How to Organize and Backup Your Wedding Photos
Is there a better feeling in the world than when you see that email announcing your wedding photo gallery is ready to download? Well, maybe your wedding day itself, but I think this comes as a close second.
I’ve put a lot of thought not only into presenting your images in a beautiful way, but also making the downloading process as seamless as possible. However, because of my background working in software testing, I am way too aware of how many ways technology can go wrong - in using the most simple setup. Who has time to organize that gigantic Pictures folder on your desktop, or even worse, back them up?
What I can say for certain is that if you come up with a simple, consistent process at the time you’re downloading images (especially when importing your own!), it will make it so much easier to find them later, and know for sure that they’re safely backed up..
So, I’m officially making a post on how to best download and organize your photos! My goal is that by sharing these best practices, you’ll not only be able to trust that your images are exactly where you expect them to be, but makes future image downloads and backing up a breeze that you don’t have to waste your precious time on.
I work off of a Windows desktop so all my screenshots will be based on that workflow, but the ‘theory’ behind what I’m doing really applies to any environment you’re using.
Organize your images before you download
Before we even talk about downloading images, let’s get one thing straight - if you don’t know where you’re going to store these images, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Now is a great time to decide where you want ALL of your images to live, and get your wedding photo’s new home ready.
Where you store your images is up to you, but in my mind there’s only two places that images should live:
Default Picture Folder It’s easy, it’s setup by default on every operating system out there, and you never have to wonder where those dang images went. If you’re a casual photo-taker and rarely use your computer for image storage, or happened to get a computer with a ton of storage space on it, I highly recommend just going with the flow.
External Hard Drive If you’re like me and are constantly taking hi-res images with a dedicated camera, investing in an external hard drive for storing images is a great option. That way you aren’t constantly fighting for space on the storage drive that comes with your desktop. I use the LaCie Rugged Mini for personal use - it’s relatively cheap for a lot of space. Just make sure you get USB 3.0 for Windows or the Thunderbolt 3.0 for Macs - wayyyy faster that way!
So, once you’ve decided where your pictures will live, it’s time to find them all and get them organized. This may take some detective work if you’re bad at saving your images all in the same place (I’m not guilt-free of this myself - I’m constantly breaking my own rules and saving images where I shouldn’t). Once you track them down, make sure you move them to their new home, not copy- that way you’re not taking up valuable storage space by having multiple copies of the same images everywhere.
To organize, I keep it simple - in my dedicated Photography folder, I make folders by year. Then, when I’m adding images to the current year I’m in, I name those folders by THE DATE THEY WERE TAKEN. That’s it. No descriptions. That makes future photo importing easy if all you have to do is name it by date, and most import software will have a setting to do those automatically if you play around in the settings.
The screenshot below shows my current ‘2019’ folder on my external LaCie drive as an example:
I may have more than one folder for the same date, IE if I took some photos of friends in the morning, and some pictures of my dog in the afternoon, and I want to keep those separate. This is fine - I organize that by adding -1 at the end of the folders, all to keep them in order chronologically.
Now that your Photography folder is all ready for your images to live in, we’re ready to download!
Downloading images from your gallery
When you receive the email notifying you that your gallery is ready, you will have the option to download all your photos at once as long as:
You login to your gallery with your email you were notified on
Your email is linked to the main Gallery Contact
Otherwise, you’ll just be able to download images one by one. In the screenshots below I’ll walk you through how the full gallery download works.
First off, as soon as you log in you should see a ‘Download’ button plain as day in the top right hand corner of the gallery. Selecting this will allow you to download all images at once at the size of your choosing - normally ‘Social’ or ‘Original.’ I recommend downloading ‘Original’ so you have the highest resolution images saved.
Once you select your size, you will then be sent an email with your official download link. You’ll need to log in with your email again, but the email you receive will be easy to find should you need to stop downloading and come back later to finish.
After logging in you’ll be taken to a page full of zip files. Never fear! Go ahead and download each and every one, but make sure you’re saving them in the folders we set up earlier!
Some browsers automatically start downloading to your Downloads folder, so you may need to move them after the fact. I prefer to have everything I download prompt me where the files should go,that way I’m only copying files over once. Googling ‘show prompt when downloading files for xxx browser’ should provide simple results to get this setup.
When you are first prompted on where to save your zip files, make sure you a) are in the Photography folder for the year your images were taken, and b) create the dated folder where your images will end up. Once it’s created, navigate into it and start saving your files.
