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How to organize a large digital photo collection

One of the greatest things about living in the digital age is the ability to capture any moment instantly with the cameras we keep in our pockets. Back in the day, you needed either a physical camera with film or a professional photographer to document cherished memories. But now, anyone with a smartphone and a clever eye can make magic happen.

That said, a collection of photos adds up over time. Between holidays, special events and daily life, there’s no shortage of moments to take great photos. The only problem is knowing what to delete. And considering the fact that our loved ones join us in many of the pictures we take, many of us are hesitant to delete any pictures at all! How, then, are we supposed to organize massive amounts of photos without losing the ones we care about?

One of our callers on The Kim Komando Show actually dialed in with this very issue; boasting an impressive collection of 45,000 photos across CDs, a phone and a laptop. As a Mac user, she wanted to know the right way to keep it all together. That’s why we’ve written our guide on the best ways to maintain and organize even the biggest photo collection. Say ‘cheese!’

Getting started by backing up

Let’s say your hard drive is chock full of photos right off the bat, just like our caller. Before organizing or altering them in any way, you’ll want to make sure that they’re safe and backed up. That way, you won’t risk losing any precious memories during the process.

Thankfully, macOS contains a built-in solution for backups that makes it easy to save all your photos prior to organizing them. This application is called Time Machine and is found right in your application folder.

To access it, click the Launchpad icon (rocket ship) from your Dock. Here, you’ll be able to set your backup preferences before starting, but keep in mind that you’ll need an external hard drive to store your backup.

Once you have your external drive plugged in and Time Machine open, you can click to begin your backup. The system will continue to do its thing in the background, so feel free to use your computer or do other work around the house.

Once your backup is complete, you’ll have a Time Machine Backup file saved to your external drive. This file, interestingly, is smaller in file size than the sum of its parts but needs to have Time Machine open in order to access. When you do, however, it’s just like navigating an ordinary file menu.

In order to back up a large number of photos (like our caller’s 45,000), we recommend an external hard drive that’s at least 1 TB, which will allow for a Time Machine backup and still leave you room for additional storage.

If you don’t own an external hard drive, one option you can consider is a secure cloud storage backup. For this, we’d recommend our sponsor IDrive. With IDrive, you can backup all your PCs, Macs and mobile devices into ONE account for one low cost! Go to and use promo code, Kim, to save 50% on 2TB of cloud backup now! That’s less than $35 for the first year!

Clean up the duplicates with this free app

Now that you’ve backed up the data on your Mac, you’re safe to start organizing with your photos for real. A big portion of this, however, involves cleaning out duplicate photos and extra images you may not want anymore. Doing this will decrease the overall size of the data you’re attempting to store, and will help make your collection more streamlined.

Rather than hunting for duplicates manually, which can take days, there’s an app that will automatically help you identify and remove extra photos you don’t need. Photos Duplicate Cleaner is available as a free download from the Mac App Store and helps to scan your file folders for any unwanted images. It uses advanced image recognition technology to sniff out duplicates, regardless of whether or not the files have the same name.

Keep in mind that, although the app is free, it is ad-supported. So don’t be surprised to see promotions for the developer’s other software while cleaning your folders.

Choosing the best service

With all of your duplicates removed and your collection condensed, your next step is to decide which method of hosting you’ll use to organize your collection. All this means is deciding between cloud-based storage and on-device local storage. Both options have benefits and drawbacks to consider, but ultimately, the decision rests upon which fits your needs and system the best.

Cloud storage takes your photos and hosts them on a server elsewhere via the internet. One of the most popular cloud solutions, Google Photos, includes a brilliant user interface in addition to providing ample storage space — meaning you can upload your photos and group them to your liking all in one place. Best of all, it’s free to use with your Google Account.

Local storage, alternatively, keeps your photos right on your device where they are. This won’t free up any additional space on your computer unless you use an external drive as we mentioned above to store the files.

Photo organization tools like KYNO, however, make it simple to group photos regardless of whether they’re stored on your hard drive or an external. It’s just a matter of downloading the software and getting started.

We’ll go in-depth on both of these options below

Organize your photos in the cloud with Google Photos

Google Photos works by providing an application in tandem with a legendary amount of cloud storage space. Although the initial limit is technically 15GB, you can actually enjoy unlimited storage space if you “optimize” your photos for the service.

This just means downscaling them in resolution to 1080p, with a cap of 16 megapixels on photos. If you want to retain the highest quality you can upgrade your storage for a fee.

Using the system, however, is a joy. You not only can automatically organize photos using Google’s patented image recognition software, but you can also edit and share right from the application window. That way, you can invite friends and family members to view your gallery at your leisure.

Google Photos is free to use with your Google Account. All you need to do is log in to get started.

Organize your photos locally with KYNO

Naturally, cloud storage does have a certain amount of limitations. Google Photos limits the kinds of files it is able to work with, and requires a Google Account in order to use and access. For those who want to keep everything local and hard-copied to a machine, a piece of software like KYNO is the way to go.

KYNO is an easy to use media organization tool with an incredible variety of compatible file types. You can store, edit and organize both photos and video, and the software is even compatible with raw filetypes. Best of all, up to three workstations can access the files stored on a computer on the same network — which makes it easy to move files between systems and storage devices.

KYNO is available as a paid download from the developer’s website. An individual license is $159 for the first year, but you can try the software out for free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you.

Whether you go local or take to the cloud for storage, nothing beats having an organized gallery of photos. It’s easier to share, easier to browse, and just plain gorgeous to look at. Are you ready to streamline your photo library?

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