General discussion

8/6/05 Simple solutions for organizing your digital photos

Thank you for all the submissions this week. I encourage all of you who have more recommendations or questions on this topic to post below in this thread. This way we can all learn the best way we can get our digital photos nice and organized.

Thanks again everyone!
-Lee Koo
CNET Community


Hi, CNETers! I hope you can help me out. I've been saving
digital photos on my XP system for about three years. Now they
are scattered throughout my hard drive, and I can never find
one when I want to (I'll admit, I'm unorganized). I'm open to
any solution or tips (with or without the help of a good
software utility) that will help me organize my pictures. I
need something simple so that my mother can click through them
when she visits. Thanks.

--Submitted by: Dusty K. of Baltimore, Maryland

(Answers by members are found in the thread below.)

Discussion is locked
Reply to: 8/6/05 Simple solutions for organizing your digital photos
PLEASE NOTE: Do not post advertisements, offensive materials, profanity, or personal attacks. Please remember to be considerate of other members. If you are new to the CNET Forums, please read our CNET Forums FAQ. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Reporting: 8/6/05 Simple solutions for organizing your digital photos
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
- Collapse -
Answer submitted by Harley

Hi, Dusty!

Your solution is a simple one. Since you have been using a computer for three years, I assume you know how to right-click on an empty area of your desktop and create a new folder. Name the folder Photos or leave it as a new folder. Then click the Start button. Move your mouse up to Search and click "For files and folders.? When the dialog box appears, click "All files and folders.?

In the next dialog box where it says, "All or part of the filename," type in .jpg. This is the file extension your photos are most likely saved as. If not, you can choose other file extensions that your photos, such as .bmp, .tif, etc. But most common for digital photo is the JPEG format. Below this, where it says Look In, make sure your drive(s) are listed. If not, click the down-arrow beside the box and select the drive(s) with your mouse so that they are in the Look In slot. Then below that, click Search. This will search all of your hard drive(s) for any files with the extension .jpg.

Once the search is finished, you may have a lot files listed in the details pane that are not your photos. To verify that those files are your photos, you can easily view them as thumbnails. Click View and select Thumbnails. From there, you can highlight your photos; you can highlight more than one by holding down the shift key and clicking on the photos. Once they are highlighted, you can right-click them and from the drop-down submenu, click Copy. Minimize your search screen, then right-click the folder on the desktop you created earlier, and from the drop-down menu that appears, click Paste. Continue doing this until all of your photos are located in the folder you created on the desktop. Now you know where all your photos are.

For your mother to view those photos, open the folder that you created on the desktop that now holds all your photos, click View, and select Thumbnails. That way, she gets to preview all the photos on one screen in the form of thumbnails. If she wants to see any particular picture in detail, just have her double-click the thumbnail, and she'll see it the larger version. That's it.

Submitted by: Harley C.
- Collapse -
really, really, dumb idea

come on.....what a mess, no indivual folders, just all the photos on your computer in this one folder.
They all gave you the best answer...Picassa2 and you bothered to print this as the 2nd best...not much of a help to any beginner.
cut it out...get real...Harley you might not have known better....but Lee Koo?

now my take on Picassa2.

I have owned (sometimes only for a week until returned, about 12 or more digitals and several scanners & printers in the past 8 years)and with each received a photo storing program.Several cameras were in the $800 range. NO MATTER because none of them came close to
Picass2 for 'all around' features, which include...storing into easy to find folders, emailing photos, making collages, ordering prints, editings and on and on features.
Lee Koo have you even tried it?
From the day I first tried Picassa I only wished they would let me 'sell it'...what a program.

Joe Ciccone
White Plains, NY

Lee can now press the delete button...that's the easy (chicken thing) to do.

- Collapse -
calm down tiger


If you read Dusty's question you will realize that he asked a way to store digital photos with or without new software. I think that Harley's response was a clear cut and simple solution to the question that does not require anyone to get new software. Harley's solution also allows people to create individual folders for their photos if they wish.

Hopefully you will read a person's question fully before getting upset about the response that has been posted.

Laura Detrick

- Collapse -
"with or without...."

