Confessions of a Mac Owner: Are You a Photo Hoarder?

The following post is from Lauren Rothlisberger of Get Me Geeky:

If you have thousands of unorganized photos in your iPhoto, if you keep every photo you snapped, even the blurry one of your kid running by, if you have tons of iPhoto Events all listed by date… repeat after me: “I am a Photo Hoarder”.

Well at least you admit it, now it is time to do something about it. I have good news and bad news, the good news is I have a program for you, and it is 4 steps, not 12! The bad news? You need to set aside a block of time, this process can take awhile.

Here are the 4 steps to get your photo hoarding under control:

Step One: Import.

You may be thinking, “This doesn’t make any sense, I thought we were trying to get rid of photos!” True we are, but lets at least get them all in one place so when we start deleting and organizing we don’t muddle it up with old pictures getting imported in.

The simplest way to import photos is through iPhoto. Plug in your camera or iPhone into your computer. If iPhoto is not open it should launch. If it doesn’t, open it up. Your plugged in device should show up in the left-hand column.

To the right you see the photos that are on the camera. You can choose import all, or select particular pictures and choose import selected. If you would like to pick out only a few pictures click on the photo, hold down the command button, then click on another photo. Or you can also drag your mouse across several photos and select them all at once. Be sure to choose “import selected” if you do not want all the photos. Before you import, take a minute to look down at the bottom. To the left, check the box to auto-split your events. This ensures that your photos are split into events by date making it much easier to organize. You also can give your event a title here, if you forget or aren’t sure what you want to call it, you can always do this later.

Most of the time you will probably import from a camera or phone, however there may come a time you need to import photos from another location on your computer or an external hard drive. This is particularly important if you purchase a new computer and want to bring in photos from an old computer.  Let’s say that a friend sent her a few photos of her son playing soccer this season. She saved them to her desktop and now wants to bring them into her iPhoto. Go up to the very top of your screen to the menu bar, click on File and choose “Import to Library”. Browse to the picture location and click import. After importing, iPhoto takes us to our Events. You can always access Events in the left-hand column.


You need to delete photos that are not really great. Now note I didn’t say, delete the bad photos. I said delete the photos that are not really great. Just because we can take 100 photos of our son’s third birthday doesn’t mean we really need to save all those. One day many years from now you want to be able to enjoy looking through your life’s events, you don’t want to feel like you are drowning in them. 

I notice people become emotionally attached to their pictures, even the really bad ones, throwing away a photo of your child doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Become a curator for your photos; this is your personal museum.

Step Three: Create events.

While I won’t dive into a full explanation here, it is best to use Events (not Albums) to organize your photos. Event organization certainly leaves room for personal preference, but I will give you a method that will lead to successful organization. It is easiest to mentally divide your events in two categories. One category, is for a specific event, say a birthday party or vacation and the second category is for less specific pictures over a period of time. For example, you could have an event for Fall 2012 or a more specific event for Todd’s Soccer Fall 2012.

Obviously events don’t necessarily naturally import into the events you want, they import by date. So, let’s say you import 20 photos from your camera one Saturday night. Half are from your son’s soccer game in the morning, and half from a birthday party that evening. As you might guess, all these photos import into the same event because they naturally create events by date. 10 of these pictures are from soccer and ten are from the birthday party. The most important thing you learn about events is how to split and merge them.

Step Four: Split and merge.

As you can probably guess splitting them divides the events and merging them combines them. In this case, we are going to divide the photos according to soccer or party. Then, we will turn the birthday party into a separate new event and merge the soccer pictures with an already existing Fall Soccer event.

Let’s get back into iPhoto and take a look at how we do that:

To go into the event with all the photos I’ll double click the front picture, by the way this picture is referred to as the “key photo”. Once we double click into this Event we see the 20 photos. Highlight the first ten photos from the soccer game, go up to the menu bar, under Events choose Split Event. As you can see now you have split those pictures into 2 set of ten. Let’s go back out to “All Events” and take the next step. Click on the date to change the name of the event with the pictures from the birthday party. Let’s call it “Nana’s 60th Birthday”. Now, there are still the ten soccer photos in the event titled by date. Sally already created an event for Soccer this season so simply take the new photos, and drag and drop them on top of the existing event. That will combine those with the existing event.

Bonus tip: Photostream

If you have photostream linked to your iPhoto account, that gives you another set of pictures to deal with. Every month there is an Event automatically created your your photostream pictures. Just treat this Event like you would any other and split and merge with specific and general events you have already put together.

Bonus tip: Key Photo

Looking to change the cover photo of your Event? It is simple. Go into your Event, choose the picture you want to display on the cover and then control-click on that photo. Choose “Make Key Photo” and you are set!

I hope this quick step process gives you the inspiration to come clean with your digital hoarding and start a whole new life as a digital organizer!

Are you a photo hoarder? Do you need help?

Lauren Rothlisberger blogs and consults over at Get Me Geeky. As a military wife, mom of three girls and one new baby boy, she loves focusing on technology and productivity and finding new ways to simplify her life. She recently started putting together MacMinis, which are easy to follow videos for Mac users, and also wrote an ebook, Evernote for Moms.