One bite at a time together: Organize your photo collection (project 25)

I’m working through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time, one project at a time. The tasks don’t have to be accomplished in any order, so feel free to pick up a copy of the ebook for only $5 and jump in at any time!

Of all the projects in the ebook, this was the one that gave me the most anxiety.

The concept of digital image management is the proverbial monkey on my back. I have not only read stories, but also have dear friends, who have had their hard drives crash in a blaze of glory. I’m told over and over again that it’s not a matter of if it will happen…but when.

Thousands of images, years of memories, and millions of megapixels gone forever. Or at least not to be recovered without a hefty sum. All those birthday parties, first steps, spaghetti sauce messes, and newborn toes irretrievable.

Worst. Nightmare.

The beauty of digital photography is that you can click that little button on your camera 67 times in rapid succession to ensure that you get just the right shot of your firstborn blowing out a tiny candle.

But the very real danger of digital photography is how easy it is to be downright buried and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of files…not to mention the time and energy it can take to actually get photos printed out and into photo albums, or worse yet, colorfully organized scrapbooks.

And so, my desktop has been an eyesore. With folders labeled things like “Photos 1”, “Photos 2”, “Even More Photos”, “Pics from July 2011″…and so on. And every week for the past five YEARS I have proclaimed that I would sit down and actually deal with those folders…next week. Monday for sure. Okay, next month it is. Truly. Next month.

It’s worse than trying to start a diet regimen!

But now it was staring me square in the face. Here I was, having to write a post about organizing digital files from a book on simplifying life. My husband asked me if I was going to just lie to all of you and act like I had it all together, or if I was actually going to, you know, organize the files. This was serious.

Luckily, a new digital image service called ThisLife was on hand to help me out. I quickly installed the software, and plopped one (just ONE!) folder of photos into the program and walked away…terrified I was going to blow up my computer with the sheer volume of data I was about to transfer over.

Do you see what I’m dealing with?! Do I really need 16 photos of a pier?! No, no, I do not. Me and the delete button were about to become very good friends.

Because it was all laid out so cleanly and simply, I was able to very quickly see which images were the best and worth keeping at a glance. In fact, in the matter of just a few minutes (yes, minutes) I was able to cull down this folder of 250+ pictures to only 78 pictures! Not to mention having them backed up on the ThisLife server and safe from the impending doom of my own computer.

Now, that’s all I thought I wanted a photo organization program to do for me. But ThisLife had so much more up its sleeve…things that made the idea of a back up way more appealing. Primarily, the facial recognition features and filing system:

I clicked one button, and without any more prompting, the software pulled each of my children’s faces out and asked me to label them…

I was even given the option to notify people I identified so that they can see photos they’ve been tagged in. In the case of my young children, the answer was no, but this is a much better alternative to me than uploading images publicly to Facebook…because let’s be honest: there are lots of pictures of me floating around that I would rather not have my old high school friends uploading onto FB…

Then I was given the opportunity to remove faces that the software identified incorrectly quickly and easily. This made me giggle a little bit because it would confuse my son and daughter a few times…which reinforced to me how much they look alike!

And with a few more clicks, I could add an activity (in this case it was a Halloween costume photo shoot), a specific location, and even add photos to a timeline which would tell a visual story of our year in my favorite images.

Now, I want you to know that I would not consider myself very tech savvy. And I’m not generally a fan of sitting in front of the computer longer than I need to (hence, the general disarray of all of these files in the first place!). I do have a blog, but I have yet to fall in love with Facebook and I can’t remember the last time I uploaded a photo there.

Normally, I’m not sure I’d give a program like this the time of day because it just overwhelms me to have one more technological thing to keep up with…but I have to tell you how absolutely impressed I am.

I was able to upload, back up, sift through, organize, and label a folder filled with over 250 photos in a matter of minutes. The whole thing was automated and took but a few clicks of the mouse to accomplish.

With ThisLife you can:

  • Have all photos and videos ‘protected and organized’ in one private place.
  • Share an account with your spouse and pool your family photos.
  • Put all your photos and videos in your Library and show off your favorites on your Timeline.
  • Visual search tool lets you find just the Moments you want from your collection of 20,000+ photos and videos. So you can instantly find the photos of ‘Katie swimming in the lake in Vermont.’
  • Free iPhone and iPad apps let you take all your Moments with you.

Soon, my entire photo collection will be safe from the evil forces of The Crash…and be searchable. I cannot tell you how giddy that makes me (or my husband for that matter!).

