2 In Digital Photos/ Photo Disaster Prevention/ Photo Organizing Workflow

The Unsorted Folder: Your New Workflow Strategy

Do you have a strategy for dealing with all those unsorted photos that are stuck on memory cards? If not, read on…

Short on time? Haven’t imported your photos lately? You’re not alone.

The truth is, we don’t import and back up our photo streams nearly enough. I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. We’re all guilty of it. We let it slip sometimes because we have so much else going on in life.

The #1 problem with digital is that, though it’s super-convenient, most photos don’t ever make it off the device it was taken on. Sure, it’s was great photo, and you meant to do something with it, but then you forgot, and now it’s lost in an ocean of other memories, like a little lonely lifeboat in open waters. It stays afloat for a while, but it eventually drowns and sinks to the bottom.

When clients confess to me that their iPhones haven’t been backed up in X amount of months (sometimes even years!), or when they show me the never-ending camera roll on their tablet, I always shudder at the thought of something happening to that device, but I understand both the frustration and the lack of action. Importing photos isn’t that much fun, and sometimes it’s not that easy for people to figure out, especially if they are not experienced users. It might just be above their tech-level, but sometimes, it’s just a lack of time that’s holding them back. Other times, it’s just overwhelm. I mean, when you get home from a vacation, the last thing want to do is sit down and start sorting photos, right? It’s hard to make time for something that can wait, don’t you find?

What if I told you that it can’t wait?

Millions of photos are lost every year due to natural disasters, household accidents, and technology crashes. Don’t let this happen to your photos! Easy for me to say, right? In some ways, yes, because this is what I do for a living, but in other ways, no, because I’m pressed for time just like everyone else. This is where tricks of the trade come in handy. If you know how to import your photos, but simply put it off because of lack of time, get ready for a game changer.

Enter the Unsorted Folder

The unsorted folder is going to be your new best friend. It’s a simple workflow strategy will make your life so much easier because it will allow you some breathing room when you need it the most.

So what exactly is it?

The Unsorted folder is a designated folder on your digital photo hub simply called “UNSORTED,” which is really code for “I need to sort, edit, and organize these photos, but I just don’t have time for it right now.” You can (of course) name your folder anything you want, but I think Unsorted sums it all up pretty well, even if it’s not 100% accurate in all cases.

This folder is something you add to the structure that you’ve already put in place, and you use it whenever you have to import new photos, but are short on time (i.e. when the sorting and organizing just isn’t going to happen right away). It’s a strategy that’s meant to help you get your photos onto your digital photo hub, so that you can back them up, and in the process free up some space on your devices. If you have time to sort, edit, and organize as well, great! If not, no worries. The main goal is to get your photos off your devices, consolidated, and backed up (even if they are in a mess).

You can always clean up a disorganized mess, but retrieving photos that have been lost is a much taller order.


The Unsorted Folder - Your New Workflow Strategy

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How I Use My Unsorted Folder

Below is an example of how I use my Unsorted folder.

Notice that I label folders YYYY_MM_DD + EVENT + What I have done (or haven’t done) with that folder. For the first folder, “Sorted Edited Organize,” means that the folder has been sorted, edited, but not organized yet. The word “organize” in its imperative form tells me what’s left to do. In the second folder “Sort, Edit, Organize” means I haven’t done anything with it yet, and in the third folder, the photos have been sorted, but not edited and organized yet. You’re not always going to have time to do all of the work at once, so it’s important to break this step into bitesized chunks to make it more manageable. This way you can come back to it at anytime and pick up where you left off without second-guessing anything.


The Unsorted Folder

Notice how the CAPITALIZED words tell me what to do!


The only drawback to this system is that the editing and organizing steps may not happen as quickly as they should, so schedule some time once a month to sit down and finish the process, or hire yourself a Personal Photo Organizer to finish up that work for you. Gathering all the photos is (in my experience) the step that takes the longest, so if you have that part accomplished already, the rest can be done in no time, especially if your folders are already on your digital photo hub.


How to Set Up & Use Your Own Unsorted Folder

  1. Open your Digital Photo Hub and create a folder in the root structure. Label it Unsorted.

  2. When doing quick imports, copy your photos into a new folder nested under Unsorted.

  3. Name the folder YYYY-MM-DD-LOCATION-EVENT (or something similar that’s meaningful, so you can remember the details and the occasion).

  4. Verify files have been imported.

  5. Back up your Digital Photo Hub.

  6. Delete photos from memory card or storage device.

  7. Set aside some time to go back to that folder to sort, edit, and organize your photos.

  8. When organized, transfer your photos into the regular folder structure.


The reason you want to keep the Unsorted folder in your root structure is so that you will be able to find it right away. You most likely have other root folders for photos, documents, and home movies on your digital photo hub, so keeping your Unsorted folder alongside those root layers makes it easy for you to import your photos. You do not want to bury it alongside all the regular (already organized) photo folders in the sub-directory, and have to search for it every time. Make it stand out!


Make Unsorting a Habit

Make it a habit to import your photos to your Unsorted folder, not only to get them off your camera / phone and to keep them safe, but also to make your life easier when you actually sit down and start to organize. Don’t rely on your memory to keep all the dates and details straight! In fact, you’ll find that brain dumping all your photos into the Unsorted folder on a regular basis will be a big relief for you. If you just label the folder with a few details, you can go back months later and still organize your photos without running into the trouble of remembering who, what, when, where, or why. Plus, if the settings on your camera or phone are correct, much of the meta data will already be there waiting for you!

I don’t ever recommend storing all your photos on a device like your phone. It’s just too easy to break, lose – you name it. Get your photos off your phone (and other storage devices), and onto your digital photo hub where they belong! You can always sync copies back out to your phone if you must carry some with you!


Unsorted Guide


So, what say you readers? Have you implemented an Unsorted folder into your digital life?

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  • Reply
    Milagros Parra Castro
    April 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I love your idea of the Unsorted folder. I use that concept with my phone but not for my general photos. I download them into my structure but not under a main Unsorted Folder with the capitalized actions. Love it.

    • Reply
      April 19, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks for your comment Milagros! Glad you like the idea! I think it helps a lot during those super-busy days!

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