Day 3: Organize Your Digital Photos in Just 15 Minutes in 15 Days in 2015 (#15in15in2015)

Woohoo! It’s February 1st! A new month! We made it through the first month of 2015 already. Now it’s time to get serious about your goals and resolutions. I mean the ones you can actually accomplish — not that crazy long list you ambitiously wrote out while drinking wine on New Year’s Eve in your PJs.

If organizing your digital photos was NOT on that list, I’m begging you to put it on there. Now. Because honestly, you’re already on Day 3 of a 15-day plan that will show you the way to catch up on the overwhelming backlog and set the stage for managing the click-happy quota each month. You got this! You could even cross it off the list by Valentine’s Day!

Technically, you should wait until New Year’s Eve to see if you kept it up for the next 11 months but I suppose you could just do another #15in15in2015 at year-end to pull a major catch-up and still heroically achieve this goal. Not ideal but better than where you are today, right? Just keepin’ it real.

love-47952_1280What’s your vision for Valentine’s Day? I don’t want to hear about your romantic date plans (or lack thereof)! I’m talking about what you want to achieve in the next two weeks with your digital photo organization. Do you have lofty goals or would you be thrilled with a partial success? Think about it for a few minutes.

Visualize with me…it’s Thursday, February 19th. Your digital photos are now all organized so when everyone starts posting their #ThrowbackThursday pics on Facebook, you no longer groan, sigh & eye roll out of feigned annoyance, mostly from the fact that you had no clue how to find those old pics to share online.

Now let a big grin fill your face as you realize those days are over because now you are totally prepared to participate in all future #tbts or #FlashbackFridays. You’ll be able to quickly locate any other “antique” JPG someone asks about. You simply open your PICTURES folder, choose an older YEAR folder and browse by thumbnail to find an image you’re willing to put in front of the whole planet. It won’t take you long to find a specific picture, although you may find yourself spending more time strolling down memory lane!

We’ve gathered all your digital photo files into one hard drive. We’ve put them all into one main folder. We’ve separated and sorted those into year and month folders. Not bad. Some of you may be tempted to stop here but this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Unless you’re one of those crazy date-recall people who can remember exactly what they were doing, wearing, and eating on any date in their past, I’m assuming you need some help remembering beyond just hearing the date, which is simply a set of numbers. As we age, those tend to blur together so having specifics tied to the date helps improve recall.

Today we’re going to add in those memory joggers to the folder name to help you (and anyone else) identify the photos inside it WITHOUT opening it up to view them first. Trust me, your future brain will thank you for doing this step!


At a minimum, you should have 12 monthly folders in each year folder. If you’re anything like me (and I’d like to think there are at least a few other camera-crazy people out there), you take so many photos that each folder/album for the month would be so ginormous that it’s too much to scroll through them all. You need to divide them up, especially if your month included a significant event like a birthday, wedding, vacation, special school activity, sports performance or anything that generates a large number of photos itself.

In my photo collection history, I’ve noticed January and November tend to be “light” months for me photo-quantity-wise so my pictures can fit in a general group.  Yet in some months such as April and October, when my kids have birthdays, or summer with vacation or December with Christmas, I may have 5 or even 10 sub-divided folders. There are no rules or limits. You make as many as you need to feel comfortable, although I wouldn’t bother with a folder that has fewer than say a dozen pics in it unless they just don’t fit into any other album. Ideally, most months will have more than one event or theme folder inside.

First we need to talk about some rules for naming files on computers. Because unlike simply writing whatever we want on Post-It notes or on the backs of the actual photo print, we have to follow some specific conventions that will ensure our files will properly display today and many tomorrows into the future.

Remember how I told you to use either dashes or underscores instead of spaces? Technically, you can also use parentheses marks if you’re feeling punctuationally frisky. Even though they are allowed, I would avoid forward, straight and back slashes (/ | \) as those are used in programming and on the web, and the same goes for periods. I know that doesn’t leave much creativity, does it? Let’s just agree to be either dash or underscore folks, po-tay-to, po-tot-to. End. Of. Story.

