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How to organize digital photos with AI

by Canto  |  May 31, 2024

10 min. read
An AI-powered digital asset management platform organizing digital photos of women in dresses using Smart Tags over a red background.

Picture this: you’ve sat down, coffee in hand, ready to organize your massive photo library. However, it’s just too overwhelming to get started. There’s no official system in place. Instead of methodically cataloging and finding images, you just stare at the screen.

After an hour or two, you’re still looking at a disorganized photo library.

Perhaps you’ve tried organizing photos in the past, but no system sticks long-term –– others add files without following your system, and there’s no routine maintenance.

If that sounds familiar, you need to streamline your photo organization workflows. In this guide, you’ll learn the best ways to organize digital photos using a digital asset management platform and the latest AI features.

What is the best way to organize digital photos?

From storing your photos in one place to integrating your DAM library with the rest of your tech stack, here are eight best practices for organizing your digital photos:

  1. Centralize your photos: Store all your digital photos in one organized and searchable library (like a DAM platform) for easy access and management
  2. Create a logical folder structure: Organize photo library folder structures based on criteria such as date, event, project, or category for easy photo navigation
  3. Organize photos with AI auto-tagging: Automatically add relevant tags to photos using AI-powered tagging capabilities, making them easier to search and sort through
  4. Find photos with advanced search: Quickly find specific photos based on tags or context — the latest AI can see and understand images, even if they aren’t tagged
  5. Track image versions: Keep track of different photo versions using DAM software’s version controls, streamlining storage needs and keeping old file versions tucked away
  6. Set up access controls: Configure security access controls within your DAM library to manage who can view, edit, or download your photos to keep your library tidy
  7. Review and update metadata: Review and edit photo metadata on a routine basis so it remains accurate and relevant
  8. Integrate with other tools: Integrate your DAM photo library with the other tools and platforms you use for optimal workflows and increased productivity

How to organize digital photos in 10 steps

From cataloging all your files in one place to folders, tags, and the latest in AI, here is how to organize your digital photos in 10 steps:

1. Store all your images in one place with digital asset management

You cannot effectively organize digital photos scattered across drives and cloud file storage. Start by consolidating all your digital photos into one central hub. For marketers and creative professionals, a digital asset management (DAM) platform is the best choice for organizing digital photos into one central library. DAM platforms like Canto offer an intuitive and easy way to organize, find, and share your digital assets. With features like advanced search, automatic sorting and tagging, facial recognition, and version control, organizing your digital photos becomes a cinch.

2. Create a folder structure

Before creating your folder structure, figure out each department’s search methodology. Discovering search patterns across teams will help you determine the folder categories you should create.

For example, you might create broad folder categories, including:

  • Product photos
  • Event images
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Team photos

Next, within each broad category, create subfolders to organize images further. For instance, under “Marketing campaigns,” you might have subfolders for each specific campaign, such as “Spring sale 2024” or “Holiday promotion 2023.”

Pro tip: Canto allows files to live in multiple albums without duplication. Smart Albums also let you sort files by type automatically.

3. Develop a file naming system

Handle file naming similarly to folder naming. Come up with ways to best name files, keeping future file retrieval in mind.

Develop a set of rules for naming your files. These rules might include:

  • Using consistent date formats (e.g., YYYY-MM-DD)
  • Project names
  • Descriptive keywords

For example, a file name could be “2024-04-01_SpringCampaign_ProductPhoto.jpg.”

Remember that consistent file naming nomenclature is part of organizing your photos, but it can be challenging to maintain as you scale your organization. That’s where AI comes in to help you organize digital photos as your image library grows.

4. Tap into AI for better organization and discovery

Instead of trying to rely on accurate file names, folder structures, and metadata to find and access digital photos, it’s time to let AI power up image discovery. Digital asset management (DAM) platforms like Canto use AI to enhance organization and searchability.

For example, Canto AI Visual Search lets you use natural language to find the most relevant images very quickly.

3 images of a woman in a dress with a search bar over an orange background.

The tool visually scans media for contextual clues as to what the image portrays. Because it uses visual context to find media instead of reading photo metadata, it can sort through digital photos with inaccurate or no metadata.

Standard photo metadata searches require memorizing complex search terms or specific keywords to find the right media. AI Visual Search requires no training or memorization and finds the best media fast.

Canto can also automate routine tasks like resizing images and converting file formats, freeing up your time to focus on more strategic aspects of your work.

5. Use AI-powered auto-tagging software

It’s time to completely transform the most mundane aspect of organizing digital photos: photo tagging. After all, manually tagging thousands of image files is time-consuming and prone to human error.

Look for DAM platforms that include AI-powered auto-tagging. This AI feature automates adds metadata by analyzing images and applying relevant smart tags.

With accurate digital photo metadata, you gain additional ways to find images in your library by searching for specific objects and colors. Tagging automation is especially useful for large libraries where multiple departments search and access your digital photos.

6. Find people using AI facial recognition

Do you have many images in your library featuring people? Consider using a DAM system like Canto with AI facial recognition built-in. Face recognition technology automatically identifies faces in photos, allowing you to easily tag, organize, and search through images of people faster.

How would this feature work in real life?

