What I learned from culling and organizing a year’s worth of phone photos

On the way to Lake Tahoe with my parents (shot on Pixel2).

Every year I take some time in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to go through my phone photos of the year, so that I can order a batch of prints to store from the year.

Now – I take quite a lot of photos, both on my “real” camera and my phone. And while I have systems and deadlines in place to cull, edit, rename files, and store away jpegs from family sessions and my “real” camera, I am not as strict with my phone photos. (I will be starting 2020, to cut down the overwhelm.)

Adventures on the way home from Tahoe in May (shot on Pixel2).

After having gone trough this process a few years in a row, I’ve decided on some steps to take to make the process a lot less arduous for the end of coming years:

Step 1. Purge and download after the fact

If I purged photos after every “event” I’ve taken pictures of (day trips, celebrations, etc), I could spend more time reminiscing at the end of the year, instead of decluttering my photos.

I will also set aside one day per quarter to purge one-off photos I’ve taken that weren’t part of a larger batch of photos – in addition to downloading all the files onto my computer so that they don’t only live in the cloud/on my phone.

From a morning walk – the smallest stick she could find? (Shot with Pixel2).

Step 2. Organize into folders

I will organize my phone photos either into events (trips, special occasions etc) or into folders that lump together like photos (Nova, home, friends, work, San Francisco, misc etc).

Step 3. Rename the files

From now on my file names will include the date, the location, and name of the “main character” of the photo. That way I’ll be able to search for the photos easily by location or person in my folders.

The sprinklers had been on at the park – and Nova does not shy away from mud (shot on Pixel2).

Step 4. Tag the ones that you want to print

A good chunk of my time during my holiday photo marathon goes to tagging the photos I want to print – I have usually done this for parts of the photos but not systematically throughout the year.

Side note: If I don’t deem a photo worth printing, is the file worth keeping? I’m learning to let go more and more.

Nova doing typical things at home (shot on Pixel2).

Extra lesson: Be picky about what moments to photograph in the first place

This is my biggest lesson learned of all. At times something might seem so fun in the moment that I want to take a picture to remember it – but after the fact I might not even remember what that fun thing was, or why I took a photo. If a photo cannot capture the *thing* that was so special about that moment, I don’t need to take a picture of it – I should just enjoy the moment.

Even though I love photographing her doing typical Nova things, I don’t need hundreds of photos of her capturing a frisbee.

How do you organize your phone photos? Let me in on your wisdoms in the comments below:

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Documentary newborn and family photographer serving San francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and surrounding areas