5 Photo Management Mistakes You’re Making (and How to Fix Them)

Nancy Messieh 14-03-2018

Whether you’ve been taking photos for one year or 10 years, the chances are you have a huge, unwieldy photo library that is in desperate need of attention. That’s just the nature of shooting digital.


Cleaning up your existing photo library will be a chore, but there are plenty of mistakes you can avoid when organizing new photos in order to maintain a neat and ordered collection.

1. You Leave Your Photos on Your SD Card

You spend the day taking photos, you come home, you’re exhausted, and you tell yourself, “I’ll copy the photos tomorrow.” Except you don’t. And they’ll probably stay there until you run out of space on your SD card and are forced to move them to make space for more photos.

camera with sd card
Image Credit: Tom Pumford/Unsplash

The problem with doing things this way is that you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed with a messy library of photos, and it will probably lead to more of the mistakes on this list.

The Solution: Make the effort to copy your photos no more than 24 hours after you’ve taken them. This way you don’t have to worry about remembering any details related to the shoot.


How to Streamline the Process: While incorporating some automation into your photo management process, this first step shouldn’t be automated.

After the photos are on your computer, you need to take a look at them and cull any that aren’t good enough. Put on some good music, or a podcast, or your favorite TV show, and be ruthless.

Keeping every single photo you take will prove to be a headache when it comes to all things related to photo management.

2. You Don’t Rename Your Files

When you’re transferring your files from your camera to your storage drive, the first thing you should do is rename your files and add any information to the metadata that you don’t want to forget.


Next to tagging your photos, this is one of the most important things you’re going to want to do so that you can easily search for and recognize photos and photo collections.

Renaming your photos will make it possible for you to avoid another common mistake: losing context for your photos. By renaming your files as you transfer them, you’re able to add important context such as location, people, events, or even clients.

The Solution: Immediately after you transfer your photos, rename the files in a consistent manner.

How to Streamline the Process: Using a batch renaming tool How to Batch Rename Multiple Files on Your Mac There are a few ways of easily and quickly batch renaming files on a Mac. Read More to make the process easier so that all photos in one collection have identical, serialized names. For Mac users, you don’t have to download any additional software—just use Apple’s native Automator to rename the files in bulk How To Use Automator To Batch Rename Images on Mac Read More .


3. You Don’t Back Up Your Photos

If you’re keeping your photos in just one place, you’re doing it wrong. If your photos matter to you, you’re going to want to back them up. At least once. No one system is foolproof—whether it’s an external hard drive or cloud storage—so make sure to keep your photos in multiple places.

The Solution: If you take a ton of photos, you should have at least one dedicated external hard drive. In addition to keeping all your photos on an external hard drive that you can easily access, you should also back up your photos to an additional hard drive that stays in a safe place, or to a cloud storage account—or if you want to be particularly cautious—to both.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to backup storage—enough to fill one or two articles over, but the super abbreviated version of choices are monthly payments for a cloud storage account, a one-time payment for an external hard drive, or a combination of both with network attached storage.

How to Streamline the Process: Incorporate the backup process into your original transfer and renaming process. Blocking off a certain amount of time after each photoshoot to do all of these things will make life easier for you in the long run.


You can also automate your backup system so that it really doesn’t take much extra effort on your part:

  • If you’re opting for a cloud storage option like Dropbox or OneDrive, you can link the folder on your computer or external hard drive to your cloud account so your photos are automatically synced to the cloud.
  • If you’re more of a Google fan, try Google Photos Desktop Uploader.
  • You an even double up, and automatically back up photos in Dropbox to Google Drive using an automation platform like IFTTT.

Once you’ve settled on a backup system, chances are you’ll be able to find an automation process that makes your life a little easier.

4. You Keep Your Photos All Over the Place

This is one I’m definitely guilty of. Photos are scattered all over your computers, cameras, cloud storage, and external drives. It’s one thing to back up your photos to several places. It’s entirely another, to have different collections of photos in all those places.

The Solution: If you follow the steps outlined above for transferring, renaming, and backing up your photos in a timely and organized way—you can kiss messy photo collections goodbye.

5. You Don’t Tag Your Photos

Another key way to keep your photos organized is by using tags. Using a tag system makes it easy to find all of your photos related to specific locations, the gear used, the photography or editing styles, and so much more.

tagging photos

So if you want to quickly find all the wedding photos you’ve taken using your nifty fifty, tags make that possible. This makes it easy to quickly create tailored portfolios for clients who want to see work pertaining to a specific look or occasion.

The Solution: In order to incorporate tags into your photo backup system, you’re going to want to either use your operating system’s tagging feature, or you might need to think about a photo management platform The 10 Best Lightroom Alternatives (Free and Paid) What are the best Lightroom alternatives if you don't want to use Adobe Lightroom? Here are your best options. Read More .

Adobe Lightroom remains one of the most popular photo management systems 3 Reasons All Photographers Should be Using Adobe Lightroom A lot of people aren't quite sure where Lightroom fits into things. It's an image editor… but it's not as good as Photoshop? Here's everything explained. Read More , with two offerings—Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC, the latter a cloud-based program How to Use the New Lightroom CC: The Basics You Need to Know Want to learn to use the new Lightroom CC? Here's a quick overview of all the features you need, as well as some help navigating the new interface. Read More .

In addition to photo management, apps like Lightroom will give you access to robust photo editing features that give you complete control of your photography.

What Photo Management Mistakes Are You Making?

These are just five of the most common mistakes when it comes to photo management. However, there are plenty more that you can do to personalize your photo management system.

Take a look at your own personal situation and see what works best for you. What works for you now may not work for you in a year’s time. Always keep an eye out for how you can improve your system, look for tips from other professional photographers. And don’t forget to keep taking photos!

Related topics: Photo Album, Photography, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Jaime
    May 13, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Great article! Straightforward with excellent tips and solutions. Thank you!