As for capitalization, it’s really a matter of personal preference for the most part, although some programmers/coders would beg differently. In normal use, I tend to like the initial cap to improve readability over all lowercase, but again, the internet prefers — and defaults to — lowercase so if you’re overly cautious, stick with that. If you don’t mind taking a few risks, throw in a few caps & hopefully it won’t ever hurt compatibility.


Now to the next question you’re likely to ask…how LONG can my filename be? If you’re old school, you might remember the DOS-imposed character limits, so now you automatically abbreviate your filenames into overly covert codes that are hard to guess by anyone but you. Not good. And not necessary.

Today’s computers CAN accept a lot more characters. If you Google it, you may read that they can handle 256 but that’s not for the FILENAME alone. That’s for the whole path, which also includes folder names of where it exists on your computer. So don’t go crazy spelling everything out in uber-detail either.

The best bet is a compromise of common sense. Enough to make sense to someone other than you and yet not too long that it gets cut off either. Some experts say beyond 63 characters are at risk so stick to fewer than that. (For reference, that previous sentence was 63 characters long if you took the spaces out. And no, I didn’t plan it that way when I wrote it, I’m just THAT good! Besides, I doubt most of us would make a filename THAT long, right?


Anyone in journalism or elementary school writing remembers the 5 Ws of who, what, when, where and why. We probably only need four because the WHEN is already answered by the folder name we’ve already created, and the photo file itself is dated as well. So that leaves the who, what, where and why as possible questions to answer in our filename to leave clues for what photos are inside the folder.

Let’s take a vacation as an example because many of us tend to take more photos while on a trip. I’m definitely very snap-happy and can easily bring home +1000 pics in a week on a couple cameras plus phones!

When you want to look back on the trip, it becomes helpful to have them separated by day and location anyway, especially if you visited different sites each day. Instead of having a single folder called 2014-04_CA_SpringBreak with 1500 photos in it, I separate it by daily activity so each album has 100-200 photos in it, which is still too many but it isn’t as large or overwhelming as the whole vacation at once.

  • 2014-04-CA_SpringBreak_Day1_SanDiego
  • 2014-04-CA_SpringBreak_Day2_SeaWorld
  • 2014-04-CA_SpringBreak_Day3_Zoo
  • 2014-04-CA_SpringBreak_Day4_OceanPier
  • 2014-04-CA_SpringBreak_Day4PM_SunsetCruise
  • 2014-04-CA_SpringBreak_Day5_Coronado_Bahia

Now if you’re paying close attention, you should cry foul and say, but Brenda, you included “day1” and such, which is the same as WHEN and that’s already covered, isn’t it? And I’d say, yes, sort of, but to me, the specifics of the order of our trip were important to me in regard to the itinerary flow rather than the exact calendar date. By listing the location destination of each day’s activity, I also included the where, which in this case also answers the what, and why. Of course, if you have a couple “boring” days photo-quantity-wise, you can just group those together like “Days1-3.” Or maybe your vacation adventure could be sorted into 4 folders — one each for snorkeling, golfing, deep-sea fishing & a general catch-all for the rest. These are just ideas; make the system work for you!

Maybe I should give you another example that involves people instead of places. How about kids and sports or school activities? Want to be able to find the photos of your son’s basketball season? 2015-01-Kyan_Basketball_Bolts_NYS-Rec would be how I include photos of my son’s basketball team named the Bolts that’s part of the NYS recreational league. See how I included hints of that info in there?

Granted, it may not seem to matter much now as it’s only his first season in basketbahome-office-336581_1280ll but maybe by the time he’s a senior in high school, he’ll have been on multiple club, traveling, rec and school leagues, so I’ll definitely appreciate the specifics. And years from now, having the team name in the folder title would be a helpful memory for us both as it’s not shown on their jerseys.

So you are thinking ahead to the future and trying to second-guess yourself (& anyone else) who will be inheriting your digital files. Give them every clue you can now!

