Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Complete Guide to Organizing and Backing Up Digital and Non-Digital Photos, Videos, Music, and Other Files - Part 1

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Hi, my name is Lindsay and I’m a picture-aholic.  Is that a thing? 

For my entire life, I have always been the girl with the camera in hand.  I have always loved capturing every moment from the special to the mundane, and because of that, I have quite an extensive picture collection… as in, I currently have 118,159 photos stored on my external hard drive. 

I kid you not. 

In addition to being a picture-aholic, I’m also a video-aholic, a music-aholic, and a paper-aholic so I have loads and loads of files.

A few years ago, I revamped my technique for organizing and backing up my files, and it’s been working very well so I thought I would share it with you.  Today’s post is going to focus on turning all of your media into digital files (meaning they are stored on your computer and they are no longer tangible things) and what to do with the tangible copies, and then tomorrow I’m going to show you exactly how to organize those digital files and how to back them up.

Photo Prints

Photo prints can come from several different sources: 

1.      Old photos that were printed from film
2.      Photo prints ordered from professional photographers
3.      Digital photos that were printed for frames and photo albums

How to Organize Printed Photos

1.      Scan all photos that were printed from film (that are not currently digital) to your computer.  I have the Epson XP-610 printer/scanner and I LOVE it.  The scanning quality is excellent!
2.      Scan all photo prints ordered from professional photographers (that are not currently digital) to your computer.  Just keep in mind there are copyright laws regarding professional photography, so don’t do anything to infringe on the copyright laws.  (You should have received that information from your photographer.)
3.      Organize the new digital scans in separate folders by date.  I use the following format to label my folders because it keeps them in chronological order – four-digit year, dash, two-digit month, space, month name.  For example, “2018-01 January.”   
4.      Store original photo prints by year somewhere safely.  I use this photo storage case to keep mine organized (more on the photo storage box later) but you could also use photo albums if you prefer.  I prefer not to use photo albums because they are too bulky.  You could also throw out the actual photo prints since you now have digital copies, but personally I can’t bring myself to part with the prints for photos shot with film since it’s hard to find any place that will develop pictures from film.
5.      Store film negatives in envelopes labeled with the date and event in the photo storage case or a separate box. 
6.      Trash prints made from digital photos.  There is no need to hang on to these since you can reprint easily at any time.  I do hang on to my very favorites because I switch out frames frequently, and the ones I do keep are stored in the same photo storage case by year like the rest of the photo prints. 

Scanning all of your old non-digital photos is a huge job, but considering that we are now living in a digital world, personally, I think it is worth the time to make digital copies of each of them. 

Here’s a better look at the photo storage case that I have.  The storage case is two-sided – it has one side that stores 2,000 4x6 (or smaller) prints and the other side is a big open 12x12 space where you can either store enlargements or film negatives.  This means that every single printed photo that I own is right here in this one case, and the case slides right into my craft table perfectly.

I use these 4x6 index dividers with tabs and they work PERFECTLY with this case!  Each divider represents a different year, and all of the pictures from that year go behind the divider for that year.

The two bottom pictures show how you can store either film negatives in envelopes or photo enlargements.  The photo in the picture below is a 5x7 but you can easily store 8x10s as well.

Y’all I cannot tell you how much I FREAKING LOVE THIS CASE!  Get one here.


Home videos can come from several different sources:

1.      VHS tapes
2.      DVDs
3.      Videos taken with digital cameras, video cameras, and smart phones

How to Organize Videos

1.      Convert all VHS tapes to digital files.  I used a VHS to DVD converter similar to this one and then I eventually ripped the DVDs, but there are also companies like Walgreens who will convert them for you for a fee.  You can also convert straight from VHS to digital using one of these.  
2.      Convert all DVDs to digital files.  I used a program called Handbrake and it was free!
3.      Organize all digital videos in separate folders by date just like you organized your photos.  For example, “2018-01 January.”   
4.      Trash old VHS tapes and DVDs.  No need to hang onto those once they’re digital!  They take up way too much space!


Music can come from a couple different sources:

1.      CDs
2.      Digital downloads

(If you’re a little older than I am, I suppose you may have tapes or records lying around, too!)

How to Organize Music

1.      Rip songs from all CDs to your computer.  I use Easy CD Extractor… it’s very user-friendly!
2.      Label all songs using the following format – Artist Name, dash, song title.  For example, “Dave Matthews Band – One Sweet World.”
3.      Move all labeled songs to one general “My Music” folder with all of your other digital downloads. 


