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 -
(NT) (NT) Jay, Thank you for all the informatioin!
- Collapse -

I've been following these same steps all 19 years of my life. I've never lost a file, never failed to know exactly where software is installed on my computer, and never cried over a corrupt portfolio.

Hehe...Though, Jay, I'm afraid I don't remember most of the DOS days. I do have a tattered memory of using File Manager in the far past... But I think that must have just been a nightmare. Thank God I woke up.


- Collapse -
Weaned off of DOS

Sounds like you were being weaned when DOS was in the twilight of its life. I'm glad you didn't succumb to all of the ?helpful? utilities and just did it the old fashioned way. You?re apparently a man ahead of your time! Keep up the good work.

Best, Jay?

- Collapse -
Amish Computing

Create a master data folder at the top of your folder tree called "_DATA" where the underscore forces it to the top of the tree for convenience. If you have a separate partition on your drive, or the best of all worlds a separate physical drive, use THAT for this "_DATA" folder, so "data" is separated from operating system (more opportunity for corruption.

Can you PLEASE explain to me how you do this? Don't quite understand what you mean by separate partition either.


- Collapse -
Filing your Photos

I loved your photo filing system suggestions because they are primarily the same way I save all my data files, photos, and music files. I have set up folders in My Documents named: All My Documents, All My Music, All My Pictures, All My Videos. Each begining with letter A forces them to the top alphabetically. I may move them outside My Documents as you suggest with the underscore prefacing them for the safety reasons you spoke of.

Under each of those I then have many sub-folders depending on my needs. For instance, in the Photos section, I have miscellaneous categories for all the great pictures I download from the web, such as Animals, Food, Clipart, Plants, People, Real Estate; and personal ones for clubs, my home, community, and Travel... besides the important ones for Family, & Friends with subfolders under each child or friend according to year and event. I have just begun separating many of these folders into sub-folders beginning with the year which will be easier to back up and find from storage later.

In the All My Documents folder, I have sub-folders for my own specific interests (medical, finance, letters) in addition to folders for the same Family and Friends' annual and special categories.

In the All My Music folder, I have sub-folders for MIDI files, MP3s, CDs. etc., and other folders for downloaded music from each member of an orgam club, etc.

I mention these merely as ideas for others, and how I teach my Basic Computer classes.

I agree with your opinion regarding other special organizing program as they take too much time to set up, and come and go as you mentioned. I found the software that came with my different cameras has caused conflicts and one never allowed the other to be installed, so I prefer to upload my digital pictures directly from the memory card instead of the camera's software program, and then resort them into categories above.

I use several photo editing programs depending on my needs -- View, Xnview, Irfnview, Photoshop-- just open a program and import the photo to optimize or enhance it. Paint, or Paintshop Pro are easy to use and for most chores such as resizing and cropping, they work fine. For simple viewing or quick printing, I love XP's Photo and Fax Viewer program.

I have backed up data and photo files onto CDs until I now have several shoe boxes filled which is a waste as many are repeats. Lately, I am using large memory cards and thumb drives instead or inaddition, as they are easily overwritten and require lots less storage room. One CD won't hold everything anymore, so I soon will have to save to DVD-Rs.

Hope someone finds something worthwhile here, or can improve upon it. Mine is not necessarily the most efficient, as the filing is mostly by common sense, but so far it has been working for me.


- Collapse -
Amish Com/Obsoletion

I burn all photos to CD in unique folders. My primary interest is names (full names, if possible) of people(s) in the photos. I use folder names. Presently I use OldBlacknWhite, BlacknWhite, Singles, Doubles, Triples, Groups, Portraits, Scenes, Pets, and Documents. Folders with the same unique name are numbered consecutively from one CD to another. Each folder has included a Notepad of identifying text which serves as an index and is a part of that CD. I keep floppies which have all the indexes of all CD's. If I desire a photo of a specific individual I select start, search, for files or folders, and fill in the name of the person in the "Containing text" box. I select A drive where all the indexes are and hit search. This provides a list of all photos I have available of the subject person and what CD/folder they are located in.

