Last year I stupidly left my laptop on a plane, and I never got it back. It had, like any computer would, tons of important documents and irreplaceable photos. I hadn’t backed up anything. I was so dumb. After that I swore I would back up EVERYTHING. And I did…at first. Then, in typical fashion, I got lazy about it and BAM: the desktop computer Mike and I share crashed. It’s the computer Mike writes on and I edit photos on. We both lost six months of work.

Yeah, I went out and bought an external hard drive the next day.

An external hard drive can be a great thing – IF you are organized. If you just throw documents and photos on it all willy-nilly, it starts to look like my garage and that doesn’t help ANYONE. I still have no idea where half my wardrobe is. Today I am going to give you tips on how to organize and archive your photos so they are safe AND still easily accessible.

One of the simplest ways to organize is to rename photos. I know it’s tempting to leave your photos named IMG1235.jpg, but unless you have a photographic memory it’s not exactly helpful. It will take a few extra minutes, but change those titles to something more descriptive, like “first birthday party” and then put a number after the name so it looks like this: “first_birthday_party_1.jpg.”

Adding descriptive tags to photos is another great way to make your images easily searchable. If I want to see photos of Annie, I would search the tag “Annabel” and every photo of her would come up – even the ones that might be named, say, first_birthday_party_1.jpg. If you have a Windows operating system, you can learn how to tag with Windows Live Photo Gallery here, and if you have a Mac you can get information on how to tag with keywords on iPhoto here.

My preferred method of organizing is by folders. I arrange my photos by date taken.

However, I posses a bit of a freak memory when it comes to the pictures I take. I can remember when I took almost any photo. I can’t remember basic math, but I can remember that the photo of Annie by the Santa Monica Pier was taken Memorial Day Weekend. That’s great – for ME. If Mike wants to find a particular photo, I have to help him. So if you’re going to organize by folders, using tags will help you narrow down your searches.

You can get more photo organizing tips here thanks to HP, my awesome photo partners.

Next week for Archiving 102 I will go over different external storage solutions – and I’ll be giving away a hard drive. WOOT WOOT!