Are your digital images a disaster waiting to happen? What is your system for organizing them?

Join the Conversation

Jeannett Gibson is a mom to four and wife to one who loves color and believes in story. She loves to tell you hers and wants to hear yours, too...because there is really no sense in wasting our suffering or not sharing in each other's joy. She blogs, fund raises, and sometimes even gets her crafty pants on at Life Rearranged.

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  1. Face recognition in photo software is a life saver. I hear Google is planning to introduce similar technology for video. Privacy concerns aside, I think this is a great idea to help us manage our ever increasing photo/video stockpiles. 🙂

    • Can you elaborate for me? iPhoto has face recognition, and I’ve been sort of good about identifying people, but why the love for it? What am I missing?

      • Hi Amy,

        Try our facial recognition. We have spent the last 2 years refining it. We think it is the best in the market but we’d love to hear what you think.

    • All our defaults are private so you can use our facial recognition to organize to your photos and you don’t need to have any concerns about privacy.
      We have spent two years improving our facial recognition algorithms. We encourage you to try it and let us know what you think!

  2. Wow! I’ve got even more than that to organize and have completely dreaded the thought of it. I’m a little less freaked out now, knowing this software is available and easy to use. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Hilda,
      We welcome you to ThisLife! No need to dread organizing your photos and videos. We make it easy! We are always here if you have questions or comments. 🙂


  3. This has been on my list forever! I’m always questioning the best way to organize my photos. I will definitely check out this tool! 🙂

  4. Yes, my digital photos are a mess. Right now, I use Picasa and organize them by month/year. We put them on an external hard drive. I’m not in love with my system. I really really love the idea of the visual search tool, and I really need to have a delete party.

  5. I, too, am overwhelmed with the number of digital photos that are floating around on my hard drive. Scary actually! I am going to have to look into that software you mentioned. It might help me get over my anxiety about tackling that project… 🙂

    • Hi Yvonne,

      Come on over to We’ll get you organized. It will be easy and fun!
      And, we are always here to respond questions and feedback.

      Looking forward to hearing from you,

  6. Intriguing. I have 3 of our 8 years of married life in books but I have sooo much more work to do!

    Do you know how this compares to Picasa? I’ve been a fan of Picasa but I could use more help with out photo organization!

    • Hi Sami –
      We’d love to send you an invite to try it out! It’s hard to compare to Picasa as I don’t think ThisLife is very similar. We have a lot of organizational tools, some amazing facial recognition software, and other value add features that just don’t exist there. Have you watched our video yet? right on the home page! email me for an expedited invite!

  7. This sounds interesting… I’m a pack-rat by heart and that also shows in my photo stash in my computer…
    I do have concerns with my photos being stored in their database… Isn’t this dangerous?

    • Cham – we use Amazon’s very very very secure cloud server. But if you’re still concerned, you can keep the photos on your hardrive, and we’re going to offer downloading options in the very near future. More questions? thanks!

  8. I seriously have a ridiculous amount of photos. Somehow I backed up my photos and then downloaded them twice so I have all of my albums in triplicate and have yet to figure out how to delete them without having to do it each picture at a time and I too, have many pictures of a pier. LOL. That was one of the ‘bites’ that I completely skipped over because of the sheer magnitude of the job but I’ll have to check out that software. Maybe.

  9. I use iPhoto to organize my photos, though I do need to spend some more time working on it. Taking time to label events, delete the junky pictures and label faces are on my to-do list.
    I also have them backed up on an external hard drive, just in case something happens.

  10. I might be into this if there was a one time fee. but i don’t want to pay for a monthly membership fee or yearly. good idea

  11. Oh goodness do I need to get to work on this. ThisLife is a brilliant idea. Too bad I’m a cheapskate…

  12. Kristine says:

    Wow – seems too good to be true! Will have to try it out!

  13. My photos are a mess! I will test with this new tool, but I think it will work. Thanks for the tip.


  14. I don’t even want to think about my picture files. I have tried organizing them before, it never works out. I am hoping to go through them and at least delete the bad ones. I have also thought to just try going forward to keep them organized. I think I might give this tool a try, it sounds like it is worth a shot at least!

  15. Another Heather says:

    This sounds great. I am trying to figure out how to do this. I looked it up and – although I know what you pay for – it seems expensive. Picasa and Flikr are much cheaper. Does anyone use either of them? Any advice when deciding between the 3?