The reason I reply to you is the thought that this search technique may become obsolete. Also I use jpg and tif formats and some rtf and wpd suffixes. What should I be alerted to to insure the survivial of my photo files for the next couple hundred years?


- Collapse -
Amish Computing

Hi Lou,

Like everyone, I'd love the mother of all solutions that would provide a relative guarantee that the files I have today will be retrievable in 10, 20, 50, and 100 years. The best we can hope for is that when Bill Gates (and Balmer) is 85 and hands the company off to someone else, they will remember either JPG or at least import filters! One thing we might all do is watch incoming new software, including upgrades, and be sure it includes the older formats.

As for storage, I have a hard time with CDs because they're so cumbersome to deal with when your photos get in the 1000s. I searched our "Photo Drive" at home, where our 17 year old takes digital photos like a maniac and there were over 9000 photos! If you start copying 9000 to CD, it will take years off of your life! My recommendation (and practice) is to have as big a hard drive as you can in your system (say 250GB) and use it as your "working" drive, where you store your photos (or anything) using a file/folder system that makes sense to you. Then rotate two (or more) external USB hard drives either daily or at most weekly, as backups. You can use something as simple as a DOS backup to duplicate the working drive files to the external USB, or you can use a backup program. I prefer NOT using a backup program because you're then dependent on the backup program to get your files back in the event of a disaster. No program- no files. So, each time you rotate, your external hard drive will have 100% of the images on your internal working drive. The 2nd of the two external drives should be kept off-site. Your storage needs will exceed the size of your internal working drive at about the same pace as hard drive capacities increase, so you just duplicate your working drive to the new larger drive (or new computer), get two new external drives, and off you go.

Hope that helps, Jay...

- Collapse -
9000 Photos?

Is your son practicing to ba a professional photographer? If not, then I would make a bet that some 50 to 75 percent of the photos are gigo. Have him take those hours needed, go through the photos, and dump a ton of them. Most photos are unnecessary and simply take up space on a hard drive. Keep those of loved ones i.e. family, pets, etc. Girlfriends change as fast as socks for 17-year olds, or at least they did with I was 17. And when the boy goes to college, a year later he'll have a tough time remembering half of the people he photographed. Nature photos are a might keep, especially those with wild animals. Family ditto, although I said that above. And if/when he marries, he definitely will have to get rid of photos of old girlfriends, something I know and not by chance either. If he wants to keep those photos, get a terabyte external, send them all to it and make sure that all photos are sent there automatically. When it's full, get another just like it. Only, and this is the secret, make him pay for it. As well as his digital camera and flash cards. At 17, he probably has a part-time job. I know I did, and I'm 58. I had to pay for everything I wanted besides the basics: clothes, food, that kind of thing. Anything else was on me. Do that and I'd make a bet that 9000 photos would become a lot less. Not to mention gew-gaws.
One last thing. Get a photo printer. H-P, Canon, Konica and a lot of other companies make them, some extremely expensive and others fairly cheap. Print the photos out on some good photo paper. Or even plain paper if necessary. Organize them. And then decide which ones are necessary. The pix that are printed can also be re-photographed, with multiple photos taken at once. You have surely opened a large can of worms with this one. Sounds like the kid is spoiled and you make sure he stays that way. This sounds mean and I surely don't mean it that way and I certainly in no way wish to make you think this is meant to be nasty. It isn't. I gave my son lots of things when he was a kid also, but when he went to work, then he had to buy everything except a car to get to work with, and he didn't drive it to school either. Of course, I sent him to Stanford when other colleges could have given him just as fine an education. So I did a lot of the same things you are doing. One thing you might do is get aterabyte external and automatically send all photos there, And print out those photos. I can afford the most expensive on the market and some of my stuff is just that. But most of it isn't. I buy to fit my needs, not wants. Of course I also buy to satisfy that tooth that has a craving for needs. But I pay for them and paid for them when I was a kid. If he's paying for his stuff, then 9000 photos belong to him. Justmake sure that his computer has room on it for school work, if he's still in school. As for the terabyta external, there are several on the market, LaCie makes a couple and they are just the first company that comes to mind. Just make him pay for expensive hobbies and if he does then you have a great kid, one I commend. And commend you for him also.

