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Photo Management on the Cheap

budget friendly photo management options

Do you want to get a quick handle on your photos and not break the bank?  Then please read on!  

In this post, we discuss how to manage your photos on the cheap. We discuss the three main areas you need to think about for your photo management — Protect, Organize, and Share.  We also cover these areas in greater detail in separate posts, but this is a great place to start. 

collection vault


Let’s assume that you’ve got tons of photos taken on your phone (cellphone). If so, you are one of billions of people who do — and most have no other camera.  These can be pretty precious images and you don’t want to lose them!  

But what if you lose your phone? Or you drop it and drive over it? Photos gone!  Well, maybe not.  Your iPhone or Android phone is probably sending all of your photos and videos to “the cloud” which is just a nice name for a computer located remotely and managed by your cell provider. When you have this security, the photos are kept safe and sound – no matter what happens.

The cloud should be safe and still be there tomorrow, but if you want to feel just a bit safer, periodically COPY your photos from your phone to a computer (hard drive) or to an external USB hard drive.  This is what we call your Collection Vault. The external drive will set you back a few bucks, but it’s a great way to keep your photos in one place.  And it is very portable.

RECOMMENDATION: Combination of cloud storage AND external USB hard drive (about $40-$60)

When you copy photos and videos from your phone to another device (like your computer), the next time you do it, you run the risk of getting duplicate copies.  Normally your copy method will warn of this but what if you’ve re-organized or moved stuff around in the copy destination? 

The simplest way to avoid getting duplicates is to just delete the originals from your phone as soon as you’ve copied them.  We do this but only after we’re sure we have copies in TWO places — either on a second external drive or full-resolution cloud copies.

Another way to prevent duplicates is by using software that synchronizes files between your phone and the copy destination. We use Free File Sync which is a great program.  It is also the best way to keep a second backup synchronized with your primary backup. 

device inventory


How easy is it for you to find the one photo you want to show to your friend?  Not so easy, most will say!  Enter the world of photo organization.  For this, we need a tool (app or program) to help us out. We tried the “folder method” – established naming conventions of folders and subfolders that hold your photos. That took way too much time to maintain and we still spent time searching — and you can only give so much meaning to a folder name.  And don’t even think about renaming individual photo or video files!  That will drive you crazy!  To fix this problem, a method called ‘tagging’ can be used to give single photos multiple search terms.  

Both Apple and Android phones come with apps that will group photos by person (facial recognition), location (geolocation), or date. This helps you find photos, but if you want to get more specific, like finding wedding events, you will want to use organizer software that will work with photos that are stored on your computer or external drive.  We use Adobe Photoshop Elements but at around $99 MSRP it’s not budget friendly. 

RECOMMENDATION: A good on-the-cheap (free) option is Adobe Bridge.

Adobe Bridge is an organizer that is easy to use and It has excellent tutorials. Adobe Bridge indexes all of the photos and videos that reside in your collection vault. If you need to learn more about the vault, take a look at our post that explains it. If you occasionally move photos/videos around into other folders, your organizer program should be able to recognize the this and keep things, well… organized! 

One downside of Adobe Bridge — no facial recognition.  But you can make name tags and apply them. 


A few words about photo editing while on the ‘Organize’ topic…

Both Mac and Windows computers come with built-in Photos apps.  With them you can do basic photo editing like red eye removal, cropping, and color/lighting adjustments. To go beyond the basics, there are lots of free apps like Pixlr or GIMP, and paid apps like Adobe Photoshop. 

See our post on photo editing for more details. 

Note: When editing any photo be sure you know if it is changing the original photo or working with a copy (which is what you probably want).  Look in the program settings for this! 

cloud storage


This sounds touchy-feely, doesn’t it? Well, it is meant to be! Our life stories are meant to be shared with those we love and preserved for future generations. There are so many ways to do this – social media, videos, emails, gifts. The list is endless. 

But, for the purpose of this post, we will give you some easy ways to share your images quickly through social media and photo sharing sites. 

