How To Organize Your Digital Photo Shoebox

Remember when you had a shoebox of photos under your bed growing up? Our childhoods and frankly, my college years, are memorialized in fading 4X6 photo print paper from disposable cameras. But today we have cellphones and computers full of digital pictures! Recently I was listening to some mamas lamenting the thousands of pictures on their phone and not knowing what to do with them. They didn’t have time to figure out which pictures were worth saving so there they all sat, on their phones. How do you keep it all organized? What is our shoebox today? Here is what I do!

When my phone or a camera SD card are full, I dump them onto my external hard drive. You can purchase a 4 TB WD External Hard Drive for under $100 on Amazon. My hard drive is organized into files for Years and Months. For a special occasion or holiday I’ll make another sub-folder.


It is important to have these photos in more than one place. My husband tends to keep his photos in Dropbox or iCloud. In addition to my external hard drive at home, my husband periodically copies it to our back-up hard drive that we keep in our safety deposit box. It is not a question of “If” a hard drive will one day fail but “when.” So do not rely on one copy of your precious memories.

As I drag images into folders just looking at the date of the file, I don’t have to decide what is amazing and what can be deleted in that moment. I just get them organized for now. Later I might delete the random photos of my son’s thumb that he took when he grabbed my phone. Or tag the really great photos a certain color so I can easily pull those up.

I like to tag my favorite photos with the red dot so I can search for those photos at the end of the year. Then I put them in a slideshow for my family and I to watch to watch together. You can easily do this on a mac by highlighting all of the photos in a folder and hitting Option+Command+Y. It is a great way to reflect on and celebrate the previous year.

And those shoebox photos? Find a way to get a high resolution scan of them, using a scanner or paying a service, to make a digital copy to preserve what fading photo print paper cannot. Any way you store them, pull the shoebox out from time to time to go through those precious captured moments.