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How I Organize My Photos

I am obsessed with backing up, organizing, and making my photos accessible from anywhere. I lost a history of photos a few years ago then told myself I would never lose a single photo again.


At home, I have a Synology DS216+II NAS DiskStation with two 4TB hard-drives on RAID. Essentially that means the same data is copied to both drives automatically. One of the drives will fail eventually so I would like to be prepared for when that happens. While part of the disk space is used for photos, I also use this server much like how people use Dropbox. I control my own data and it syncs to my laptop. In the end, this is cheaper than having to purchase extra storage on Dropbox and I most often use this storage for work.

Backblaze B2

I use Backblaze B2 to backup most of my drive to the cloud if for some reason both physical drives fail or I need a file I deleted a few days ago. I don’t use Backblaze B2 to backup my photos though. More on that below.

Google Photos

My entire library of photos is on Google Photos. I have a directory called /photos on Google Drive. Anything I put into that directory will automatically show up on Google Photos. I use Google Photos because the sharing, machine learning, and assistant capabilities are incredible.

I use Google Photos because the sharing, machine learning, and assistant capabilities are incredible. My family and I had a recent trip to Colombia and all I had to do to share my entire library to my family was to send them a link. They can also add photos to the album and I have the option to add all of their photos to my own library. Need a picture of a dog? All I have to do is type dog into my library search and it will find all pictures I took of dogs. Thanks for the facial recognition, I can also search for people I’ve tagged into my own library. I can access my photos from any device too.

Synology has software that makes it easy for me to sync my entire Google Drive to my local hard-drive. I don’t use Backblaze B2 to backup my photos because Google is already doing that.

There’s also a neat feature on to add Google Photos easily.

My Phone

I’ve given up using my DSLR. While the quality of a DSLR is still better than the best of phones, it’s bulky and missing valuable metadata that I cannot live without. The metadata that’s most valuable to me is the GPS location of where I took the photo.

I use the Google Photos app on my Android to upload all photos and videos that I take on my phone automatically. Google will create a directory called /Google Photos in Drive. I later move all photos from /Google Photos to /Photos. The reason I do this is that I prefer to organize my photos into a directory structure of my own rather than one directory for all photos.

My Directory Structure

I organize all my photos by /year/month/city. This is where the metadata becomes especially important. I use elodie to automatically sort all photos from /Google Photos to /Photos. It’s a straightforward process that only takes a few minutes to sort through all of my photos.

I use Adobe Lightroom for more advanced editing and makes locating files easier if the directories are in the right place.


The biggest downside to this setup is the amount of data that is being transferred. Xfinity has capped our data at 1TB and costs an extra $10 for every 50GB. That can be an issue if you have as many photos as I do. The best thing I can do if I’m reaching my limit is set a schedule to transfer the data so it’s still backing up but not as quickly. Once the initial backup is complete though, the rest is easy.

Google Drive storage is not cheap. It’s $10 per month for 1TB. It’s well worth it for Google Photos features alone though. Don’t think of it as paying for only storage but as a storage with a ton of features provided by Google. If you’re looking for only storage, I’ve found Backblaze B2 to be very inexpensive.

Any edits made in Adobe Lightroom will not show up in Google Photos. I typically don’t do many edits unless it’s for the blog. I’ve found phone editing apps and Google Photos can do a decent job at editing if I need to make a quick edit for sharing.

My process will likely change over time. The important part is that my photos are backed up locally and in the cloud while also providing an easy way to access my photos.

2 thoughts on “How I Organize My Photos

  1. Thanks for this great writeup, Michael! Question — is it easy to move my legacy photo library to Google Photos? I currently have it in Lightroom and backed up on Dropbox.

    And how is Google Photos for family sharing? I’d like to start an album for extended family members, so they can access (and also print) original images. Instagram isn’t cutting it for them.

    1. Hey Mark! You’ll want to install Google Drive Backup & Sync. All you’ll need to do at that point is move the Dropbox directory to the Google Drive directory. Here’s a link on how it works

      It’s super easy to share. I have an album that I’ve shared with family that we all drop photos into. I can make it viewable only too. Google recently also announced shared library which gives me the ability to share my entire library with my wife. As for printing, they have a new feature called Photo Books that I haven’t tried yet. It looks interesting and will likely try it soon.

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