How do you organize your photos?

When researching this feature request (which is now implemented), it was interesting (at least to me) that so many people use scientific names when naming their photos. I always assumed most folks would be using Lightroom or another Digital Asset Management (DAM) program and using keywords to organize and label their photos, but apparently that assumption was way off the mark.

So I’m curious, how do you organize your photos?


Day and location taken. Scientific names would take too long


Badly! I’ll be following this thread for advice on how to do it better. I have around 7 years worth of photos I need to sort.

My camera photos are dumped into some folders on a couple of hard drives. My phone photos are backed up to google photos with 3.5 years worth from a previous phone being backed up to dropbox (which I forgot and spent an evening a couple of weeks ago thinking I’d lost them). They are now on my laptop too split into multiple folders by year.

Previously I was using Picasa until it was discontinued. Then was using some Linux software that I can’t remember the name of.


My method of organization is not that organized, except by date. I back up all pics in folders by year/month/day. My field notes – and now iNat – allow me to relocate pics I remember taking but that I can’t always pinpoint where and when.


I don’t. :sweat_smile:

Seriously, I upload my photos directly from my phone, which has limited space. Every 2-4 days I delete uploaded images and move my few favourites to a separate folder.
Not much point sorting them when there’s only up to a few hundred at a time.


I organize by month and year. I have a spreadsheet that I use as an index to date and location of observations. I find the iNat calendar function very useful and I also search my observations.
I started with a lot of photos on Flickr. Now, I use Google Photos (even though that works poorly with iNat) and I have everything (well, I think I almost everything) backed up to DropBox as well as a local external hard disk. Of course, bit rot occurs and sometimes I get lazy.

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Which programs do you use for editing/organizing photos?


On my hard drive by category according to the Audubon Field guide, then added amphibians, insects, mammals. Next level down is species, then date.

For insects I use a modified version of the taxonomy starting with order, then family, down to species followed by date taken.

I use file manager of the Microsoft operating system for organization


I use Lightroom (the old, computer-based version, not the subscription/cloud versions.) LR automatically sorts photos into folders by date. I sort my photos into collections by location and date. Then I have smart collections set up that automatically sort into species collections by keyword - the smart collections themselves are sorted into collection sets by categories (ex. plants, beetles), then further by family etc.

I do not change the automatically assigned file names. I automatically back up to an external hard drive.

Would be great, except that LR has problems with photo catalogs of more than ~75,000 photos, and bogs down/freezes when doing much work with smart collections. From what I understand, the newer versions have not improved in these areas. And I just don’t have the heart to switch to a different program that does handle larger catalogs, and try to reproduce my filing system there.


I organize my organism photos taxonomically. Kingdom, phylum, etc., with some lumping of groups for which I have few photos (e.g. invertebrates, other). I used scientific names for plants, English names for birds, and whatever I prefer for other groups.

My largest category, by far, is the “to be filed” file.


I create a new folder for each upload from my SD card that is labelled by the date and camera as YYYY-MM-DDCameratype.

Then I upload images to the folder. From there I select images to edit and the edited photos typically get named Location_OrganismName#.jpg where the organism name is whichever I can remember and sometimes a shortening. So Cleveland_Birb.jpg, Cleveland_bird1.jpg, Cleveland_bird1a.jpg, where Bird1 is the same individual as Bird1a, but a different angle. If I have a better ID, I would name it as such. Say Cleveland_Turdus1b.jpg because who doesn’t love the Scientific name for Robins. I then put each of my folders into a main folder by year.

As for programs, I manage files in the regular windows file explorer. I edit some things in photoshop and some things in windows photos editor depending on whether they were shot on a camera which uses RAW or not.

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Most of mine remain filed by date (and the place name on the folder)

When I sort the photos to use on my blog posts then I use the binomial - since Google prefers photos to have human readable names - not JPG 45839 - a name becomes searchable.

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I also split them by season or month, one folder for original NEFs and another one with the same names, but for JPG, for editing I’m using LR, but can’t use any sorting in it as I delete everything from the program after editing, without that it’s too easy to miss something and leave it unedited and not uploaded to iNat. Also there’re seprated folders for originals I need to sort out/edit and for newly edited photos, again it helps with possible mess.


I organize my photos taxonomically, with a folder for major groups of life. Passerines, reptiles, Mammalia, etc. In each folder I label them (scientific name-common name, location).