- Collapse -
Use Offload Software to keep Pics searchable on DVD


I use the "Offload" function of my image management software. After a catalogue, tag and organize my images, I use the special offload function to "move" all the large originals to DVD - yet a proxy image with a small file size remains online in the image archive database.

The advantage is, that the StudioLine software knows that the image is offloaded AND to WHICH CD/DVD. I can continue to organize, search for, preview etc my images online - but if the high-rez original is needed for certain tasks such as printing, web-publishing etc, it will simply prompt me for he correct CD/DVD by name.

It's the best of both worlds: Have the images fully available at all times without them gobbling up disk space.

I don't know how well other software integrates CD/DVD management in their regular image management and editing. But I think that Offload feature is ingenious.


- Collapse -
Nobody will Ever Look at Them

If you really have 9000 photos which I assume are totally disorganized, stored in a single directory, and stored under their camera names, nobody will ever look at any of them. Your son is taking pictures without any discipline. Pros may shoot several thousand pictures per session but they quickly sort them down to few hundred (at most) that are worth keeping. You son is doing step 1 but not step 2.

There are a number of programs that let you make quick Yes/No decision about photos. I use Pixort. At 15 seconds per picture, it will take him about 37 hours to decide what to keep.

Tell him that he has to reduce his 9000 photos to 500 or 1000 at most and they have to be organized with names so that he can find them in the future. Tell him that he has 1 month do do this task.

When this is not done, just erase them all. He will never ever know the difference.

Finally, buy him a decent sized hard drive (not terabytes but maybe 200 gig) for your computer and tell him that the hard drive is for keeping his pictures. He is also responsible for managing his pictures on his drive and you will erase any of his pictures that are found on your drives without even looking at them. When he fills his drive, it is also his problem.

This will eliminate your problem and transfer it to him.

- Collapse -
Use DVDs.

Another point I forgot.

You can store more than 1000 pictures on a DVD. Do the math - it works out. If you assume that the average picture file size is 3 meg or 3E6 and a DVD holds 4.5 gig or 4.5E9, then 4.5E9 / 3E6 = 1333 pictures per DVD.

You could just copy the 9000 pictures to 9 DVDs, hand them to your son, and then erase them.

It then becomes his problem, not yours.

- Collapse -
Clarification on 9000 photos

First, thank you Peter for the referral to StudioLine. I was not familiar with that software and the offloading feature, combined with the thumbnail database sounds perfect for those that do keep things on CD. And Donald, you are correct that DVDs would work better, which we have.

However, my response is more directed at the assumptions made by "aintnorainbowdorothy" and Donald by reading my post. I've re-read it a couple of times, and I can't find where I've left you with information to make your comments.

First, my "son" is a daughter, and daughters in the digital age are FAR more prolific with both pictures and music. If either of you have a teenage daughter NOW (not 20 years ago), then you would know that having 9000 photos isn't that enormous when you consider that she takes her camera everywhere, she's planning to major in journalism in college, she's the editor of her high school yearbook, she's a student council officer, she goes to at least one, generally two parties a week, she attends YoungLife once a week, goes on several "girls trips" (chaperoned) per year, and goes on several retreats (school, church) per year! Multiply ALL of those events of this outgoing and prolific young woman, times maybe 20-30 photos per event (who cares, they're free and aren't that big at 100KB), and you can see that it wouldn't take that long to get there. She also has 3000 songs on her iPOD, as do my two boys. Our family owns hundreds and hundreds of books and CDs, plus 100+ DVD movies & concerts.

