazon Photos app is free for subscribers to the Prime shipping and entertainment service, and the album process is similar. Open the app, see your library, put your finger over the photos and select their use. Then click the + button at the bottom of the screen, where you’ll be directed to either create or add the images to an album. Amazon selling points: images can be uploaded with no storage limits (i.e., no $9.99 monthly), as long as you’re a Prime member, and both Android and iOS users can use the app. Also, if you have Fire TV streaming on your TV, recent photos from the app will show up on the TV as your screensaver, and that’s always fun. Amazon’s app has a tool to upload every image you shot on your phone, which is great for backup. Just be sure to name them, or stick in a named album, otherwise they’re very hard to find.
The app that used to be free now charges, and the rate is confusing. Basically, anyone who takes a bunch of photos is on the hook for $9.99 monthly, and once you fork over the money, you’ll have the best search of any app, one that does an amazing job with facial recognition. Once Google learns your face, (by you tagging it) for instance, you can just do a search for “Jeff” and find hundreds of possibilities. Google offers free service with 15 GBs of storage, but that also includes Gmail and Google Drive, and keeping them straight is a near impossibility. I pay for 3 TB monthly, and my uncleaned Gmail inbox full of newsletters, airline tickets, updates and endless conversations that I don’t want to delete counts as half a terabyte. I stopped feeding Google Photos after I passed the 15 GB mark and I have 2 TB of backup on G Drive. Who knows how big this will all grow to in a few years! Google Photos is the default app on Android phones, but I’d pick Amazon Photos if I was a Android user, Prime member and active shooter, because the Google storage thing would end up being a losing battle and endless nags to upgrade and spend more money.
For $75 a year, SmugMug’s entry level plan is more affordable than Google’s and more full-featured. It offers unlimited storage for photos and videos (Amazon charges for videos) and it too has a tool to auto-upload all your iOS and Android photos. Video caveats: videos can’t be bigger than 3 GBs or longer than 20 minutes, which can be problematic. For someone like Jarek, who needs to do a better job organizing, SmugMug would be a great tool, because every time he uploads images outside of the auto upload feature, he’ll need to name the gallery, which will help in search. I use my SmugMug like a hard drive, which makes it easier to find stuff.
The best backup is a combination of online and physical. (Facebook and Shutterfly don’t count as online backup. They grind your photos down to super low resolution.) Amazon, SmugMug, Google Drive, Dropbox, Apple’s iCloud all count as full resolution backup.
Hard drives are a way better bargain for backing up photos. You can buy a 4 TB hard drive for $100, or 8 TB for $150, which is plenty for most folks. That’s for a traditional, spinning disc drive. The good news: lots of affordable space. The bad news: discs are unreliable and will eventually wear out.
Many folks (myself included) opt for the solid state (SSD) drive, which has no moving parts and thus are more reliable—and expensive. You can pick up a 1 TB drive for about $150 or pay $200 for a 2 TB model.
But you’ll need two of them.
If you’re really serious about your data, you should have one drive on your desk, and another drive, with your backed up files and images, parked somewhere outside your home, like at a relatives or friends house.
And to get photos off your iPhone, try the Sandisk iXpand drive, which plugs into the Lightning charging port and moves everything onto a USB drive.
ICYMI: Best of Season 2
My highlight reel from 2021’s Season 2, with stops in Savannah, Georgia, Manhattan Beach, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Palm Springs, Oahu, Hawaii, Flagstaff and Redondo Beach. Reminder that the new season begins on 1/11, presented by new sponsor, Flipboard, the social news app, with the first new episode from the Mission Murals of San Francisco. (And don’t forget to check out the second episode of our new iPhone Photoshow podcast, with Scott Bourne and myself.)
AULD LANG SYNE
I loved hearing from so many of you regarding Thursday’s edition about our wonderful lives and the total sadness of suicide. Thank you!
“We don't know how many lives we touch--and how many people are hiding deep sadness behind cheery smiles,” wrote my favorite reader, wife Ruth. Beyond my friend Sarah in 2021, we also lost a close friend Richard back in 2013.
“It's amazing how little we know about each other and the pandemic has made it so much worse,” said Leticia.
“Something we all need to hear…” added Janice.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read, watch and listen. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed our conversation this year in the newsletter format. It’s been the most rewarding writing experience of my career, so thanks again and please continue to reach out with questions and comments!
Happy auld lang syne everyone!