Jan 24, 2014

Photo Tips: Organize + Backup

How to Organize and Backup your photos
You’ve got the gear, you’ve learned the basics, so now what? The next step in my workflow is to organize my photos and back them up. I know you are antsy to edit and share them, but this step is so important that you need to do it right now.

Part 3: Organize + Backup


I organize all of my photos on an external hard drive that is connected to my computer via a custom eSATA port. Now there are quicker options available like Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 but eSATA was the quickest available when I purchased my setup. You don’t have to use an external hard drive, but it works out best for me.

Step 1 – Create a folder to hold your photos, mine is named, “Photos“.
Step 2 – Inside this folder, create a folder of the year your photos were taken, “2014” for example.
Step 3 – Inside this folder, create a folder based on your photos date and the name of the event/location. For example, “2014.01.01 New Years Day Hike to Yosemite“.

So your folders will look like this,”Photos / 2014 / YYYY.MM.DD Event Name and Location“.

If the photos I took don’t fit into a certain event, or if there are only a few of them I add them to a monthly folder called Randoms. For example, “2014.01 Randoms“. When I am ready to transfer my photos, I simply plug my card into the reader and open two folders, my card folder and the destination folder. Then I select, click, and copy files over to the destination folder. I don’t even add them to my hard drive/computer unless they are going into a dated and labeled folder. Sometimes I even make folders ahead of time for events that I know will happen so it is less work and less temptation for me to be lazy when it comes time to transfer images from my card.

Every single time you offload photos from your camera, you should organize them right away so you don’t lose them, they are easy to find, and so that you don’t make more work for yourself later. In the spare time I don’t have I’ve been desperately trying to organize my digital photos and files from the past and to put it nicely, it sucks!


Even though my external hard drive is formatted for RAID 5 I have an account with Backblaze to back all of my files up online. The initial backup took a few months (I have 3.5TB+ of data) but after that it backs up every 24 hours to match all of my files exactly. When I organize, move, delete, or anything else it backs up to match. There is a bit of a lag to allow for a margin of error that has saved me a few times when my hard drive was being finicky. I highly recommend online backup because while external hard drives are nice, even with the nicest backup settings and awesome ratings they still can (and will) fail. This way your photos are backed up in a couple of different places and you hopefully will never experience the pitting feeling in your stomach that comes with the thought of losing those precious moments of your life.

I know this post has not been the most exciting in this series, but I promise if you put the effort in it will be well worth your while. Next Friday for the final post in this series, I will cover editing and other cool stuff you can do with your photos like printing and albums. Now go get organized!

Please, if you have any questions feel free to ask away in the comments. I will try to answer them in the comments or in a later installment.

This post is part of a series for the month of January. To read Part 1, 2, and all of the posts in the Photo Tips series, please click here.

Expand Comments

Do you ever permanently delete shots/duplicates that you don’t intend on using, or do you just keep them in the folder? Also, where do you keep a separate folder for favorite/edited photos? Thanks 🙂

Hi Jessica,
Thanks for this post! I’ve been trying to figure out how to best organize photos and I’m not too far off from what you suggested which makes me feel better since you must have a gazillion photos being a pro photog and all. I do need to backup! Question for you, do you use the Photos application in macbook at all or you just create new folders on an external drive? I don’t use an external currently so it’s all on my macbook hard drive but I wonder if it’s duplicating photos if it also downloads to the Photos application and I also save them into folders.

Hi Rosanna, thanks for asking. I do it manually. It is the safest and most reliable as far as data transfer v.s. using an app like photos or bridge. I don’t like the photos app because I feel like it is too controlling with my photos too. I import them to Lightroom from their current location after I’ve organized them.

Looks like I have myself a weekend project! 🙂 These are really great tips and I’m a bit of an organization nut, so I’m excited to finally have some sense of organization in my photos. This is a project I have been putting off for way too long now!

great tips, I really need to back up all the stuff on my laptop very soon!

Katrina Sophia Blog

Yes, do! Mine failed after I made this whole post (Of course!) and I’m in the process of restoring all of my files. I really do love backblaze for this, otherwise I’d be in so much trouble. 🙁

I love this series. This post makes me feel like sort of a failure though. I have a ridiculous amount of photos stored in a very unorganized manner. Just thinking about the extra space I could free up (duplicates) makes me realize what a disservice I did myself by not organizing from the beginning. When I do decide to buckle down and get everything organized… it will probably take me like a YEAR. I would love to try BackBlaze.. I’ll have to look into that!

Thanks! And don’t feel bad, I still have a TON of older photos to sort. It’s really embarrassing to be a photographer and have this many unorganized photos, haha. And I have a ton of RAW files to archive as JPEGs which is even more labor intensive than sorting. Owww.

These are really great tips! My organization is pretty good, but I have to be better with the backups!

Yes! Backups are so important! Just today I had to rebuild my external hard drive directory and my heart sank a little knowing that I might lose some data, then I always remember that I have the online backup so it’s not a huge deal. 🙂

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.