My point is gentlemen that we are a family of creative people, all of which love music and creating images of where we were at certain times of our lives. To compare my daughter's enthusiasm with what she's doing with A) what a more left-brained person might do, B) what a male teen might do, C) what ANY male might do, D) what someone that has no interest in journalism might do, and E) what a 58 year-old tainted male might do, simply isn't very astute. Further, to assume that she's "spoiled" and has nothing else to do is REALLY sticking your neck out based on the lack of information you have. She works some during the school year, but full-time in the summer. Yes, she's been given the camera, computer and printer as gifts over the years, but surely that's not a crime, even in Kansas. In addition to the above mentioned credits and activities, she's also on the National Honor Roll, so why should I NOT feed her interest in photography and art?

The next piece of clarification is that I didn't say I was LOOKING for a solution myself, I was OFFERING one. I DO use three 250GB hard drives for nothing but image and music storage. One of them is internal and the other two are USB externals. The working drive duplicates to the USB Drive "A" on Day 1, then we swap out Drive "A" with Drive "B" on Day 2. Each of those drives was around $110 and even those prices will keep dropping, so why NOT store whatever images she'd like to store? She DOES purge out the junk files by the way, she DOES name them by the way, they are NOT dumped in one big folder as someone said, she DOES organize them by folders by the way (named for the event she photographed), and she DOES print out the most important photos she keeps in a scrapbook of her life, and that she distributes around the house, to family and friends. We DO have a great photo printer, but to print out archive copies of photos INSTEAD of archiving them on HDD, CD or DVD is ludicrous when these prints can get lost or damaged more easily than hard media, have significantly shorter life spans, and are FAR AND AWAY more expensive to print out than storing them on HDD. Having them digital means you can pull them up at any time in the future, manipulate them, print them again, then put them back in safe storage. We've got THREE of those HUGE Tupperware boxes FULL of nothing but printed photographs from when the children were little, but heaven forbid, if something happened to the house, it would be tough to get them out (though they are in one place). And to the comment that no one would ever see them, you are correct... to a degree. My mother has similar piles of photos at her house, many of which I STILL haven't seen. However, when you DO pull those photos out, maybe 30-40 years down the road, and in my daughter's case it will likely be on the new holographic iPOD for all media (release date: Jan.. 15, 2042), what a gift it will be from one generation to another to have those memories sealed and frozen in time to remind you of days gone by and to leave to the next generation to add color to the stories about Uncle Leo. So who cares if you have too many? Have you ever seen where they keep the Divinci notebooks? Talk about a waste of ink! Maybe his parents spoiled him by giving him all of that parchment to make those silly sketches on. He should have thrown that crap away. The helicopter wouldn't be invented for another 200 years anyway.

And so my friends, there is my rebuttal to your comments about a problem I didn't have to begin with. In closing, let me leave you with some handy (and free) advice when dealing with people both in person and on-line. First and most basically, be sure and read things carefully before making sweeping assumptions about what someone is doing or saying. Second, and most importantly, NEVER take pot-shots at someone's children. Though you didn't know it was my daughter, and while you never take pot-shots at ANY of someone's children, you sure as you-know-what don't EVER, EVER take pot-shots at a father's daughter. If you have one, you should know what I mean.

Other than that I'm having a pretty good day and happy to help you guys if I did.

Regards, Jay...

- Collapse -
How to keep chronological order

If your pictures have the correct time stamp that came from the camera then you can do the following:

Right-click on folder and pick "Arrange Icons By" and from sub-menu pick "Modified" or "Picture Taken On". If you have folder in filmstrip mode you need to right-click near the bottom, where the strip is, not in the preview area above.

If you want the reverse order do the following:

Change view to details mode. Click on "Modified" or "Picture Taken On" column header once or twice (not double-click) until you get desired sort order, You can then go back to thumbnail or filmstrip view.

"Picture Taken On" behaves a little differntly than "Modified" and may not work how you like if the field entry is blank.

- Collapse -
My Pictures is all you need!

I wouldn't bother messing with a photo organizing program either. It is easy to create individual folders in My Pictures. Like Chrisyp said, I even name them by date so they stay in order. An easy way to do this is have a folder for each year, and then within each year, name the subfolders starting with the numerical month, and then add whatever other description you want. For example, I use the format "05_May03_Easter" and "11_Nov27_Thanksgiving" for the folders. It is helpful to know that they will be sorted starting with the first characters. Then all your months stay in a nice orderly list in sequence by date.

