Are you drowning under piles of photographs and wondering how to dig yourself out? My January 2011 newsletter described how to organize photos – the physical prints that may occupy any number of bags and boxes in your home. But maybe it’s your computer rather than you that’s drowning – you may take digital photographs and have a hard drive bursting with them. This month I’ve called upon my husband, John, who is the technical guru of our home, to describe the best ways to organize digital photos (yes, there is a better way than just dumping them into random folders on your computer).

You can organize your digital photos similarly to your physical photos: by holiday/event, by date, etc. You can create appropriately named folders and move or copy the photos into those folders. But what if some photos could be in more than one category? I came upon this dilemma while organizing my own photos recently. By nature, I had my photos organized in date order, neatly placed in monthly folders. However, I also wanted to have them organized by event (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.). How to solve this dilemma?

If you are dealing with physical photo albums, you’d have to make extra copies of each photo and have one photo placed in the date-ordered album and the other in the holiday/event album – quite an effort, and perhaps not a good use of space and time. On a computer you have options: you can have your photos sorted and grouped in more than one order, without making extra copies. This magic is accomplished by using computer software as a logical index to your photos. The index allows you to create multiple groupings of photos without actually moving or copying the photos.

With indexing software, you create an album (logical index) and then tell the index where in the date-ordered folders to find the relevant photos. The index builds up a list of file locations where the photos are stored, then uses that information to present the list as an album to you. For example, you can create an album (logical index) called “Thanksgiving 2000 to 2012” and the index will pull up related photos no matter how many different folders they are stored in. You can then use this album in multiple ways:
• Present slide shows on your computer
• Upload photos to an online photo printer
• Burn photos or slideshows to CD/DVD
• Upload to your favorite social media website for online slide shows
• Make postcards, holidays cards, greeting cards, and more…

Here are some suggestions for computer software to sort the photos and create the albums. There are hundreds of software titles available, but I will highlight my top 3 picks in cost order:

Picasa: Free
The folks at Google have provided us with a stellar piece of software that works very well for most casual users. Suffice to say that once you have downloaded and installed Picasa from the website, it automatically will search your computer for all photo files. It will arrange them by default into date order for you, and then you take over from there to make your albums. That is only the start; there are many other features, like a nice CD/DVD burning option. Did I mention it’s free? Picasa works well on Mac or PC.

iPhoto: approximately $14.99
For a very low cost you get a full-feature photo suite of products, and it’s integrated with Apple’s iCloud and Apple iOS devcies (iPhone, iPad). No more syncing photos from phone to computer – it all comes through iCloud “auto-magically”. PC users need not apply: iPhoto only works on Apple Macs.

Adobe LightRoom: approximately $149
LightRoom is the “top dog” of the home or casual user field in my opinion. It’s so good, many photo professionals use it. Not only does it include all the photo album features listed above, but it also includes sophisticated editing tools to lighten, darken, or retouch photos to make them perfect. Another cool thing is the location grouping feature – you can group photos by placing them on the map – great for vacation albums! Many more web-enabled features are available, such as creating and uploading slide shows pre-packaged for a website.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.