Spring Cleaning: How to Organize Your Camera Roll

The season of spring cleaning is one that some treasure and others dread. Either way, we’re getting a head start on it this year.

Spring cleaning encourages us to get rid of what no longer serves us, refresh our everyday spaces, and make room for something new and different. Many will be taking a page from Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” as they part with the things that no longer speak to their hearts.

With the accessibility of smartphone cameras and digital file storage, we have yet another space that likely needs some—or a lot of—attention. If you are planning to do some purging this spring, you should also consider your digital clutter.

Our digital world is also a very visual one. There is a relatable feeling of, “If I didn’t take a photo or video, I can’t show that I was there.” This can lead to a very cluttered camera roll. Most can agree that life is quite beautiful, and worth photographing. If you find magic in the little things, then we all probably have a certain type of camera roll. 

But if you’re getting increasingly frequent “your storage is full” notifications, it’s time to organize and purge. It can feel as overwhelming as spring cleaning your garage, but a little planning will go a long way. Consider these tips when you’re getting ready to dive into digital decluttering.

Getting ready to spring clean your camera roll

See the big picture first

Help yourself make this task seem less daunting when spring cleaning your camera roll. First, take inventory of your digital spaces and what’s in them. With the Cloud, smartphones, laptops, tablets, digital cameras, shared photo drives, and hard drives galore, you might need to do a few phases of organizing and decluttering.

Look around and make a list of the spaces you’d like to tackle. Add bullet points of what is in each space. Here’s an example to model:

  • Phone camera roll
    • Photos
    • Videos
    • Screenshots
    • Downloads
  • External memory
    • Hard drive
      • Presentations
      • Files
      • Videos
    • Digital camera
      • Photo shoot raw files
      • Videos

We suggest creating this list with a physical pen and notepad for easy processing and toggling. The list doesn’t have to be detailed, but it should include any of the digital locations and subcategories you want to tackle this time around. 

Once you know what you have and where it is, prioritize purging photos. This is arguably the most daunting task. As you thumb through your inventory, be open to observing patterns. This can make it easier for you to organize your files into folders based on what you remember seeing. 

Tech Tip: An external or file storage Cloud can also act as a fail-safe for accidentally deleted photos or a broken phone that wasn’t backed up. If you have an iPhone or use another third-party app that keeps a folder of recently deleted items for a last chance, you have that fail-safe. However, if you use an Android, be aware that you won’t have that feature. To avoid accidental deletion, backup your photos on a digital storage platform like Google Photos.

Categorize photos for spring cleaning your camera roll

Make a list of criteria for photos in your camera roll

I had over 12,000 photos and videos on my iPhone at one time. It’s a bit much, yes, but it’s likely a relatable horror story. With so much to sort through, how can you expect to categorize all of it?

When it comes to spring cleaning your camera roll, set your own expectations. Now that you’ve taken inventory of everything you have, plan how you will decide what to delete, what kind of folders you’ll create, and what you’ll print and share. 

Here are a few best practices to follow:

  • Get rid of the happy accidents. This can include accidental photos and videos, screenshots of your lock screen or home screen, and overly blurry photos in a set. These are generally easy to pick out. 
  • Let go of the screenshots. Receipts, old tickets, and the “I’ll save this for later” moments that you never returned to are good candidates for the trash folder. If you haven’t looked at it in more than a month or two, it can go.
  • Process of elimination. If you took five or more of the same photo, try to pick one or two and let go of the rest. Allow an exception to this rule if you plan to print a set of similar photos as decor. 
  • Pick your best photos and print them. Once you print them, consider deleting the digital file. A Fracture glass print is one that will stand the test of time, so you may not need the digital file.
  • Delete social media duplicates. If the photos have already been posted to social media, you can delete most of them from your camera roll since they are archived elsewhere. Sometimes, you may want to save the digital file for high-resolution printing or re-sharing.

Put your criteria on pen and paper and stick to it.

Purging your camera roll

Purging the camera roll

This is the hardest but most gratifying part of the spring cleaning process. Keep the criteria you made in the previous step handy. 

Start with a mass selection of your easy-to-delete photos. Select multiple at a time and let them go. To avoid accidentally tapping or clicking out of your selected photos, do 25 to 100 at a time. This will also be easier on your phone’s “brain” and can help you avoid photo app malfunctions.

Then, go back and take a closer look. You can swipe through your photos and delete them one by one. If you’re feeling more ready to let go, you can choose the best photos from sets and delete the rest in batches. 

Remember to instill some self-discipline and critique. It must have been lovely to take a dozen floral photos on an afternoon walk in June 2017. However, if you haven’t thought about these photos or rediscovered a compelling way to repurpose them like a glass print or collage, they can go. It’s okay for some moments to be fleeting. (That can be hard to admit at times with powerful photography tools and file storage in the palm of your hand.) But what might be in store for June 2022? Make room for it.

Tech Tip: To make your purging and organizing easier, sort your digital collection by media type. On an iPhone, there is a folder for it under Photos → Albums → Media Types. Start with screenshots or videos. After that, it should be a much easier line item to pare down and organize.


Make folders for easy recall

Now that you’ve whittled down your camera roll to keepsake photos, you can categorize the best of the best. When you’re choosing your categories, think about what will make it easy to hunt down photos when you want to show someone a memory, print a tangible memento from a photo, or share your photos online.

Here are a handful of categories that may work for you:

If you want to dive into the nitty-gritty, you can even categorize some of your photos by event (e.g. “Cabo 2018,” “Johnson Wedding,” or “Fido Adoption Day”). 

Work smarter, not harder. Categorizing your photos into albums and folders after you delete the ones you’re ready to let go of makes for a less overwhelming pile to sort through. Also, by this step, you will already have a very intimate grasp on the full contents of your camera roll, making it easier to divvy up. 

As you’re categorizing, you may also consider moving some more archival photos to another unlimited Cloud location for safekeeping. If this is something that works for you, pick a year and move anything else you save to your outside location. For example, you may decide that any photos taken before January 2019 will be moved to the photo storage app. This leaves room for new photos and doesn’t force you to pare down on older memories. Save this option for the best of the best to avoid hoarding.

Displaying the best photos from your camera roll

Put your proudest photos on display

Now that your camera roll is clean and organized, you can create tangible mementos for the photos you love the most. Keep in mind, this is never limited to just family photos. If you love the photo you took of a flower on a walk in June 2017, turn it into tasteful home decor with a Fracture glass print. 

You can also turn your new digital photo albums into a seamless Photo Wall. Select three to six prints from an event or category (like your “Cabo 2018” or “Flora & Fauna” folders), choose a layout, and receive the prints to your door, ready to be displayed. 

Your camera roll houses some of your most precious memories and beauty-in-the-mundane moments. A timeless glass print is a great way to elevate these treasures and put them on display in your home or give as gifts. They may not need to live forever in your camera roll, but they can live beautifully in your physical space. 

About The Author

Morgan Hughes

Morgan is a storyteller, amateur photographer, and cat mom based in Miami, FL. She is a former journalist from New England and definitely drinks iced coffee in the winter. During her time away from the screen, you can find her at art galleries, taking dance classes, or lying on the ground taking a photo of a puppy.

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