Chrisyp, I have a suggestion for your photo renaming problem. Keep the default camera file name (assuming they are in numbered order), but add on your own description after it. For example, my camera names files for example "P30200014". I like to keep those names because they are in numerical order. If I want to add a description, I just Rename it but keep the original name at the front. For example, "P30200014_dinner_table". If you have more than one "dinner table" picture, you can add numbers after it, "_30200014_dinner_table_01" and 02, 03, etc.

I've been doing this for years and it is the best system I have come up with!

- Collapse -
File renaming and directory structure

This debate between using Picassa2 vs. using just My Pictures for me comes down to being able to easily view the directory structure that actually exists on the computer. I can organize my pictures perfectly well using chronologically named folders. Picassa2 ignores all those when doing its search, and related nested folders are pulled out of context and jumbled in the bunch, leaving you no easy clue as to where they belong. Picassa2 is a great program with lots of great features and ease-of-use. If they would ad a Folder View I might be able to do without the photo browser I've been using, ACDSEE7(currently a bit more stable than it has been in prior versions.)The one feature of ACDSEE I find very usefull is the ability to rename in batches. Haven't found a way to do that in Windows Explorer.

- Collapse -
(NT) Multiple Renaming Files

Have you tried the freeware program called MultiRen, Version 1.0 Copyright (c) 1998 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, Written by Gregory A. Wolking
First Published in PC Magazine, US Edition, June 9, 1998. It and similar programs can be found for downloading with a search for multi file rename.

Simply highlight 2 or more files in Explorer, right click, choose Rename, one file becomes super-highlighted, rename it, & ultimately the others are renamed with the samae change.


- Collapse -

I agree, it is annoying how it automatically sorts them alphabetically. You can change that by going to View, then Arrange Icons By, and choosing either Picture Taken On or Modified. That works best if you do it right away.
: ) melinda

- Collapse -
Keeping photo in order through My Picture

When I have a batch of photos that are of the same event, I highlight the last picture, press the shift key, highlight the first picture. I then right click and rename a name for the event. The batch will be renamed in order 1,2, etc. If you want a further description, you can put an extension description.

Since I have always organized My Pictures into individual folders I found Picassa too much work. It resorts by date.

- Collapse -

In "my pictures" click View
In the dropdown menu click "arrange by"
pictures taken on--
show in groups
align to grid

This may help "if I understand the question"

- Collapse -
Picasa 2

Picasa 2 is great if your only using one computer, but unless I'm incorrect it won't network. Adobe Photo Album is a better free program for network users.

- Collapse -
photo organizing across networks - choices?

are there any programs that will work across a network. We have images on the network that I would like to add "labels". Can someone else search along the same labels that I assigned?

I want to keep the image name but add labels - "kitchen", "cabinets", "person's name"

someone mentioned Adobe Photo Album. will this work?

I don't believe picassa will work.

other programs?


- Collapse -
Picassa vs. PaintShopPro for Photo Editing ?


I am setting-up Picassa right now, pretty confident that it will help me better organise my photos, as suggested by a lot of you here.

However, I see that it offers 'Basic Fixes' photo editing as well.

I have to admit that I am a total innocent as regards the lower-level consequences of photo-editing.

I am concerned, however, that if I use a 'cheaper' photo-editing tool, the saved digital photos may lose some of the original quality - especially when 'brightening-up' photos, or rotating them to the correct orientation.

For photo-editing, I currently use ACDSee & Paint Shop Pro.

I would appreciate advice from 'those who know' whether my instincts are correct or not - that 'better' photo-editing packages are more likely to retain original quality than 'cheaper' ones - or are my concerns groundless, and it is OK to use the features in Picassa ?

Many Thanks,


- Collapse -
Photo Editing


If you are comfortable with the editing programs that you have, they are certainly the better way to go. Not that Picasa is going to degrade the photos, but trying to get the same functions that PSP has can be difficult if not impossible.

