Easy File and Photo Backup Organization

Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I’m a little obsessive about photo and file backup…especially since I’m really bad at sending photos to be printed in a timely manner. I use Mozy to back up my computer, but once I’m done printing photos I remove the photos for storage. I also like to backup old files that don’t necessarily need to be on my computer anymore and that I might want again down the road.

I have a quick system that makes it easy to find files again:

First, I make sure all photos and files are organized into folders with recognizable and specific names.  For example, for blog posts I’ve done, the title of the folder will be: year, date and then the tutorial name…..this system also makes it easier for me to sort folders so that they are backed up in chronological order. I use iPhoto so I export all my original, full sized photos for backup in their own folder as well (so I’m not just saving the web-reduced versions):

Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial2 via lilblueboo.com

Before I save/burn all my files to a DVD or CD I take a screen capture of the folder:

Note: If you have a lot of files you might have to scroll through your folder list for more than one screen capture.


Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial3 via lilblueboo.com



I print out the screen capture as a file index and cut it to size.

Note: The easiest way to print for me is to pull the screenshot into Powerpoint, crop it and resize it to be 4.5″ wide.

Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial4 via lilblueboo.com

I label the disks and add a label to the jewel box so nothing gets misplaced.

Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial5 via lilblueboo.com

The printed index fits right into the front of the case so I can look quickly to find an old file or photo that I’m looking for:

Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial6 via lilblueboo.com

Each disk is filed away in a box system. I picked up these boxes from Ikea!

Easy File and Photo Backup Organization tutorial7 via lilblueboo.com

Make sure to backup your hard work and valuable photos!

Update 1: Use DVDs instead of CDs….they hold more files.

Update 2: If you’ve already burned a DVD or CD in the past and don’t have an index….just put in in the drive again and take a screenshot when the list of files comes up!



Check out the entire Getting Organized Series:

getting organized a tutorial via lilblueboo.com




  1. Dana says

    What about organizing hard copies of photos, old ones that were taken before digital cameras? Scan them and toss the hard copies??

    • oo says

      Nooo! Don’t toss all the hard copies of old print photos.

      Print photos can last generations in a shoebox.

      Digital photos need regular backing up and converting to newer file systems.

      Remember MySpace or Friendster? Yeah, think about that when you want to say to yourself “oh, but I put all my photos on Facebook.” Yeah, those won’t last generations either. Same with a hard drive, or a CD, or some online backup service. Remember floppy drives and zip drives and VHS tapes? Rare to have readers for any of those.

      File types and internet backups change over time. They’re not forever, and you have to have multiple digital backups and regularly maintain them.

      If one online backup service goes under, you have to move your photos. If your hard drive fails, same thing. If a CD gets scratched (or too hot) or has a burn error you didn’t notice when copying the files, you could lose those photos. Digital photos are harder to maintain than throwing old printed photos in a shoebox.

      On top of that, JPEG photos can “erode” over time… we’re talking less than 10 years. Files either don’t get copied, get opened too much, etc. with JPEGs, leading to “invalid JPEG marker” errors that make them unopenable. These errors occur with JPEGs due to the file type, not RAW or PSD. It’s not a very common error, but it happens. It’s happened to me too.

      You could scan the old photos (or have them scanned) as a digital backup of them. Pitching all old photos would be a bad idea. Original film photo prints are the best quality (resolution, and “file” integrity), plus they’re low maintenance. You don’t have to back them up. Your heirs can access the old shoebox of photos without having to know your password. Your heirs can store it in their closet without having to convert file types and back up the photos regularly. Print photos are just there.

      I sorted through my old printed photos and organized them by era of my life (childhood, high school/teen, ancient family photo, etc.).

      This was easiest… I wouldn’t try to sort much more than that at first.

      I got rid of duplicates and photos I didn’t like (and that weren’t relevant to family history, either). Some old photos I just didn’t like or want anymore. A few I gave to old friends or family, some I simply tossed. If you have kids/siblings, ask them if they want some of the old photos. I do *not* through away old heirloom photos from the early 1900s… those are irreplaceable.

      Then, I scanned some myself and had some scanned. I put the printed photos in photo albums by era, mixing them together. Others I sorted by occasion (birthdays, for example) and put them in photo boxes.

      Then, I have the highest quality original printed photos, plus a digital backup of them. I make digital photobooks/scrapbooks of my favorites.

      I backup my files, both print and digital, like this:
      – Digital photobook or print photobook of my favorite photos. I usually theme the photobooks (birthdays, high school, etc.).
      – Hard copy (or original hard copy) of my favorite photos in 4 x 6 glossy… printed photos last longer than digital.
      – On my computer itself.
      – On a paid, secure online backup site.
      – On an external hard drive.

