How to manage digital photos?

The easy or the hard way

There are several ways to manage your digital photos. I want to show how I do it (in case I forget).

There are 2 organizer types:

O1) You don't care about structure

O2) You care about structure

Then there are 3 backup types:

B1) you don't care about backup

B2) you want wireless backup (or cloud)

B3) you want a backup on your PC or hard drive

I am the guy with a strong preference for

O2, B2 and B3.


A) The easiest way is it, to leave everything on the phone and perform the backup from there, automatically. (Type O1 & B2)

This is done on iPhone via iCloud, Dropbox, Google Photos, OneDrive or similar apps. They need the permission to run in the background and once they detect new photos and the phone is connected to a WLAN, the backup process starts. Very easy, only minimal effort and quite secure. However, there may be restrictions in terms of picture quality or cloud disk space. That's why it is recommended to go for a paid plan, in case you want quality and don't want to care about quotas. Basically there is no organization, the online services try to do that. At Google Photos for example you can search for locations, dates and even objects on pictures, which are detected via machine learning.

B) The advanced way and the more complicated is to do the following (Type O2 and B3)

  • keep some pictures on the phone, according to your free space there
  • keep all pictures on a cloud drive for backup
  • keep all (or only the best) pictures on 2 hard disks and sort them there for offline archiving.

Taking Pictures

I take most pictures on an Android smartphone. There Google Photos synchronizes them to the Google cloud via WLAN. This is my failsafe backup and used for fast searching.

In the Google cloud the pictures are reduced slightly in their quality (unlimited space). That's why I keep an additional backup on my hard disk (and for doing photo books, etc).

Structure Example

On the hard disk I have a folder structure, which is like this:

    • Years
      • Seasons (for random photos)
      • Albums (for events)
  • CAT (or someone else you adore)
  • FOOD (depends if you are a food porn person)
  • GADGETS (or other stuff you admire)
  • SELFIES (might be interesting when I'm old)
  • MISC (various unsorted stuff)

Now this can be some effort to sort the pictures and can only be done on the PC. But it makes it easier to find the pictures and also allows to keep them offline in high quality. It is also possible to perform an easier approach and leave away some special-albums or the seasons.


Of course, the pictures have to get copied regularly to the PC. This is the most annoying part. Noone likes to find and hook up cables. That's why I use mixture of the following methods to get the photos in full quality onto the PC:

For iPhones you might want to use iCloud or the original Dropbox or OneDrive app, or PhotoSync.

For digital cameras often there is no good alternative to the cable, as even the WiFi capable photo cameras have a slow transfer speed and pictures there can take up to 6 MB in space.

To copy pictures from an iPhone to an Android device (if a friend took some on a common vacation or an event) the app PhotoSync is quite good.

To organize the photos on the PC I recommend the really good freeware programm Faststone Image Viewer which is free from ads, spyware or sharware popups. (That's why if you also like it, please donate).

Now the interesting part. Risk management. What can happen? Here some interesting scenarios:

R1) Hard disk failure

R2) Ransomware infection

R3) House on fire

R4) Death

For R1 & R2 and R4 I have 2 portable hard disk (one magnetic, the other SSD). I keep them in sync with a freeware called FreeFileSync.

For R2 striking when both hard disks are connected and for the event of R3 there is still the cloud backup, though in reduced quality. My goal is, to copy the best pictures in full quality step-by-step to several cloud spaces where I have sufficient space.

Some tips:

  • immediately delete bad pictures on the device you took them
  • don't take a series of pictures of the same moment, comparing them all is a hassle
  • decide if you want to take the pictures in 4:3 or 16:9 format
  • do you want to rename the pictures according their date? Take a look at Advanced Renamer and DSC Autorename
  • You have a bunch of unsorted files? Run them through the freeware DropIt - it magically sorts everything for you.
  • don't take pictures in a horizontal layout if you don't need to (looks bad on TVs and monitors)
  • keep the light or sun shining from your back side and avoid shooting into the direction of the sun