Maybe we did read the question... Joe (and myself and others) took the "with new software" option. Especially when it is much better than the Windows built in options. As many people apparently sent in Picassa suggestions, why were none of them "Honorable Mentions"? (that I saw in a brief scan of them) Hell it deserves at least ONE mention as it's free, a small download, and would be much easier for Dusty to use than "create new folders, search, move, blah blah blah" that everyone else is saying.

Picassa automatically seraches your hard drive for images, automatically groups them, lets you re-group them, hide them, edit, slideshow, order prints, email, blog, IM, and make collages. ALL FROM ONE SCREEN. Now, tell me, is the Windows Explorer solution truly better? I think not.

- Collapse -

I agree with everything you said, but the copy part. If she copies the photos from one location to another she will have 2 sets. One set still scattered on the Hard Drive and one set in a neat little folder. I would have either moved the photos with XP or cut the photos.

XP has always directed me to send my pictures from the digital camera right into the My Pictures folder.

And this is without software on my digital camera that only cost $80.00.

- Collapse -
yeah, no crap...

I know *I* for one sent in an answer regarding using Picassa and all the features you mentioned ("emailing photos, making collages, ordering prints, editing") as well as uploading to blogs and IMing via Hello (also free). I don't see my post here.... Why are all the solutions using the archaic, non editing "My Pictures" and windows explorer/search features? OK, I KNOW they're already built into windows, but COME ON!!! If those things worked right and did the job well, why are we even HAVING this discussion?? Anyone can search for image files. If I remember correctly, the default XP search option (with the annoying animated dog) has an option to search for images. I can't remember since I reverted back to classic mode to get rid of the dog. And separate folders?? DUH! Common sense! Do it the first time and there's never a problem. Picassa comes in when you've missplaced files, more than one person uses the compute, or you've inherited someone else's computer and need to find everything easily (without running a search every single time).

Lee Koo, you really disappointed me this time. I expected more from a tech article.

- Collapse -
Have we no manners!

Golly Gee! New to this forum but seems like you all are a little bit persnickety in regards to all of this. Is that because you are all too techy in nature. There are people out here that are not quite as savvy in regards to all of this computer stuff hence: the original question regarding organizing photos. Lighten up just a little anyway and try not to make us nobodys feel stupid.

Just a thought.

- Collapse -
Good programs

Yes I know there are good programs out there for organizing but when I first got a computer they were hard to use. So that is why I just use My Photos. Once in a while if I have to crop something I just open it in PaintShopPro or PhotoShop Elements and do it. Not a big deal most of the time my photos don't need anything done to them......Not bragging just that I have no problems most of the time.Comes from years of taking photos.No problems here emailing and organizing or uploading from computer to internet from My Photos. It is easy for sure to start with and I find it is still easier for me. Janet

- Collapse -
not really so dumb

One recurring issue with computing is ego. Once we know a lot we think we know everything. In fact we know what we know and only that. The suggestion to get all your random jpg files in a single folder is great idea if your files are scattered around all over your hard drive. Harley's suggestion of using a basic Windows skill outside of Picassa before using Picassa is a smart idea if your files are scattered. If all your files are already neatly organized in folders and subfolders as Joe Ciccone's obviously are you don't need to make that first rough cut, but it is important to do that before you run Picassa. For example, I have tens of thousands of .tif files which are documents that I use in my work. Picassa will find them and bring them into the program creating a real mess. Once they are there they are very hard to get out of Picassa. So unless you are perfectly organized like Joe I think Harley's suggest is wise.


- Collapse -
Correct Answer

I have thousands of jpgs on my computer, "scattered all over" the drive. Of those, only a percentage of them are pictures that I took or scanned , which sit in the My Pictures directory. The subfolders there may not be as organized as they could be, but it's workable and they are all in one location.
So I agree it's important to have them physically organized, whether or not you want to use an album software.

- Collapse -

I work with non-tech oriented computer users. Sometimes they have trouble navigating through different programs but do their jobs very well. One person has trouble using e-mail, so a very simple, non technical explaination (as given by Harley) would be helpful to many users. They come to this forum to enhance their computer knowledge.
My (retired) father started using Picassa a few years ago, before Google bought it, and found it very easy to use. Far easier than PhotoShop or any other program and got all of us to switch over. It's a great photo program.
Just try to remember that none of us were born with this knowledge. We learned it step by step.