After you have optimized your images, you are ready to share them. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know how to share in Facebook and Instagram, so we will make an assumption and move on to some that might be new for you.

Here are some popular photo sharing websites with FREE entry points – there are many more.  Sharing with others is pretty easy with these services unless noted in the descriptions below. 

  • Google Photos
  • Amazon Photos
  • Apple iCloud Photos
  • Dropbox 
  • YouTube 
  • Flickr

Google Photos is amazing in that you get FREE unlimited storage for photos up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p.  Larger files count against the free capacity of 15 GB (which also includes your emails and files on Google Drive) and the next step up in storage is 100 GB for $19.99/yr which can include members of your family. For Android users, the app is built-in. It is also available as an app for Windows users and for Apple users on iPhone and iPad.  Google accounts are free. 

Amazon Photos is also “cross-platform”, meaning it is available to users of Apple, Android, and Windows devices. Free account users get 5 GB of storage for photos and videos.  Amazon Prime members get unlimited photo storage and 5 GB of video and file storage.  The next step up is 100 GB for $19.99/yr. 

Apple iCloud Photos is great for iPhone users. The free version gives you 5 GB of storage and starts at $12/yr for 50 GB. It’s not so great for sharing photos with Android or Windows users who will need to use a web browser to view shared photos.  There is no app for Android. 

Dropbox is cross-platform and you get 2 GB of free file storage which includes photos and videos. BUT the next step up in storage space jumps to 2 TB (terabytes) for $9.99/mo. 

YouTube cannot be ignored on any lists like this!  It may be the BEST way for sharing videos that you create from a photo collection.   Your videos can be public or private (shared only with people you’ve chosen). And it certainly is cross-platform. 

Flickr is cross-platform.  The free version limits you to 1000 photos (seems like a joke).  Then it jumps to $60/yr for “unlimited” photos and videos.  Reviews of this service are pretty mixed and your files are public unless you go in and restrict them.  Flickr is owned by SmugMug. 


OK, hopefully we’ve outlined how you can have all the tools you will need to do basic photo management without going broke. After you are comfortable with these tools, you may want to consider more advanced ways to edit and share your photos. 

Just think how great you will feel when you can find a certain photo in less then 5 minutes!

How good will you feel when you know your photos are safe and secure and will NEVER be lost?

Just think about all the cool things you can now do with your photos!

The Rule of Thirds (photography)

The Rule of Thirds in Photography

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is a photo composition technique used to make images more engaging and attractive. When shooting a picture with your camera or smartphone, it is a good concept to keep in mind. If you take a course in photography, it will be one of the first things you will learn.

The concept is pretty simple. Perhaps thinking of what NOT to do will drive home the point. Simply, do NOT put the subject of the photo in the very center of the frame! Think of the image frame as broken into a 3 x 3 grid of boxes. You want to place the subject of the photo ON one or two of these lines. That’s it in a nutshell.

Note that the four places where the lines intersect are the “most interesting” spots for your subject.

Here are some examples…

The horizon is in the lower third — a good rule of thumb for landscape shots.

Or put the horizon in the upper third. We are offset to the left…

Tower on left vertical, center of buildings on lower horizontal line…

No need to be exact — just close enough.

3×3 Overlay on Your Camera

Some cameras and smartphones have a setting that can overlay the grid on your ‘viewfinder’ to make it even easier to set up the shot. My Samsung Galaxy S7 (okay, it’s a bit long in the tooth) has an option, called ‘Grid Lines’ …

Here’s how it looks when taking a picture (the lines don’t appear in the actual photo). Hard to see here but look closely…


Breaking the Rules

Actually think of this “rule” as a guide. There are times to break the rule! Traditional portrait shots (people) are one example. But for casual picture taking, you’ll probably be happier with the rule of thirds.

Photo Editing

If you have some photos that are centered you can always do some cropping and get the desired effect. In fact, that’s exactly what I did in the examples on this page. I plead guilty!!

— Vince D.