For the past few years, I've dedicated just 30 minutes a month to organizing my photos. It's had an incredibly positive impact on my life's enjoyment. In this post, I'll share my system which motivates me to take more photos.
Have you ever gone on a trip, been to an event, or had a great day — only to get back home, and say to yourself: "I wish I would have taken more photos!"
For most of my life, that was me. "Next time, I'll take more photos!"
Next time would come around. Still, no photos. I eventually started to recognize the importance of solving this problem.
Photos are a source of reflection. They show where we've been, and how far we've come. They're a window into the memories of quality time with loved ones.
Like most people, I walk around with a camera in my pocket — my iPhone. So, why wasn't I taking it out and using it?
I identified several limiting beliefs, all easily correctable:
"I don't take good photos."
We've all been on Instagram. On a daily basis, our visuals are flooded with beautiful photos: perfect people, perfect lighting, perfect backgrounds.
But photos don't have to be "good". They don't have to be Insta-worthy (whatever that means). I can keep them for me, and me alone. Photos are about preserving memories — some I'll share, others I won't.
Like this too dark, non-Insta-worthy photo I took when viewing Seattle:
"Taking photos is a hassle."
Lighting, posing, positioning, background — so much to think about! Often, I don't want to stop what I'm doing and take 5 minutes to set up some photo.
But taking a photo is one of simplest things you can do. You pull out your phone, open the camera app, and press a button. No perfect post, no perfect angle, no perfect lighting. Simply snap it.
Like this crooked photo, when I took in the beauty of some beach scenery:
"My photos aren't organized."
I'd occasionally, randomly, take photos. They'd sit on my iPhone for months, ignored. To find a photo, I'd have to troll through the mess. Talk about overwhelming! I didn't want to add to the mess, so I didn't want to take more photos.
I was caught in this insidious, negative feedback loop:
I identified this photo organization as the biggest source of my problems. Things changed when I got organized.
How I organize my photos with minimal time effort
I wanted to create a system to organize my photos. With a system in place, I'd be motivated to take more.
Confidence in maintaining backups
Easily find past photos
Minimal time effort
For backups, I use Google Photos. I have an iPhone, and could use an Apple offering, but I find Google Photos more user-friendly. The app on my iPhone has an auto-backup feature, though I keep it disabled most of the time.
To find past photos, I organize them into albums (supported by Google Photos). I name the albums by event. It's true that Google Photos supports some search functionality by objects, faces and other things ("dog", "selfie", etc.). But not every photo has a significant, searchable quality — I find that searching by album name works better.
The hard part is the "minimal time effort". I needed a maintainable procedure, something I'd be likely to keep up for the long term.
I came up with a procedure that only takes me 30 minutes per month. I often reduce the cadence to every quarter.
Here's how I spend the 30 minutes:
On the iPhone: delete duplicates, and unwanted photos. This keeps my backup photo history clean. With less noise, it's easier to find photos later.
On the iPhone Google Photos app, enable auto-backups. These backups are normally disabled: to prevent backup of duplicate and unwanted photos.
On Google Photos, organize photos into albums. I use a naming convention like
YYYY-MM <EVENT_NAME>, where
<EVENT_NAME>is any kind of arbitrary grouping. As long as I'm able to recall the event, and search for it. For example, I have albums covering a several-hour event like
2022-02 Brewery Visit, or albums covering several-week events like
2022-06 San Diego Trip. The album name helps me easily search for the group of photos I'm looking for. I'll even organize a single, non-event photo into it's own album:
2022-03 Testimonial Screenshot.
On Google Photos, add to a special album called Solo Photos. These are photos that have just me, and nobody else, in them. I find that these are the photos I'm most likely to use or share for various reasons. I want them in one place.
On the iPhone, delete all photos. This frees up space, so I don't run out of memory later. If I want to show a photo to somebody, I simply use the Google Photos app.
On the iPhone Google Photos app, disable auto-backups. This prevents backups of duplicate or unwanted photos. It also gives me incentive to actually perform this procedure!
This minimal, recurring investment has changed my life.
Outside of the once-a-month procedure, I don't think much about photo organization. But the impact of this minimal, recurring time investment has been incredible.
I can simply scroll through the albums, and relive the memories. This always puts me in a great mood.
Remember that negative feedback loop? It's now transformed into a positive positive feedback loop. I prioritize taking more photos, because the moments are easy to relive.
Plus, these memories are easily accessible, and retrievable whenever I want them.
Remember that morning in the Caribbean, when an iguana jumped on the table and stole my breakfast? 🦎
Or scuba diving in the Bahamas, the first time I saw a shark? 🦈
Remember that hike on Oahu, where we shared our ambitions through the roar of a waterfall? 🌊
Or that time we went snowboarding, and finally braved the moguls? 🏂
Use a system and procedure that works for you. But if you take one thing from this post, I hope it inspires you:
Organize your photos. You'll take more, and it will change your life. 📸