Here are two more examples just to show you other ways this works for me regarding my kids’ birthdays:

  • 2014-04-Kyan-9thBday-FriendParty-MinecraftTheme (from the party only)
  • 2014-04-Kyan-9thBday-OtherFun
    (includes all other birthday-related photos that were NOT from that party)


Set your phone’s timer or stopwatch for 15 minutes and start adding DETAILS to the names of your dated folders of photos. Keep the date listed first and remember to maintain the dashes or underscore system you started.

In your details, you should think of adding the primary focus of which person, place or purpose for the photos. Use shorter words or abbreviations to keep filename lengths within reason. For example, use “grad” instead of “graduation” or “wed” instead of “wedding.” Obviously, there is no need to include your location/where in your filename if your photos were taken at or around home. Save that for specifying locales outside your usual “neighborhood” to make it easier to find your travel photos.

Don’t get stressed out trying to come up with your folder labels. You can always modify them later if you change your mind or want to add a detail. You also don’t need to list everyone who is pictured in the photos, but if the event was focused on a certain person, list them (Kiersten-guitar-recital). In a few days, I’ll show you an incredible face-recognition feature that will help you find people in your photos. For now, emphasize the purpose for taking these pictures (or place if helpful).

A well-structured folder organization system labeled with detailed filenames will give you the power of your computer’s “search” function to quickly locate all photo folders that match your desired keyword. You could search for “recital” on your computer’s finder/explorer to see the dated folders that include it in the name. From there, you could narrow it down by the folder’s filename date or simply look at the pics inside to make sure you’ve found the ones you were looking for. These steps may take you some time up front now, but they will save you from hours of frustration in the future from hunting for the photo files you want to find!

In summary, your DAY 3 DUTIES: 


attention-303861_1280WHOA WARNING
In doing this whole date-driven sorting process, we’re assuming one big thing — that the dates of your photos are correct. That means your camera’s date is set correctly. If it is NOT at this time, please go change it immediately. Talk about confusing a whole future generation — having digital photos that appear to be made from 1997!?!

If you wish to have location data saved with each image, be sure to turn on your camera’s GPS setting, if available and so desired. Just so you know, you can keep this info off your images as they are taken for added security when sharing on social media sites, and simply add the geotag metadata later in post-processing for your own archival files. I know, I used some big words there. Bear with me, we’ll cover that in a couple days.

Again, it’s hard to say if you needed the whole 15 minutes to do this task. Hopefully you took somewhere between 15 seconds and 15 hours. The point is to get it done in brief bits without hating your screen time by binging on a nonstop marathon. I’m sure you’d rather spend time on Netflix, Pinterest or Facebook for your excessive online addictions instead of dealing with your JPG filenames and locations on your hard drive. Don’t blame you one bit. Here’s what happens when you have too much free time to play around on Pinterest, for example. Click on the pic below to see the snack-stadium photo larger on Pinterest!

I don’t live under a rock. In fact, I live in Vegas so you can BET on the fact that I know it’s the Day of the Big Game. That means you can either do your 15 minutes BEFORE THE GAME starts, DURING THE GAME if you’re not a fan of either team (or the sport itself – gasp!), or DURING HALFTIME if you don’t mind missing the entertainment and a few commercials. In fact, if you’re a sports widow and need a productive project, feel free to tackle this one. I’ll definitely BET on the fact that you’ll WIN the game of organizing your digital photos with me as your coach!

© Brenda Kruse and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenda Kruse and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One thought on “Day 3: Organize Your Digital Photos in Just 15 Minutes in 15 Days in 2015 (#15in15in2015)

  1. Well now thanks to you i am off to pinterest! Thanks for the tips, and time you are putting into this!
    (I love print friendly) so I can print up each of your posts into a pdf – put it on my iPad and then study it further when I am away from internet. My Mind is busy reprograming the thought process of how to start on my photos, and yet I find it wandering to all those from years back ——-> way back. but for now I think I will contain myself to just the past 24 months or so, maybe! I am sure you will address this in future posts, but I in the world can I organize all those Saved Photos – of ideas which I excessively down load, BUT do not want to have flowing into my Main Archived Pics I want to keep on track? I do have some ideas on this, and will likely share with you in comments of your future posts.
    Thanks again! – Becky


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s