- Collapse -

Woody- I agree with you. This "H" guy probably couldn't do much more than what he has done to this point. If he's so computer saavy he'd be using some-
thing other than a free program.

- Collapse -
free programs are great

A person does not have to pay out thru the kazoo to be puter literate. My knowledgable friend loves free programs (almost as much as I do) as well as programs that performed exactly the right function 10 years ago that XP tries to make unusable. She works on newbies' computers to keep them running.

- Collapse -
free programs are great

got that right. who, and why, should someone, pay good money when with a little effort the individual(s) can actually teach him/herself to use one of the contraptions. now that's not to say it's easy, but it can and is done. of course i personally have been using computers since 1968 and those old dinosaurs, and they were that big and required so many things that the desktop was totally needed, so it got invented by apple, which i owned, commodor, which i wish i had never owned, and on and on. my learning curve is very high and i guess i learn faster than more than 99 percent of the people in the world, but even the slowest dullard, with free programs and a little work, a nasty word to too many, can learn how to use one of these contraptions, be it a compatible pc or an apple pc (both are pc's and it ticks the crap out of me when someone refers to one as a pc and the other apple when both are pc's with imperfections galore.).

- Collapse -
Not so dumb.......

I personally thought this was a good idea. The answer was exactly what was asked for. As for Picassa2, I don't care for it and I tried it twice. Free is not always best.

- Collapse -
Photo Organization

Ditto - really, really dumb idea! If one uses 'Copy and Paste' for organizing hundreds of photos, they would only chew up a ton of space with duplicate files - at the very least.... use CUT and paste - or MOVE commands instead.

Best is get a simple 160 Gig external Hard drive, and put all photos there. Set up photo folder, with category sub folders. Then 'find' or 'search' for jpgs. Open destination folder, and right click to select files and drag the files to the final destination. Use MOVE instead of COPY.

Picassa2 is also the ultimate photo organization pkg. And it is free. Just be aware it uses it's own organization standards by using dates instead of folder hiarchy.

- Collapse -
StudioLine Photo for copy and paste

I use Studioline Photo which I found in American Photo magazine. I needed to make copies for various galleries and print projects I was working on. I needed a product that would make a database copy, not an image copy. Another great feature I found was that the original was never lost. The folder archiving, batch processing, and editing tools are quite amazing.

I honestly thought this was a great product and felt the need to chime in.

- Peter, NJ

- Collapse -

A second HD is an excellent choice -- with one slight modification. Using Disk Manager, you can mount either the entire HD or a dedicated photo or media partition on the drive onto the ''My Pictures'' or another specially created folder. The advantage of using the ''My Pictures'' folder is that many proprietary apps, such as Logitech QuickCam, seem to default to that location for photo storage. Before mounting, move all items to the partition (and folders) you want on the second drive/partition first, and then perform the mounting operation originating on the second drive. In that way, the folder on the system drive stays empty and files sent to it are redirected to the new drive/partition/folder, savign valuable space on the system drive. The only hangup is that backups of the first (empty) folder will show only that, an empty folder, and not the files on the second drive. You'll have to back that up independently. Of course, you could try to redirect all of your apps to the new drive directly, but that may not always be possible.

- Collapse -
Redirecting applications to the new drive

I went the route of just buying another hard drive. I got one big enough to hold all my pictures and documents and music. Now I just have all my programs on the C drive. Trouble is all the programs want to look for My pictures My music and my documents on the c: drive. Any thoughts?

- Collapse -
Redirecting Contents of "My Pictures" using "Mounting"

Mounting one hard drive from another sounds terribly complicated and scary, but it really isn't and is quite benign and reversible. You could just relocate the location of your entire "My Documents" folder (containing "My Pictures") to the new storage location by right clicking the folder, choosing "Properties", and (I can't remember which as I'm not at that machine) on either the "General" or "Target" tabs you will see a "Move..." button. If you click that button, you can browse to the location of your choice and then click "OK". I had already done this on my machine by partitioning the original 80 GB hard drive and moving My Documents to the "Data" partition, but there was not enough space for large graphics and video files. When I bought a new 250 GB drive and installed it as a second hard drive, I wanted to keep as much space as possible for the video and photos, so I had to find a way of keeping my other data files (articles, manuals, etc.) where they were -- away from cramping and fragmenting my OS -- while somehow getting the graphics files to the new HD. I faced exactly the same problem with the original "My Pictures" folder: all programs want to send pictures there, but there wasn't that much space. Rather than manually changing the "save" path each time or manually moving files to an alternate location with more space, I did some research and came upon the topic of mounting one drive from another in Windows XP (works with 2000 also) basic drives (as opposed to dynamic drives).