  16. Wendy C in Ann Arbor says:

    This looks really good – but the monthly fees are way too much………..then what happens to all your pics once you decide it doesn’t fit in the budget anymore??
    Creative Memories “Memory Manager” software does everything but the face recognition (and it is scheduled for a new version soon, so maybe?), But for $40 (actually cheaper until July 25th), it is software you download on your computer and it automatically uploads your pics (from multiple sources) in chronological order, has easy automatic backups and you can do full or partial backups whenever you want. You can create folders to sort your pics into and edit pics as well. It’s well worth looking into! Definitely wish that hitting the delete button on pics was as easy as taking the pics in the first place 🙂

    • Another Heather says:

      I looked at this. It looks to me like the photo storage for this software is still on your computer. I really think the way to go is storage in ‘the cloud’ as a back up in case your computer fails. Datasticks and DVDs don’t last forever. I there any feature to Memory manager that allows storage in the cloud?

      • Heather – thislife stores all your photos in the cloud. You can keep them on your computer if you’re wary of cloud service, but we use Amazon’s very secure cloud storage as our service. More q’s?

  17. Katie G. says:

    If everything you say proves true, this will be by far the most helpful post ever on SimpleMom! Thank you thank you thank you!

  18. Katie G. says:

    I’m curious what you are comparing ThisLife to. Have you been using iPhoto?

    • Jeannett says:

      Hi! I’m comparing to nothing to be honest. I’ve always been so overwhelmed at the whole task that I never did anything but dump my files onto my desktop. That being said, is iPhoto a Mac thing? We are a PC family.

  19. Ugh, my least favorite project. I know I would feel so much better after having organized all my pics. (notice I said WOULD) :). Love that software… Will have to check it out to ease my anxiety as well!

  20. I am going to have to check out this site. I got all caught up at printing out photo’s (oh wait a minute that was last Christmas, shucks I am a year behind again!) Anyways I told my friend that now I didn’t have to worry about my computer crashing because I had them all printed, then she goes and tells me a story of a family who had a house fire and lost all their printed pictures! So perhaps having them stored on a website would be a great 3 wall of protection for my photo’s.

  21. I use Picasa right now (it’s free!). It may not be the best, but I like it. I am also working on a project for my in-laws of a photo album about our life (they live FAR away) and that is helping. I take the best photos from each month and put them in an album. I then upload the album onto Picasa’s website. Plus, we use an external hard drive. We had the CRASH. But God protected our photos. So back up!

  22. Jennifer G says:

    I have an almost like/hate relationship with my pictures. I have never been an “oh let’s sit down and look at old pictures” kind of girl. I have ‘inherited’ a bunch of pictures of my son from my inlaws who literally took thousands of pictures of him in the first 12 months of his life. I had them all in photobucket, but have found that it isn’t as user-friendly as I would like, so I am in the process of moving them to my skydrive account. I like having folders like I would have on my computer, but not having to worry about backing them up. I also have quite a few regular photos from “the old days” which I dread every time I look at the box they are stored in. I have toyed with the idea of just throwing them out, but I figure my children will want at least one or two pictures of their grandparents when they get older (especially the ones of my dad, who passed away almost 10 yrs ago).

  23. I’m not sure if this is simply my hyper-organized personality or the fact I worked as a photographer having to make that film to digital switch, but I’m one of those geeks with all photos labeled by month and year each in their own file, backed up like clockwork monthly. Once they’re backed onto a read-write DVD (and on the harddrive), I delete them from the camera’s card. My problem is printing/viewing; I love the online photo books one can order, and have in the past for single events/trips, but simply don’t have the time/patience to do those (with my penchant for wanting the layouts to be Exactly What I Have in Mind and customizing everything). Maybe I should do what my mom does and print every single photo and put them in an album, but I just can’t (yet).
    Just wondering, does ThisLife work for Linux?

  24. This sounds almost too good to be true.. I’m sure this will be a HUGE help to all those people who suffer from digital photo overload! If I could afford this I would be into this in a heartbeat. Unfortunately for me I have WELL beyond thousands of photos, and while it is true, I don’t NEED them all.. And undoubtedly there are duplicates, I simply couldn’t afford to use the service. Not, mind you, that the service is too expensive, but I am currently looking for work, so it’s beyond justifiable for me at this time. I am excited to know that something like this exists though, and am going to share your site on my facebook page because it maybe something many of my friends would be interested it. Great post, thanks so much for sharing.

  25. I was really excited to read this review because I’m looking for an easy way to keep my photos organized & backed up. I’ve got a mess of duplicates between three different computers (mine, my old one, and my husband’s) so this seemed ideal.