And now comes the first fun waiting part. Depending on your internet speed this might take a second, especially if you’re downloading all of your zip files at the same time. I recommend grabbing a beer or coffee at this point to help pass the time.
Now for the fun technical part. Once all of your files are downloaded, you’ll need to extract them in order to actually see your images. This sounds scarier than it actually is. All computers have software built in to do this, so you shouldn’t need to download anything fancy. My technique on Windows is to highlight all the files I’ve downloaded, right click, and find the ‘Extract All’ button. The goal here is to get all of your images freed from the zip file in one fell swoop. I haven’t attempted this on a Mac, so if you know of a different way to do this please feel free to comment!
You’ll be prompted what folder these images should go in, you can name this folder whatever you like as long as you stay within the original dated folder we’ve created. Or, just extract it right into the folder we already have setup by deleting everything after your current folder’s name.
Now comes the second and final wait - this might take as long as downloading your images, so for this stretch pour yourself another beer or get snuggly with your favorite pet. Zoey is always up for a good couch snuggle session.
Extraction will be done before your know it! If you created a new folder for your images, you’ll now see it and be able to navigate into it to view your pictures.
Backing up your Images
Now for the part I have the strongest feelings about - backing up your images!
You’ve invested quite a bit of time and money into getting these beautiful images created, so making sure they’re safe for a lifetime is so worth it. We also live in an incredible time where not only can your images be safe in case of hard drive failure or accidents, but there are so many great backup choices to choose from. I can’t come close to naming them all here, so I’ll just list ones I have used personally and professionally:
External Hard Drive
Pros: Easy to keep track of, no subscription fees!
Cons: Not as safe as online, same risks with fire or water damage
Getting a external hard drive to make a second copy of your images on is a great place to start, but I still recommend using what’s known as the 3-2-1 backup strategy with the files you care about. I won’t go into that theory here (even though I could talk about this forever), but if you’re curious this blog post has a great summary. In short, the safest backup method is to have a second copy locally on a separate hard drive, as well as have an online backup. It’s up to you how deep into the rabbit hole you’ll go, but if you decide one copy is enough for you I’d recommend using an online option instead of this.
Pros: Easy to use, has a free option, perfect for casual users
Cons: Google likely to drop or change support, expensive for frequent or high resolution backups
Probably the easiest game in town to get into - if you’re on an Android phone then you probably already have this setup! Expanding backup from just your phone to include desktop is super simple. I recommend this option if you only really plan to use backup for your phone and don’t take a lot of photos on your own, since if you keep it under a certain size it’s free! The only downside is that Google changes their software support all.the.time, so if you want a backup option you can setup and forget about I’d recommend going elsewhere.
Pros: Set it and forget it, high resolution backups, has great pricing tiers, easy to share images
Cons: Takes up precious storage space, no restore support
Dropbox is what I used for the when I first started sharing images with clients back in the day, and I still use it personally for having files available for me to access anywhere. The way Dropbox works is that you have a dedicated folder that automatically syncs to their online servers, so as long as you have copies of your images in there they will sync. I do think that once they’ve uploaded, there are some fancy settings to keep them there only so you can free up your storage folder again, but I personally have not attempted this so I can’t speak for that functionality. If you want a backup option where you can still share and see your images that will maintain their resolution, and aren’t too sensitive about your storage space, Dropbox is pretty clutch.
Pros: Cost-effective professional backup, awesome restore support, intuitive to use
Cons: Can be overkill for casual users
I can’t say enough good things about Backblaze. Having the ability to have unlimited backup data, including external hard drives, is a game changer. And get this - it’s $60 a year. No joke. I don’t know how they do it but I’m not gonna question it.
The only bad thing I could think of with this is that it might be too much for a casual user, but honestly I think everyone can benefit with having a simple backup strategy like Backblaze. Even if you’re not taking your own photos, having all of your computer’s data safely backed up can save you in so many ways. I’ve had to use their restore support once and it was phenomenal. They mail you a hard drive, you restore your files, and you mail it back. Easy.
Their desktop interface is also easy to use, and gives great insight into the state of your backup. I have mine setup to be continuously backing up my files, and to let me know if it’s been more than a day since the last backup occurred. Obviously you don’t have to be as on top of things
Well that was a doozy of a blog post! What did you think? Did you learn anything? Have any thoughts to add? I love talking about this tech stuff, so throw your thoughts at me!