I have tried MANY different editing programs that have come with the scanners and cameras that I have purchased, and they all do the same basic things. The big problem is trying to find your way around the programs since no two seem to have the same layout. I use Fireworks for my picture editing, but my wife prefers Picasa because it does NOT offer as many choices and options.

Bottom line - if you are comfortable with PSP then it is probably easier and faster for you to use that.

Hope this helps!


- Collapse -


I make a copy of the original BEFORE editing. I do this by clicking on Save As then give the pic a new name. I then put the original in a different folder and save in case I mess up the editing or lose the finished product. I have not found this to cause any loss in photo quality.

I too use Pain Shop Pro - an excellent product. But yesterday I downloaded Picassa just for fun. I tried out the photo editing on a picture that was a bit dark and was very pleased with the result. Even just clicking on I'm Feeling Lucky worked well. But these pics had already been edited and worked on in Paint Shop Pro so I will have to try it with a fresh copy of an original.

That being said, I will probably stick to Paint Shop Pro as I get excellent results.


- Collapse -
Stick to PaintShop Pro & PSP Album Especially the Latest One

I tried Picassa. I tried PhotoShop Album 2 and I settled on PaintShop Pro Album 5 and later bought PaintShop Pro 9 to do more advanced work. I have tried them all including ACDSee, PhotoImpact, MS Picture It Publishing and a half a dozen others over the years. I have been into computing for over 20 years and into photography since I was 10 years old. I am now 62. I do not think you can miss with PaintShop Pro for photo editin, but cataloging, get PSPA5. That's my learned advice. Free is great when you are stone broke, but if you save your dough, then go for PaintShop! Upgradr to PSP9 if you can and to PSPA5 if you will.

- Collapse -
Picassa warning and PSP

David, stick with PSP for editing. My husband and I do a LOT of photo editing, to the point of operating a small "side business". PSP is the best. We have newer versions of PSP for special projects, but continue to use PSP5 as our mainstay. One huge drawback with Picassa that we both noticed almost immediately is that when you edit a picture, that's it!! Picassa does not ask you if you want to save that change... its changed! permanently! unless you're observant enough to notice and use the undo button. As for organization, we create individual folders and subfolders for whatever subject.

- Collapse -
response to Picassa warning and PSP

I have used Picasa2 for a year and like the simple editing features. With respect to making changes to the picture and unable to undo the changes, I have learned that if you bring the cursor over the edited picture and righ click the mouse and get a drop down menu and click to 'locate on disc' it will find the origional picture.
A special thank you to Dave for his well rounded, well composed message on storing pictures and being able to open them in years to come. Food for thought! Liam

- Collapse -
Picassa-PaintShop Pro


BTW Wink you wrote, "I am a total innocent". You mean 'ignorant' and not 'innocent'. Innocent means not guilty, it can mean 'idiot' but only when referred to a child, as in 'that child is innocent of...' "Ignorant", on the other hand, means lacking knowledge of.."
Anyhow, when it comes to editing you should never even think about using software lik 'Picassa' or 'AcDsee' for they were mainly designed for photo management and not editing. PhotoShop is designed for editing. And should you actually want to print some of your own photos after your editing, do so while in .psd format and not jpg. Since the psd format is huge in comparison you may want to delete it once you have finished with the printing, if and only if you think you will not print other copies or do more editing--and yes Mr/Ms Innocent Wink don't forget to save it to jpg once you have finished with the psd. if you are going to delete the .psd.

- Collapse -
Innocent !

Dear pintree3,
It's always advisable to check your facts before you criticise someone's English!
Check-out any reputable dictionary and you will find that one meaning for the word 'innocent' is:
"lacking or reflecting a lack of sophistication"
(from Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
What was that you were saying about 'ignorant' ?

- Collapse -
digital photos

Okay I followed the instructions to the letter and search came up empty. I have Picasa 2 it is brilliant but a bit complicated for me...

CNET Forums

Forum Info