Organizing your Pictures: Which way is better for you, Topically or Chronologically?

When it comes to organizing photos, most people get hung up on how to organize their photos. Should I organize by topic or date? If the question of whether you should organize topically or chronologically has you scratching your head and at a stand still, then I am here to offer a little guidance so you can carry on your quest. Let’s take a look at some scenarios that can help you make that final decision on how you will organize your photos and will feel right for you.


It is best to store photos chronologically if:
a) Most of your print photos have time stamps (or are still stored in the envelopes you brought home after developing them)
b) You feel that this is the only “right way” to organize photos
c) You have an outline of dates for weddings, funerals, birthdays, etc. to help identify the date of the photo
d) Genealogy and/or history is important to you and your passion


It is best to store photos thematically if:
a) You have no dates on pictures
b) You tend to remember your life in milestones or events such as weddings, graduations, holidays, vacations, etc.
c) You like making thematic photo albums where sorting pictures by date would hinder you finding the images you need quickly. For example, making albums about your life’s travels, sports achievements, club activities or other interests and special events

Sorting by theme does not mean that dates are not important to you. It is easier to take each theme and figure out which celebrations occurred earlier in your life and which were later.

Sorting chronologically does not mean that themes are not important, it just means you’ll want to tag your digital photos or place markers for events and milestones so they stand out and our easier to find.

Whether you store photos chronologically or thematically, dating photos can be time consuming. Make sure you are dating your favorite photos first before trying to date your less meaningful photos. Also watch out for spending too much time deciding what theme to put a photo, especially if it fits in multiple themes. Store the photo in one theme and get copies made so you can store the photo in multiple categories. You could also just scan the photo and tag with your multiple theme names.

Making the decision on how to organize your photos will give momentum to your photo organizing project and give you the starting place to begin and maintain your system in a way that makes sense to you. Remember, once you make the decision on how you will sort your photos, start right away with any new pictures you receive or take, then continue going back to your existing photos, digital or printed. This will get your picture organizing system up and running while getting your existing photos organized in the process.

Which way do you sort your photos and why? Is there anything you’d like to share about your photo organizing successes or where it may be hanging you up in the process?

Let’s talk! Leave us your questions and comments below.


About Gabriela Burgman

Gabriela's mission is to empower her clients with the tools and motivation they need to get and stay organized. Prior to becoming a Professional Organizer, Gabriela worked in a photograph archive as well as several university archives, assisting offices, administrators, and retiring academics to sort through their files for preservation or disposal. She became a professional organizer in 2007 working as an independent consultant before joining Living Peace. When Gabriela is not learning new ways to organize photos or paper both physically and electronically, she is spending time on what matters most to her: visiting with family and friends, reading a good mystery book, or cooking a tasty meal.

3 comments on “Organizing your Pictures: Which way is better for you, Topically or Chronologically?

  1. Pingback: Photo Organizing – Follow the ABC’s!

  2. Pingback: 5 Common Misconceptions that Impact your Photo Organizing – Living Peace Tuesday Tip

  3. Pingback: Organizing Your Photos: To Scan or Not to Scan

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