How to Organize, Print, and Back up your Digital Photos / Spring Photo Advice

CONFESSION: I recently fell behind in the printing of my personal digital pictures / snapshots for... let’s say about 2 ½ years! To defend my professional photographer self, every digital image file and folder was carefully organized on my hard drive and backed up in a bazillion places (as described below), but I sadly allowed my pictures to be left behind and unappreciated. I personally feel that a photograph that you can hold in your hand is miles more meaningful than viewing the same photograph on a computer screen. Thanks to the harsh Michigan winter and a healthy dose of determination, I finally hunkered down for a few days earlier this year to print and organize hundreds of my personal photos! :)

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one who has fallen behind with the constant wave of digital technology. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with organizing, printing, and backing up your digital photos, I hope these simple tips will help you get started!

big sur, california fine art photograph

big sur, california fine art photograph

ORGANIZE YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS: 1. Create a main “2011 Pictures” folder where all of your photos will be organized. Avoid uploading random folders to your desktop, assuming you will organize them later. If you take a lot of photos, you may wish to create sub-folders for every month.

2. Upload your photos after each “event” and label each folder with the “event” date followed by a short title for easy reference (ex. 5-8-11 Mother's Day).

3. Take a few extra minutes to flag your favorites and move your out-takes to a sub-folder. I call this folder "No's."

4. Immediately back up your files to a second location (see “Back up your Images” below)

Most importantly, create a straightforward system that works for you and stick with it.

grand canyon, diana camera photograph

grand canyon, diana camera photograph


The simple rule of thumb is to make sure you have your digital media saved in 2-3 places to prevent loss. They say, it's not a matter of “IF” your hard drive will fail, it is “WHEN.” Backing-up files is the single most important step in my workflow for both my personal and professional work. I actually have all of my personal and client files backed up in 5 different places (hard drive, external hard drive, 2 separate DVD back ups, and a remote back up off-site.)

Why so neurotic? I had a hard drive failure in ‘99 and lost a boat load of my digital snapshots. That experience made me swear off digital for many years, during which time I happily shot film exclusively and made magic in the darkroom. Most importantly, it helped me realize how integral a solid back-up system is when I finally went digital professionally.

If you don’t have time to print your photos, I urge you to at least make time to back them up. Trust me, in the event of a hard drive crash, you will absolutely not regret the time you spent backing up your photographs!

1. Immediately upon uploading your digital photos to a specific folder, copy the files to an external hard drive or burn a hard-copy disc. Label the disc with the same name as the folder(s) on your computer. You might decide to store this disc in a photo storage box (filed accordingly with the prints) or in a fire safe box.

2. For added peace of mind, use a remote back up service, which automatically backs up your files to a remote location. I have used Carbonite for the past several years. Another simple remote back up solution is to store hard copy back ups at a family member's home.

3. Remember: Do not format / erase your camera’s memory card until you have uploaded the images to your computer AND made a copy of your files to a second location (external hard drive, a disc, or both.) If you do accidentally delete your camera's memory card before you've transferred your images, don't panic... there is a solution called RescuePRO.

malibu, califonia fine art photograph

malibu, califonia fine art photograph


1. At the end of each month, set aside a bit of time to order your favorite photos from the previous month(s) as 4x6 prints (or larger sizes to frame). There are many online photo labs to choose from so you never have to leave your home.

2. Organize your prints in an archival photo box or album. I am currently using a photo box system, in which I label each divider with the month/year and list the events included. You might also choose to commemorate special events or trips in a book or album.

3. If you have fallen behind in making prints, set small goals for yourself and take it one day at a time. It can feel like a daunting task, but once you get started, it won’t be so bad – trust me!

Creating a simple workflow system that works for you is so necessary in this digital age. Honor your memories by organizing, printing, and regularly backing up your digital pictures. The peace of mind is priceless! If you have questions or if you would like more personalized photography advice, please don’t hesitate to post in the comments section or on my Facebook page. I would love to help!