When you’re traveling, you want to capture every moment and preserve the highlights of your trip. But then, you start to get overwhelmed by the number of pictures and videos and what to do with them all! So, here are some helpful tips on how to organize travel photos and more…
As a retired journalist, documenting experiences is still very important to me. Taking pictures. Making videos. Sharing them with others.
These snapshots of life compile our personal histories, and preserving that history is important.
If we go back only a century ago, most people’s photo log of their life could be contained in a small box, if not a few picture frames.
Today, people rarely go a day without taking a photo, if not dozens, especially when we travel.
The digital age of photography and video makes it so easy to capture these moments, which is a blessing. But then we sometimes get so overloaded with digital content that we don’t know what to do with it all.
So, let’s talk about how to organize travel photos so you can properly preserve your personal history.
We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases at no added cost to you. Thank you for your support.
How to Organize Travel Photos
Chances are, you take a photo or video on your smartphone or camera, and then it just lives there. Hundreds, or more likely thousands of images and videos sitting on your device.
Pictures of your thumb or some blurry visage living right alongside a stunning photo of the Grand Canyon. Or, even more common, several pictures of the same thing taken in quick succession.
1. Delete Bad and Duplicate Photos
So, the first step in organizing travel photos is deleting them! Well, deleting a lot of them.
We’re usually too busy to do this right on the spot. After all, you’re trying to enjoy the moment that you’re capturing. So, I recommend making it a habit to do this every evening or perhaps every morning while enjoying a cup of coffee.
If you delete the bad or duplicate photos regularly, it should only take about a minute or two each time.
When paring down travel photos, adopt the mindset of filling a small photo album. Even if you don’t actually print them, which would make the cut to go into an album?
For duplicate photos that are taken in quick succession, force yourself to narrow it down to one.
So, delete the bad, the duplicates, and the ones that don’t inspire an emotional response.
If you use Google Photos you know they have a great built-in utility for deleting duplicates. They also have a great system for recognizing faces so you can do a search for a specific person and do the deleting and organizing based on photos of just that person.
2. Focus on the Human Experience
Now that you’ve deleted the more obvious photos and videos that aren’t up to par, it’s time to delete more. Yep, more.
It’s time to delete the pictures that don’t make the cut into your story. Sure, there are pictures that would look great on display in an album or on your wall, but are they telling the story of your trip?
Take a minute and imagine telling a friend about your day’s travels. What did you mention? What were the highlights you had to share with them?
The pictures and videos that capture those moments are the ones you should keep. They deserve to be highlighted and not lost among an excess of less memorable experiences.
If a photo is neat but doesn’t immediately spark a story or vivid memory, its “neatness” will lose value over time. It’ll just become a picture of something somewhere that you don’t even remember taking.
Delete such photos, unless they meet the next criteria…
3. Take Marie Kondo’s Advice
Pay close attention to how each photo makes you feel. Don’t just focus on the “best” image that has great lighting and perfect smiles. Sometimes the best photo is a candid moment in time that is less perfect and more real.
A stunning picture of the Grand Canyon doesn’t truly compare to the slightly out-of-frame look on a child’s face when they see it for the first time.
Marie Kondo, if you’re not familiar with her, is an organizational guru. Her whole method of organizing is based on “sparking joy.”
If a sweater, for instance, doesn’t spark joy, then you should discard it. It doesn’t matter if that sweater is expensive or pretty. If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.
Adopt that same mentality with your photos. If it doesn’t spark joy in you or others close to you, then discard it.
But, when taking this advice, be careful not to make the following mistake…
4. Don’t Edit Yourself Out of Your History
Don’t automatically delete a photo or video because you “look bad” or you “look fat” or you “look awkward.” You may not like that photo because you don’t like to see yourself that way, but we are usually our own worst critics.
The people that matter aren’t going to care about that fat roll or that your hair is out of place or condemn you for what you’re wearing. They’re going to see you, a person that they love. A person they want to remember.
I have heard about many moms who mournfully realize they’re hardly in any pictures with their kids. They avoided being in pictures and then deleted a lot that they were in because they weren’t happy with how they looked.
Then, looking back, it’s like they weren’t even on that family trip. It’s like they were a ghost of the vacation.
That’s not fair to you and, perhaps more importantly, it’s not fair to your kids and family. So, don’t hide! Don’t delete yourself from your history!
You may not like how you look but, like it or not, that’s who you were in that moment. And that person deserves to be remembered just as much as your twenty-year-old self “in their prime”.
“In their prime” deserves to be in quotes because you should cherish life at any age, and especially embrace being a senior RVer.
5. Backup Your Photos
Once you’re finally done paring down your photos, it’s time to back them up.
You might think I’m missing a step. That you need to categorize and organize the photos first, but I haven’t forgotten that.
The reason I’m skipping over that is, thankfully, most devices now automatically do that for you by date. If you’re using a camera, as long as you’ve set the correct date and time, it should also do it for you.
If you’d like, you can group the dates together for an overall trip, but even then, it’s usually a matter of merging individual folders into a master folder. So, it’s still mostly automatically organized.
You can optimize that organization however you think best. It’ll be much easier now that you’ve already pared down the images.
So, instead, I want to put emphasis on backing up your photos. Do not let them be tied only to a single advice or social media platform.
Phones, SD cards, and cameras can be broken. They should be viewed as a hard drive, that needs a backup like any other hard drive.
But be wary of digital “backup” services!
Social media isn’t yours. Facebook or Instagram could literally be shut down tomorrow and you could lose all of the images and videos on it. It may not be likely but the point is you don’t have control over those platforms.
Social media is a sharing method, not a storing method.
Cloud services are a much better option, but you still have to be careful and make sure you understand its limits. For instance, Amazon Photos backup comes with Amazon Prime, but if you cancel your Prime account, you’ll lose your photos.
I, personally, suggest a portable external hard drive as well as printing your favorite memories into photo books.
Printing has never been easier either with print websites, like Snapfish and Shutterfly and even Google Photos. You usually get a certain number of free prints every month. Plus, you can simply upload your photos and they’ll be automatically organized into a photo album that you can customize and have shipped to you.
And many people use Google Photos to store and organize all their photos. We've even written about this before. And way back in 2017 we interviewed GeeksOnTour and got all their advice on using Google Photos for RVers. If you need help with learning how — they have a great book that was updated in 2020.
Now, It’s Time to Travel & Take More Pictures!
Where did you go last and where are you going next? Share in the comments below! If you're not sure about where to next, check out our RV Adventure Guides…