Paperwork can come from loads of different sources:

  1. Old bills
  2. Car and house info
  3. Bank Statements
  4. Taxes
  5. Files already created with computers (Excel, Word, PowerPoint files)

How to Organize Paperwork

1.      Scan any old bills and other paperwork you want to keep record of but don’t need the physical paper itself.
2.      Organize in folders labeled by category – for example school, medical, car payments, blog, etc.
3.      Shred all documents you don’t need to keep.


Once all of this is done (and it may take months, friends!) you are ready to organize all of your files into folders and back them up.  I will be sharing how I do this tomorrow along with step by step instructions for keeping up with new files as they come in.  Before I go, here is a complete checklist for getting all of your files converted to digital format.

Converting All Media to Digital Files

1.      Scan all photo prints that were taken with film to create digital files.
2.      Scan all photos from professional photographers.
3.      Organize the new digital files into folders by year and month.
4.      Store original photo prints in photo storage case.
5.      Label and store original film negatives in photo storage case or separate box.
6.      Convert all old home videos from VHS to digital files.
7.      Convert all old home videos from DVD to digital files.
8.      Organize the new digital files into folders by year and month.
9.      Rip all old CDs.
10. Organize the new digital files in alphabetical order by artist and song title.
11. Scan all old paperwork that you want to save.
12. Organize papers into folders by category.

Whew, that was a lot!  And for those of you who already have everything on your computer, tomorrow’s post is for you!  I’m sharing how to organize them in the most functional way and how to back them up to ensure you’ll never lose any of them!


  1. This is one of my 2018 goals to organize all my photos!! EEK! I'm like you, I have a ton! I haven't even started!!

  2. I have been super excited about these blog posts! Definitely need to take these tips and implement them for myself!

  3. Me too, me too, I just bought a whole bunch of those boxes and it is a huge goal. You do sooooo good girl!

  4. That box is so cool! I have a bunch of random photos that I was going to scrapbook, but just never got around to. Part of my still wants to print up my favorite photos of the year to put into a photo album though.. Annabelle loves looking at the photo albums at my parents house.

  5. Sooo....I absolutely loved this post!!! I NEED to do this, like, bad! I wouldn't have known where to begin, though. This is/was/will be sooo helpful! I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's post!

  6. This is an awesome tutorial but wow you ain't kiddin! You are the queen of photos!

  7. Lindsay, I'm so impressed!! I just said to Ry, "this post is crazy thorough.. I hope I remember it when I need to do this." So I am pinning and sharing and hoping someday I can do the same thing. Wish me luck! 😂

  8. I've got to get around to organizing my printed pictures and getting rid of duplicates. I know it will make me feel better. One thing I would really love to have is a converter to go from negative to digital file. Because my bigs were around pre-digital I don't have easy access to their picutures from when they were little. You've been hard at work lady! Hey...maybe this is ANOTHER work from home opportunity and you could just have people send you their stuff to organize. haha

  9. Ok no joke....I want to rush home and start pulling ALL the photos out of ALL the old albums and put them into one of these boxes!! LOVE this post so much!!

  10. Wowzer! I did SO much better at keeping things under control last year. I hope I can keep that going.

  11. I am pinning this and adding this to my to do list! My parents are downsizing and moving out of the home they lived in for over 40 years and I need to sit down with my mom and do this with their stuff too. Thank you so much for sharing, you are a woman after my own heart, my friends always call me the historian, I love pictures!

  12. Love that box to store photos! Just last year I caught up on printing out photos and backing them up but needed a better place to store! I'm crazy about trying to keep them as safe as I can!

  13. Whoa what a big job! Thanks for breaking it down into steps because it could be easy to get overwhelmed. I need to work on my photo storage and backing up this year. My game plan is to start by going through all of my computer photo files and deleting any unnecessary photos. That way I'll be left with my favorites to organize. I'm like you and take tons of pictures so I think this part will take me a while.

  14. What a great box to store photos. I just came across some tonight and was thinking about how I can better store them. I love the idea of scanning them because I always worry about what would happen if the physical picture gets lost. Sierra~Beautifully Candid

  15. Wow! You are so organized! It's a little overwhelming to be honest but I know if I took the time to convert all prints to digital I would be so happy!

  16. Ah, I am so glad you mentioned converting VHS to DVD! I have so, so many movies from when I was a kid that I want to save for Lilli but wasn't sure how to make that happen! Thank you!!

    1. You are so welcome! It's a bit time consuming but it can definitely be done!

  17. It's been on my to do list forever to organizing my old photos! Thanks for sharing this. Bookmarking it for future reference.


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