I have my photos in folders in a hard drive sorted by year, then month, then date. The date folders are named following “YYYY-MM-DD Location” so they get sorted in order in the month folders. I don’t rename my individual photos; I was recommended to do that when I started photography but it seems like more work and I don’t think I’d find it that useful. If I know I have a photo of a certain species and can’t find it, I just look through my eBird or iNat photos to find the date.
I’ve been editing with an open source program called darktable, which is similar to Lightroom, for the past couple months and it seems to be pretty nice so far.


For editing, I use Photoshop Elements which does most of what I need to do.


All my photos are organised by year, month-day, and time - for example 2019/06-25/ When I first started, I used the photo metadata to add extra information like geodata, locality, taxon, etc - but I soon found that performing complex searches or large updates could become very slow. So I now keep all the extra information in a separate database. This makes searches and updates super-fast, and it’s very easy to re-organise the information whenever I need to. It also means I can back it up separately (and regularly). It’s only a few megabytes, but when I consider how much time I’ve invested in maintaining it, that database is probably now worth more to me than the majority of my entire photo collection…

As to the programs I use: I wasn’t able to find anything that did everything I wanted, so I wrote my own. It started off quite simple, but I’ve gradually added more and more features, so I can now do almost everything I want through a single interface (editing, annotating, taxon searches, uploading, etc). If you’ve got some programming skills, I can thoroughly recommend this as a long-term hobby project.


Folders: Date and location, e.g., 2019-11-25 Patuxent Ponds Park. Folders with this date format sorted by folder name naturally sort by date.

Filenames: I prepend a YYYY-MM-DD-HH-MM-SS timestamp of date taken in the local time zone to each file originally named by my camera like IMG_3952.CR2, resulting in a filename like 2019-11-25-14-35-36_IMG_3952.CR2. Jpegs work the same way. A free app called Bulk Rename Utility makes this easy. When my camera image counter flips from 9999 to 0001, the files sorted by filename still sort by date taken.

Photo tags: I use Lightroom with keyword hierarchies set up for geography and taxonomy. The taxonomy hierarchy contains both common names and scientific names so that manually tagging one auto-tags the other. For a photo of one creature, I manually tag only a taxon as the ID and a locality name, just two tags. Then Lightroom automatically tags all higher-ranked taxa above the one I tagged, and higher-ranked geographical regions (county, state, country, continent) containing the locality I tagged. I can then search for taxa and localities/regions of any rank easily in my OS’s file explorer or with Lightroom.

I like that filenames stay stable and tags change when identifications are updated. With this method for 10000s of wildlife photos, I don’t manually name or rename any files. Any typos or changes in geographic or taxonomic tags can be fixed in all my photos with the tag at once in Lightroom. For example, I do not have to manually rename potentially hundreds of files when a genus or species changes name. I change it once in one place in Lightroom, save all photos with any changed tags (smart folder) in one action, and all my photos are automatically updated.


I’m still using Picasa. I also have Lightroom and Exposure but I find the interface of Picasa so much easier for simple tagging and organizing. If you search for Picasa 3.9.141 Build 259 you can download install packages that still work. I’m still so disappointed that Google killed Picasa to force everyone to use it’s terrible Photos app.


I’m still using Picasa since I haven’t found anything I like as well yet. I use it for downloading from the camera, basic edits and crops, tagging, searching, browsing, and exporting temporary cropped copies to upload to sites like iNat.

My photos are downloaded from the camera to the computer into year folders with a subfolder for each day in the yyyy-mm-dd format. I just leave the filenames as the default and never change them. If I tried to keep the filename up to date with the species name or moved files around at later dates it would mess up my backup procedure and I’d end up with tons of duplicates.

I use SyncBack to backup to an external hard drive. I also export my edited photos to upload them to Google Photos as an additional but much less comprehensive and synced backup. Picasa used to have a really great feature that would automatically keep your online and local photos synced, but that doesn’t work anymore since Google ditched it.

I use keyword and description tags in the photo’s metadata to put the species identification, any supplementary location info, and also tags to indicate what sites I’ve uploaded that photo to. I can search and filter using those tags in Picasa and I like that it’s actually saved in the photo file which makes it accessible in other programs too. I try to keep up with manually adding the species name to the photo’s description tag by copying and pasting it from iNat… so that I don’t make a typo. But, I’ve fallen horribly behind in doing that task. So I’ve been thinking of using EXIFtool to automatically add the current id to the photo files’ metadata from a downloaded iNat CSV file. I haven’t taken the time to figure out the best way to do that though. EXIFtool is a powerful free tool, but if you don’t use it a lot it takes quite a bit of figuring out to get it to do what you want it to.