How I manage my photos: a monthly process to stay on top of it all

How's your smartphone camera roll looking at the moment? Mine used to be heaving with thousands of images and it was really hard to find what I was looking for and I'm pretty sure I overlooked some lovely images as a result - not to mention hours of wasted time searching. The more photos I took, the more I dreaded downloading and sorting them all. But one rainy day I bit the bullet and started a mammoth sort out. Then I vowed I would never let it get so out of hand again....

NB. I use an iPhone and an iMac with Lightroom - but I think the same principles can apply to whichever platform you use.  

This is my process to stay on top of it all:

  • At the end of every month (or beginning of the new month), I download all the photos from my iPhone to Lightroom and then I delete them all from my phone. Yes that's right, I delete them all! I use Image Capture on my iMac to select and delete them from my phone.
  • In Lightroom, I have a folder for each year, and within that, a folder for each month, for the photos I have taken on my iPhone. This makes it much easier to find things and much easier to do the sorting.
  • I then step through all the images in Lightroom, deleting all the duds and similar shots. For the keepers, I use a colour label (green in my case) to identify all the ones I published to Instagram. This enables me to put a filter on and see my best images quickly at a glance. I then go through any shots I haven't edited and apply a preset to quickly brighten and improve them (see my photography workflow using Lightroom post for more info on creating and using presets in Lightroom). By now, I've usually reduced 500 or so images to 200 or less.
  • If there are any images I've taken that I really like, but haven't had a chance to upload to Instagram yet, then I apply another colour label to these, and export them to a folder on Dropbox. That way I can easily download them back to my phone if I need an image for a rainy day. This often happens with images I've taken towards the end of the month that I haven't had a chance to edit and publish.
  • I also like to export a few favourite images from the month to a folder on my iMac that I sync with my iPhone. That way, I don't worry about deleting everything each month and I have easy access to a lovely curated selection of my favourite images on my phone all the time.

One other big benefit of doing all this, is that it makes it so much easier when I come to put together my annual photobook, as everything is already sorted and edited. You can read a bit more about that process in my post on The modern photo album dilemma.

I also try and apply the same process to photos I've taken on my DSLR. Inevitably, I don't always manage to sort and edit them all in the same month, but I do try. I find things get on top of me really quickly otherwise and it feels like too big a job to even start. I also like sharing photos that are current, rather than spring images in summer - it just doesn't feel right.

I think the effort is in the sorting and deleting - the curating if you will - whatever platform you use. So for me, I think it is time well spent as the rewards are worth it - and it saves me time in the long run. I used to do the sorting and deleting on my iPhone, but I really struggled with it as the screen was so small and I quickly lost the will to live. I found it so much easier to do this on the big screen on my iMac.

Incidentally, I don't use Apple's Photos app or auto-sync my photos between my iPhone, iPad and iMac, as I found it stored all the things I deleted and it became even more impossible to find anything. Plus I didn't like the way it stored everything in separate folders for every date you'd taken photos. I'd be really interested to hear from anyone who has got it to work for them - it may well have moved on since I last used it.

So what do you think? Far too much effort? Or the way forward? I'd love to know what you do to stay on top of things. Any questions, let me know.