How to Store and Organize Your Travel Photos and Videos

travel photography

Written by Shannon O’Donnell on

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008 and has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Barcelona, where she now calls home. She travels slowly and supports responsible tourism along the way, winning numerous awards for her work advocating for the communities impacted by travel and tourism.

travel photography


Any modern-day globetrotter has heaps of travel photos and videos. Learn how to tame your collection and make it easier to enjoy as a globetrotter with more than a dozen years of travels behind her shares her fool-proof tips for storing and organizing even the largest collection of travel photos.

Now that nearly every traveler leaves home with a smartphone capable of taking great digital travel photos—let alone those still carrying a DSLR camera while exploring a new place—photos and videos are some of the greatest treasures that exist. Memories aren’t perfect, and there’s no better way to capture a Parisian sunset, that breathtaking view of the pyramids, or your summer abroad in Australia than with a trusty camera. In this way, the things that you see and do can live forever.

The problem is, as your digital photos and travel videos add up, sooner or later you are going to run into an organization problem—and a lack of space on your storage drives!

Organizing photos is a big task, and one that you've likely been putting off, but it's worth conquering and there’s no time like the present to get your photo collection under control. There’s nothing like having your pictures and videos sorted by time and event, making it easier for you to find and enjoy them. Plus you may find some photos you want to print, and you can even organize your best photos into travel scrapbooks or albums. Why spend hours looking for a video from five years ago when you could locate it within seconds? Take advantage of this advice, below, so you can get the photos from all of your past travel adventures under control.


Organizing Loose, Printed Photos

Depending on your age or your penchant for analog, you may have loose, printed photos lying around. Now is the time to gather them and put them all in one place. Track down all those pictures that you have scattered in drawers, in between books, and in shoeboxes, and pull them out.

Take time to sort the photos in a way that makes sense to you. For example, you might organize them chronologically by year or by event (your study abroad trip to Europe, your summer cross-country road trip, etc.)—we think a combination of events ordered by year makes the most sense for most travelers.

Once you’ve sorted the pictures, give them a new home. Photo boxes are available just about everywhere that containers are sold and they come in all sorts of colors and sizes. The downside of storing your photos in boxes is that they aren’t as easy to rifle through. If you have the free time, consider ordering some albums and putting your pictures in these, instead. If you’re crafty, go a step further and make a scrapbook. Either way, a little work will yield a lifetime of enjoyment as you look through your photos again and again.


Organizing Digital Photos & Video

Organizing your digital photos and videos is a little more complicated, but even more important. In today’s era of camera phones and inexpensive digital cameras that fit nice and handy inside a waist pack, it's all too easy to take thousands of pictures and record hours of footage.

It's hard to look through all of those images and videos if they're not sorted—plus, if your device gets damaged, hacked, or simply dies on you, you risk losing all of your data if it's not backed up appropriately. In addition, since photo files and video files are large, you will probably reach a point at which your phone's hard drive or your camera's memory card becomes full, and unless you're backing up your data elsewhere, you won't be able to capture more photos or videos.


1. Set the Date and Time

Your first step is to make sure that the date and time are set correctly on your camera. That way, your photos are always tagged with the correct date—this will make them a lot easier to sort down the line.


2. Get Down to Sorting & Discarding

Then go through your travel photos and videos and delete all the ones that are dark and blurry (as well as the ones where your thumb is covering the frame!). This step is hugely important as it will keep your collection down to a manageable size.

This is not the time to edit your photos! That step can add days or even weeks and months to your organization process, so for now you just want to get your travel photos into a more manageable state by streamlining the collection into those that are even viable as good memories.


3. Pick a Logical Organization Pattern

As you’re sorting your travel photos, now is a great time to get those photos into a logical order as well. I’ve visited more than 65 countries over the years, and I’ve found the best way to organize travel photos in particular is folders within folders organized by location (not date!).

What does that look like? Your highest level folders should be either continents or countries. Then nest within those folders the photos. If you have spent a long time in one place, you may have enough travel photos to also organize them by cities or experiences.

Your organization of travel photos inside of a Thailand folder may have subfolders such as: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Elephant Nature Park, Ayutthaya Day Trip, Thai Food. If you’ve been a couple of times, then it’s time to organize by year within the Thailand folder.


4. Pick a Backup Method (or Two!)

Next, decide how you want to back up your photos and videos. You’re already storing your photos on a hard drive of some sort (either the hard drive on your phone, a backup hard drive, or your computer hard drive), so now you need a duplication of that drive.

Your best solution is likely a low-cost paid subscription to an online storage platform, like Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud. Pick a name you know to ensure that your pictures stay backed up for years to come—even if your hard drive or phone fails. If you’re serious about saving and even sharing your travel photos, you can use a service like SmugMug, which allows you to organize your travel photos into beautiful galleries.


5. Print Your Best Photos

Your travel photos deserve to see the light of day. You can invest in a photo printer, which would allow you to have paper copies of every photo and display them in an album for your coffee table, or use a site like Winkflash to upload and print your digital photos for a low cost—then organize them into albums.

If even that sounds like a lot of work—the organization into albums—look to sites like Shutterfly, which allow you to create digital photo albums that they then print and send to you completed.


6. Keep the System Going!

Going forward, make things easier on yourself by organizing your travel photos as you take them, or soon after your trip. (The next time you're early to an appointment or you're waiting on a friend to show up to a restaurant, take a few minutes to go through your photos and videos.) Keep only the “keepers," delete the rest, and back up your devices regularly.

By following these simple tips, you'll have easy access to your data and peace of mind. And before you grab your backpack and head out on your next adventure, you’ll know that you have a plan for keeping all your future memories safe and sound.


Wherever you go, make sure that your phone/camera, cords, adapters , and chargers are safe by packing them into packing sacs , which will keep them protected from dirt, water, and damage while you travel.


Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Here’s Exactly How to Start a Travel Scrapbook

6 Travel Apps to Create a Digital Travel Journal

8 Books for World Travelers


Photo by Amelia follow her adventures on Instagram