For this and other solutions and troubleshooting, get a good reference book. I use "Using Windows XP Professional: Special Edition" from Que Publications, available in any Barnes & Nobles.

Before you can mount your chosen extra storage area to the older, limited space drive, you must create an acceptable target for the "mount point". This must be AN EMPTY FOLDER.

I copied all of the DATA (image) files (NOT the ".ini" file or ".DAT" files) to the newly chosen storage area (you may want to create appropriate folders there in advance; see below). Then I deleted the remaining file form that folder. You'll lose the "special folder" status and little photo icon of the "My Pictures" folder, but you won't be using it for its original purpose, and the gain is well worth it. You could just create a new folder named "Pictures" or something similar, but the OS is still going to aim for the original "My Pictures" folder unless it is modified as above.

Mounting is set up from within the Computer Management console (Start-->Administrative Tools-->Computer Management OR Start-->[right click]My Computer-->and choose "Manage"). Click "Disk Management" in the left folder tree, and all of your drives and partitions should show in the right viewing area. Select the new hard drive or a separate partition of the same hard drive by (left) clicking it once, then right click the highlighted drive and choose "Change drive letter or path". This will open a new window, which should show the assigned identifying lette for the drive. At the bottom left of that window, click the "Add" button and then click "Browse". In the browsing window, navigate to the newly emptied "My Pictures" folder and select it. If it is empty and an appropriate mount point, the "OK" (or is it "Add"?) will become active, which will not be the case if the folder is not appropriate. finalizing the choice of that folder closes the browsing window, and now you should see the path to that folder displayed just below the drive letter in the original "change drive letter..." window.

You can do this for more than one user profile (to each user's "My pictures" folder) or to more than one folder within each user profile (e.g., My Movies). As far as I know, there is no limit. I have 3 users on my home machine, so I did this logged on as Administrator for each of the 3 limited accounts. Consequently, the new HD now shows 3 alternate mount paths and points beneath its drive letter when right-clicking the drive in Computer Management's Disc Management section and choosing "Change drive letter or path".

So what do you see when you open or click the original My Pictures folder in My Documents in Windows Explorer (right-click My Computer and choose "Explore" or "Start"-->"Accessories"-->"Windows Explorer")? You see EVERYTHING ON THE NEW DRIVE OR PARTITION. This means (see above) that you should create organizational folders as needed, such as "Bill's Pictures", "Mary's Pictures", etc. In that way, you can select the correct folder in "My Pictures" as the destination for saved files. I hope this helps you as much as it did me.

- Collapse -
I am not familiar with the term- "mounting"

Your solution to my problem makes sense. Could you let me know how to do this mounting you speak of.

- Collapse -

when you mount a photo in your 'my photos', especially if using NTFS rather than the commonly used FAT you put it into a specific order and number. then by using a shortcut, something like just numbering your photo and using that number, it takes you automatically to the place you mounted that photo in that folder. that way you weed out the chaff. i know that my logitech camera i use on my computer should i want to show something to someone or am using im and want a personal conversation without typing (i won't do that without letting the person see me and vice versa), that takes space and i have a place for it on my computer. it doesn't take up any of the my pictures area i have designated and i can and do delete the pix and conversation, use a single picture of the person and record the conversation should i need to (that's for when i use my mac and isight with built-in camera and microphone). my pictures is strictly for mounting photos i wish to keep or want to print out, or do both. also mounting them in a special place allows you to do away with the picture if you want, again by using that shortcut.