  2. says

    I started doing this until I realized just how freaking many CDs I’d need! Now I’ve begun buying zip/thumb/jump/whatever drives from Amazon and storing them there. I have all of my pictures on my external hard drive and then I keep the others at my Mom’s in case of a fire. I’d be devastated if I lost all pictures of my girls!

    • oo says

      Why not get one external hard drive (say, 250 GB or 1 TB)? That has bound to be cheaper (and easier!) than having dozens of individual flash drives.

      And, edit your collection. A handful of cherished photos from a special event is better than hundreds of photos with duplicates. Sometimes less is more.

  3. Jackie Lamas says

    what a great idea! this would be good for all of those discs that hold important documents and personal photos!

  4. says

    Great idea to take a screen shot and print out! Duh, I used to use an excel file and hate opening that up to see what’s on a disk!

  5. jennifer valentine says

    BRILLIANT!!! I have lost sleep worrying that of something happened to my computer my photos would be lost, but then I get complete anxiety overload in my brian trying to figure out a solution! Thank you for this solution- looks awesome and easypeasy!!!

  6. Kari e says

    I wanted to do a system like this. I took a photography course recently and the instructor said to be careful about storing digital files long term on DVD-that they’d lose data or pictures over time-say 10 years or so. Have you heard anything about that?

    • oo says

      Some DVDs and CDs are rated for more than 10 years, some less. It depends on the brand and it’s archival quality. CDs can have errors during burning that you didn’t notice until it was too late. CDs can get scratced or messed up if it’s too hot, too humid, etc.

      On top of that, JPEG photos themselves can “erode” and not store well… it’s not all that common, but it happens. It’s called “invalid JPEG marker” and makes the photo file not be able to be opened. There are a few causes of this JPEG error that are too detailed to list here, but … bottom line, get your favorite photos printed too.

      Backup to DVDs/CDs, plus on your computer, plus on a trusted online backup. Bonus points for backing up to an external hard drive.

      Still, you should have your favorite photos printed out. That’s the best backup system there is… has been for centuries.

  7. K G Palmer says

    You can also paste it into Paint, I love that program it’s on Windows based PC’s. You can cut, paste, add colors or whatever you want = Play with it, it’s fun!

  8. Amanda says

    I think I have another summer project…sounds like I should be doing this with all my school files, especially since I’ll be in the library, not a classroom next year. :)

  9. says

    I cannot TELL people how important it is to backup. I lost three harddrives in a smattering of three months (and one was my back up external harddrive) I almost lost a whole years worth of photos/documents. I thought I was being good, but when my iMac acted up this Friday, I realized I hadn’t backed up since Feb. Thank goodness the Apple guys saved my tushy….

    But seriously…………What are you waiting for….GO BACK UP PEOPLE!!!!!!! DVDs, external hard drives…more than one place is the best possible scenario!

  10. Brooke says

    I would like more specific information on how you organize your photos in iPhoto. When I switched to Macs, thousands of photos (like 8 years of digital photos) were “dumped” into iPhoto without any organization other than it being chronological (info taken from photo metadata).

    I would love to see specific info on how you organize your personal photos from beginning to end and other ways you utilize iPhoto. I have searched google high and low for such info, but have yet to find what I am looking for. I’m so overwhelmed by it all that I keep putting off backing up, all while the number of digital photos keep piling up.

    • says

      I agree, I have no idea how to organize my photos in Iphoto. I have only used a mac for a year or so and I just dump them in folders, labeling them with the event. But I would love to have it more organized, just not sure where to start!

  11. Michelle says

    Ashley, how do you use iPhoto to put your photos AND files into directories like you show in the example? They are organized visually in iPhoto but do not show up like that all nicely in folders/albums in Finder. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Karin says

      I have the same question. My pics are visually organized, but I can’t seem to find the way you show in written firm in lists?

  12. Dana says

    Disc have a high rate of failure. I started doing this, but I lost some of my photos forever. I actually use a RAID 5 drive set up for my photos and have backup drives to back that up. I also have a drive at my mom’s too. I am a photographer, so my photos have to be saved. I use drives instead of disc because it is much easier to keep up with and make sure my files are still happy.

  13. Donna says

    Can you tell me specifically which DVDs you use? I recently tried to copy some cruise pics to DVDs for the family that went with us. After going through a pack of 10 DVDs and only getting 2 good ones, I lost patience with the process. That’s a worse failure rate than my Windows computers. There has to be a better (and cheaper) way.

  14. Emily says

    I’ve been using Dropbox to save all of my photos. Since most of my pictures come from my phone, it’s even easier for me since they automatically sync to Dropbox on my computer. And if anything ever happens to my computer, I can always log onto my account from somewhere else, and my photos will still be there! Is there a specific reason to back up photos to DVDs instead?