Tips for Saving Photos So You Can Find Them


This post is written in partnership with My Memory File. We love Cheryl’s service and think you will too!

Imagine my delight when a fantastic camera appeared on my tiny, convenient, extra-appendage phone. I can take however many pictures I want, see them instantly, and delete them with a click if they’re blurry? Yes, please.

It’s great to be able to take unlimited photos; it’s less great to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume, or frustrated by a fruitless search for that one picture of the baby spraying mashed peas all over the dog.

With so many photos to wrangle – and they’re already stored, after all – organizing them can be too daunting a chore to tackle. But there are some small things you can do to make real progress…and quickly. 

Here are three situations that might be vexing you and some simple tips for getting things under control. 

Situation: I have a bunch of disorganized photos stored on an external hard drive

Tip: Establish this one simple naming convention.

Having photos on an external hard drive is great, but when they are in no particular order and there is no method to find anything, it can be frustrating. One of the easiest ways to start organizing photos in folders on a hard drive is to use a consistent naming convention. Folders are automatically sorted alpha-numerically by name, so put the year and month at the front. Renaming your folders can be the first step to clarifying what you have.

For example, these folders are sorted by name but aren’t in chronological order.

  • 2012-vacation
  • Christmas 2010
  • Jack basketball game
  • Sophie’s 5th birthday – August 2007

Here are the same folders renamed with the year and month at the front of the filename. They’re now in chronological order and much easier to organize.

  • 2007-08-Sophie’s 5th birthday
  • 2009-01-Jack’s basketball game
  • 2010-12-Christmas
  • 2012-03-Disney vacation

Situation: I deleted some photos from my phone because I was running out of space. They’re backed up to the Cloud if I have an iPhone. Right?!

Tip: Export Photos (and check your iCloud settings).

For this situation, the answer may be no, it is not ok. There is a common misconception that photos backed up to iCloud will be there after they’re deleted from your phone. However, iCloud is a syncing backup, meaning it always reflects exactly what is on your phone and in your Photos library. If you delete a photo from your phone, iCloud assumes you want it deleted everywhere.

To ensure you save the photos you want before you make space on your phone, export your photos from your phone or photo library to a hard drive or other device outside the Apple “ecosystem”. 

Another way to save space on your iPhone is to make sure your Photos settings are set to optimize storage.  This means that when you take a photo with your phone, the original hi-res file will be sent to iCloud (assuming you are using iCloud), and your phone will only store a smaller version of the file, taking much less space on your phone.  In this case, you will always be able to view the photos on your phone, but you would simply need access to the internet via wi-fi or data in order to download or send the hi-res photos. But you will be able to take many more photos before you run out of space on your phone.

Situation: My sister texted me Halloween pics and my brother emailed pics from the beach. Why can’t I find them in the Cloud?

Tip: You have to physically save photos from text messages and emails if you want them in your Photos library and backed up in iCloud.

iCloud only backs up photos that are saved in your Photos library on your phone, and text messaging and email operate separately from Photos. So, you have to manually save photos from texts or emails to transfer them to your library and the cloud.

How-To Save: If you receive a photo by text or email that you want to save, tap the photo and then tap the Send icon (the square with an arrow pointing up) to bring up your options. Tap Save Image (the square with an arrow pointing down) to save the photo to your Camera Roll in Photos. Now, the photo will be treated like all the other photos you’ve taken, accessible in the Photos app and backed up to iCloud… (if iCloud is turned on!).

Hopefully these tips help to keep your photos safe and easier to find. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, want to go deeper, or have a situation that wasn’t addressed above, I’d be happy to talk to you about your needs. I am passionate about helping my clients organize, preserve and share their photo memories, whether it’s the boxes of print photos in the attic or the thousands of digital photos scattered across all our devices. Contact me anytime at [email protected] or 240-997-6475. Or check out my website at My Memory File.

Happy Snapping!

More about Cheryl

I have always loved the way photos can tell a story and help us relive special moments.  As a child, I loved looking through print photos and albums, either of my own life or the lives of my relatives or friends.  I’ve always wanted my own children to have access to the photos and the stories of their own lives as well as the lives of their ancestors.  But when our oldest daughter was born in 2002 and we purchased our first digital camera, it quickly became clear that there was no limit to the number of photos we could take, and that if I didn’t figure out some way to organize them, there would be no way for me or my children or anyone to appreciate them in any meaningful way.  

As I started realizing that most of my friends and neighbors had literally tens of thousands of digital photos but no idea how to organize them, much less view them or share them, I began offering to help.  I hated the idea that all those memories could be inadvertently lost or buried because people just didn’t have a good organizational system.  And that’s how My Memory File was born.  Now I love to help my clients get their photo collections in order, and backed up, as well as finding new and exciting ways to view and share their photos. After all, that’s why we take photos, isn’t it?