- Collapse -

So mounting isnt a way to get the my pictures icons in my applications to go right to the proper locations on my hard drive? If it is I totally didnt understand it from your reply. Thanks for your patience.
My problem is two fold. I have plenty of storage space on my harddrive that is dedicated to "my documents, my pictures and my music" as defined by MSFT. Problem one is that I cant seem to get my apps to look there first.
The second problem and one that none of the software mfgs seem to have concurred is making digital photo albums of my pictures when they come from different cameras. (Like when I take a digital and a 35mm on the same trip) The digitals are all put in date/time sequence but then the 35mm files are created when the film was developed. I'd like to just move them around with the gui but all the software seems to want me to rename them and that's quite a pain when you have over 100 pics.

- Collapse -

Most of us keep this frendly, we don't go around calling someone DUMB because of his suggestion, we simply try to help.

- Collapse -
I agree with you about people acting Rude!

That is the mail reason I do not get more involved in these discussions, not on this board but on some of the others I have been on. Everybody has a right to their own opinion and nobody has to hurt your feelings. If you don't have something good to say to me. Just don't make a reply at all.

- Collapse -
(NT) I like Harley's technique, with some slight variations.

I, too, would rather store my photos without third party software. Sometimes the software gets in the way of what I am trying to do. The only things that I do that are different from Harley's method (works for me, not to say that it is better) is to store the photos in My Pictures. My default save to folder is My Pictures, as it probably is in most computers, unless you have changed that. So it is easy to put photos there.Then within that huge folder, I have made individual folders, such as website photos, landscapes, family, ranch, pets, etc. I create the folders just as harley does.
Instead, though, of cutting or copying and pasting, I right click and drag the photo to the folder I want it in.
The other thing I do is to make sure that I save the photos with a file name that helps me organize the photos: Family- Jim's reunion or something like that. Then you can organize the photos by clicking view and selecting organize by name. The files will be alphabetized for you, and all the family pictures, or whatever, will be together.
Harley--you did a great job of explaining.

- Collapse -
My Pictures bombs when your comp crashes

Cmon people! Its OK if ur gonna search-copy-paste all your pictures into a single folder, as crude as that may seem to those familiar with better tools. Picassa rocks, yeah, and the thing about the .tif files, it isnt all that difficult removing pictures from picassa. Duh! anybody here who doesnt know Right-click - delete? Seriously!

Anyways, for those suggesting that the default XP option of putting images into the My Pictures folder, I take it u havent had much experience with your computer crashing or your OS screwing up! all the pics u got in My Pictures is lost, dudes. Its risky doing that. I'd expect ppl in this forum to suggest the Basic copy paste into another drive at the very least...

But ultimately, Picassa Rocks! unless you lack an internet connection, its worth the effort downloading it and it doesnt take a hacker to figure out how it works... its from Google, its simple enough for everybody.

And for the very basic operations, RIGHT CLICK!!!

- Collapse -
Organizing digial photos

My problem is to try to organize photos within the folders. Windows seems to only want to do them by date taken or modified. Trouble is, if you have say 35mm pictures from a camera (like a wedding) and some from a digital. When you have a family with more than one camera at an event all the software wants to put the pictures in date order. So the digial ones are dated on the date taken and the 35mm pic are dated as of the date processed. I have tried renumbering to no avail. I have tried Picassa but thats not much better. Please, someone who has actually successfully arranged and burned them to a cd in the desired order help me!
I have used pcs for 20 years and digital photos for 8 years. I am not a "newbie" or an idiot.

- Collapse -
Organizing Photos by Other than Date


if you load your images into StudioLine Photo Basic (it's a freeware at, you can manage the Exif, IPTC and Windows properties. All the images from the digital camera will already have the correct date in the "Exif" properties.

Images from other sources also MAY have Exif properties already - if not, StudioLine will allow you to add dates the pictures were taken (even globally adjust a series of images, if they are in different time zones, daylight savings time - or if the camera date/time was wrong).

In StudioLine you can sort images in a folder by any criteria - or hand-sort them. You can the "export" them to CD-DVD in a number of way. The neat thing is, you can "design" your own automatic filenames that are based on any of the image tags (such as dates, names, sequence number in the folder, etc.) - this way you can make sure anyone who displays the images "by file name" will see them in the order you want.

- Collapse -

Thanks. I'm downloading it now. I'll post you how its working.

CNET Forums

Forum Info