For Photographers: Personal File Organization

I think its really really important to take care of our personal images and files because in a sense, thats the record of our lives… which is just as important as any business files. Don’t you agree? We will delve into our business file organization one day soon, but for now, I will tell you all about the thrilling world of personal file organization at the Cox household.

Let me first say that I am NOT perfect. This is a work in progress and I am always working hard at staying on top of this and not letting it get away from me. It’s hard. It takes work… but most importantly, its worth it.

Now you will notice, if you do any research on this stuff, that everyone uses dates to organize their photos. I don’t. … let that sink in a little bit……. I like to organize my images with a hybrid of sorts. I am not… and never have been… a numbers person. When I see numbers, I literally have to read them 3 times. It’s like I have number dyslexia. Is that a real thing? I need to use images and words to really understand what is going on, so that is how I organize my own photos and files.

On our external hard drive we have a folder called “Bethany & Dan Photography” and a folder called “The Cox Life” and this is the root of our file tree. Everything stems from there and fits in either one. In the image below you can see the breakdown of the file tree.

This is our archive of life.

 You can see that we have a few folders that notate a place. Those are the folders that hold the random photo sessions and events that took place while we lived in those places. You know, its those things that just dont really fall into any category other than life etc. and just need a home. The Etc. folder holds a lot of those completely random things, like gifs and internet gems that I keep to keep me smiling. Don’t tell me you dont have an etc. folder in life.

When we import new things, they live on the desktop until I have edited and uploaded them to where they need to go. Every time I finish something I dress up the folder and make sure it is organized and then I move it to the external drive and put it where it needs to live… forever.

<—— Here is a current screen shot of what Im rockin on my desktop. I have a groupons folder of the groupons I still need to use (and print in case its not a phone friendly kinda thing, like a restaurant that I dont want to give my phone to the waitress at). I am currently working on organizing ALL my iphone images and THAT is a beast. Thats why that folder is up there. We just worked on our portfolio for 2013 so thats in progress. That means I have three folders that suggest work to be done. The rest of the folders LIVE on the desktop. This are KEY to our success. I am always striving to have only the following folders on the desktop… that is Nirvana.

1. To print: Whenever I take a photo that I LOVE or whenever a client orders prints, I copy the images that they want into this folder. That way whenever I have an order to fill, or a minimum price to meet in the ordering process, I have all the photos I need and want to print in one place. It’s magic.

2. To organize: You know those randoms that pile up on your desktop that you just dont have time for right now? I put mine in this folder. Once a month I clean it out. (almost religiously… but again… Im not perfect) This way I dont have to stop and do this all the time, but I do keep my sanity on my desktop.

3. To post: this is for photos that I want to upload to facebook or the blog but are in waiting.

4. Stomped: We use blogstomp for our blog and facebook preps, and adding watermarks to images. Once they are done, they automatically go here and I grab em.

A few other important notes:

  • I empty my downloads folder every time it crosses my mind, which is often. If I cant actually organize things, I drag and drop them to my “to organize” folder for later. I am OCD about the downloads folder.
  • Everything is set up to save automatically to the desktop, (if it’s at all logical for that programs purpose). That way I am forced to deal with it and I know where it lands. It’s worth investigating that so you are in the same boat.
  • I like having a really clean desktop. For real. Its important. I believe that not only does it create space for me to have peace on my computer, but it also reminds me that I have at least this together. Ha! I like seeing the background I wanted up there, and I like not having to scan over 100 tiny little squares to find something. It’s reflective of an organized life and I want that.
  • We use drop box for a few things that we need on our laptop occasionally. These are always copies of things, and never the only one. We don’t keep anything at all on the laptop. If a new file is on the laptop, we drag and drop it to the drop box and then make a home for it on our desktop. The laptop is just for travel, backing up while traveling, surfing the internet, and watching movies! It is just a $300 gem from HP and we like not worrying about it. One day we are going to buy a fancy one but for now, it is completely utilitarian and we use it for just that.
  • We use google drive for a few things, that are documents that we actively change and use. The other documents that are permanent are saved to the computer.
  • Evernote is not a home for files for us yet.
  • This does not delve into our backup systems, which is a conversation for another day.

This is an ever evolving thing for us however there are a few themes that I keep in mind always. I want visual simplicity. Everything has a home. Stay on TOP OF IT. Change things if they are not working. Personal files are just as important as business files. What do you need to access all the time.. keep that on the desktop. Copy files if you are using them for a function that is temporary so they can live in a easy access place, and then delete them when you are done. Keep an eye on that downloads folder. Empty your trash.

Any thoughts? Any questions? Let me know what you think about my non-date system. Im blowing your mind right now aren’t I?

Desktop Image by Dan Smith of Scenic New England Photography


Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Hey there!

This is a photo of me in a burger bar in Stockholm Sweden. I am about to drink the best beer I have ever had. It's a pretty important photo of me. I just remember feeling filled with joy and so so glad to be alive. That's a good place to start on getting to know me.


I like to travel.

I like beer.

I like the person who was across the table from me. Any guesses who?

where we hang


All images in this blog, are taken by Bethany and Dan Photography unless stated otherwise. Feel free to repost or share images for non-commercial purpose, but please make sure to link back to this website and its original post. We like sharing but not stealing. Pretty standard.

Some links to products are Amazon affiliate links.