Updated: October 24, 2018 | Contains affiliate links

Who is organizing your pictures?


You’re probably not aware that there is somewhat of a battle when it comes to picture organization. Software manufacturers claim that their programs will organize and categorize your pictures with a click of the mouse…and even without any clicks. All you have to do is take lots of pictures and let their software organize them. While there is some truth to their claims, the truth is that most of it is only marketing hype.

Camera manufacturers are taking advantage of the fact that many digital camera users are not tech savvy and they will become (or have already become) very frustrated with the huge amount of pictures they now take. Nobody who buys a digital camera for the first time is thinking about organizing their pictures after they start using their camera. All they care about is how many mega-pixels, how much zoom, is the camera easy to use and so on. After a while frustration sets in when they can’t find their pictures on their computers. In this article I am explaining what software can and can’t do when it comes to picture organization. My hope is that I would be able to persuade you to only use software to create your own organization structure and not rely on automatically created structure.

Who is organizing your pictures? 1

Automatic organization behind the scenes

Every picture I take with my digital camera contains some extra information like: camera make and type, date when the picture was taken, if the flash was used or not and many other camera settings. When I transfer a picture to my computer all this information goes with the picture. It is this information that automatic picture organization is based on. Software can easily read all this extra information and create some structure based on it. Actually, there is only one piece of information that is being used by all software, namely date picture taken. This is very useful information indeed, not only for this kind of software but for me as well. How is date picture taken being used by software?

Software can only use the date and create folders to reflect the dates of the pictures. As a result you get a structure based on this date only. There are many variations in this structure produced automatically. Some software produces folders named YYYY-MM-DD with a new folder for each day. Others, produce a more complicated structure:

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The problem with automatic organization

This is all fine and maybe somewhat useful, but a very important part is missing. A description of what’s in the pictures is missing. So, unless you remember exactly the date when a certain event happened, you will not be able to figure out what’s in those many folders. This is the main problem of software that tries to organize your pictures automatically. Software cannot figure out the content of those pictures. It can only figure out the date when the pictures were taken. So, while it’s true that it can create a structure somewhat organized, this structure will NOT help you to find your pictures later. This is the main reason why I advocate the manual creation of an organization structure for your pictures.

The root of the problem

The problem with automatic organization is just that: it’s automatic. This means that it does it the same way for every person and for every picture. It doesn’t know about the content of the pictures and therefore, it cannot create a description of the folder containing the pictures. You alone can describe your own pictures, software cannot. So, who is organizing your pictures? If you rely on some software, it will not work for the long term. If you’re using software to help you create your own organization structure for your pictures, then you’re doing the right thing and you will be much better off in the long run.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Here are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Excellent Lightroom alternative. If you need a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac (save 20% until Feb 15th) or ACDSee Photo Studio Professional for Windows (save $20 until Feb 15th) is my preferred solution for organizing all my media. It has a very fast browser, great image editing and it's simple to use.

If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it has a steeper learning curve. Adobe Lightroom is my favorite for image editing.

I recommend Backblaze Personal Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 5 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.

Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.

Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
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Reference book Basics book


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