TIME How-To

10 Tips to Keep Your Digital Photos Organized

digital photos
Getty Images

Over the years, your photo collection will swell to the tens of thousands, you’ll migrate from one computer to another, you’ll go through several different cameras and industry formats will change.

Fortunately, organizing your digital photos has become easier and easier, thanks to new automation tools. But you still need to pitch in.

Follow these tips to keep track of your memories through all the changes.

1) Set your camera to the correct date and time

This simple step will permanently tag every photo with the correct date, allowing you to search and sort chronologically for all posterity. And if you often import other people’s photos to your own library, make sure their cameras are set correctly too!

2) Delete the junkers as soon as you take them

Fight the instinct that says every photo is precious, because in reality, bad photos are just clutter, making it harder to find the good ones. Delete them from the camera. Over your lifetime, you will thank yourself for keeping the collection manageable.

3) Know where your photos go

Put all your pictures in the same folder, such as your PC’s existing “Pictures” folder. One universal folder means that photos will be easy to back up and move to a new PC for years to come. Override any attempts by your camera’s software to store them in a proprietary folder on your drive.

4) Use a sub-foldering system

Within your “Pictures” folder, organize your photos into sub-folders that will make sense over the long-term. A common method is by year – 2010, 2011, etc., and inside those, more sub-folders by month, topic (Little League) and event (vacation). Or, rely on tags instead for organizing by that sub-level of detail, as explained below.

5) Back up your photos

Make sure your photos are stored in at least two locations, such as your own PC and an external drive. External drives are relatively inexpensive now. For added safety in case of fire or theft, also store photos at a reputable online photo site, such as Shutterfly, SmugMug, or Flickr, or an online backup service, such as Dropbox or Carbonite.

6) Give star ratings to your best photos

Each time you import photos from your camera, give star ratings to the best photos in each batch. Most image management packages use a five-star system. These let you quickly find your best photos in the future.

7) Use image management software to tag and find photos

Excellent image management software is downloadable for free, such as Google’s Picasa or Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery; Apple’s iPhoto comes pre-installed on Macs. These help you navigate your collection easily. You can further hone your searching with “tags,” which are keywords you apply in the software to photos, such as “Summer Vacation.” Most tags will stay with the image and remain searchable, regardless of which brand of software you’re using, thanks to emerging industry standards. Image management software is your gateway to helpful tools like face recognition, geo-tagging and more.

8) Make use of people tags

Facial recognition is a breakthrough technology included free with the image management software mentioned. It uses advanced intelligence to find faces in photos and guess who the people are—an incredible time saver. No need to manually tag every person in all your photos, and searching your archive to find someone’s photo is now a snap.

9) Print an annual photo book

Search on your star ratings to instantly call up your best shots of the year, and choose a service such as Blurb, Shutterfly, or Snapfish to print them in an annual photo book. Regardless of what happens to digital standards over the decades, the printed photo book will always be viewable by anyone, anytime.

10) Form good habits

Just like brushing your teeth or doing the laundry on a schedule, photos require basic maintenance habits. Getting in the habit means having access to all your photos in the coming years.

This article was written by Kristy Holch and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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In his series of photographs “Black Diamonds,” Jason Andrew chronicles the human trafficking of African soccer players from Nigeria to Istanbul by an assortment of scouts and unlicensed agents. These young athletes, largely under-informed and uneducated, are promised the opportunity to realize their dreams of becoming soccer stars — if their impoverished families are willing to pay fees that can exceed $5,000 to send them to Turkey. But instead of using their time in Turkey to kickstart successful soccer careers in top-tier European leagues, the players are typically abandoned shortly after their arrival and forced to fend for themselves in a harsh and unforgiving land.

Since 2011, Andrew has followed the journeys of these young men, many of whom end up destitute and desperate for whatever work they are able to find. Some have returned home to West Africa, more have remained in Turkey, sharing apartments and jobs with others lured north under false pretenses, but very few have found even a fraction of the glory and riches once promised.

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How to Get Great Fireworks Photos with Your Phone

Watching the July 4th fireworks has been a long-standing family tradition. But capturing the beautiful aerial displays can be hard if you stick with the auto settings on your smartphone, so try these simple tricks for fireworks photos you’ll want to keep.

1. Use a tripod

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Joby

When you take picture of fireworks, your phone’s camera needs to hold the shutter open long enough to “see” the fireworks. The longer the shutter is open, the more susceptible your photo is to motion blur. So use a tripod to make sure there’s no movement. Joby’s GripTight Gorillapod, which can wrap around trees and poles or stand up on the ground, is a great option that fits most smartphones. Price: $29.95 on joby.com or $16.74 on Amazon.

2. Use the “landscape” mode

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The app for iOS lets you set and lock focus manually. Camera+

Your phone’s camera automatically tries to find an object on which to focus. And when presented with a black featureless sky, the camera doesn’t know what to do. By putting your camera in “landscape” mode, you’ll be presetting the focus to infinity and narrowing the lens opening, which keeps both near and far objects in focus.

If your smartphone’s camera app doesn’t have landscape mode, you’ll want to manually set the focus to infinity. There’s an infinity focus option with Shot Control ($2.99 in Google Play) for Android phones. For iPhones, you can use Camera+ ($1.99 in iTunes) and manually select and set a focal point in the distance.

If you have access to a camera, you’ll want to look for “fireworks” mode. Most point-and-shoot cameras have a button or dial with “SCN” or “Scene” on it. Otherwise you’ll find it under the “menu” button. When you put your camera in scene mode, a list of the available modes will pop up on screen. Select the one that looks like a spray of fireworks and/or says “fireworks.”

3. Turn off the flash

Turning your flash off will let your phone’s camera know that it only has available light to take a picture. This is important because the camera will then keep the shutter open long enough to capture the fireworks. The flash button is usually a separate button on the main camera app screen.

4. Turn down the ISO

High ISO will crank up the sensitivity of your phone’s camera so it can see details in the dark. However, the fireworks themselves are quite bright. So, to avoid overexposure and reduce noise, take your camera out of Auto ISO and change the setting to ISO 100 or even lower. The ISO setting is usually found under the main menu. You may have to put your camera in program mode to change this setting.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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