    And then I see it’s invite only so my motivation to get moving on this immediately hit a brick wall. 🙁

  26. andrea pokorny says:

    This sounds fantastic! I’m heading there now. 🙂

  27. I’m going to have to check this out too… the Geeky girl in my loves the potential! Already got my invite!

  28. The features of this site sound wonderful, but how secure are your pictures with this third party if they decide to go out of business tomorrow?

    My husband and I have a (approx.) monthly routine for photo management that is working pretty well. Still a job, but the routine keeps it manageable. Here’s what we do:
    1) upload pictures from our cameras to our computer.
    2) go through them once and delete obviously bad pictures.
    3) if there are a lot of photos for an event or activity, we create a folder for them and label accordingly. e.g. easter 2012. then we move those pictures into that folder.
    4) rather than label every single photo, I’ll just label the really good pictures “030112 sally joe in easter clothes”
    5) once all photos are labeled and/or stored in a folder, I’ll move all the pictures to a folder for the quarter of the year e.g. spring 2012
    6) then, my husband hooks up an external drive to our computer and saves the folder “spring 2012” to the external drive. ) this way, on the external drive, there are only 4 folders per year (spring, summer, fall, winter) and within each of these folders are subfolders for activities within that quarter.
    7) we’ve started doing an annual photo book, so I created a folder just for the year’s photo book and will copy pictures into this folder that I might want in the book. that way, when I actually put the book together at the end of the year, I don’t have to sift through so many pictures.

  29. yes, and walgreens destroyed the prints i made!!! i cried. in public. so sad 🙁

  30. Andrea Gardner says:

    I find this service incredibly fascinating and promising. I, however, would not want to pay for it annually….
    I am not saying “Be free!” but rather I would much rather there also be a lifetime membership option. I would be willing to save my money for that kind of a service. I have a special needs son who is always racking up unexpected medical debt for us and to have to worry about not having the monthly or annual membership fee would be frustrating. I like lifetime memberships for this reason.

    • Jeannett says:

      I totally agree. I don’t know if that is financially feasible for the company but I would much rather pay once and not have to think about it again. (I too have a special needs daughter that can often surprise us with bills!)

  31. Curious. When I want to send a photo as an attachment in an email, is that going to be simple? On Flickr if you can’t keep up your membership fees, your pictures are still saved and you can access them anytime by beginning to pay again. Does this work the same?

    • ThisLife says:

      Val –
      I don’t understand your question about attachement photos in emails. Can you elaborate please? We will save your photos for a while, but not indefinitely. ThisLife is free while in Beta so we encourage you to give it a try!

  32. I’m curious about options to print stored photos. In the past, I’ve uploaded files to a drugstore website and then picked up photos a few hours later. If I store my photos, what is the best option for printing them if I’m not able to download them at this time?

    Also, does this work with Android phones or only the iPhone?


  33. I’m sorry to be a party pooper but actually iPhoto has been doing all this for quite some time. And iDrive is a great online backup tool and quite reasonable, very secure and easy to use too. I use both of these to do all of the above. (And no, I don’t work for either of them!) So, no need for another software. Get an apple computer people!
    Thanks for the post anyway, I always love reading SimpleMom. xxx

    • Not a party pooper! BUT…that means I’d have to convince the hubs to a) buy a Mac and b) buy a computer we don’t need to begin with… 😉

  34. I know this post was about digital photos, but does anyone have any advice/posts/links to information about how to scan and upload my pictures from my film camera? I got my first digital camera about 10 years ago but have many many photos of my kids (now teens)prior to that that I am not sure how to “digitize” them. Would love to read about how people have done it. Thanks!

    • I recently used . You can buy a box, fill it up with as many photos as you can fit in there, and they scan them for you, send you dvd’s and a thumbnail book. I did it for myself and bought boxes for my mom and mother in law for Christmas. Everyone loved it and the service was great!

  35. I too am terrible at organizing my photos!

    That program looks kinda cool, but I think I much prefer smugmug, which is what I use (when I finally do get around to organizing the many folders I have, or downloading my memory cards). It’s got similar or better pricing, and the storage is totally unlimited for photos and video. I wouldn’t want to worry about going over my limit and having to pay more.

  36. I’m curious how this software compares to Flickr and iPhoto. It would be helpful to see a side-by-side comparison with the features and benefits of each.

  37. I haven’t use this software. So, I am interested to use this software since it can be able to store numerous memorable photos.

  38. Hi…I liked the information.

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