Let’s say you’ve got an upcoming LinkedIn campaign featuring a specific model. You know that somewhere in the photo library, there’s an image of that model smiling brightly. However, manually tracking the image down would be time-consuming with all the recent image uploads.

Canto's facial recognition feature organizing four images of the same man over a blue background.

When you use Canto, it’s easy to assign people to images and later search them. Here’s how it works:

  1. Add the model’s name to an image he appears in to teach Canto what his face looks like
  2. Find more photos of him by using Canto’s Filter > People > and choose “Daniel”
  3. Photos results of Daniel in your library will instantly appear, along with that elusive photo of him smiling you were looking for

Who knows? You might find even better photos to use for your campaign than the photo you originally had your eye on.

7. Implement duplicate image detection

Duplicate images clutter your servers and cloud storage, making it harder to navigate, manage, or find the latest image version. Duplicates also waste valuable storage space.

DAM platforms like Canto include duplicate detection to help you clean up the mess. Using Canto, you can check for file duplicates based on filename or MD5.

When reviewing flagged duplicates, carefully review the images before moving or deleting them. Sometimes, what appears to be a duplicate could be a different version of an image with minor but significant differences.

Pro tip: Canto’s version control feature allows you to layer new image versions onto the same photo, greatly reducing photo duplication issues from happening in the first place.

8. Reduce metadata management using DAM and AI

Manual inputting metadata is time-consuming and tedious. While metadata can help you find images based on the author, date, and other specific bits of information, regular maintenance isn’t always practical. You need AI-powered DAMs to streamline the process of managing metadata significantly.

AI tools like auto-tagging and facial recognition inside DAMs automatically generate and update metadata based on the content of your images, saving you time and effort.

Even better, Canto AI Visual Search eliminates metadata management around anything visually displayed in digital photos, so the creative team can focus on creating more strategic metadata that AI cannot capture.

Canto includes custom metadata fields to capture all that strategic, non-contextual metadata. Custom metadata includes marketing campaigns, year, product ID, and product models.

As you can see, combining AI tools makes life much easier for photographers or digital asset managers.

Keep in mind that AI-generated metadata may not always be perfect. So, regularly review the metadata for accuracy and make any necessary adjustments.

9. Choose a DAM for automatic backups

When you choose a digital asset management platform like Canto, you take the guesswork out of backups. Canto automatically backs up your digital photos and other library files for you. Now, you won’t have to stress that your photos are secure or backed up ever again.

Do you need to scale up storage or archive files to make more room? You can add more Canto cloud or cold storage to archive files whenever necessary.

10. Establish a regular photo maintenance routine

Remember to determine a regular schedule for maintaining your digital photo library. Depending on the volume of photos and when your team adds or updates them, this could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Each time you add new photos to your library, take a moment to ensure they are correctly named, tagged, and stored in the right folder. A proactive approach prevents clutter and disorganization from accumulating over time.

Review your photos’ titles, descriptions, tags, and any other relevant metadata regularly to ensure accuracy and relevance.

If you work with a team, make sure everyone is trained on the maintenance routine and understands their role in keeping the photo library organized. Communicate consistently with your teams about the process you have established for photo organization.

Even if you sometimes forget to add metadata or it’s inaccurate, AI-powered DAMs like Canto can still help you find images and videos.

Organize your digital photos with Canto

Canto digital asset management platform organizing digital photos with AI over a green background.

Canto is the leader in digital asset management, making it simple to organize and find digital photos. Canto’s Smart Tags, Smart Albums, facial recognition, and text recognition tools reduce metadata management and keep your growing digital photo library organized and searchable.

Canto AI Visual Search allows teams to use visual descriptions to scan their growing digital photo library and instantly find the most relevant media — no metadata required.

Ready to organize your digital photos? Learn how to get started using a digital asset management platform today.

Organize digital photos frequently asked questions

Is there software for organizing digital photos?

One of the most popular software options for organizing digital photos is a digital asset management (DAM) platform. DAM software provides a central platform to organize, find, and share digital photos and many other file types. DAM software offers features like advanced search and filters, auto-tagging, and version control, making managing large collections of images easier. An example of a popular DAM system is Canto.

How do I sort thousands of digital photos?

To sort thousands of digital photos, follow these steps:

  1. Use a digital asset management (DAM) platform: This software can store large volumes of photos and provides tools for automatically sorting and organizing them
  2. Create a folder structure: Develop a logical folder system based on criteria like month, event, project, and category
  3. Bulk rename: Use batch renaming tools to give your photos consistent, descriptive names
  4. Tag and categorize: Apply tags and categories to your photos. Many DAM platforms offer AI-powered tagging to add some contextual tags to your photos for you
  5. Use advanced AI search: Leverage the AI tools and search filtering capabilities of your DAM software to sort and find specific photos quickly
  6. Regular maintenance: Set aside time regularly to sort new photos and maintain your organization system

What is the best way to store photos digitally?

The best way to store photos digitally is to use a reliable digital asset management (DAM) platform that includes cloud backup. A DAM platform allows you to organize, tag, and easily access your photos, while a backup strategy protects your photos against data loss. Some DAM platforms like Canto automatically back up your digital photos for you.